Ever since humans found a way of generating electricity and using it in our favor, we have grown increasingly dependent on it. There is basically no way of going through each day without coming across electronic devices. They have most-definitely shaped our way of life.
We are used to charging our phone, our laptop, our smartwatch, speakers, having our TV plugged and ready to be used, our refrigerator, microwave, the air conditioner, the garage, lights, and basically every electronic device we can power.
We take the electricity that comes out of our power outlets for granted, and most of us do not take a moment to appreciate the tremendous accomplishment that is to produce electricity, transform its voltage and current, transport it over hundreds of miles of power lines, convert it again and distribute it to every power outlet of every house and building.
The fact that all the parts of this process work simultaneously is almost a miracle, and that is why we only think about it when it fails.
If by a natural event or a human’s mistake the power is interrupted, we enter into a crisis mode and stand there in the dark waiting for the problem to go away so electricity can come back and so we can return to our usual activities. This is where a portable power station comes in handy.
Portable Power Stations – A Breakdown
A portable power station is a battery-powered generator (also called a solar-powered generator). It is basically a battery that takes Direct Current (DC) and stores it, then, by using an internal inverter it can turn it to AC (Alternating Current) and output it through regular power outlets. Since the original current is DC, it usually also has USB ports and other traditional outlets. It is the perfect way to have electricity available when needed.
While huge generators that work on diesel or natural gas, such as the ones used for backup in hospitals and prisons, are essential in situations where great wattage is required over long periods of time, they are big, noisy, expensive and usually overkill for consumers who just want to power light-use electronic devices. Portable power stations are a good, budget-friendly solution for those needs. Besides, they are silent and generate no fumes or pollution.
EcoFlow RIVER 370 – Overview
The portable power station we will review today will be the River 370 power station designed and built by the company EcoFlow, a company founded by a team of entrepreneurs who used to work on developing the perfect drone battery. Now, they use their experience in creating lightweight, long-lasting, and powerful solar generators. This specific portable power station has a capacity of 370Wh.
On EcoFlow’s website, the River 370 has a price of $549. However, you can find it on shopsolarkits.com for $515. It is a pretty good price for a powerful, lightweight, and easy to use device which can charge up to nine devices simultaneously. Inside this generator lies a lithium battery that works easily inside its sleek, portable casing.
River 370 – Physical Appearance
When one looks at the River 370, the first thing that is noted is its smooth design. Whether the user cares about the physical aspect of the battery or not, its elegant construction catches the eye.
It represents a perfect mix of industrial potency with gentle edges of modern hardware and a contrast of grey. The dark tone of the top and the bottom looks great with the gentler shade of its sides. A handle on the top is built in so that the user can easily lift and transport it.
The River 370 has a weight of 11 lbs and a size of 9.8” x 6.3” x 8.2”, a little more than a 12-pack of soda cans.
It is a small size and lightweight considering its potent capabilities, which will be explained below. This power station is a battery made not to be kept hidden, as happens with many batteries.
The design of this generator, to me, is similar to the design of the iPhone as compared to other phones when the iPhone first came out.
Some of the other phones on the market were very nice, but the iPhone was sleek, simple, and beautiful. The EcoFlow is similar to the iPhone in its desire to have a system that looks timeless in addition to its power capabilities.
On the back panel we find the following:
- A button that turns ON/OFF the AC output ports
- 1 x Carport which provides 12V/8A (96W) DC
- 2 x AC outputs which provide 300W (Surge 600W) pure sine AC
On the front panel we find:
- A monitoring screen which describes the battery usage and remaining power
- 2 x USB-A ports which provide 5V and up to 2.4A (12W) DC
- 2 x USB-A Fast Charge ports which provide 5V, 9V or 12V and up to 28W
- 2 x USB-C ports which work as input/output for 5V, 9V, 12V, 15V or 20V and 3A for up to 60W
- An ON/OFF button
Input Selection for the River 370
One of the most unique things this portable power station has to offer is the fact that you can charge it with two different sources at the same time. There are four ways mentioned here to power it. The four ways are: by one AC adapter, by two AC adapters, by a car charger, and by solar energy:
1. Plugging one USB-C port to a wall socket
The River 370 includes a USB-C cable and an AC adapter to charge the power station from an AC outlet. The USB-C ports on the power station work both as an output and as an input, so you can connect the USB-C cable on any of the two ports and watch the battery percentage increase on the monitoring screen.
The AC outlet provides 100-120V AC which is converted to DC by the AC adapter and transferred through the USB-C cable. The USB-C port is charged with 60W DC, so the power station should be completely charged in up to seven hours.
2. Plugging two USB-C ports to two wall sockets
The second way to charge the power station is the fastest. It is perfect for times when you are in a hurry. It is basically the same as charging the device by connecting it to the wall socket but instead, you charge it by using the two USB-C ports on the power station.
For charging the power station this way you will need two USB-C cables and two AC adapters (The River 370 only includes one of each). Connect both of them and you will have a full battery in about four hours. Not bad for having 370Wh at your disposal in such a short time.
3. Connecting it to a car’s port
A carport provides 12V DC with varying current, depending sometimes on the car’s model and state of its battery. A cable that connects a car charger’s port to a USB-C port is needed for this to work. This way of charging the power station might take a similar time as charging it with the AC adapter, but car chargers are usually less reliable than charging on a power outlet.
By charging it this way the power station should be completely charged in about seven hours.
