Solar powered headphones and earphones

A new trend is emerging: solar powered rechargeable headphones and earphones! Adidas and Urbanista launch their products, promising almost unlimited autonomy and less environmental impact.

This is not new to anyone, the consumer goods industry is polluting enormously every year and connected objects, which are becoming more and more ubiquitous in our daily lives, are no exception. In order to limit the environmental impact and offer their users longer and longer battery life, manufacturers have explored the concept of solar-powered Bluetooth devices. A brilliant idea, but quite difficult to implement. We should already be able to do without wired charging entirely, but also produce enough energy to offer functions that deserve the name – but consume a lot. So far, performance hasn’t exactly been great, and in the end the tech ended up being more of a fun gimmick than a real selling point.

There were actually several attempts. In 2015, French brand Exod launched the world’s first solar-powered helmet called Helios. Exposure of the product for 1 hour ensures an autonomy of about 30 minutes of listening at full power. On the other hand, in the absence of luminosity, it is mandatory to go through the good old wired charging. Furthermore, in the face of the competition, which continues to push technology to offer ever more comfortable options, the helmet walks away at a handicap by not having the necessary active noise reduction – which consumes too much energy. In 2019, JBL attempted to launch a crowdfunding campaign to experiment with solar-powered rechargeable Reflect Eternal headphones, but was unsuccessful. Now it’s Adidas and Urbanista’s turn to try their luck with this technological challenge.

The Phoenix headphones © Urbanista

Urbanista Phoenix: headphones with a case equipped with solar panels

Urbanista is not new to solar energy. In 2021, the company launched the Los Angeles helmet, whose headband surface is equipped with a new generation Powerfoyle photovoltaic panel designed by the Exeger Powerfoyle company. Interesting feature, this panel is able to exploit all forms of light, and not only that of the sun. Niklas Jonsson, CEO of Exeger, explained that “If you go for a walk in London on a cloudy day, without ANC you will draw around 8mA (consumption optimization therefore), while charging with the panel will provide 16mA”. Again, not all features need to be enabled for the technology to be profitable.

Urbanista does it again this year with its wireless Phoenix headphones, which thanks to solar power never run out of battery life. The company again uses Powerfoyle panels, which of course are not integrated on the headphones but on the charging box, which then absorb the light to convert it into energy. “Phoenix’s unique case recharges continuously when exposed to light, whether outdoors or indoors.” explains Urbanista. The headphones have an autonomy of 8 hours, an autonomy that increases to around 32 hours with the case. With solar power, it should increase by about an hour for every hour of direct sunlight. The charging case has a USB-C socket, which is nevertheless indispensable. Phoenix headphones should be available in the last quarter of 2022 for around 149 euros.

The Phoenix headphones © Urbanista

Adidas releases a green charging helmet for athletes

Adidas also tries the challenge with its RPT-02-SOL Bluetooth headset with autonomy “almost unlimited”. In partnership with Zound Industries, the manufacturer will also be using Powerfoyle panels to power the battery – although there’s also support for a USB-C cable. The light provides the battery with a total autonomy of 80 hours or even, according to Adidas, autonomy “nearly unlimited when helmet is exposed to light.” Aimed at athletes, it can handle some sweat and humidity and features 45mm dynamic transducers for a 20Hz and 20kHz frequency response. It will be marketed from August 23 at a price of 229 euros.

This technology looks promising but needs further improvement to be truly effective. And who knows, it could eventually power all of our connected items like smartphones, watches or even e-readers.

The Bluetooth headset RPT-02-SOL ©Adidas

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