When I received a press email before CES titled “CES Debut: New gadget charges your phone with water”, I was ecstatic. I imagined running away from society to live in the hills, armed with nothing but a Bear Grylls knife and my water charger. I imagined all the times I had gone through the day to end up with a dead battery, and how that would never happen again as long as I had my water charger. It immediately became the thing I was most interested in seeing in the entire show of more than 3000 companies. Who cares about new phones or cases or accessories when your phone is dead? Your phone would never be dead with this. I fell in love with my fantasy of this product.
Then I actually saw it. On my trip to the Venetian CES Halls, stuffed in the back corner of an exhibit hall that had nothing to do with mobile technology, I found PowerTrekk. I was so excited! I saw the product being demonstrated as I walked up to their booth. The charger itself looked great. I walked a little closer, trying to overhear what was being said. I saw the charger get opened. I saw the water reservoir. And then I saw something I was not expecting: a removable “PowerPukk”, which provided the power. Until then, I had assumed that this was some sort of hydrogen fuel cell technology that harnessed some small amount of solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Turns out, they have devised some chemical, which they claim is completely biodegradable and recyclable, which reacts with water to produce an electric current. Still holding onto hope, I dove in and asked the pivotal question… “How long does the PowerPukk last?” The answer? “1 full charge.”
I was heartbroken. All of my dreams of perpetually water charging my USB devices were shattered. Travelling the American Discovery Trail while still connected with a fully-charged phone at all times was now out of the question. What PowerTrekk had done and failed to mention was essentially create an incredibly-expensive battery that is about the size of a small can of cat food, and then require that battery to use water in order to output any power. One PowerPukk outputs 1500mAh of power to either charge whatever it’s plugged into, or charge the 1500mAh Lithium Ion battery in the top half. The price of this madness? €199, which at the time of this writing is over $250 US. Each PowerPukk costs €1.99, which is about $2.50. So for slightly more than the cost of a brand new Galaxy Nexus on contract with Verizon, you can buy a charger that will charge your phone about 2 times and require a tablespoon of water on top of it before needing to buy another Pukk.
Granted, the company’s vision is to provide reliable, ecologically friendly power to USB devices. It does that. However, the cost of doing that is outrageous. To put it in perspective, you could buy approximately 100 replacement batteries for your phone from eBay, or 2 external battery packs with a combined output of over 50 amp hours, which is enough to charge a typical smartphone over 30 times from dead to full.
Overall, if having a renewable way of charging your phone is a priority, your best bet is solar. The PowerTrekk Fuel Cell Charger is expensive, limited, wasteful, and underpowered. Looks like my dreams of a hydrogen fuel charger are still just that.
You can take a look at the PowerTrekk charger here at the company website.