4. Charging it with solar panels
This battery can also be charged with solar energy, basically converting it into a solar generator. The power station does not include the solar panels nor the cable to connect them to the station.
Charging the power station with solar panels is basically free and environmentally friendly. Depending on the solar panels or the solar array (a set of solar panels) used, the time to fully charge the battery will be between three and nine hours, depending on the size and capacity of the panels, time of day, intensity of the sun and other factors.
Output Selection for the River 370
Here will be listed the multiple outputs and their use:
- 2 x USB-A traditional outputs
Traditional USB ports for charging small electronic devices such as phones or headphones. It provides 5V, which is the standard on USB, and up to 2.4A of current.
(Example: An Apple 5W USB power adapter used for charging an iPhone allows 1A of current)
2. 2 x USB-A Fast Charge outputs
These fast charge USB ports are just like the traditional USB ports, the difference is that these can provide higher voltages, such as 5V, 9V, and 12V with 2.4A. With those voltages, these might be able to charge bigger devices that allow its specifications.
3. 2 x USB-C outputs
USB-C is on its way to take the place of the actual USB-A as the universal connection. Most new cellphones and computers made since a couple of years age include a USB-C port.
Among the USB-C benefits is that it has no orientation and it can be connected on either side, it transfers data faster, it charges devices faster, and it can manage different voltages, such as 5V, 9V, 12V, 15V, and 20V, with up to 3A of current.
4. 1 x Carport with regulated 12V output
This port provides a regulated voltage of 12V. It might not be much for charging some high-demanding devices, but it is a great option for voltage-sensitive equipment. This output has a cover to avoid dust or unwanted items to go inside of it when not used.
5. 2 x AC Outputs which can provide 300W/Surge 600W
These might be the main outputs on the device depending on what you intend to use the generator for. This battery has a built-in inverter that is used to turn the DC on the battery into AC, which is the type of current that comes out of the wall sockets on a house, and generates the 110V provided, which is the standard for many countries, included the ones in North America.
The battery has a capacity of 370Wh and it can provide 300W continuously through these two ports, with a peak wattage of 600W for quick surges of power, like a blender.
LCD Monitoring Screen
Another great feature of the River 370 is its monitoring screen. This LCD screen has a simple, yet attractive design which displays what is happening inside of the battery. On it, you can monitor the input wattage when the power station is being charged, the output wattage when the station is charging something, the battery level, and the remaining charge time. Another data point that the screen shows is a low-temperature indicator and a high-temperature indicator, to prevent the device from any malfunction.
Pure Sine Wave Inverter
Pure Sine Wave inverters produce clean and reliable power, like the one that is usually received from the utility company. The impacts of using pure sine wave over modified sine wave are significant on most devices, such as refrigerators, compressors, microwave ovens, or other items that use AC motors. Pure Sine Wave allows for a smoother energy transfer to make sure your devices receive consistently reliable power.
Battery Management System
The River 370 includes a Battery Management System (BMS). This BMS is basically the brains behind the battery. It manages a battery’s resources to prevent damages to it and reports the status of crucial information.
One BMS function is overvoltage protection when a battery is overcharged. It also makes sure that the battery does not discharge below a certain threshold (typically about 5% of total capacity) because it could cause long-term problems.
Another function of the BMS is energy management, which helps us monitor the charge left in the battery and the time left before the battery runs out given actual usage. Most batteries inside electronics possess these or some of these features, but it is a good thing to keep in mind when deciding over which portable power station to buy.
Extra Features of the River
The River 370 has a unique feature that allows the user to connect and power a device while the battery itself is getting charged. This might sound trivial in theory, but it can come in handy in practice. Aside from that is the already mentioned feature of the ability to charge up to nine simultaneous devices. The last stat might consume the battery really fast but it is good to have that option just in case it’s needed.
Finally, this power station has the following certifications:
- UL Standard
The EcoFlow Power Station Includes:
- EcoFlow River 370 portable power station
- AC adapter
- USB-C cable
- Car charger 12V
- User manual
Since this portable power station is made to be carried around, it is only logical that the user would want to have a cover for it so that no damage comes to the battery. That is why the people at EcoFlow sell a bundle that contains everything that comes with the battery plus a good-looking carrying case.
Solar Panel Options
The best way of saving some money on electricity while taking care of the environment is to turn the River 370 into a solar generator by charging it with solar panels.
While technically any solar panel can do the job successfully, EcoFlow sells its own series of solar panels which come in two capacities:
Both of these panels are foldable and easy to transport, but they are specifically designed for the Delta model, meaning that they come with an XT60 to MC4 cable. The XT60 is the connection used to charge the Delta model, and the MC4 is a standard connection used for solar panels. For these panels to work with the River 370 the user would need to buy an MC4 to USB-C cable.
The 21W panel can work great with small devices such as phones, but to charge the River 370 the 110W panel is recommended. Basically, any panel from different brands can work, as long as voltage and current are considered and as long as the user has the correct cable.
If the 110W panel is used to charge the device, then under perfect conditions the panel should provide about 95-100W (capacity depends on many factors, including the state of the panels and weather conditions, and it is almost always lower than the maximum panel capacity), then the power station should be charged in about four hours. This is rarely the case, but it gives an idea of the charging time. This charging time is exceptional for a 100-Watt input from the panel. If people are going to start taking care of their own electricity in case the power is down or not available, the River 370 would be a great item to start with.