Bluetti SwapSolar review: power and chill with swappable batteries


Solar generators and battery-powered fridges are highly desirable additions to vans, boats, cabins, and sheds, or anywhere power and refrigeration is needed off the grid. Both are meant to be portable by necessity but suffer from the same issue: weight. 

Bluetti just started shipping its SwapSolar kit that pairs an AC180T solar generator with its MultiCooler, a 3-in-1 solar-powered fridge, freezer, and ice maker. What makes this kit interesting is that the MultiCooler and AC180T devices can share the same B70 LFP batteries, which can be charged inside either device when plugged into your car’s 12V socket, a standard power outlet, or solar panels.

This modular approach has some other interesting benefits, too:

  • Divide these heavy devices into multiple components for easier transport.
  • Worry less about charging batteries or buying bigger ones by getting as many B70 batteries as you need to cover your average roadtrip, workday, or home blackout.
  • Repair or replace just the battery or the unit it powers should something go wrong or upgrades become available.

Building a modular ecosystem of products around small interchangeable batteries has already seen success by makers of handheld power tools. Bluetti is expanding the concept to devices needed for extended off-grid living, with more SwapSolar products coming.

Great, but first we need to see if the devices shipping today can independently justify the total price of the $2,000 SwapSolar kit.

Editor’s note: When this review was finished, we went back to take one last photo and discovered that the MultiCooler would not turn on for reasons explained below. We are therefore withholding its score until Bluetti can assure us it’s not a widespread defect.

Reklama

The SwapSolar B70 battery at the heart of these systems holds 716.8Wh of energy and is built using LFP chemistry. LFP — short for lithium iron phosphate — batteries last longer, are safer, and work in a wider range of operating temperatures than the smaller and lighter NMC-based batteries they’re rapidly replacing. The B70 should hold 80 percent of its original charging capacity, even after 3,000 cycles.

Bluetti will sell you as many B70 batteries as you’d like, but right now, they only work with the AC180T solar generator and MultiCooler. The AC180T can be powered by one or two batteries, while the MultiCooler fits only one.

The AC180T solar generator fitted with two hot-swappable B70 batteries will continue charging my laptop uninterrupted after one battery is removed to power the MultiCooler.

MultiCooler

The 3-in-1 MultiCooler (model F045D) refrigerator, freezer, and ice maker is very similar to the EcoFlow Glacier I reviewed last year. However, the MultiCooler lacks EcoFlow’s dual-zone feature that lets you divide the main compartment into both a freezer and fridge that can run simultaneously. That could be a deal-breaker for some. On the other hand, Bluetti’s MultiCooler runs longer on battery and is usually a little quieter.

Noise is a critical factor for any device that runs all night within earshot of your bed in an RV, cabin, or boat. Bluetti’s MultiCooler is thankfully nearly silent until the compressor kicks in. Then it gets about as loud as a home theater projector, or about 35dB in my testing, as it cools the unit down. Cooling is relatively slow, however. Even with the refrigeration mode set to Max in the Bluetti app, it took 23 minutes to go from room temperature to 6 degrees Celsius / 43 degrees Fahrenheit and then another 17 minutes to reach -10C / 14F. That’s slower, but quieter, than the EcoFlow Glacier.

1/17

It fits a lot, but you can only choose to refrigerate or freeze, not both simultaneously by inserting a divider.

Bluetti consistently reported a lower temperature than my own trusty thermometer during testing. For example, my thermometer placed inside the unit read -8C / 17.6F when the app and MultiCooler display read -10C / 14F, and when the MultiCooler said it was 3C / 37.4F, the thermometer read 5C / 41F. At least it was consistently inconsistent, which is something I can work around.

Smart plug visualization showing the MultiCooler operating as a refrigerator before 11AM and freezer after. Each power spike corresponds to the compressor coming on to cool the device. It used 308Wh from the wall jack on this particular day.

The unit goes almost completely silent once it hits your defined temperature set in the app or on the physical display, interrupted by a few bubbles and scratches now and again that likely won’t be too annoying for most people. The compressor runs for about 10 minutes at around 33dB, followed by 20- to 40-minute gaps of near silence in my testing. It turns on with what sounds like five distinct clicks of a mechanical button and turns off with a slight rattle that’s noticeable when empty (the lightweight food baskets inside the fridge shake).

