Lithium Portable Power Station and Solar for Camping

Lithium Portable Power Station and Solar for Camping

Has anyone used a lithium portable power station (there are many out there) to take camping and recharge? I occasionally take week long camping trips to locations where there is no electricity, and I wonder about the practicality of taking along a little extra power to keep the range up and avoid losing miles while the car sits all week in the forest. The portable power station could be hooked up to a solar panel and used to charge the car. I am interested in hearing specific recommendations, and about how many miles this could get me (i.e., whether it is worth the trouble). I saw a goal zero yeti unit that looked pretty interesting. How many miles could that get me?

reed_lewis | 15. August 2018

Considering that an average panel puts out about 250 (or so) watts, a single panel in great sunlight (about 6 hours a day) would give you 1.5 kW or about 6 miles of range.

That is hardly enough to even consider.

reed_lewis | 15. August 2018

Plus if the car is in the forest, that means it is not in direct sunlight. You would get even less power than that.

The amount of power used in a car is orders of magnitude higher compared to whet these portable solar panels are designed for.

jamespompi | 16. August 2018

@reed_lewis It would offset the vampire drain, which I think is what OP is mainly looking for..

I was actually thinking about this last night. I know Tesla has shot down the idea of a solar roof several times, but what if they did a folding solar sunshade? That windshield is at least big enough for a 100W panel, could be sold as an accessory rather than increase the cost of the car, serve a dual purpose and be plugged into the accessory outlet on the car.

reed_lewis | 16. August 2018

The issue right now is the car is either charging or not charging. There is a minimum amount of current that has to flow into the car through the charging port. So any of these 'solutions' would never work because they do not meet the minimum amount of current required.

You cannot 'trickle charge' a Tesla. It does not work.

brent | 16. August 2018

Thank you for your comments, they are very helpful. I have a few follow up questions then -
Regarding minimum current required to charge, I suppose that could be solved by using a solar panel which charges a Lithium Portable Power Station (LPPS). Once the LPPS is fully charged, then you could plug the Tesla into the LPPS to charge up the Tesla battery. I think that would work. The ones I was looking at online are the Goal Zero ones, and for example the Yeti 1000 has a 1045Wh pure sine wave AC inverter with 120VAC 60Hz, 12.5A 1500W, 3000W surge. The Yeti 400 has a 428Wh 120VAC 60Hz, 2.5A 300W continuous, 1200W surge max. The 400 would take 8-16 hours to charge with a 100W panel, while the 1000 would take 20-40 hours, so perhaps the Yeti 400 would work better with a solar charger.

The forest always has sunny spots. You can put the solar panels in the sun since the LPPS is portable. Just put the LPPS behind the solar panels so it stays cool, and the solar panels soak up the sun.

Yes, I presume this would probably only get you about 6 miles of charge per day, but if I'm out for a week in the woods, it would 1) at least counter the effects of vampire drain; and 2) might give me up to 30 extra miles, which might make the difference.

blue adept | 16. August 2018


While I realize that this is just another charge-as-you-go scheme (like solar roof panels, turbines, etc.), I'd still be interested to hear of whatever results you might manage to realize, so do please post back with your results, though I caution you to take heed of @reed_lewis' warning about the 'minimal charge' requirement to prevent the possibility of explosion or damaging the charge port at the very least.

brent | 17. August 2018

@just an allusion Thanks I will try, but since this forum isn't searchable, and this thread may die and drift to the bottom of the ocean sooner than my Model 3 is delivered and I have a chance to try, I doubt I'll be able to find it again. Still, I'll try. I am thinking of getting a portable power unit anyway for my house, which will soon have solar panels, because I want to be able to run my well pump during power outages, and because I can't justify the cost of a Tesla Powerwall. I confirmed with Goal Zero that the Yeti can be made to have a 220V option which allows 110 or 220, and that's desirable since my well pump runs off of 220V. My well pump is only a 1.5HP pump so it won't draw as much as other pumps that have to draw water up hundreds of feet. So I think a small portable lithium generator like that will work for the home as well as serve as a portable unit when I go for a week camping once or twice a year. Goal Zero said they don't charge more for the 220V option either, which is cool.

rxlawdude | 17. August 2018

The reviews of the Yeti are not great. I am also concerned about under-engineered battery management, especially in their LiIon models.

brent | 17. August 2018

@rxlawdude Thanks. I was looking at the technical specs again and the 120V outlet has a 12.5 Amp max, and the Gen 2 Tesla Mobile Connector Owner's manual says it has to have 120V and at least 15 Amp. So, the Goal Zero Yeti battery won't work. Back to researching...

