One of the complaints we received about the Sego Innovations Origami Solar Charger that we reported on a week ago was that it only puts out a paltry 25 watts, leaving no option for increasing capacity other than buying more units. Well, don’t you know? There is another Kickstarter that addresses this issue. Italian startup Levante has updated its origami-inspired solar-powered design to create a portable system that can expand like wings to multiples the size of its pack. Unlike Sego panels, Levante units aren’t great for light backcountry activities, but they’re an interesting solution for RVs, car camping, sailboats, and off-grid homesteads.
Levante was founded in 2021 by Sara Plaga and Kim-Joar Myklebust, a couple who love to travel, sail and camp. The duo was trying to solve a problem they encountered while traveling: the existing portable solar panel system couldn’t fully meet their mobile power needs.
“Despite the widespread use of renewable energy in transportation, current solar panel solutions still have too many limitations,” Praga said. “Rigid solar panels, while powerful, are bulky, heavy, and limited to permanent installations. Portable solar panels, on the other hand, are too fragile, still bulky, and not strong enough to do much for the required energy needs. Make a meaningful contribution To overcome these problems, many people are forced to use alternative solutions to meet their energy needs: connecting to the grid, starting motors or using generators – all of which are limited, create noise and air pollution, And there will be additional fuel costs.”
Plaga and Myklebust thought they could create a system with the functionality, portability, and overall sustainability they wanted, and they hoped to achieve that vision with origami. Much like Sego, Levante’s creations are inspired by the origami-style foldable solar panels of satellites and spacecraft.
Levante’s origami-inspired system of foldable panels looks ready to take digital nomadism and off-grid power up a notch. Rated at 500 watts and 330 watts, the system offers more charging capacity than common portable folding panels, yet is only 1/9 the size of its unfolded form, making it foldable and portable.
The Levante’s design features a series of panels whose edges are zipped together. The design functions like a sheet of origami, folding in multiple directions in seconds with a single motion. The 500-watt model instantly creates approximately 9 times the surface area of its folded form, going from 47 x 16 inches (119 x 40 cm L x W) to a 106 x 65 inch Winged Array (270 x 165 cm) size.
Each Levante panel system comes with a 9.8-foot (3-meter) MC4 output cable for plugging into a portable power station, vehicle charge controller, or home microinverter. The Levante also offers an optional zipped 5W module for direct charging of USB devices such as smartphones.
Under the right conditions, Levante estimates, a 330-watt system will fill a 1,000-watt-hour battery station in about a day, while a 500-watt system will be able to do it twice in a day. The company believes that the 500W model will be able to meet the entire onboard energy needs of a 45-foot (13.7-meter) sailboat, or double that of a camper van, if the sun cooperates.
A day of intense sunlight is also enough to charge a 60 Wh laptop battery 24 times, or an 11 Wh smartphone battery more than 133 times, the company estimates.
Levante panels can be laid flat or supported using the included telescopic stand arms. Nautical-grade zippers between the panels make the design modular, so users can remove or add additional Levante panels to suit individual travel or use needs. The design also allows for replacement if one or more monocrystalline panels are damaged.
The 500 W Levante system weighs 29 lbs (13.5 kg), while the 330 W version weighs 20 lbs (9 kg). The latter has the same footprint as the 500W model at 47 x 16 inches, though it’s slightly thinner at 2 inches (5 cm) instead of 3 inches (7.6 cm). With fewer panels, the 330-W model can expand six times the area instead of nine.
After showing its prototype at a marine equipment trade show in Amsterdam last fall and testing its panels on a sailboat earlier this year, Levante is trying to raise the capital it needs to bring its system to market.The 330W version is currently available at a price of crowdfunding The promised price is €925 (~$1,000) and the 500-W model is €1,388 (~$1,500), which is about 50 percent less than the planned MSRP.
Crowdfunding on Kickstarter seems to be hungry for this type of product, as the Levante has raised more than $123,000 against a goal of $11,000 with just over two weeks left in the campaign. A quick recap of Sego’s campaign shows that its smaller 25W origami-style charger has now raised over $237,000, with the event just over a week away.