Time was, the phrase ‘water powered’ meant driven by the force of a river or torrent. Lately, it acquired a new resonance with the launch of a pocket-sized charger that needs just a few drops of the stuff to make it work.
The Powertrekk from Swedish company myFC was launched at the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, with the slogan ‘Instant Power Anywhere’.
On the down side, the Powertrekk only works with devices that use a USB, but it has the potential to make being off-grid easier. The company says it needs just a tablespoon of water to work. The hydrogen in the water is converted into electricity by means of an eco-friendly fuel cell. And just in case, it also contains an internal battery pack that can be charged from the mains.
As you would expect innovation like this doesnt come cheap. The Powertrekk is expected to retail for around $200 when launched internationally in October.
It’s not the first portable fuel cell charger, but PowerTrekk has a competitive edge over its rivals due to its simplicity and good retail distribution deals. “Our Fuel cell power is generated immediately and charging is not impacted by weather or the position of the sun, as for solar panels,” said myFC chief executive Björn Westerholm at the product’s launch. “Compared to battery powered travel chargers, PowerTrekk offers reliable charging as the fuel packs do not deplete as batteries do.”
The company disingenuously says that the only by-product is “a little water vapour.” But the device uses a disposable sodium silicide container to generate the hydrogen gas which is then recombined with oxygen in a proton exchange membrane to produce 1000mAh of usable electricity. Deeper down in the sales blurb it admits that used containers have to be treated like electrical waste. So it isnt quite pollution free.
The Powertrekk also raises questions about the nature of off-grid living. Is it merely like on-grid living with the full panoply of consumer goods, but disconnected from the mains? Or should it be qualitatively different, an attempt to escape from all the ipads and ipads, cell phones and sat navs, that pervade modern-day life?
Despite widespread coverage of the launch, the company has been remarkably uninformative when it comes to providing technical information about its new wonder product. It doesn’t provide basic information such as size and weight. It would be nice to know if it is scaleable. It doesn’t say how much power it will produce over its life time, how many recharges it can sustain, how much the so-called Powerpucks cost. Nor does it provide any idea how its performance compares with $200 worth of conventional batteries –and other portable energy packs.
We asked the company for an interview so that we could pose these questions but at the time of publishing we had not spoken. We will update this piece when the company provides answers.