When I was growing up in Sydney in the 1970’s it was common to have power cuts. As adults we took our kids camping only to have a dead car battery in the morning as they had used the car as a private cinema the night before. A portable power plant like the Bluetti EB3A could spell the end of such dilemmas.
Whether you need a small backup generator for essential household appliances or need a power source when traveling, this power solution could be just what you’re looking for.
Bluetti EB3A portable power station
What is a portable power station?
A portable power station, sometimes referred to as a solar generator, is a rechargeable battery pack with a DC and/or AC outlet. Ultimately, you can use it to charge or power your electronic devices and devices.
The theory behind portable power stations is that they are an evolution of the old gasoline generators and offer a cleaner and quieter alternative. Its purpose remains the same: to have a power source in case of an emergency or when traveling. For example, in the event of a power outage, you can continue to power essential equipment like a CPAP machine or refrigerator.
A major benefit is portability, which allows you to take power to where it’s needed. If you’re a handyman who needs to power a 240-volt saw on a construction site or charge your batteries for your cordless drill, you’re in good hands. At a remote campground, you can run a 12-volt fridge, charge your phone or drone, and maybe power a TV.
Unlike some gasoline generators, a portable power station produces a sine wave output that ensures your electronic devices such as computers are kept safe and can be charged from the sun.
Unpacking the Bluetti EB3A
When you hear the words power plant, you immediately think big and heavy. However, the Bluetti EB3A weighs 4.6kg and measures 255 x 180 x 183mm, making it very portable, especially with a fold-down carrying handle.
The EB3A is the baby of Bluetti’s line of power stations, which are increasing in size and weight due to their ability to store and power larger electrical devices. This device has a 240 volt outlet capable of delivering up to 600 watts of a pure sine wave. Look for a label on the back of the electrical device you intend to use that says how many watts the device uses.
A 12-volt, 10-amp car outlet allows for DC powering of portable refrigerators or camping lights. Your mobile phone can be charged wirelessly via a 15-watt pad on the device lid. Alternatively, other electronic devices can be charged via two standard USB-A sockets or a 100W USB-C Power Delivery socket suitable for powering modern laptops.
The Bluetti uses LiFePO4 (lithium iron phosphate) batteries, which are proportionally heavier than the battery in your smartphone, but last much longer and are safer. The 268 watt-hour battery has a lifespan of more than 2,500 cycles at 80% of its original capacity. That means if you charge it empty every day, it would last 7 years.
To illustrate the capacity, a full battery can charge your smartphone about 25 times, a drone 4-5 times and a laptop 3-4 times. Also, you could run a 20-watt fan for 11 hours, a CPAP machine for 9 hours, and a 5-watt light for over 30 hours.
In the box, in addition to the main unit, you get a 240 volt cable and a solar panel cable for charging. An optional 12-volt car charger is available for $20, which we would have liked to see included.
Features of the EB3A
A helpful feature is the ability to monitor the battery via the Bluetti smartphone app. Here you can check the EB3A via Bluetooth from a distance of 10 meters. The app also allows you to control the battery’s built-in light and AC or DC sockets, all from your sleeping bag.
You can also regulate the charging modes between Standard, Turbo and Quiet via the app. Fast charging uses a fan, while quiet mode makes less noise but charges slower, not that the fan is particularly noisy. Turbo mode charges even faster, but has a negative impact on long-term battery life with regular use. In turbo mode from empty, it only takes 40 minutes to reach 80% on mains power, while a full charge takes 80 minutes. The charging time is three hours and 45 minutes on a 12-volt car charger. Another charging option is solar energy. Bluetti sells suitable panels for charging the EB3A in 2-3 hours starting at $399.
The Bluetti is versatile as we can use it at home during a power outage, take it with us camping or charge cordless power tools on the job site. A particularly useful feature is the status as an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). This means that if you plug the EB3A into mains power and then connect critical equipment to the portable power station, they will continue to work uninterrupted in the event of a power outage.
With the portable power station Bluetti EB3A
Helpful information such as battery percentage and input and output watts are clearly displayed on the EB3A’s LCD display. Also nice is the remaining battery life indicator, which estimates how long the battery will last based on what you have plugged in. When charging the device, a corresponding display shows you how long it takes to reach the capacity.
The official specification for the EB3A is that it will power a 24 volt 600w appliance. The spec also says it can go up to 1200 watts. Surge allows an engine to start, as the act of getting the first spin requires an extra boost of energy.
A specific experiment I ran involved powering a 1800 watt hair dryer with the EB3A. According to the specifications just quoted, this should not be theoretically possible, since the station’s security mechanisms switch off the device.
However, the powerlifting mode accessible via the app makes this possible. Before using this mode, you need to consider two important factors. Firstly it drains the battery quickly and secondly it achieves this by lowering the voltage causing the hair dryer to run at half speed. Sensitive, high-wattage devices such as gaming computers or washing machines should not be used in this mode.
I also tested my 12 volt 50 liter travel fridge in the back of my car. When traveling I could plug the EB3A into the car’s 12 volt cigarette plug while I run the fridge (40W). This allowed me to charge the battery during the day while driving and then leave the fridge running all night with the car ignition off. Most importantly, the milk stayed cold in the fridge.
The solar panels available from Bluetti are lightweight, collapsible and have a rear stand to maximize the panel’s angle to the sun and generate the most energy. The included cable features industry standard MC4 connectors, allowing use with cheaper, heavier fixed solar panels. I have unsuccessfully tested a home solar panel just outside of the voltage range, which means it must meet the 12-28 volt / 8.5 amp specification.
Gadget Guys Take
The Bluetti EB3A is an ideal short-term power supply for on the go or a worry-free device for the home. From powering a 12-volt portable fridge to storing your tablet or drone, it gets the job done competently. 240 volts is just a button press away, so you can even use low-wattage appliances like a blender to tame your smoothie addiction while camping.
At less than 5kg, the EB3A is easy to transport but comes at the expense of a small 268Wh battery. Ultimately, though, it’s an affordable and convenient portable power station that gets the job done.
Bluetti EB3A review: a powerful portable power station
Batteries last more than 10 years for average users
Small and lightweight for easy portability
12 volt car charger cable must be purchased separately