Ice making is a much noisier affair, as you’d expect, and occurs in its own dedicated compartment — not in the freezer. The first batch of ice takes about 23 minutes as the MultiCooler produces a loud 48dB from a distance of one meter. The noise is constant and only stops about one minute before the ice drops into the bucket. Each batch thereafter is just as loud but only takes about 12 minutes. You can select between small or large ice, which yields a sheet of two dozen small (or less small) hollow cubes. It can produce ice continuously until the one-liter water reservoir is empty — that’s about 100 cubes. In my testing, the ice was about half melted after being left in the closed bucket for six hours.

One quirk of making ice is that Bluetti stops cooling the main compartment to do it. That should be fine in all but the hottest environments, so long as the lid is left closed. To test the quality of the insulation, I turned off the MultiCooler that had been operating for a day at -10C / 14F while half full of frozen food. According to the app, it measured -8C / 17.6F after one hour, -6C / 21.2 F after two hours, and -5C / 23F after three hours. It was still at 1C / 34F some 14 hours later.

Battery life is very good. In Max refrigeration mode, I was able to bring the temperature down to -10C / 14F, make four batches of ice, and then maintain that temperature for 36 hours before a recharge was needed. In Eco mode, I started the timer when the temperature was already -10C / 14F, made two batches of ice, and maintained the temperature for 40 hours before the battery died. In both cases, the battery quit inelegantly with an E1 error (low battery voltage protection) at about 5 percent charge left. Bluetti tells me “this is normal” which is… come on.

Bluetti provides adapters to power the MultiCooler by three other methods: a 12V / 24V DC connection to a car socket; a standard AC wall jack; or up to 200W of direct connected solar panels, but only if there’s a battery inside. Bluetti didn’t provide any charging data like watts, voltage, and current when I connected a 200W solar panel to the MultiCooler — it just shows it charging on the display and in the app. The unit can make ice no matter how the unit is powered, unlike the EcoFlow Glacier.

The MultiCooler includes a handle and wheels as standard, which make it relatively easy to transport over flat ground when fully loaded. It’s still heavy even without the B70 battery installed, and the wheels are rather small, resulting in limited ground clearance — that means occasionally having to drag the MultiCooler over rougher terrains.

Unfortunately, as I was wrapping up this review, I found that the MultiCooler would not turn on after sitting idle for about a week. It is now back with Bluetti, and a preliminary report suggests that my issue was caused by a heatsink detaching from a MOS tube — a critical voltage control element on the MultiCooler’s circuitry — possibly as a result of rough handling during shipment. Bluetti will now determine if this is a one-off situation or a general defect that requires changes in the manufacturing and assembly process.

We will update this review and add a MultiCooler score when we get the final analysis from Bluetti.

I should also note that while 3-in-1 fridge, freezer, and ice-making combos are impressive in all they can do, they are also expensive compared to simple 12V portable car fridges that cost less than half as much. But those won’t make ice from the power of the Saharan sun, so what’s even the point?

AC180T

The AC180T solar generator is a nicely designed power station with a built-in MPPT charge controller to connect solar panels. Nearly all the outputs and display can be conveniently found on the front, with the AC input on the side. A lid on the top hides the two B70 slots, which are keyed to ensure the batteries are inserted correctly, for a total capacity of 1.43kWh.

For context, 1.43kWh is enough to keep a 6000BTU window air conditioner (400W) running for about six hours, boil about 35 liters of water from a 1000W electric kettle, or keep a Starlink internet from space system running for about a day and a half.

Bluetti’s modular approach really helps to divvy up the weight of the AC180T. Each 5.3 × 6.3 × 13.8in / 134 × 160 × 350mm battery weighs 18.7lbs / 8.5kg, which brings the total weight of the AC180T up to 58.4lbs / 26.5kg when both are inserted — that’s a lot for most people to carry.

1/15

An input of 104W coming in from a 200W solar panel in the background, while outputting 46W DC to power connected devices.

When plugged into an AC wall jack and in the fastest “Turbo” mode, charging two batteries from zero to 100 percent took 77 minutes and produced about 44dB of noise (from one meter away) while drawing 1.4kW from the grid. Charging in Standard mode still produced 44dB but pulled only 920W, while Silent mode dropped things down to 37dB and 735W. Charging a single battery in Turbo mode took 66 minutes and pulled a steady 860W. In all cases, charging began to slow down at around 95 percent full, as you’d expect.

