To summarise the full report available for download below; Around 24 million people in the UK actively engage in outdoor pursuits, of these 24m 98% take some form of electronic device out hiking with them.
The 3 most common items taken that would benefit from charging was a smartphone, a GPS and a camera.
This increase in consumers taking devices outdoors with them has lead to an increase in the number of people offering charging solutions. The four main areas these fall into are as follows: Solar panels and battery banks.
The more experimental approaches such as Hydrogen Fuel Cells and the turbine-driven versions like Wind, Wave or Hand Crank powered charging systems. Below is a brief overview and rationale between each choice.
The turbine or crank based generation methods rely on converting rotational energy into electrical by turning some form of a dynamo.
This method whilst the simplest is inherently inefficient. The amount of power generated per rotation is generally denoted by the amount of force you can apply to the device.
This means that the smaller the device is, the less inertial mass you can impart force to it the less power it can output.
The predominant way in which people use solar panels is by draping them over the top of their pack. However solar panels are greatly affected by the angle they are placed in orientation to the sun.
So any panels draped down the vertical length of the backpack is essentially wasted.
The benefit of solar over the other options is it can be gathering electricity whilst out on the hike.
The battery banks consist of taking a large chemical storage medium big enough to last the entire trip. It prevents reliance on environmental factors to provide power.
Any design proposals should integrate a form of battery storage redundancy for the situation that power is needed and the environmental factors are unable to provide appropriate power.
The downside is the excessive weight cost these add to the trip.
Some companies offer more unconventional portable storage solutions. Such as Brunton with their USB Hydrogen Fuel Cell.
Whilst this successfully provides hydrogen cores with enough charge to power a phone it wouldn’t be classed as an environmentally friendly or cost-effective method.
In essence, they often are perfectly adequate at charging but the extra hassle and cost surrounding the recharging, upkeep and proprietary equipment required to use them make them unfeasible for the everyday consumer.
HINGE DESIGN ITERATIONS
The functionality of this project ironically hinged around one key mechanism working, the hinge. It had to provide consistent electrical conduction without dropping out.
Whilst also being able to be removable and providing at least 45 degrees of motion to allow the panels to flex and move.
Various concepts, sizes, and shapes were tried before eventually trialling the current design. the triangular shape allowed for the 3 required axis of rotation whilst providing a small number of sides to have connections on. The interlocking teeth mechanism provided the strength and consistency required although future iterations have been made since this project to improve on this.
Simple simulations were also run to determine the optimum size of the panels.
This is the fun bit of the project, taking it out and testing the panels in as many places as I can.
Testing it until I break it and then rebuilding the mark II better than this one, and then taking that one out until I break it as well.