Hymini Wind and Solar Charging System

Photo courtesy of hymini.com

Photo courtesy of hymini.com

Looking for the recharging system for all occasions? With options for wind generation, solar energy, and even hand-cranked power the Hymini Micro Power Wind Generator could be the answer. And in reality it almost is the answer.

I had immediate questions and to their credit, the company website does have the answers if you dig for them. Many online retailers don’t, so read the fine print before you order.

First limitation: the Hymini output is 5V DC. If the device you need to recharge doesn’t run on a 5V lithium ion rechargeable battery, the Hymini won’t help you. Many cell phones, MP3 players, cameras and other personal electronics devices will directly hook up to the Hymini through its array of  adapter plugs and USB connector. Many GPS systems will not, and there’s no option for direct recharge of ni-cad AA or AAA, the mainstay of many back country gizmos.

Photo courtesy of hymini.com

Photo courtesy of hymini.com

For the back country traveler it’s a disappointment, but that’s not the target market for the Hymini, which isn’t waterproof or rain-resistant. In fact, the case of the solar panel pack — which offers a second source of free energy — is made of recycled cardboard. The same weather-vulnerable material encloses the 1000ma lithium ion battery that forms the heart of the Hymini. It’s a city toy, for people who can dodge indoors when it rains.  If you take it to the woods, protect it from the weather.

The basic kit is versatile, including the wind generator (which also doubles as a flashlight), one solar panel (use up to four in series for faster but costlier charging), adaptors for a variety of devices (see the manufacturer’s list of compatible phones), the hand crank power pack, USB connector cable and wall adaptor. Yes, that’s “wall adaptor.” Because, ironically, the most efficient way to recharge the Hymini is to plug it into household AC. Then the fully charged Hymini battery can recharge compatible devices on the fly, without waiting ten hours or more, which could happen if you depend on wind and sun.

Accessories (purchased extra) fit the Hymini to bicycle handlebars or an armband, for wind charging on the go. Though it’s a nice idea for the bike, it makes less sense as a Green Badge of Honor for the foot traveler. The fan doesn’t do any charging until wind speed reaches 9 mph — if the green LED doesn’t illuminate the fan, the unit isn’t turning fast enough to charge. Built to operate best between wind speeds of 9 mph and 30 mph, the efficiency of the charging increases up to 40 mph, at which point the little fan is turning just as hard as it can ever go.

Photo courtesy of hymini.com

Photo courtesy of hymini.com

For the times when you’re alone in the dark in a windless place and you just have to call home, the Hymini hand crank lets you convert your own calories to electrical power. Twenty minutes of cranking ought to get you three minutes of airtime on the 3G cell network. That’s a lot of cranking, but the cell phone is the most power hungry of the devices the Hymini powers. For MP3 players, iPhones and cameras there wouldn’t be quite so much exercise involved. But hey, if you’re sitting alone in the dark, you might as generate electricity.

I’m not against this product, and I can see that it will be attractive to certain people, but for the hardcore backpacker who spends time on trails where wind speed is usually 3 mph or nothing because of the trees, the hymini really isn’t the answer. You’d have to rig something up to charge AA’s from the solar panel, and there are cheaper ways to do that DIY. On a bike it’s a much more feasible alternative, though the weatherproofing is minimal and you’ll have to remember to cover the Hymini with a ziplock baggie if it rains. If you’re a runner and you wear this thingie on an armband, you’re just being silly.

 

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