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Changers Startup Kit

31 January 2012 Leave a comment

Changers

As my collection of solar-powered devices grows, I need to become more selective on what to try out to determine if this could be a useful device on an everyday basis.

In October 2011, the Berlin startup Changers GmbH introduced the Changers Starter Kit.  The hardware is a little unusual in its appearance, but the true differentiator is the social networking aspects tied to the device.

This is solar charging with an attitude.

Unboxing + Manual

Like any good eco-conscious product, the packaging is constructed from corrugated cardboard, formed from renewable resources, and of course, completely recyclable.  An interesting phrase on the box says “Ich bin ein Berliner.”  I find this curious, since that is the famous line by JFK, where the correct phrase probably should have been “Ich bin Berliner.”  Or maybe this solar kit was developed by some hyperpandimensional jelly donuts.  Or perhaps they are Germans with a sense of humor.  Or my German instructors were lying to me all this time.

The fold-out manual is constructed from 100% recycled paper.  Also, to reduce paper waste, the fold-out manual is only available in English, but other manuals can be downloaded from the Changers website at http://www.changers.com/en/downloads.  Considering that Changers is based out of Germany, I was curious if the manual would have any translation errors.  The first word on the manual is “Initialize”, which is interesting that the American version of that word was used.  However, there is a small goof which says “0 to 0,3 Watt”, which would be correct in some languages, just not American English.  Yet, this is not a mere manual, but part manifesto with declarations of life, liberty, and the pursuit of delicious creme-filled donuts (I could go for a Bavarian or Boston Cream about now).

Hardware

The Changers Starter Kit comes with two main components: the Kalhuohfummi™ solar battery and the Maroshi™ solar module.  (For the background history on these unusual names, read this blog post.  I’ll wait….)  Upon first seeing the detached design between the battery and the solar module, I thought that this might be somewhat unwieldy by separating the components.  However, after using it, this approach does have distinct advantages by allowing the solar panel to remain thin, flexible, and light.  The battery easily detaches, which then can be carried around in a coat pocket.  Another advantage to having a separate solar panel component is the potential to chain together several panels to charge up one battery.  The Kalhuohfummi™ has two USB ports on it, a standard USB port for power out and a micro-USB port for data.  The included USB-to-micro-USB cable works well for my set up since I can use this cable to transmit data between Kalhuohfummi™ and my computer, and then switch the cable around and charge up my mophie Juice Air, which has a micro-USB port on it.  Like most other chargers, there are a variety of other adapter tips, but I haven’t had to use them so far.

One thing which did not work out too well for me is the suction cups on the Maroshi™.  One of the suction cups works, but the other one keeps detaching.  Or perhaps I just have an aversion to licking suction cups.

However, for this set up to work best, the device needs to be exposed to strong sun rays, otherwise, it will collect very little to no energy.

Early pictures of Maroshi™ displayed the Holstee Manifesto, however, my device did not, which is too bad, since I enjoy seeing these nice touches.  Yet, including such a manifesto echoes the solar revolution Changers is heading.  [UPDATE: Another review mentions that the manifesto is only printed on a special edition version of the kit.]

Software

The key element which separates Changers from other solar chargers is in the software.  A desktop application (available for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux) collects data from Kalhuohfummi™ and then uploads the information to the Changers website.

The Changers website is Facebook for solar power addicts.  The design of the site and manuals even has a Facebook meets Google aesthetic.  Each night, I enjoy plugging in the Kalhuohfummi™ and seeing how much energy I generated that day.  The community appears to be fairly small right now, but the Changers crew are the first ones I’ve seen to actively embrace this idea (so far).

One nice touch is that the CO2 savings on the website are measured in kilograms, not pounds.  Let’s face it — instead of stuffing our faces with donuts (no matter how delicious they might be), Americans should be doing something useful like encouraging the adoption of solar power and the metric system!

Summary

This is no mere solar charger.  This is a mission from (the sun) god.  Harvest the sun and have fun while doing it.  This is a way of life. Embrace the change and make a change for the better.

Pros

  • Unique design
  • Social networking aspects
  • Detachable battery
  • Eco-conscious packaging
  • Micro-USB cable works well with my mophie battery pack
  • Standard USB port
Cons
  • Solar panel not very strong (needs excellent light source to work)
  • Suction cups suck (or perhaps, because they don’t suck)
Details
  • Name: Changers Starter Kit
  • Price: $149 (USD) / € 119
  • Manufacturer: Changers GmbH
  • Websitehttp://www.changers.com

 

Categories: Changers, Solar