Raspberry Pi Mobile Power Station

 
 

It is often very useful to have a way to power the Raspberry Pi on the go for long periods of time. There are some commercially available applications out there, but they can be wicked expensive. So let’s build one ourselves shall we? This can be used to power any Raspberry Pi that has a 5V input over micro USB (i.e. Raspberry Pi 3, Raspberry Pi Zero W, etc.).

Big note here: Most of the modern power banks like the ones with USB ports that you would use to power your phone will work just fine. The problem is that they have a relatively short life and/or don’t supply a steady 5V. If you’re okay with only deploying a headless Raspberry Pi for a few hours before you need to shut it down and charge/swap the power supply, feel free to snatch up one of those and ignore this tutorial. If you don’t feel like soldering shit, I recommend this one or this one. The first is in a thin form factor which allows it to lay down in inconspicuous places easily. The second is cylindrical which works good for fitting in tight spaces. I have personally used each of these and they output stable 5V.

This system produces a fairly clean 5V power supply to the Pi at whatever amperage it needs. I’ve never had a low voltage warning or any shutdown issues with this system. If you buy the power bank I’ve recommended, it can power the Pi for a substantial amount of time. I have had it running motion detection scripts for a day and a half before I noticed it got down to <20% charge. Keep in mind that my motion detection scripts are constantly taking pictures and processing them as fast as it can go. If the Pi spends a lot of time idling, it could probably run for a few days. I’ve tucked this in backpacks, project boxes, rubber balls (don’t ask), etc and I’ve had no problems.

Materials

Protip: These are affiliate links to Amazon product pages, wink wink (buy my shit).

Second Protip: You will need soldering skills for this (amazing tutorial on soldering here). If you’re not the best with soldering or electricity but still want one of these bad boys, shoot me an email at viadoxic@viadoxic.com and I’ll send you one for the low low price of slightly more than parts and shipping :)

Creation

Step 1: Gather materials

Step 2: Solder jack to voltage regulator input

Take one of your 2.1mm x 5.5mm jacks and strip about 3/4 inch from each of the leads. Strip the two leads with the two inputs on the voltage regulator. This is much easier with wire cutters/strippers, but it can definitely be done with a simple razor (or a pair of scissors if you wanna be super edgy). Make sure you get black to black and red to red. When they’re all nice and cozy, solder them together. I recommend getting some heat shrink on each wire and then heat shrinking those together to make it nice and tidy as shown in the next two pictures.

Protip: Be sure to slip the heat shrink on the wires BEFORE you solder them together. I know it seems obvious, but I’ve made the mistake several times.


Step 3: Test

Once step 2 is done, you’re practically ready to go. Plug the 2.1mm x 5.5mm jack into the power supply. Plug the micro USB output from the voltage regulator into the Pi and then switch the power supply on. If everything is done correctly, you should see the lights on the Pi light up. If you do, then you’ve done it correctly. Feel free to SSH in and use the Pi however you normally would. If you’re worried about over-volting your Pi if you did something wrong, you can always hook up a multimeter to it to test that you are getting a steady 5V.

Step 4: Support

If you have any problems or have any questions, just send me an email at viadoxic@viadoxic.com. Make sure to reference what project you’re working on so I’m not confused.