Rocky_H | 17. August 2018

@brent, Quote: " I was looking at the technical specs again and the 120V outlet has a 12.5 Amp max, and the Gen 2 Tesla Mobile Connector Owner's manual says it has to have 120V and at least 15 Amp. So, the Goal Zero Yeti battery won't work. Back to researching..."

No--wait a second. Don't dismiss it yet. Understand what those specifications mean and what their context is. Those specs are written assuming the pretty standard thing of electrical outlets that are in buildings. The lowest amp outlet type that exists is a 5-15, so that's what they mean by that. But the car does not require drawing amps that high. On the charging screen of the car, you can set the amount of amps you want it to draw from the power source, down to as low as 5A. At least the Model S has that; I would expect the same of Model 3.

So it's just a question of what kind of outlet that Goal Zero Yeti thing has on it so that the Tesla charging cable can physically plug into it, and I would be surprised if it's not a 5-15. The charge cable will communicate with the car to leave the appropriate amount of overhead, so it will only draw 12A on a 15A outlet type, so you might want to turn that down just a little if the Yeti can only supply 12.5A max, but it should work.

brent | 17. August 2018

Ok I found one that should work great:

Kodiak Portable Solar Generator
1.1kWh lithium ion battery with, among other things, a 30 Amp NEMA TT-30R output plug!

I could charge it up before a trip, and upon arriving at camp use the precharged 1.1kWh energy to charge up. Then it could be charged during the day with solar panels, and used to top up the Tesla once the sun goes down.

brent | 17. August 2018

@Rocky_H just saw your reply as I was posting another option. I think the Kodiak may work better since it already has a 30 Amp plug and that would take less time to charge anyway. 1.1kWh of power is probably more than you will be able to fill up in a day with portable solar panels anyway, and at $1,875 it could be within my budget since it could be used as backup for my well pump too. I have to ask them if they can modify the 30 Amp plug to be 220 or 240 V since my well pump runs on 230 V (60Hz, 9 amp continuous 11.5 surge).

rxlawdude | 17. August 2018

My favorite was reading about the Yeti 1400 Lithium... "120V AC inverter (output, pure sine wave): 120VAC, 60hZ, 12.5A (1500W, 3000W surge)" and the battery is 1.425kWh.

So, at full load, you get an hour of use. Maybe.

brent | 17. August 2018

Ok the Kodiak people just confirmed there is no 220 volt option for their 30 Amp outlet, so that might not work for my dual purpose of powering the well pump which runs 230 volts...

brent | 17. August 2018

@rxlawdude Yes but again, if I'm using portable solar panels during the day to charge the battery up and using that energy to charge the Tesla in the evening, an hour a day for 7 days in the woods results in a lot of miles I wouldn't have otherwise, and also avoids the vampire drain to some degree. Also, it serves as backup power for my home in case of a power outage, and since I have a well which requires electricity to run the water, it is going to be great to have water running during an emergency.

frankie | 17. August 2018

You would be much better off purchasing a small 2000 watt generator and a small gas can. Its not really a real green solution but you will gain 3-4 miles of range per hour vs. per day. Only issue is you may need to make a small adapter to plug in between the generator and vehicle charger so that it thinks it is grounded.

rxlawdude | 17. August 2018

@brent, the problem with solar recharging is that it's far from reality that you will get maximum output to match the "recharge in 8-10 hour" BS. I like the concept, don't get me wrong. But the execution, in my view, isn't good enough to make a compelling argument.

Your use is somewhat unique and perhaps it will work for you. But prepare to be disappointed and if it turns out to work well, you're unexpectedly happy! :-)

blue adept | 17. August 2018


Thanks! I'll keep an eye out for the updates regarding what you finally decided to settle on and what the results were.

Also, for your well pump, might I suggest the use of a wind turbine? It'll work whether it's sunny or not and might serve to complement/supplement/augment your solar panel(s).

Just a thought.

richard.j.zak | 23. Januar 2019

@brent, don't loose your enthusiasm for this! I think the solar charging for the car is a great idea, and I'm in the same boat as needing 220v as a backup for my well pump. Were you able to find a workable solution?

willfealey | 15. Mai 2019

So what did you go for in the end @brent?