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Power Hardware

CES: Tiny Fuel Cell is Supposed to Charge a Cell Phone for Two Weeks (Video) 204

Posted by Roblimo
from the maybe-a-whole-bunch-of-these-could-power-your-house dept.
Many of us have plug-in external batteries of one sort to recharge our smart phones when we're away from power outlets. Or we have gigantic aftermarket batteries that make our phones so fat they barely fit in our pockets. So there is this company, Lilliputian Power Systems, that is just starting to market a tiny, butane-powered fuel cell they call the Nectar that plugs into your cell phone (or whatever) through a USB port and supposedly charges it for up to two weeks. That's a lot better than an add-on battery. It looks expensive, although the power "pods" aren't too pricey at $19.99 for two. But wait a minute: Why aren't fuel cells, not internal combustion engines, the "range extenders" in plug-in hybrid cars? A decade back, fuel cells were going to revolutionize our power delivery and consumption systems. A cell phone charger is cute, but is that really all we can get fuel cells to do?

My name is Armin Kusig. I work for Lilliputian Systems. We developed the Nectar Mobile Power System, which is distributed through Brookstone in the US. This is a USB mobile charger. It charges anything that plugs into a standard USB port. What makes this different from all the battery chargers is that it is not a battery, it is a fuel cell. And that allows us to put a lot more energy into a device this size.

With this device you can carry about ten full charges for an iPhone or actually 55 watt-hours in one cartridge and that’s actually real 55 watt hours that come out of the output. So if you compare this to a battery pack that says it is 3000 milliamp hours, that’s 3000 milliamp hours with a 3.5 volt battery inside. So you really have to multiply that with 3.5 not with 5 if you want to compare it to our energy density.

Anything that plugs into your USB port can be charged with it. You can use the cable that comes with your phone. I just use adapter cables that I have available for the show. Can you see this? If you plug in this, the phone we should have tried this firstI think it might have a cable problem there. We will do that later.

So, the way the device works is that it is a hybrid system very much like a hybrid car. So it has inside it a small buffer battery of its own. And it will provide power through the USB output instantly as soon as you plug something into the USB. When the microprocessor senses that the internal battery capacity is getting slightly lower, it will start up the silicon power cell which is a solid oxide fuel cell built on a MEMS silicon chip. And that will take fuel from the butane fuel tank and convert it to electricity to both charge your phone and also recharge the internal battery. Once your phone is sufficiently charged, and the internal battery is full, it will turn off the silicon power cell again and go back into standby mode to be ready to be used again.

With one cartridge, again there are about 10 full charges, so that is about 2 weeks of power that you don’t have to worry about plugging in. Once the cartridge runs out, all you have to do is take out the pod, you can recycle the old one, this is recyclable plastic, you pick up a new one from Brookstone, you plug it in, and the device is instantly ready to go. There is no waiting for it to charge, there is no need to plug it in at night. There is no panic in the morning, when you realize you didn’t plug in your phone. It is always ready to go. It is always on power.

You can take this with you wherever you go. You can bring it on an airplane. This can go into carry-on luggage. It meets all the safety standards required by the TSA and also internationally. The Nectar pod is what we call the fuel cartridges. They can be put in your carry-on. Because it is a liquid fuel, you have to put them in a little plastic bag with your shampoo but it is perfectly fine to use on the plane. You only have to turn it off before takeoff and landing when you turn off all electronic devices. And this will never have you stand in line for power again. This will always have you be powered up, ready to go.

The Nectar pod is a fuel tank that holds butane gas. It is the same gas that is in a cigarette lighter. These pods are not refillable to meet the safety requirements that the TSA imposes. It has to be a tamper-proof sealed container, so we can’t allow them to be refueled. It is also the refilling logistics is a little bit more complicated than for a lighter. So you just have to buy a new pod from Brookstone and dispose off the old one. But it is recyclable plastic so that it can go into the regular recycling stream there. There is really no additional waste incurred with that.

