The world's first fuel cell-powered battery charger

The potentially revolutionary device uses hydrogen to create electricity for powering everything from smartphones to games consoles.

| Updated on: Nov 14 2013, 12:24 IST
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The potentially revolutionary device uses hydrogen to create electricity for powering everything from smartphones to games consoles.

Battery packs for giving laptops, tablets and smartphones extra juice while out and about and away from power sockets -- whether because of business travel or backpacking in exotic locations -- are nothing new, but they all have one thing in common.

When they run out of power, they need to be plugged into a mains electricity source in order to charge up. The Upp, which officially launched Tuesday, is different because instead of mains power, it uses hydrogen fuel cells that react with air to create the electrical current needed to power a device; the only by-product is water vapor, which is released into the atmosphere.

That might seem like an awful lot of technology for performing a task as simple as topping up a smartphone's battery, but for many countries around the world, access to mains electricity is not a given.

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Even in South Africa, many towns are yet to be connected to the grid, meaning that families use car batteries to power all of the electrical appliances in their homes. And, as they are less than efficient, they need to be carried to a recharging station several times a week.

Therefore it comes a little surprise that the Upp's creators, Intelligent Energy, chose Cape Town, South Africa as the official venue for the gadget's unveiling.

'This year, we have carried out successful consumer field deployments in the region and are now in the process of expanding and recruiting further mobile partners worldwide. We believe Upp is a real game changer for Africa. Batteries need help: their capabilities haven't kept pace with innovation in smart connected portable devices. Given that 75% of the global population relies on the mobile phone to stay connected, the more you want to do with your device, the more energy you need.
Consumers need a reliable source of personal and portable energy,' said Amar Samra, Managing Director of Consumer Electronics, Intelligent Energy.

The device is capable of giving power to anything that supports a USB connection and comes with a smartphone app which will allow users to keep track of how much power is left and when a fuel cell cartridge needs replacing. Each cartridge is capable of charging a smartphone to capacity five times and when a new cartridge is needed the app can order a new one or point the user in the direction of the nearest store with cartridges in stock.

Although officially revealed Tuesday, the Upp will not go on sale until December when it is expected to retail for $199. Intelligent Energy is yet to confirm how much the replacement cartridges will cost.

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First Published Date: 13 Nov, 11:53 IST