Electree’s Solar Bonsai Tree to Electrify Our Techno Toys

electree gadget solar bonsai engadget, tech charger

Where’s a charger when you need one? My device-addicted household is always running short on chargers for cell phones and laptops and iPods. I plug in my phone and come back to find it’s migrated to someone’s Kindle. What’s the impact of all this techno-juicing on the environment? A co-worker just nabbed the coolest birthday gift: the Electree solar charger, a sculptural photovoltaic (PV) machine that will keep your gadgets energized in a fully renewable way.

Shaped like a bonsai tree, the 27 PV panels installed on its branches capture solar energy which is then stored in a 13,500 mAh battery (the equivalent of an iPad battery) located in its base.  A concealed USB connector and A/C outlet will feed your gizmos renewable energy while minimizing unsightly wires. And you can customize its sexy shape just like a real bonsai gardener:  Electree’s branches are fully rotatable.

French Designer Vivien Muller honed the concept over three years until Electree hit the market in 2011 via innovative fundraising site Ulule.  He needed 400 presales (at an initial price of about $370) to make production viable.  The sales goal was met, Electree went into manufacture, and the first units were shipped to early bird buyers last July.

Initial feedback’s been positive, but the largely American and European buyers have reported lackluster energy generation. The unit requires exposure to intense sunshine over consecutive days: not ideal if you live in northern countries.

Seems marketing would be better targeted to the Middle East.

Muller’s been gathering feedback from initial users and is using their comments to launch a series of product tests at the plant that manufactured the first prototypes.

They’ve developed a “solutions kit” to tackle improving connections between tree branches and a testing kit to verify that each solar panel and it’s branch are fully functional.  These sort of kinks would normally send buyers screaming for refunds, but on Ulule, consumers are more like investors and they seem to relish being part of ongoing product development.

American Will Stone was one of those initial investors.  On his YouTube channel he says, “I helped fund an art project called Electree back in September 2011 and after about 10 months of waiting, seeing updates, etc., it finally arrived yesterday July 9th, 2012.”  Will recorded his initial assembly of the Electree, his excitement is palpable in the 10-minute-long video.

On Ulule, original products and projects are only funded if they reach their objective. Since the site’s launch in 2010, over 1,200 unique projects have been funded in 34 countries, supported by online users in 128 countries.  It’s a novel way to share great ideas and participate in making innovation palpable.

I’ll watch my friend’s test of his birthday gift with interest.  If the Jordan sun proves a proper companion, I think I’m in line for the next generation of Electree.

The site lists the price at 349 euros.


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