Why Kenya is the perfect place for a solar powered mobile phone

Our Kenyan tester, Amos Omondi, has now been making the most of Lokki, our solar powered mobile phone prototype, for the last couple of weeks. We’re especially keen to see how Lokki fares in this East African nation because the country fulfils key criteria for a place where a solar powered phone would be really useful.


Not enough power to the people

First there’s the fact, that charging your phone in Kenya isn’t always easy. The United Nations estimates that 1.5 billion people across the globe still live without electricity, including 85 percent of Kenyans. For many, the desire for electricity begins with the purchase of their first mobile phone, a lifeline for everything from receiving small money transfers, keeping in touch with friends to listening to radio. But if you live in a rural village often the only option is to travel to the nearest town and drop off your mobile phone in a shop. Not only is this method time consuming but money consuming, too.

Sunshine on a rainy day

Besides the lack of electrical grid, there’s the weather. Kenya’s diverse geography means that temperatures vary widely. There’s the hot, rainy plateau of western Kenya, where temperatures range from a minimum of 14°C to 18°C to a maximum of 30°C to 36°C throughout the year. Average temperatures in the Rift Valley and Central Highlands go from a minimum of 10°C to 14°C to a maximum of 22°C to 28°C, while in the semiarid bushlands of northern and eastern Kenya temperatures can be anything from 40°C during the day to less than 20°C at night. Clearly for a solar powered mobile to work, the more sunshine the better.

A closer look at the data

Amos lives in Nairobi, where the temperatures in June can also differ greatly. During Amos’s first two trial weeks, the internal temperature of his Lokki, effected by the sun’s heat ranged from a whopping 54 °C (129 F) on June 11th to just 15 °C (59F) on June 25th.  To see how temperature changes affect the Lokki, check out the graph below.

The two readings to look out for, in future updates graphs, are the green line representing solar (mA), which is the charging current the solar panel supplied to the battery and orange line representing solar charging, (mAh). This is the capacity contribution of solar energy to the battery. As you can see from the purple line representing temperature, when there’s increased solar charging the temperature of Lokki’s battery itself increases. The reason this is recorded is because it’s important for us to know if the battery stays below the maximum allowed charging temperature.  Ironically, what our initial results seem to be telling us is that the Lokki solar panels works better when it’s cooler.

Our next blog post will give you a more detailed insight of both Lokki’s technology and the how to best interpret the data it produces. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please let us know in the comments below.

Source / Fuente: solarcharging.nokia.com

Author / Autor: Joel

 Date / Fecha: 13/07/11

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