CleanTechnica Tested: The BioLite BaseCharge 600 + SolarPanel 100

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BioLite is moving into the portable power station business with a range of compact and stylish units. They sent us the BioLite BaseCharge 600, a $699, 622 watt-hour portable power station for us to run through the paces.

Right out of the gate, the BioLite BaseCharge 600 comes in a rectangular form factor with a flat top. Outlets on the front of the device sit below a small display. It sports 2 AC outlets, 2 x USB-C outlets, 2 x USB-A outlets, a DC 12 volt automotive outlet, and two DC barrel plug outlets. One of the USB-C ports also doubles as a charging port that can pull in up to 100 watts. It can also be charged up from an Anderson connector for solar or the included AC adapter.

BioLite BaseCharge 600 portable power station
Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

The DC USB and AC sections of the outlet ports are all grouped together at the front of the unit with a single button to turn them on or off. The on-off button for each section turns on the DC to DC converter for the DC and USB outlets and the AC inverter for the AC ports. This enables maximum efficiency and turns on only the ports needed at the time. Each button has a small LED light that lights up when the ports are activated, making it easy to see at a glance which ports are activated or not. Similarly, the display up top has a display button to turn the display on and off.

Up top, a dished-out tray houses a wireless charger which can push out up to 10 watts of power to a cell phone or other wireless charging capable device. A pair of handles on either side provide a solid grip on the unit, and at only 14 pounds, it’s not too heavy that you can’t lift it with one hand.

Charging the BioLite BaseCharge 600

Before they can be used, portable power stations need to be charged up, so let’s start there. The BioLite SolarPanel 100 is, as the name implies, a 100 watt folding solar panel designed to be used while on the go. It is the perfect complement to the company’s portable power stations, turning the BaseCharge 600 into a true solar generator system. In ideal conditions, the 100 watt panel would recharge the BaseCharge 600 from 0-100% in around 7 hours. As with most solar panels, output varies throughout the day depending on the angle of the panels relative to the sun, both vertically and horizontally, as well as the time of year in the region where they’re being used.

BaseCharge 600 portable power station
Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

Here in Southern California, the folding solar panel pushed out between 50 and 100 watts, depending on how I had it set it up and the time of day. That translates to about 8 hours of sunshine for a full charge. In the real world, you won’t typically be charging from 0-100% so it’s more important to line up the production capacity of the solar panel with the expected usage of the battery capacity each day. For example, if you want to charge up 30 cell phones at 10 watt-hours each, that would consume half the capacity of the BaseCharge 600. Charging it back up via solar for about 4 hours would top it back up again.

In our testing, plugging the unit into a wall outlet via the included 90W AC charger provides 85 watts of power to the unit. This provides an 80% charge in 7 hours or a full charge in 8-9 hours. Instead of using a DC barrel adapter, the BioLite AC charger uses the Anderson ports, which is not something we’ve seen before.

BaseCharge 600 portable power station
Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

The BaseCharge 600 can also be charged via USB-C at up to 100 watts. If you really need to get recharged quickly, the BaseCharge 600 is also capable of fast charging via USB-C and the AC wall adapter at the same time, charging the unit up to 80% in 3.5 hours. It’s important to be sure that the USB-C cable being used is capable of pushing this much power down if you’re planning to use USB-C charging as not all cables are created equally.

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Using the BaseCharge 600 Portable Power Station

With a full charge, we headed to our test lab and began stress-testing the BioLite BaseCharge 600. On just about every other portable power station we’ve tested, our Bodum hot water kettle pulls around 800 watts. With the BaseCharge 600’s continuous output of 600 watts and a surge capacity of up to 1,000 watts, this is right in the sweet spot for stress testing. We plugged the hot water kettle and heated up a pot and the BaseCharge 600 didn’t bat an eye. Strangely, the display showed that it was only putting out 500 watts, but the water heated up just the same and the BaseCharge 600 didn’t blow any gaskets.

BaseCharge 600 portable power station
Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

Swapping the hot water kettle out for a Vitamix blender and our tried and true KitchenAid mixer, we cranked both appliances up to their max speeds. Just as with the hot water kettle, the BaseCharge 600 kept up with the load and was able to push out enough power for both. The display showed that it was pushing out just over 500 watts for both devices which is consistent with what we see on other devices.

Overall

With its 622 watt-hour capacity, the BaseCharge 600 can maintain loads like this for a little over an hour. The trade-off for the lower capacity is that this unit is very light compared to most of the one to two kilowatt-hour units we test. This makes it a great option for portable use cases like powering an electric cooler at a soccer game, keeping your devices charged up for a camping trip, or just bringing it along with you to charge up your laptop when you realize it was empty as you run out the door.

The BaseCharge 600 is not a whole home backup solution, but it could easily serve as an emergency power supply in the event of a grid outage. It’s well suited to keeping the internet on and a few lights in areas where power outages are infrequent or less than a day. It could also power a refrigerator for a handful of hours, depending on the model. Plugging it in to a solar panel further extends its utility and capacity to provide power almost indefinitely during an extended outage.

We love that the BioLite BaseCharge 600 and SolarPanel 100 are a compact kit, enabling off-grid power for days on end powered by the sun. This pair would make a great option for car campers looking for something to keep their laptop and devices charged beyond what their vehicle is able to do. As demonstrated by the hot water kettle, it could also support some light duty cooking with a water kettle or even a low power induction cooktop.

For more information about or to purchase the $699.00 BioLite BaseCharge 600 or the $399.95 SolarPanel 100, head over to their respective web pages.

Specs

  • Capacity: 622 watt-hours
  • Chemistry: NMC lithium-ion cells
  • Max AC Output: 600 W continuous, 1,000 W surge
  • Outputs: AC, DC, DC Barrel, USB-A, USB-C, USB-C PD, 10 watt wireless charging pad on top deck
  • Display: Color LCD display w/Reset-able Energy Odometer to monitor usage
  • Recharge Time to 80% (AC Adapter): 7 hours
  • Recharge Time to 80% (AC Adapter + USB-C PD): 3.5 hours
  • Recharge Time to 80% (1×100 watt Solar Panel): 6 hours
  • Weight: 14.0 lb / 6.4 kg
  • Price:  $699
  • Warranty: 2 years

Disclaimer: BioLite provided the BaseCharge 600 and SolarPanel 100 to the author free of charge for the purposes of this review.


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Kyle Field

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in Tesla, Lightning eMotors, Arcimoto, and SolarEdge.

Kyle Field has 1659 posts and counting. See all posts by Kyle Field