Sustainable, renewable energy is a hot topic. It is especially a hot topic in the emergency preparedness community to use renewable power sources. Additionally, for sportsmen and adventurers who find themselves in the wild, off-grid, a reliable energy source is always of interest. The world is crazy and getting crazier every day. The power grid is vulnerable in many places. The need for reliable, renewable power seems more important now than ever.
I was recently offered a chance to evaluate the Bluetti AC60 Power Station and the PV 200 Solar Panel. Full disclosure, Bluetti provided me, at no charge, both of the above for evaluation. I should also point out that prior to being provided the AC60 and the PV 200 Solar Panel, I clearly communicated with Bluetti that I would be brutally honest with my review. If their equipment was junk, that would be reflected in my review. If I found their gear to be
excellent, that would also be reflected in my Bluetti review.
The representative from Bluetti agreed and soon the brown truck of Happiness (Also known as the United Parcel Service) delivered both items. I eagerly set about to start the evaluation.
Table of Contents
What is a Power Station?
Whether you call it a solar generator, power station, or what have you, items of this category feature some sort of rechargeable battery with built-in inverters to provide electrical output (often both AC and DC) and some sort of input port to recharge said battery, usually through the use of a solar panel. Many times there are also alternate means to recharge the battery, often through the use of a standard AC wall socket. For the purpose of this article, I will use Bluetti’s nomenclature and refer to them as portable power stations.
I unboxed both and inspected them closely. I should note that both items came from Bluetti well packaged and cushioned. Some may scoff as this being a point of evaluation, but how many people reading this have bought gear only to have it damaged enroute during shipping?
The AC60 power station weighs about 20 pounds and features a LiFePo4 lithium iron phosphate battery. LiFEPO4 batteries generally have a longer lifespan, charge faster, and are low maintenance. It is a 400-watt hour power station ( actually 403.2-watt hours according to the specs, but 400-watt hours is close enough for government work). As a brief example of what a watt hour is, if you have a lamp with a 60-watt bulb and run it for one hour, you have used 60-watt hours.
The AC60 Power station capacity can be expanded to 2000 Watt hours with the addition of two Bluietti B80 expansion batteries. The AC60 power station also features a 600-watt pure sine inverter. This increased capacity would definitely come in handy if the energy storage capacity was expanded with the B80 expansion batteries. I have never laid hands on a B80 expansion battery, so other than pointing out that this capability exists, I will comment no further on them in this article.
The AC60 appears very strongly constructed and has a built-in carrying handle that collapses flat when not in use. The input ports, output ports, controls, and display panel are all well laid out, and easy to use and read. There is a power button and an “AC” and “DC” button, depending on the nature of the electrical output desired. Other specifications for the AC60 are below:
|Weight||20.06 lbs / 9.1 kg|
|Dimensions (LxWxD)||11.3” × 8.5” × 9.7” / 290mm × 205mm×234mm|
|Charging Temperature||32°F-104°F / 0℃-40℃|
|Discharging Temperature||-20°C-40°C (-20°C-30°C: 600W Max.; 30°C-40°C: 500W Max.) |
-4°F-104°F(-4°F-86°F: 600W Max.; 86°F-104°F: 500W Max.)
|Storage Temperature||-4°F-104°F / -20℃-40℃|
The AC60 features a cigarette lighter port, one USB-C port, and two USB-A ports for DC output. A feature that I really appreciate as a creature comfort is a wireless charging station for cell phones on top of the AC 60. I thought this was really a nice touch. For AC output, the AC 60 has two standard female sockets. I like the fact that all the input and output ports have rubberized dust covers. Input ports are on the right side of the unit as you look at the
Another well-thought-out feature is a light on the back side of the AC60. It has a less bright setting, a more bright setting, and a setting that can be used as a SOS beacon. To me, the light was a nice touch.
The AC 60 can be charged via solar panel, standard AC wall socket, generator, or via the cigarette lighter from a vehicle. Charging cords for each method are provided with the AC60 Power Station
What about the solar panel?
The PV 200 solar panel was also sent for evaluation. After unpacking it, words like “sturdy”, “beefy” and “massive” come to mind. This thing is very sturdily built and it is BIG. For personal use, the largest solar panel that I have used previously was 40 watts. The Bluetti panel has a 200-watt capacity and dwarfs the 40-watt panel I have used for years. The panels fold up neatly and are secured by two quick-release fasteners.
The charging cord is contained in a zippered compartment on the back of the PV200 when it is folded. It is very intuitive to use.
A carrying handle is built into the solar panel also. Blue in color, of course.
Fire That Sucker Up
One trend I see is folks trying to be the cool guy and using all kinds of things without at least casually perusing the owner’s manual. Maybe I am a nerd, geek, weirdo, etc etc etc. Folks, no one usually (not always) knows more about equipment than the people who designed and built it. Read the darn manual before you use this (and other) equipment. Pay special attention to the paragraphs that say “ATTENTION”, “CAUTION” and “DANGER”. You get the idea.
After reading the manual, I set up the power station to charge it fully with the solar panel. I have an older power station from another manufacturer that I’ve owned for years that does not have a LiFePo4 battery and is significantly heavier. The Bluetti is considerably lighter and it was obvious when carrying it.
The AC60 came from the factory and charged at 55 percent. Although I live in a region that has over 300 sunny days a year, it was a partly cloudy day. That said, the unit powered up quickly to one hundred percent capacity in a few hours. modes of charging. There are three modes of charging: Turbo/Standard/Silent. Standard is the default and more friendly to the AC60’s battery. Turbo is used to recharge the unit faster, silent gives the user quiet, low-powered energy for long battery life. Turbo and silent can only be used through using the Bluetti app to control it. I’m sorry folks, this seems like pure folly. Why have features that rely on wireless connectivity on something that very well be often used off the grid in areas with no Wi-Fi or other cellular connectivity?
The AC60 is water and dust-resistant. Note I didn’t say waterproof. As outlined in the owner’s manual, do not expose it to heavy rain or other precipitation. Could it likely stand up to a light rain? Very likely. Drop it in a creek and you will be up that creek without the proverbial paddle.
I discharged it using a lamp, recharging various devices such as GMRS transceivers, cell phones, and laptops. The display makes it easy to determine the wattage output being used and the remaining life of the energy stored by the battery. The AC60 lived up to expectations.
I am going to have to use this item more to test its longevity. To this point, I like it very much. The AC60 is designed for travel and outdoor use, although there is some conflicting verbiage, very likely put there to satisfy lawyers, in the owner’s manual. Bluetti does have an excellent reputation in the emergency preparedness community and I can see why. If allowed to continue to test this gear, I believe a follow-up piece can be expected in 6 months to a year. But my impression now is that it’s a well-thought-out, well-designed piece of gear that may be of interest to someone interested in preparing for bad things or doing their thing in remote locales.
Full disclosure, I am not an engineer. I am a beat-up old paratrooper and green beret whose post-military career was interesting and involved a great deal of contingency planning. Additionally, I have been a part of the preparedness community for decades and an avid outdoorsman for a lifetime. I am an end user, not an engineer or scientist, but I have great respect for both. I do have a good nose for what works and what does not in field conditions. The AC60 Power Station and the PV 200 solar panel are not cheap. Quality seldom is. The prospective buyer has to clearly examine their needs and determine if this product is right for them. Below are links to the AC 60 Power Station and the PV 200 Solar Panel: