Mustek’s inverter trollies flying off shelves in South Africa

South Africa’s worst year of load-shedding has seen many more people buy backup power systems to keep some of their appliances and gadgets online during the rotational power cuts.

The power trolley is one of the more cost-effective solutions for households that can’t afford to install large solar-and-battery systems.

This system combines a battery, which can be lead-acid, gel, or lithium-ion based, and an inverter that can convert the battery’s stored energy into a voltage suitable for standard appliances and electronics.

These two components are typically placed within or fixed to a steel container or plastic crate to allow for easy manoeuvring.

Although capacities can vary greatly, some entry-level power trolleys can provide a peak output of 720W and boast 100Ah lead-acid batteries with a usable capacity of about 600Wh.

That makes them sufficient for powering several electronic devices with relatively modest power consumption for around two to four hours.

As a result, they have become massively popular during periods of intense load-shedding.

The Lalela Power Trolley offers a 750W power output and 100Ah battery

One of the well-known online stores selling power trolleys and other backup power systems in South Africa is GeeWiz.

The company told MyBroadband it had sold over 4,500 of these products since the start of 2022.

That works out to more than 16 units every day of the year, including weekends and public holidays.

With the cheapest power trolley from GeeWiz costing R5,250, the retailer has moved power trolley stock worth at least R23.6 million this year alone.

GeeWiz said it saw a definite uptick in orders during load-shedding, a trend which increased when stage 4 hits.

“Because of the spikes that happen, we can get over 100 orders in a day, which does cause our units to go into a backlog queue as we have a limited capacity of how many we can build daily,” the retailer said.

GeeWiz said the most popular brand it sold was Mecer, made by South African technology firm Mustek.

Mecer offers a wide range of inverters for use in these power trolleys, with output capacities ranging from 720W to 3,000W.

In addition to GeeWiz, Mecer inverters are available from major retailers like Takealot and Leroy Merlin.

MyBroadband asked Mustek for details on the overall demand for its inverters from all retailers but did not receive feedback by publication.

Mecer sells a wide range of power trolleys.

Leroy Merlin, another popular retailer for electronic goods, said that the cost of fuel had also made inverter-trolleys a preferred option over petrol and diesel generators among its customers.

The company said that it was not always possible to keep up with demand, but it had the option of multiple sellers on its website which supplement supply when it ran low on stock.

“We have sold over 3,500 more units this year compared to 2021,” the company said. “This excludes sales via our sellers listed on our marketplace where a much wider range is available.”

The company said that Ellies was previously its most popular brand in the past, but had been surpassed by Lalela.

Ellies told MyBroadband its inverters and power stations have also been extremely popular in 2022.

The company said it could not share sales volumes but had recorded growth of 62% on these products compared to the previous year.

Ellies said it was challenging to keep up with the demand for backup power products, given that load-shedding was typically implemented at very short notice.

“Our inverter heads are manufactured in China, and the lead time is 90 days to arrival in South Africa,” the company explained.

“While we keep forward cover of these items, it is difficult to forecast demand as sales dwindle when load-shedding is suspended.”

In addition, Ellies said keeping stock of batteries for longer than three months without charge would impact their overall lifespan.

Ellies relies on orders from retailers to determine shipment volumes but acknowledged that it was “near impossible” for stores to determine load-shedding intensity three months into the future.

At the time of writing, we found Ellies’ inverters available online from Takealot, Leroy Merlin, Everyshop, Incredible Connection, and HiFi Corp.

Aside from Mecer and Ellies, we found that RCT and Lalela were other brands available from several stores.

Now read: Eskom sets new load-shedding record

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Mustek’s inverter trollies flying off shelves in South Africa