It will actually charge an iPad but it will trickle charge it, so the iPad will not show it is charging. iPads are probably not the intended devices to be charged with this. The output is a standard USB output, 5 volts 500 milliamps. It is really intended for phones, smart phones, GPS units, all the little USB devices. For those devices, it doesn’t really matter how fast the charge is, because you are not stuck at the wall, while you are charging, you don’t wait for it to charge. There is no dead time when you are charging your phone anymore because you are charging while you are on the go, while you are doing your business, there is no need to wait for the phone to charge.

There have been other small portable fuel cells out there and if you have been following the technology, you’ve probably noticed that they are not any better than a lithium battery in their value proposition. So if you were to get a lithium battery this size, you’d probably get maybe 2 or 3 charges for your phone. And the same is true for some of the other small fuel cells that have come out. They are also roughly this size and they actually give you maybe 1 or 2 charges for your phone. So, in a way, they are even worse than the battery.

So this is the first one that actually has the high energy density that you can achieve by using a high energy fuel like butane gas, and a highly efficient fuel cell like the solid oxide fuel cell. The combination of those is what really makes it now actually better than a lithium battery. So you get 4 to 5 times as much energy in the same package. And you get the instant refueling and not having to wait all night for the big battery pack to charge.

We would like to refer to ourselves as one of the oldest startups around. The company has been around for about 12 years now. It started with the core technology for this. It came out of MIT and Lincoln Labs. This is our first product. But we clearly have a roadmap in mind where there are some obvious directions we want to go. Clearly we want to be able to shrink the device further to make it easier to carry, maybe eventually integrate the technology into your electronic devices, so you don’t have a separate charger but you have a butane-run powered cell phone.

On the other hand, we probably want to grow the device to make it powerful so you can run iPads, so you can run laptops and other higher powered devices.

Okay, so you can use the standard USB cable that came with your phone. In this case, I just used an adapter cable that happens to work. You plug into the phone, you plug the phone – the standard USB plug into the device, and as you do, the device will wake up. There is a little green light that shows that there is still fuel and another green light that shows you it is charging your device. And it is now running as the hybrid system from its internal battery and once that goes low, it will start up the silicon power cell and keeps charging for two weeks until the tank runs out of fuel.

I have been using this. It has come in handy at some points. Mostly our executive team is traveling with these all the time, all over the world, this is why we also have a good record experiencing airport safety in different countries, and we have not had any issues with that. And it is really a handy thing to have. You can walk by all the people that are stuck to the wall in the airport, and kind of laugh at them a little bit.

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CES: Tiny Fuel Cell is Supposed to Charge a Cell Phone for Two Weeks (Video)

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  • Small print (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    *Only applicable to phones powered by Atom Chip [atomchip.com].
    • Re:Small print (Score:4, Informative)

      by Phasma Felis (582975) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @04:17PM (#42900289)

      The actual small print: $19.99 is for the power cells. The charger that the cells and your phone plug in to doesn't even have a price listed yet, which probably means it costs hundreds. Oh, and it's also not available yet, and pre-orders are sold out.

      Slashdot fact-checking fails again. Great job, guys!

      • Re:Small print (Score:5, Informative)

        by hawguy (1600213) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @05:03PM (#42901027)

        And to answer the question in the article:

        "Why aren't fuel cells, not internal combustion engines, the "range extenders" in plug-in hybrid cars?

        It's because electric cars use a *lot* of power - this is the same reason electric cars don't come with solar panels on the roof so you never need to charge them - it takes a lot of energy to charge an electric car.

        Since the power cells cost $20, they must contain more than fuel, they probably include some consumable electrodes or membranes.

        The fuel cells are are rated to produce 55Wh (with 2.5W maximum draw).

        A Nissan Leaf goes 73 miles on its 24KWh battery pack - so that's 328 Watt-Hours per mile.

        It would take about 6 of these $20 power cells to power your car for one mile or $120 (though you may need 150 of these chargers in parallel to generate enough power).

        Even if you assume a 90% drop in price when scaling this up to car size, that's still $12 per mile.

