We love 2-for-1 devices here at Inhabitat – after all, what’s more efficient and environmentally friendly than having one single tool that can serve variety of purposes? That’s why we were super excited today at the Consumer Electronics Show to discover the Freeplay Companion: a solar and hand-cranked mobile power charger that also happens to be a radio and a flashlight all in one cute little package. Measuring just 4.9″ long, this veritable Swiss Army Knife of renewable power generation can charge cell phones with either solar power or physical exertion (hand-cranking), as well as helping you out with your radio and lighting needs.
Offering a choice of self-charge, solar and external recharge power options, the Companion delivers complete independence from wall power or disposable batteries while ensuring environmentally sustainable access to information and entertainment. A 1-minute wind gives you 20 minutes of radio listening at normal volume, or 30 minutes of light, and you can wind some more at any time for as much play time / shine time as you want. Designed as a companion for those who value independence from conventional power sources, the Companion was just announced and will be in retail for $30 in stores like REI by the spring.
With a long history of selling hand-crank radios and lights, Freeplay’s stated mission is “To make energy available to everybody all of the time”. As one would expect from the universal practicality of their products the company is heavily involved in aid and development work around the world, in addition to simply stocking outdoorsman stores with cool off-grid gadgets. In fact the whole company was founded on a simple humanitarian design idea.
While watching a BBC documentary on “The Clockwork Radio” in 1994, Freeplay founder Chris Staines first realized the importance of energy independence and sustainable mobile energy generation. In Africa many people listen to the radio for communication, education and entertainment. While traditional radio is widespread, it relies on an electrical supply or the availability of disposable batteries – both of which were in short supply across the continent. Chris and his business partner, Rory Stear, immediately realized that the potential for self-sufficient electronics could go much further than radio and Africa. Thus the “self-sufficient electronics industry”, and the Freeplay Energy Group were born. But its not just Africans who need freedom from disposable batteries and nasty electrical cords. In the future every gadget should be renewably powered through kinetic and solar energy. Freeplay is lighting the way for all of us.