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Charging USB-C MacBook from battery/solar in the field?

Discussion in 'Mac Ham Radio on macOS & iOS' started by W1HMM, Sep 9, 2019.

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  1. W1HMM

    W1HMM XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Greetings All,

    Has anyone found a good way to charge a USB-C MacBook Pro (or at least keep the battery from draining as fast) from their battery/solar power source while operating portable?

    The suggestions I keep getting are variations of "get a PowerPole to 12v cigarette lighter outlet and then use an inverter to plug the Apple power brick into". That just seems inefficient (convert 12v to 110v to convert it back to the proper DC output), with multiple points of failure, will add weight to what I have to carry, and is likely to be an excellent source of RFI.

    Any ideas and suggestions would be welcome.

    --Harry, W1HMM
  2. KB0MNM

    KB0MNM Ham Member QRZ Page

    There are various inverters made for commercial solar installations that will give you 120 VAC, and that is sometimes the best way to avoid damage to your laptop ( because you use the power supply which expects some variation in the 120 VAC, especially 50Hz./60Hz. supplies made overseas ). If the name starts with "Morningxxxx", be aware that you may be 'mourning' the noise issue- or not. There were varied reports for those, and it seems the 'charge controllers' did get much better. If you choose to avoid these, I had little noise from a mobile mini-van years ago using a Tripp-Lite PowerVerter(R) in the 600 Watt size. It was also strong enough to run a sawzall ( reciprocating saw ) during a vehicle extrication practice event. We cut that junker up to practice getting a driver out of a crashed car. I understand that Red Light Rescue still helps with that. Do mount the inverter on a metal plate, the heat-sink fins are not just for show. A fan is better yet. This particular one was ( and probably still is ) pretty quiet. More specific: PV4527 9230AY S/N 9230AY0PV452700458, Acme Electronics, Golden Valley, Mn. There are multiple sources for this and similar products- get extra current capability for lower noise. It's a switch-mode thing.
  3. WV8A

    WV8A Ham Member QRZ Page

    A good quality inverter is the easiest, best and safest way to power your MB Pro from a DC source. There is no (to my knowledge) available DC to USB-C or MagSafe power source. This video linked below describes a DIY way to power from an external DC supply, but with a large number of caveats. The computer senses (from chip either in the end plug or in the charger) what kind of Apple charger/PSU it is, and determines if voltage is correct and what the supply's DC current capacity is. Incompatibilities will not allow the computer power up. Not something you can readily duplicate at home.
    "How to power a Macbook using a DC power supply"

    I would also consider, for power conservation, using a computer that uses much less power than the MB Pro, like a small screen MB Air. Depending on what modes you're using, for digital (WSJTX, fldigi), many portable ops are using RaspberryPi as a field computer; lots of online guides to doing this. If you're doing CW or phone and just want a computer for logging, there are logging apps for phone and tablets.

  4. SM0XHJ

    SM0XHJ Ham Member QRZ Page

  5. WF7A

    WF7A Subscriber QRZ Page

    That may not have enough "oomph" for the MacBook Pro, though--IIRC, they draw around 45W when idle. (The stock charger that came with mine is 61W.)
  6. SM0XHJ

    SM0XHJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    That particular one is "only" rated for 36W it seems. I think the one I have in my boat is rated 45W. That is definitely enough to keep my i7 laptop running.
    With a bit of googling I found this one, rated 60W:
  7. KA9JLM

    KA9JLM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Are they using 5 Volts ?
  8. WV8A

    WV8A Ham Member QRZ Page

  9. WF7A

    WF7A Subscriber QRZ Page

  10. W1HMM

    W1HMM XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Good Morning All,

    Thank you far all the input. It's been very helpful. I did a little more searching and found a product that uses 12v incoming power and sends it out via a USB-C port rated for Power Delivery.

    It just arrived yesterday and I plugged it into my 12v power supply in the shack a few minutes ago through a powerpole to cigarette lighter plug. At this point it *looks* like I'm charging according to the System Information report. I haven't found any new RFI on 6m through 80m so I'm hopeful. With luck I'll have some sun sometime during the next couple days and can try this with my LiFePo battery and solar panel and see how it does from the battery/solar system.

    If I does well I'll clip off the lighter end to install powerpoles and inline fuses.

    I'll update here what I find.

    Harry, W1HMM
    N6WH, KB0MNM and WF7A like this.

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