        I've seen refrigerator-sized, $20,000 natural gas fuel cells for powering (and heating) your home, but if you're going to power your car from natural gas, why not just make it a hybrid that uses an natural gas powered engine instead of an electric car that has a bulky and expensive natural gas powered fuel cell?

      • Re:Small print (Score:4, Insightful)

        by v1 (525388) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @05:04PM (#42901039) Homepage Journal

        nah, they are probably playing the "Razor Scam" [blogspot.com]. Sell you the main product for cheap, break-even, or even at-a-loss, then gouge you with the consumables it uses all the time, at a great markup. See also "printer ink cartridge scam" [zdnet.com].

        So I'd expect the gadget itself to sell reasonable, but then these "pods" will go for $10 ea, and contain about a nickel's worth of hydrogen. And maybe a DRM chip to prevent you from refilling it.

        A "solution good for the consumer" would be rechargeable pods, that you can simply fill to the line with water and then plug into the wall, where they split some water and generate some hydrogen to recharge themselves. (and either store the oxygen in the cell too, or maybe vent it outside, or pressurize some O2 cylinders you can sell back to your local airgas co?) Though they'd take awhile to recharge. I suppose it may generate O2 slowly enough to not be a hazard.

        The only non-cheap part of the system is the membrane for the cell or the catalyst for the recharger.

        Maybe I'm just being pessimistic about it. But I think the biggest challenge in fuel-cell technology right now is the big players in the market that will find serious new competition in fuel cells. Look at the rechargeable battery industry. When you threaten to dump a new product on the market with a much higher energy density and lower cost than the alternative they're offering, they tend to freak out. I haven't seen any public account of pressure and sabotage from those groups on fuel cell tech, but I'd expect it's happening, on a significant scale, even if out of the current public eye.

        That reminds me, I recall reading a year or so ago that someone came up with a way to convert natural gas to H and 2O in the cell, and that made it powerable directly from natural gas. Imagine that, a computer that runs on a little cylinder like a 20gram CO2 from your pellet gun, full of natural gas. Fuel cells are cool. Wish we used them more.

      • Re:Small print (Score:4, Interesting)

        by firex726 (1188453) <firex726@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday February 14, 2013 @05:05PM (#42901071)

        Well they have competition with a similar setup, but it uses hydrogen, not butane.
        http://www.horizonfuelcell.com/store/minipak.htm [horizonfuelcell.com]

        But looks like you'll also need a refiller, but depending on the life of it all, it might pay for itself vs. buying these butane ones.
        http://www.horizonfuelcell.com/store/hydrofill.htm [horizonfuelcell.com]

        • by Guspaz (556486)

          Yikes, I had written up a long reply comparing the density and cost to existing solutions and against the Horizon unit, and lost it all. Suffice it to say that the Nectar was about $490 to hit the first kilowatt, the NewTrent IMP120D battery was about $77, and the Horizon as (due to free refills) only $378.

          Also, the Nectar actually provided roughly double the power per weight or volume as compared to the lithium ion (a first for a fuel cell to do so well), while the Horizon was about even in weight and terr

      • by g5g5g5 (414184)

        PC World reports that the price on the charger is $300.
        http://www.pcworld.com/article/2024382/nectar-brings-fuel-cell-tech-to-the-mobile-charging-game-video-.html

  • Because: Patents. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2013 @03:52PM (#42899845)

    We'll all eventually have cheap fuel cell chargers, but not for about another 20 years or so when the developers are sure they wont get patent-trolled for releasing a product.

  • Scale matters (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gurps_npc (621217) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @03:53PM (#42899875) Homepage
    As to why you can't power a car with them, scale matters. Some electrical sources work great at providing a trickle charge over hours, but can't power a car, even if you put 1000 of them in sequence or serial.

    Sometimes it's a heat issue, sometimes it's weight, sometimes its some other physics law.

    • In the case of cars, it was largely supply and logistics. Car fuel cells were supposed to be hydrogen-powered (not butane, like these) and there is very little infrastructure for generating and transporting large amounts of hydrogen. Storing it on board the car is also a tricky issue.
      • by firex726 (1188453)

        > Car fuel cells were supposed to be hydrogen-powered

        Let me guess... the Ford Hindenburg!

      • Re:Scale matters (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Digital Pizza (855175) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @04:14PM (#42900219)

        A few years ago I read of research being done by General Motors (I think) about using a gasoline-powered fuel cell, a process that although still using gasoline, would be far more efficient and clean compared to burning it, and of course there would be no problem refueling.

        I wonder whatever happened to that project?

        • by mlts (1038732)

          A gasoline powered fuel cell would still be very useful.

          If it could do high amounts of energy, it would be useful as a generator replacement, and have the added bonus of being quiet. Heat could be used for heating water and air in the winter, or be vented away in the summer.

          If it could produce only relatively small amounts of usable electrical output, it still would be very useful, even just to keep the starting battery topped off and maintained.

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Until you can find a way to do without platinum series metals you can forget about that.

          As to refueling I have some very bad news for you, no fuel cell is going to run on pump gas. That stuff is far too contaminated for this use. Some of it is intentional like detergents others are just because it needs to be cheap.

          • by gurps_npc (621217)
            Too true. The weird thing is that platinum isn't really that uncommon a metal - outside of the Earth's gravity well. Most of the platinum (and gold) we mine today were delivered by relatively recent asteroid strike.

            The reason heavy metals are valuable is that gravity tends to concentrate them in the center of a planet when it forms, not out on the edge.

          • by compro01 (777531)

            Until you can find a way to do without platinum series metals you can forget about that.

            Already found. Solid oxide fuel cell, which use yttrium rather than platinum. Downsides are that it only works at high temperatures (600-1000C) and needs a (also high temperature) reformer to run off heavier hydrocarbons.

            • by h4rr4r (612664)

              Still expensive stuff. Cheaper than Platinum though. Too bad about those temps.

        • Re:Scale matters (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Lije Baley (88936) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @04:35PM (#42900539)

          Studies show that Reality is a leading cause of failure in the development of promising technologies.

        • by Binestar (28861)
          The project was/is worked on in my home town, although the person who owns the land they are leasing wanted to force them to sign a 10 year lease instead of a shorter lease has dropped their lease and they are leaving the area in first quarter 2013 to go back to Detroit. There were fuel cell cars driving here on test runs constantly, although since the announcement that has pretty much stopped. On the outside the cars looked like normal GM cars (Of course with nice "GM FUEL CELL CAR" decals branded on it)
        • by Kreigaffe (765218)

          Likely reality didn't match theory.

          Unless, I don't know, you think there's a reason why GM would develop a way of powering their cars that makes the rest of the auto industry look like carriage whip makers? A tech they could profit from enormously, license to other companies, probably get gov't-enforced green mandates to require its use even?

          I mean, maybe I'm just one jaded bitter fucker, but I'm pretty sure GM would eat babies if it would make them money.

          (there is no conspiracies anywhere burying game-cha

    • by ls671 (1122017)

      1000 of them in sequence or serial.

      sequence sounds identical to series, not to parallel. I know only two ways to wire stuff, (light bulbs, batteries, speakers, etc.) parallel or series.

      • by gurps_npc (621217)
        You are correct, I meant in series or parallel.
        • by ls671 (1122017)

          No problems ;-)

          Also, re-reading your post and analyzing the context, I assume that it wouldn't make much sense to wire them in series, only in parallel would.

          Wiring a bunch of trickle charging device in series would make them even more trickle. Kind of what is needed to cause a spark-plug to spark. I might be wrong about this although. Anybody cares to comment?

    • by mlts (1038732)

      I'm reminded of the EFOY methanol fuel cell. It won't give anywhere near the power of a 2000 watt Honda generator... but what it can do is quietly keep a set of RV batteries topped off at night when the solar charging system isn't working.

      If someone is boondocking, having a way to keep the batteries charged is very important (especially at night when one runs the furnace with the 10Ah blower fan.) Yes, there is always firing up the generator, but even the quiet inverter models can be noisy, especially in

    • You could probably solve part of that with ultracaps. Then the cell can run continually at cruising power, and the caps handle the acceleration peak. But even then, the shameful fact is that cars would need to get smaller, and small isn't marketable. People want a giant hulk of a car, even if it's just to do their daily commute, and unless gas prices get *much* higher that isn't going to change. Even here in Europe people have been spoilt by cheap fuel. Now they act as if it is their right to ignore how muc

  • Butane (Score:5, Informative)

    by ravenscar (1662985) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @03:58PM (#42899941)

    To answer the question of "Why aren't fuel cells, not internal combustion engines, the "range extenders" in plug-in hybrid cars?" posed in the TFS...

    In this case, the fuel cell is powered by butane. Butane is not readily available, in pure form, in large, easily transferable quantities all over the world. Gasoline, however, is. I understand that butane itself isn't rare, but the ability to get a fair quantity of it safely into my vehicle in a few minutes is.

    • by wierd_w (1375923)

      I dunno...

      Making a clamp interconnect junction under the dash to hold, say, 4 butane lighter refill canisters as an "emergency" range extender, with the implication that you have to manually turn it on, seems like a reasonable idea.

      The butane is supplied as a loaded cartrige: namely, the large "butane torch" size canisters themselves.

      like these for instance [bernzomatic.com]

      4 of them would be over 20oz of butane!

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        That butane will not be pure enough, I bet. Fuel cells require very pure fuel.

        • by wierd_w (1375923)

          Correction:

          They need very pure fuel to avoid catalyst poisoning, and to operate for many thousands of hours as primary power sources.

          This is an *emergency* range extender setup. Having a life of 100 to 200 cycles for the life of the vehicle isn't outrageous. Even with catalyst poisoning from dissolved sulfur compounds, water, alcohols, alkaline earth metal ions, and other catalyst fouling impurities present in "torch grade" butane cylinders, if you only expect the system to cycle a few hundred times anyway

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            Which makes this even less practical, you now have a device costing tens of thousands of dollars than you can only use a couple hundred times, maybe more likely tens of times.

            Why would that ever be practical?

    • by mmontour (2208)

      In this case, the fuel cell is powered by butane. Butane is not readily available, in pure form, in large, easily transferable quantities all over the world. Gasoline, however, is.

      Automotive propane is also widely available, and should be equivalent to butane as far as a fuel cell is concerned.

  • Ok, so the butane cartridges are available, but the pre-order page isn't up yet at the main site (despite promising to be up over a month ago) and I see nothing on the other link about the actual device to plug the butane cartridges into to convert the butane to electricity.

    Looks like Vaporware to me.

    • Ok, so the butane cartridges are available, but the pre-order page isn't up yet at the main site (despite promising to be up over a month ago) and I see nothing on the other link about the actual device to plug the butane cartridges into to convert the butane to electricity.

      Oddly, the fuel cartridges are listed as 'in stock,' shipping in May... [brookstone.com]

      Price is $20, for what amounts to less than 2 ounces of butane. In contrast, ~5 ounce can of Ronson butane is about $5 at Walgreens.

      Don't think it takes a math major to see what a screwjob this is.

      • by Nadaka (224565)

        You can always buy a 20 dollar cartridge and once it is used up, try to hack a charging port into it. May or may not work. It would only be truly impossible if they put DRM in it, like they are starting to do with ink jet cartridges.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Unless the purity is the issue or more likely they are selling the fuel cell at a huge loss and the markup on the butane is covering that cost.

        • Unless the purity is the issue or more likely they are selling the fuel cell at a huge loss and the markup on the butane is covering that cost.

          Heh, I supposed we'll find out when/if they ever get any inventory ready for sale, won't we?

      • Might be an even worse screw job- for all you know, they're selling the actual energy converter for $5000. We don't know, because all they are selling so far is the CARTRIDGES.

        Of course, I also note on their main site that their product is "FAA Approved", which your average can of butane at Walgreen's isn't. Perhaps some extra neaty-keano pressurized can technology is involved for that engineering requirement? Which makes the real product for the cartridges not the fuel, but the containment system?

        • I also note on their main site that their product is "FAA Approved", which your average can of butane at Walgreen's isn't. Perhaps some extra neaty-keano pressurized can technology is involved for that engineering requirement?

          Good question; might have something to do with the fact that the cartridges are sealed containers, unable to be refilled or used outside the proprietary device they're designed for.

          Regardless, that's not really a selling point for people like me that never fly commercially.

        • by Guspaz (556486)

          Some googling shows the actual fuelcell will be $300. The energy capacity if you carry a bunch of spares is actually much better than a lithium ion battery, although the fact this thing can't even provide as much power as a normal USB port (2W vs 2.5W) is going to be a problem. This thing can charge a cellphone, but not while you're using the phone.

  • Smartphone? (Score:4, Funny)

    by nospam007 (722110) * on Thursday February 14, 2013 @04:01PM (#42899995)

    "Many of us have plug-in external batteries of one sort to recharge our smart phones when we're away from power outlets."

    You mean your iPhones not Smartphones.
    We with real Smartphones just switch the internal battery with one of our dozen full ones.

    • by afidel (530433)

      I have a flagship Android phone with a sealed battery, it recently survived an accidental trip in the bath so I'll take not being able to swap batteries for all the advantages it brings.

      • by ls671 (1122017)

        You can switch the battery in the Samsung rugby phone and in many others that also support going into the bath so I am not sure what advantages there is to a sealed battery. Can you enumerate some ?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2013 @04:42PM (#42900647)

        Typical slashdot. Baths are supposed to be intentional, and frequent, not accidental.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2013 @04:13PM (#42900205)

      We with real Smartphones just switch the internal battery with one of our dozen full ones.

      Not always. At my company we've got our web server (with online shop) running on a Nokia N900. The idea was to lower our electricity costs by having employees charge the phone at libraries and bus stations, where we'd just look like ordinary people and no one would suspect business use. Anyway, turning the phone off to change the battery would result in downtime that we can't afford. An external battery pack has proved a lifesaver in cases where we couldn't find a free outlet in time.

    • by N1AK (864906)
      There's nothing smart about buying a device which requires you to carry around 1200% more power than it can store natively in 12 additional units just to get through a typical days use. I've got a 'real' smartphone and there's no way in hell I'm going with as half-arsed solution as yours. At least a single external battery is only one thing to charge and carry.
    • by iMouse (963104)

      ...oh, you mean like the Nexus 4?
      ...or like the Droid Razr/Maxx?
      ...or the HTC One X+?

      I can replace the battery on my iPhone 4 with fewer removed screws. Your argument is invalid.

    • by ls671 (1122017)

      Bonus: and get better battery life. Since battery life is limited by charging/draining cycles. Using a battery to charge another battery is inefficient.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      That would kill my uptime!

  • Why aren't fuel cells, not internal combustion engines, the "range extenders" in plug-in hybrid cars?
    Because they are a battery substitute.. not an engine substitute.
    Hybrid cars can charge from their gas engine.. but that engine also drives the wheels directly via a conventional gearbox when needed. it is the use of TWO different drive systems that makes them a Hybrid..
    Any questions?

    • by countach (534280)

      Yes I have a question, why are you lecturing about things you are ignorant of? A Toyota Prius does NOT drive the wheels directly via a conventional gearbox. The engine recharges the battery continuously, and the battery turns the wheels via electric motors.

      • by oneiros27 (46144)

        Um ... http://xkcd.com/386/ [xkcd.com]

        What you're describing is a 'series hybrid', such as the Chevy Volt, although I wouldn't say 'continuously'. Unless they've made some change in the newer generation of Priuses (Priii?) are 'parallel hybrid', where both the electric motor and gas engine can turn the wheels.

      • by EasyTarget (43516)

        Yes I have a question, why are you lecturing about things you are ignorant of? A Toyota Prius does NOT drive the wheels directly via a conventional gearbox. The engine recharges the battery continuously, and the battery turns the wheels via electric motors.

