SELECT A POWER STATION / SOLAR GENERATOR
This content covers what to consider when selecting a portable power station to charge with your pedal power bicycle generator system . These are also called “Solar Generators” or “Powerpacks” There are a few major criteria that you will need to use to select your power station.
- Traditional lead acid battery or lithium battery
- The Amp hour rating (Battery Capacity)
- The max charge Voltage
- The max charge current
- Built charge controller or no built in charge controller
- The type of connectors needed to connect to the power station
- Portability – how easy is it to carry around.
- How long it will take to charge
- Whether or not to use for both solar and pedal power.
- Number of charge cycles you want
The short answer: If you do not need portability and you are on a tight budget you could use a very heavy lead acid 100 – 200AH 12V marine deep cycle battery for around $100 purchased from your local automotive store. This will give you the most capacity for the lowest amount of money. If you need something that is easy to carry around then consider:
- Low cost and low capacity lead acid AGM battery portable power station under $200.00
- $200 to $1000 Lithium battery power station with built in MPPT charge controller power station that has a built in features then take a look at the items listed here. This will save you the cost of buying the NC25A charge controller because you won’t need it.
The capacity of a power station is based on a term called “Amp Hours” or more often mentioned as “AH” . Many manufactures hide their low AH rating buy putting it into the form of WH (Watt Hours). A 12V power station with a 10AH battery rating will be a 120WH rating. (Watt Hours = Amp Hours x 12V Operating Voltage) . So one can see that the number 120 is a much bigger then 10 and helps sell the product for the manufacture. For those who are not familiar with this term here is a brief explanation.
If you have a battery that has a 50 AH rating then that means it can put out the following Amperage:
- 50 Amps for one hour
- 25 Amps for two hours
- 10 Amps for 5 hours
- 1 Amp for 50 hours
In other words if you want to know how many hours a battery power station or solar generator will last at a certain current or Watts then you will need to divide the desired Amps output into the AH rating and that would give you the hours. For example a 100 Watt DC bulb running at 12V will draw about 7 Amps of current. This is derived by using the equation Amps = Watts / Volts . To solve for the number of hours a battery will last powering the 100 Watt bulb at 7 Amps we divide 50 AH by 7 an get about ~ 7 Hours .
1) Lithium vs Lead Acid Battery
Lithium batteries will eventually overtake lead acid batteries because of their size and weight being much less. There are hundreds of companies popping up all over the place with new portable power station products. Right now there are few lithium battery power stations that are UL approved and we know that lithium batteries can be unstable if they are charged with too much current and get hot – they can explode into flame. We know that Samsung phones were not allowed on airplanes for a period of time for this reason.
An extremely safe and low cost way to use Lithium batteries in a power station / solar generator is to limit the charge current and charge Voltage range to a very low level. For instance the Jackery portable power stations are extremely popular on Amazon with over 500 sold. These belong to the price range of under $500. How did they minimize the huge risk of Lithium battery danger? They limit the charge current to around 3 Amps so that it takes 2 to 5 hours to charge their power stations depending which model you look at.
If you want to be able to charge much quicker and efficiently and use the full capacity of your bike generator or solar array then you will need to spend more than $500 and get a power station that can handle 10 to 20 Amps of charge current and 0 to 100V DC Voltage range. These are rare and expensive now in 2021 but will be very cheap in 5 to 10 years.
The only reasons to stay with Lead acid battery style power stations are:
- You want a very cheap way to store energy
- You do not want to carry around your power station
- You want to be able to charge with a lot of current
If you would like more help picking out your power station please text or call or email. Ask for Bradley