electree+ bonsai solar charger combines form and function
November 27, 2012
Sitting somewhere between the "solar trees" erected on parking garages at the University of California in San Diego (UCSD) and the nanotrees developed on the same campus, the electree+ is a sculptural bonsai tree with 27 solar cells for "leaves." The tree's branches can be adjusted to catch the rays just right, and its internal battery will store enough electricity to charge an iPhone5 nine times over, a Galaxy S3 seven times, or an iPad 2 twice.
Vivien Muller originally came up with the idea in 2008, but he ran into some hurdles turning the idea into a reality. After working out the details with a batch of prototypes last year, his group ran into some issues with their contracted Chinese manufacturers, which Muller says has given them the experience they need to do things right. This time it's being fabricated in the United States where they can keep tabs on quality control, and are offering various color and feature options.
The tree charges to mobile devices via two USB cables, with Qi wireless charging functionality and/or a 1K NFC chip (which can enable your phone's Wi-Fi, dock mode, alarm, and more) able to be added at an extra cost. The group claims it takes about 36 hours of sunlight to fully charge the device's 14,000 mAh internal battery, but that it only needs about four hours of sunlight to soak up enough energy to charge an average smartphone.
Muller has also designed a much larger version called the Electree City. Similar in size to the Treepod concept introduced in 2011 that was designed to filter air pollutants, the larger Electree City would serve as both urban sculpture and city power plant.
The more desk-friendly electree+ stands 16 inches (41 cm) tall at its highest point with the square solar "leaves" each measuring 3.7 inches (9 cm) wide. The electree+ team's Kickstarter campaign still has some way to go, but a pledge of US$199 will secure a basic unit provided the $200,000 goal is reached by New Year's Day – add another 50 bucks for wireless charging and/or $11 for NFC capabilities.
If the crowdfunding campaign proves successful, the team plans to have the electree+ ready for shipping by mid 2013.