Crank your phone 19 Aug, 2008

How do you charge your mobile phone when there’s no electricity grid? A hand cranked dynamo may be the simplest, and most cost-efficient, answer.

We’ve earlier mentioned companies like Solio and Suntrica that make portable solar chargers.

Solio’s product is definitely at the high-end of the spectrum and retails for around $100, which may be a bit steep for a rural citizen. Suntrica’s product range is a bit different both in regards to price and product range, and they will soon publicize more information about the products. We’ll return with a new report on Suntrica then.

On a related note: if you have soldering skills and a DIY mindset, you can even make your own solar charger.

Solar chargers can be used collectively in a village – shared between a group of people. So can hand-cranked chargers, of course. And they do retail for quite a bit less than many of their solar peers. VNL-er Nikhil Swadia has done some research on what’s available.

The Chinese manufacturer Wenzhou Kaishi Electric offers a couple of different hand-cranked phone chargers. Cranking at 150 rpm/for 1 min provides enough power for 8 minutes of talk time. The chargers come with plugs for charging most common brands of mobile phones. It costs $1.8 in large quantities, most likely translating to a retail price point of around $10.

CNET has reviewed some hand-wound mobile phone chargers that cost around around $20 to 25. And there are more to be found at NexTag.

Clearly, there are many options for a villager to charge a mobile phone. And these portable chargers – both solar and hand-cranked – are quite convenient for anyone outside the range of the electricity grid.

As solar power technology matures further, and as adoption of mobile communication in rural communities increases, the field of portable chargers will evolve quickly. We’re tracking the development right here on the blog.