        Methinks you should do your homework before typing: a Prius [wikipedia.org] is a full hybrid [wikipedia.org].

        The only thing I got wrong was to refer to the gearbox as 'conventional', since gearboxes used in such drivetrains are pretty unconventional really.

  • When developing a new technology, such as fuel cells with a high power yield, it's much more economical to start out in a small application like cellphones, to see how consumers would accept the idea and build the economies of scale it would take to crank out big-application (automotive, industrial) fuel cells cheaply.

  • by ScienceofSpock (637158) <keith.greene @ g m a il.com> on Thursday February 14, 2013 @04:05PM (#42900059) Homepage
    Depending on the cost, this might make a nifty power supply for Raspberry Pi or Arduino based robots.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @04:05PM (#42900071) Journal

    "A dead battery means important missed calls and emails, no GPS when you’re lost, no e-reader on your train ride, no communication in an emergency, and an overall feeling of dread and anxiety."

    Yes, they actually say that [nectarpower.com]. May I be the first to recommend spending less on fancing charging gadgets and more on anxiolytic lifestyle aids, like benzodiazepines or heavy drinking?

  • by tekrat (242117)

    Actually, a better question is why BLOOM energy's fuel cells, which are supposedly revolutionary, isn't a backup power source for an electric car? And whatever happened to those ultracapacitors? And Solar Cells? It's surprising to me that NO ONE has combined all the available technologies into one usable vehicle -- as the guys who go 'off grid' are able to glean from many energy sources to power their trailer homes.

    • I can see it now:
      The new ultra eco car! We combine the best of renewable energy sources and create the worlds most energy efficient car! Why stop at one alternative source of energy when more than a dozen is better(tm)! our hybrid gas/electric/diesel motor is outfitted with solar cells, ultra capacitors, flywheels, molten salt batteries, spin batteries, lithium paper batteries, carbon nanotube batteries. Our solar cells are straight from 5 year old Chinese geniuses who provide us with 47% efficiency! They

  • Raises the question: which has a better blast radius: a tiny fuel cell or a Li-Ion battery?
    • by Guspaz (556486)

      In terms of total energy density, the small fuel pod in the Nectar is waaay more energy dense than a comparable lithium ion battery. Considering that I've never seen a lithium ion battery ever actually explode (spark, catch fire, melt through tables, yes, but actually kaboom no), I'd argue that the butane pod would have a better "blast radius" if the conditions were right.

  • They are not in common use because most of them require platinum or palladium. Also they require very pure fuel to prevent fouling the cell, this means most commercial fuels simply cannot be used.

  • Butane, huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @04:12PM (#42900173) Homepage Journal

    So, that means I should be able to go down to the tobacco shop, get a can of compressed lighter fluid, and refill the charger on the cheap, right?

    No? You're telling me I have to go buy proprietary cartridges that will, without doubt, cost far more than a can of commercial butane?

    Yea, you can shove that over-priced, over-hyped bullshit right where the sun don't shine, Bucko.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Are you sure that stuff used for lighters is pure enough to not foul the cell?

      Or maybe they sell the fuel cell at a loss and make it up this way.

    • by pitchpipe (708843)

      Yea, you can shove that over-priced, over-hyped bullshit right where the sun don't shine, Bucko.

      Obviously not an Apple fan.

      • Yea, you can shove that over-priced, over-hyped bullshit right where the sun don't shine, Bucko.

        Obviously not an Apple fan.

        Other than the one Macbook I have solely for music production... not particularly, no.

    • To be fair - you should be sure you're comparing apples to apples. I wouldn't be surprised to find that the stuff in the proprietary cylinders is lab grade or better (fuel cells are notoriously sensitive to contaminants), while the stuff down at the tobacco shop is technical grade or worse (since it's a cheap consumer product designed for relatively crude and insensitive devices). Yes, "proprietary" is usually a danger sign - but not always.

      • To be fair - you should be sure you're comparing apples to apples.

        Would love to, but apparently the product manufacturer is being rather tight-lipped about the specs, so we really have no way of knowing.

        Regardless, that doesn't change the fact that, even if lab grade butane were commercially available, you wouldn't be able to refill this unit with it, as it has no refill port.

  • by nebular (76369) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @04:19PM (#42900317) Homepage

    The car companies put most of their research dollars into batteries. Really that exactly what the should have done because the batteries are the workhorse. As a range extender the gasoline engine is readily available, cheap and fuel is available everywhere.

    Now that Hybrids are common they can start working on alternate options for range extension. Hydrogen engines are probably next, followed by fuel cells.

  • stupidly dangerous (Score:5, Informative)

    by slashmydots (2189826) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @04:24PM (#42900407)
    I have a 1500mAh battery pack module with a full-sized USB port and a power-pin-only 5-pin USB micro cable, 4" long, in my jacket pocket at all times. So it's a reserve battery for any device and it'll charge 1 phone or 1/4 of 1 tablet or some portion of a GPS unit but so what? On the other side, it has a solar panel and a charging indicator, that's what! Take that, pocket full of unstable, flammable gas. So solar panel vs butane....yeah, I'll stick with my solution, thanks. In direct sunlight, it doesn't take real long to recharge the entire battery pack either. Yeah, I'm out of luck at night but considering I can get 21 days of idle runtime on my Samsung R640 on one charge from this reserve battery, I think I can find some sunlight after depleting it.

    I believe I heard this Nectar device exceeds $300, or so they stated at CES. Mine cost $17 and it's from Scosche, which makes decent products.
    • by PRMan (959735)
      Mod parent up. This is very Informative.
    • by jo_ham (604554)

      I have a 1500mAh battery pack module with a full-sized USB port and a power-pin-only 5-pin USB micro cable, 4" long, in my jacket pocket at all times. So it's a reserve battery for any device and it'll charge 1 phone or 1/4 of 1 tablet or some portion of a GPS unit but so what? On the other side, it has a solar panel and a charging indicator, that's what! Take that, pocket full of unstable, flammable gas. So solar panel vs butane....yeah, I'll stick with my solution, thanks. In direct sunlight, it doesn't take real long to recharge the entire battery pack either. Yeah, I'm out of luck at night but considering I can get 21 days of idle runtime on my Samsung R640 on one charge from this reserve battery, I think I can find some sunlight after depleting it.

      I believe I heard this Nectar device exceeds $300, or so they stated at CES. Mine cost $17 and it's from Scosche, which makes decent products.

      Have you ever heard of a disposable lighter?

      It's not like carrying around "unstable, flammable gas" is at all new, or even all that dangerous.

      There's a similar amount of chemical energy in that "dangerous, highly chemically reactive" Lithium battery as there is in a few ml of butane.

  • $20 for a combined 110Watt-hours of power is actually very expensive compared to the cost of charging LiIon battery pack 3 1/2 times. Meanwhile, a wall outlet is a hell of a lot easier to come by than one of those 'pods'.

    If you think the high capacity batteries make a phone bulky, try an extra device dangling from it's USB port for awkwardness.

  • Might be worth it if you could mod a filling nipple onto the thing.
  • I already have a 16000mah secondary battery to recharge my Nexus 4 and Nexus 7 two times in a day if I need to and a 15 watt fold out solar panel that can charge the phone, tablet or the battery as fast as the wall charger would. Both together cost much less than this device will cost and will run for ~5 years without additional costs. After 5 years I can only charge when the sun it up as the solar panels will last 50 years (doubt the wires will being folded up daily) at the claimed 55 Watt Hours, my 15 wa

  • I'm trying to figure out where the get this number. If the specs say the Nectar can put out around 2.5w max, and the capacity is 55 W-hr... then can't this thing be drained in less than a day?

    They have a PDF stating that high power users need around 16 w-hr (per day? It doesn't really say). So even by that metric, the thing will only last around 3-4 days.

    http://www.nectarpower.com/assets/Uploads/Powering-the-Wireless-World.pdf

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