I also tested Bluetti’s claim that the AC180T can produce up to 1200W of continuous AC output with one battery inserted or up to 1800W with two hot-swappable batteries.

With one battery installed, I was able to run a microwave at around 1250W for three minutes without issue, but a 2100W hair dryer resulted in an inverter overload, causing it to shut down for safety. I then added the second battery and plugged in the same hair dryer, which ran fine at a steady 1874W, until I plugged in a 1200W toaster for a total load of 3074W, which quickly shut down the inverter with another overload. No smells, no funny noises, no mess, as you’d hope. So, both tests passed.

To test the hot-swappable claim, I started the 1250W microwave with two batteries inserted. It continued to run as I removed and reinserted one of the batteries. I then unplugged the microwave and plugged in the hair dryer, drawing 900W, which continued to blow as I removed and reinserted a battery. I then bumped the heat to max (drawing over 1850W) with two batteries installed, pulled one, and the hair dryer shut off within seconds. Good.

As with all power stations, the AC inverter will drain the battery when left on. With no load attached and the AC output turned on, my two AC180T batteries (1.43kWh) dropped 30 percent in 24 hours. That works out to about 17.92Wh lost per hour, or a steady 18W just to power the inverter, which is fairly efficient. Still, you should enable Bluetti’s AC Eco mode (on by default) to automatically turn off the AC inverter after a user-defined time of low or no load. Otherwise, those fully charged batteries will die in just over three days.

For what it’s worth, I was able to plug the MultiCooler directly into the 12V / 10A DC car jack on the AC180T with the included cable, which obviates the need to swap batteries if you can keep the units close together. You can also power the fridge off the AC180T’s AC port, of course, but DC is more efficient (no wasteful inverter).

The Bluetti app is fine, but it’s cluttered with promotions and only works with the MultiCooler and AC180T over Bluetooth, not Wi-Fi like EcoFlow’s products. That means you’ll have to be nearby to check on your battery status or to adjust temperatures.

Me writing this review from a remote workplace flanked by a Bluetti AC180T solar generator and MultiCooler to keep my Negroni on ice.

Conclusion

On their own, the SwapSolar AC180T solar generator and MultiCooler 3-in-1 fridge are each very competitive products — assuming, of course, that the defect on my MultiCooler review unit was an isolated issue. If so, then Bluetti’s SwapSolar kit is a winning combination.

Regardless, I hope to see Bluetti’s modular ecosystem approach adopted by competitors like EcoFlow, Jackery, and others. A company called Runhood has already been selling less powerful solar generators with modular batteries and accessories for over a year.

What SwapSolar is missing, however, is a small portable charging accessory to independently charge each B70 battery. Bluetti’s Evelyn Zou tells me that a “base” is in development to do exactly that. Then you only need to bring the base and battery into a shop, cafe, or gym to get things charged, instead of conspicuously dragging in the entire fridge or solar generator. The base will also convert the B70 battery into a standalone power source for your USB gadgets. Zou says that Bluetti is looking to expand the SwapSolar ecosystem in the future and is “actively working on new products.” But those are just promises for now, with no dates or prices.

Ideally, owners of the AC180T and MultiCooler and any other SwapSolar device could even upgrade to compatible batteries with improved chemistry over time. Or maybe it opens up a market to cheaper third-party alternatives. We’ll see!

For the MultiCooler, my advice is to wait or look elsewhere until Bluetti explains itself

Bluetti is selling the AC180T directly for $1,099. But the MultiCooler is still in that weird Indiegogo “indemand” phase — which means you’ll have to wait until August, according to Bluetti, if you prefer to buy directly from the company and avoid all the Indiegogo “perk” nonsense. The AC180T is covered by a five-year warranty, which drops to two years for the MultiCooler.

For the MultiCooler, my advice is to wait or look elsewhere until Bluetti explains itself.

The SwapSolar MultiCooler and AC180T combo kit is currently priced at $1,999 on Indiegogo. That sounds about right given that a comparable system from EcoFlow that combines the Glacier 3-in-1 fridge with a less powerful River 2 Pro solar generator currently sells for $1,499 or $2,799 when paired with a more powerful Delta 2 Max. The AC180T lists for $999 while the MultiCooler can be purchased separately for $799 (without a B70 battery).

Photography by Thomas Ricker / The Verge



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