So I got all excited when I read news about a water based charger from the guys at Powertrekk.
It’s like, what? Finally? Just add water and get power on the go? How cool is that?
As I studied it further however, I noticed something: You have to use it with disposible fuel cells in the form of a Powerpukk.
I guess I found the catch.
How the Powertrekk Fuel Cell Charger Works
There are 3 main main components that I see so far:
1. A 1500mah rechargeble battery
2. Powertrekk’s Powerpukk Fuel Cell
3. Water Tank
For a fuel cell to work, you need hydrogen, oxygen and a sci-fi sounding Proton Exchange Membrane to put the 2 gases together, from which you get water and electricity.
For this process to work, the fuel cell must be hydrated, and this is presumeably why there’s a water tank. I would assume then, that the Powerpukk is basically a hydrogen container with a proton exchange membrane as the oxygen is taken from the air.
So, there are 2 ways you can use the Powertrekk.
The first way is to use it like any old standard battery pack. You charge it from home, then use it to charge your device as needed on the go.
The second way would be the USP, or Unique Selling Point of this device. Should you be say, on the 3rd day of a hike and the battery runs out, just add water and charge both your battery and your device.
Problems of the Powertrekk Fuel Cell Charger
1. It’s not a true ‘Energy Anywhere’ device.
I’m very sure most of you, like me, would be super hyped out because, as long as there’s water, you can get electricity..right? Unfortunately, as I’ve shown, that’s not the case. Like traditional battery systems, you are limited by the number of Powerpukks you can carry.
They actually had the bare-faced cheek to make fun of solar power in their presentation. Well what happens when you run out of Powerpukks eh?
2. Low energy rating.
Let’s face it; 1500mAh is not a lot of power. Most portable battery packs start at 2000mAh, and to put that into perspective, that’s about enough to give the iPhone 4S 1 full charge with a little bit more to spare.
Then you have the Powerpukks. Each is rated at 4Wh, or 4 Watt hours. USB run at 5 Volts, so in terms of mAh, each Powerpukk is basically a 800mAh battery. And remember, all these processes are never 100% efficient, so you’ll probably need 2 Powerpukks to fully charge the provided battery pack or the average phone.
3. Cost – $229/199€ for the Powertrekk, $12/10€ for a 3pc Powerpukk pack
This is would be a fantastic business because of the super high margins. Not only that, you get repeat sales in the form of the Powerpukks. In other words, it’s overpriced. You’re essentially paying for a US$30 1500mAh portable battery pack equivalent, and all the fancy technology is in the Powerpukks, so you can’t say that the technology is expensive.
Let’s put it this way:
1x 8000mAh/40Wh Xpal Energizer XP8000 at US$88.99 (8 ounces, 224g)
or 10x 4Wh Powerpukks + 1 Powertrekk at about US$265 (19 ounces, 541g)
Best of all, you’ll have to buy more Powerpukks while you just recharge the Xpal battery pack.
4. Long Term Usage and Environmental Impact.
Would you prefer to carry lots of Powerpukks or simply use a solar charger on extended trips?
Also, why would you want to create more trash because of the disposable Powerpukks?
Advantages of the Powertrekk Fuel Cell Charger
In all honesty, I can’t think of any significant advantages.
The only real advantage I can think of is that it will hold it’s charge much longer than the traditional batteries, so it’ll be great for emergency packs that are typically stored for years.
In real life though, technology has reached the point where the standard battery pack will be able to hold it’s charge for months on end.
For trips lasting a day to a week or even two, a high capacity battery pack will do you fine as it weighs less, is more convenient and is cheaper. You’re producing less rubbish as well because you don’t have to discard used Powerpukks.
For extended trips, there’s also no reason to use the Powertrekk. Think about it, more Powerpukks, or a solar charger? Charge it during the day, use it at night. Also, no worries about running out.
Unless you intend to cave for weeks or are in an emergency, I honestly can’t think of a reason why you’d want to spend that kind of money and inconvenience yourself with the Powertrekk.
A scam? Not really, buy pretty close.
Ridiculously overpriced? Well, you’re paying for a sub US$30 1500mAh battery, a water tank and powerpukks that cost about US$4 each. And it’s retailing for $229/199€. I don’t think the housing for the whole setup is worth that much.
How about we make a summary check list?
- Power Anywhere & Everywhere? – No, you can run out of Powerpukks.
- Eco-Friendly? – No. You are creating more trash. Again, Powerpukks.
- Affordable? – No. A cheap and small 1500mah battery, pukks that cost US$4, and a plastic body can’t justify the leftover cost. Also, your cost will increase the more pukks you buy.
- More Convenient? – No. Need to carry multiple pukks, needs water for operation.
Powertrekk’s the first real fuel cell based consumer product that’s not a car. Great as it sounds though (and looks, I like the packaging), it’s still a novelty, albeit an innovative one, with no real tangible applications in the real world.
PS. It’s been awhile since I’ve done physics calculations…if I got them wrong, please let me know, thanks!
For more information: