The single biggest, consistent complaint about smartphones is battery life. But maybe we’ve been looking for the answer in the wrong places. Wireless charging may never take off; removable batteries are increasingly rare; and external chargers or bulky cases are far from an elegant solution.
But what about a fuel cell?
“We have created the world’s most powerful fuel cell that’s actually portable,” says CEO, Bjorn Westerholm.
The MyFC JAQ is a new product from Sweden that lets you charge your phone up using a simple, credit card-sized cartridge, or fuel cell, filled with water and salts. The product consists of a beautifully designed, pocket-friendly metal pouch into which you slot a thin plastic fuel cell triggering the chemical reaction that will produce the power you need. Each cell is good for a single charge and it can deliver 2,400mAh hours, so it’s enough to charge up an iPhone 6. You stick the cell in and it instantly gives you the ability to charge your device — no more waiting for hours.
There is a catch, though. Once you stick in a cartridge, you only have an hour or two to start charging your phone before the battery loses power.
“We have created the world’s most powerful fuel cell that’s actually portable.”
It’s also a relatively green solution to the power problem. The cells are manufactured entirely from recycled plastic and there’s a small amount of common metal in there. Unlike hydrogen fuel cells, they aren’t filled with a flammable substance and you don’t have to refill them. Technically, you can throw away the cartridge when you’re done, but MyFC are aware of the environmental conundrum in that, so it’s trying to work out a scheme whereby you can return the used cells for recycling when you pick up new ones.
Westerholm told Digital Trends that he’s been working on refining this technology since 2010 and there were lots of technical challenges to overcome. The fuel cells they have developed are impressively slim and light, but contain five times the energy density of gasoline. If you’re wondering about the shelf life, you’ll be pleased to hear that they’re guaranteed to work for at least a year after you buy them, possibly closer to two years.
This is actually MyFC’s second release, but the first one was a niche product for outdoors types that was bulky, ugly, and had to be filled with water by the user.
For the JAQ, it worked with New York design agency, Aruliden, to come up with something stylish, desirable, and memorable. The prototypes that we saw certainly ticked all the boxes. The name refers to the fact you don’t need a jack to plug in and charge this device, though each unit does ship with a standard USB to Micro USB cable for connecting your phone or tablet.
The JAQ itself comes in three different colors right now, and you can mix and match five different colors of fuel cells. It’s an eye-catching product, and it feels good in the hand.
In the last few years, we’ve seen a host of new mobile devices, an explosion in apps and games, and a huge rise in the average amount of time we all spend glued to our screens, but the improvements to our batteries have been incremental. The fuel cell is an alternative direction and it seems that we’re reaching the stage where it’s a realistic and potentially practical one.
MyFC are currently working to strike a deal with carriers to get the JAQ and its refill cartridges in stores. It will also sell the product directly online and ship it anywhere in the world. The starter pack includes the JAQ, five fuel cells, and the charging cable. Pricing has not been finalized, but it’s going be somewhere around $75 for the pack, with individual fuel cells costing around $1 each. It should go on sale before the year is out.