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The new ATEM Power 300 watt solar blanket from Vicoffroad is an affordable option for travellers with high off-grid power demands.
If like me, you do a lot of off-grid caravanning and camping, you’ll know that you can never have enough solar generating capacity to keep your batteries charged. And as I have mentioned in previous articles, rooftop panels are not always the best solution as they seldom face the sun at the optimum angle. On the other hand, portable solar panels give you the ability to maximise solar energy generation by allowing you to move the panel as the sun moves during the day.
The problems with regular fixed and folding glass solar panels are they are bulky and heavy especially if you’re looking at high wattage units. For this reason, folding solar blankets have become more popular but they tend to be very expensive. Now Vicoffroad has released the ATEM Power 300 watt folding solar blanket and it is set to challenge the market with big specifications and awesome value for money.
According to Vicoffroad, the ATEM Power 12V 300W Portable Solar Blanket is the apex in portable, convenient and lightweight solar panels to suit any camping lifestyle. They are designed for portability and strength being constructed with a solid copper backing and thick connectors for higher efficiency. The solar blanket is constructed of high-quality canvas, allowing it to be flexible, lightweight and pack down to 1/8th of its open size and weigh under 9.0kg. They are weatherproofed to IP68 standard.
Make no mistake, this is a big solar panel measuring over two metres in length when unfolded. Resting it on the windscreen, like you may have done with other smaller blankets, will be a challenge for smaller vehicles. Even on the old 60 series, it was extended beyond the A-pillars. This is not a bad thing. In fact, a criticism of many cheaper panels is that they are simply too small to be able to generate the power they claim.
The panel itself appears to be quite well made and durable enough to suit most travellers. When folded it becomes its own “carry bag” with a very sturdy carry handle and a large pocket for storing the accessories. There are plenty of fabric loops for tying down the panel to prevent it from blowing away in the wind. While not as good as the metal eyelets seen on more expensive solar blankets, they appear to be strong enough for the task.
The ATEM Power 300 watt panel is supplied with a basic PWM solar controller rated at 20 amps, just enough for this big panel. While it is not the most sophisticated controller on the market, it is a reasonable performer. I’ve used the exact same controller with another panel I own and it has never let me down. The addition of two USB outlets as well as the ability to alter some of the charging parameters makes it reasonably useful. It doesn’t have a lithium charging profile but, at this price point, you could purchase a separate MMPT controller and still not break the bank.
Usually, with these cheaper panels, you find the cables are really ordinary. Not so with the ATEM Power panel. While I would like to see a slightly heavier grade cable used for a panel with this high output, the quality of the cables and the connectors are very good, particularly the alligator clips used to attach the controller to the battery. Again, considering the price, you would not be disappointed with the supplied accessories.
We were not able to test the actual output to compare it to the panel’s specifications. Unfortunately, winter in Melbourne is not the ideal time for such activities, however, Vic Off-Road have allowed us to use this panel for a long term evaluation so we hope to be able to feature it in future articles and put its capabilities to the test as the weather improves.
The ATEM Power 12V 300W Portable Solar Blanket has a 12-month warranty and usually retails for $599.95 which is pretty good value for money. Right now, you can actually purchase this panel on special for just $339.95. That is an extraordinarily good deal.
For more information or to purchase, visit the Vicoffroad website.
- Monocrystalline Solar Cell: A-Grade monocrystalline solar cells feature a 23.5% increase in cell efficiency.
- Portability: It can be packed down to 1/8th of its full-size thanks to the blanket design
- Heavy-Duty Construction: 1.2mm heat-resistant PCB backing and IP-68 rated construction to ensure a longer lifespan of the solar panel.
- Ultimate Protection: Built-in solar controller and overcharging cut-off technology ensure its ultra-reliable performance
- Ultra PET Films: These films feature a light penetration rate of 95%, which can greatly increase solar energy conversion efficiency.
- Durability: This panel is impact-resistant, shatter-resistant and water-resistant.
- Charging profiles: AGM, lead-acid, Gel and Calcium batteries
- Max Power Voltage 18.3V
- Max Power Current 16.39A
- Open-Circuit Voltage 21.05V
- Short-Circuit Current 19.67A
- Cell Efficiency Up to 23.5%
- Maximum System Voltage 1000VDC
- Temperature Range -40C to +85C
- Power Tolerance 2%
- Standard Test Conditions 1000W/m2, AM1.5, 25C
- Monocrystalline solar cells
- Product Dimension(Folded): 520x370x110mm
- Product Dimension(Open) 2120x745x6mm
- Total Weight: 9.0kg
The package includes
1 x 300W Solar Panel Folding Kit
1 x PWM Solar Controller with Anderson Style Plug
1 x Alligator Clips with Anderson Style Plug
1 x 5M Cable with Anderson Style Plug & Alligator Clips
1 x Dust Cover
1 x User Manual
Related reading: Caravan Solar – You’re doing it wrong….!