Home > Hardware > The “Smart Charger” Is Butane Powered, Tiny, and Holds About a Week of Power for your Smartphone

The “Smart Charger” Is Butane Powered, Tiny, and Holds About a Week of Power for your Smartphone

If you are on the go it may be problematic to keep your smartphone or/and tablet batteries charged at all times. You can always buy extra batteries but you need to remember to charge them before you go, and they may not hold enough power for your needs. Kobion is trying solve this problem with the “Smart Charger”, a charger powered by Butane holding up to 37.2 Wh of power (about 5 to 10 times a typical smartphone’s battery capacity) that you can carry around with you. The charger is in development, and the company is looking for funds in Indiegogo, asking for pledges of $59 (early bird), and then $69 to get the product manufactured at a low cost. You’ll also need to add $5 for shipping.

SmartCharger

Here are the technical specifications:

  • Dimensions – 120 x 60 x 20 mm
  • Weight – Around 200 grams (empty)
  • Nominal Energy – 37 Wh
  • Charge Voltage – 5V
  • Charge Current – 1A
  • Tank Capacity – 0.06 Liter
  • Charging port – Standard A Type USB
  • Chassis – Aerospace Aluminum
  • Type of Fuel – Butane

Here’s a demonstration showing how you can refill the charger, connect it to your smartphone via the USB port, and start the charger in less than 27 seconds.

This looks pretty neat, if you ask me.

But let’s compare it to an equivalent USB power bank. Typically, USB power banks capacity is expressed in mAh, so let’s convert 37.2 Wh into mAh first with the formula:

milliampere-hours = (watt-hours × 1000) / volts

37.2 Wh is then equivalent to 7440 mAh, if my calculations are correct.

You can find 8000 mAh USB power banks for less than $30 on Dealextreme and Aliexpress, so the Smarter Charger costs over twice as much. For some unknown reasons, 30,000 or 50,000 mAh USB power banks are about the same price as, or even cheaper than, 8000mAh ones. I haven’t looked into it in details, but Butane price is also certainly much higher than electricity price.

Let’s compare dimensions and weight too. 8000mAh USB powered banks weight about 200 to 250 grams, which is about the same as the Smart Charger. Dimensions are also about the same. It’s a draw here.

Then there’s the question of durability. USB power banks I’ve seem claim they can be recharged about 500 times, enough for a few years. I’d guess the Smart Charger is likely to last longer, but since it is a newer product it’s difficult to evaluate. Any comments of this point?

However, the Smart Charger is a clear winner when it comes to charging. It takes a few seconds to fully refill, whereas several hours are needed to fully recharge a USB power bank, and as long as you don’t run out of butane, you will never run of power, even if you’re in the middle of nowhere. I guess this can be interesting in places like where you may not have regular electricity, but you still need to use your phone.

You may find more information on their Indiegogo campaign, and/or ask questions on the Crowdfunding Forums. The charger should be delivered in November 2013.

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  1. August 4th, 2013 at 11:22 | #1

    I buy TEG (Peltier) from DX too. Perhaps it could generate power for phone from thermal.
    By the way, seems this calculation uses 5v, not 3.7v.
    Or we should use super cap
    Q = CV
    -> Q/t = CV/t
    -> IV = CVV/t
    -> IVt = CVV
    -> Watt.sec = CVV
    -> Wh = CVV/3600

  2. August 4th, 2013 at 13:31 | #2

    @ultimateohm
    Somebody has already used a TEG for a smartphone charger (http://www.instructables.com/id/Battery-Charger-Powered-by-Fire/?ALLSTEPS), so it’s possible, but it requires some work.

    I’ve used 5V because this is the output voltage. Maybe the calculated value for the butane charger is OK, but for power banks, I don’t know if we need to adjust for the 3.7V of the actual battery.

  3. August 4th, 2013 at 16:03 | #3

    Its more expensive, but this will charge your phone and cook your dinner, plus you can run it on twigs!
    http://www.biolitestove.com/campstove/camp-overview/features/

  4. Marius
    August 5th, 2013 at 14:11 | #4

    @eas
    Thanks, this looks like a much more useful item than the gas powered ones which seem a bit useless to me. A bit expensive though and they don’t seem to ship to my country for some reason but cool nonetheless especially if you do a lot of camping.

  5. Thieu
    November 18th, 2013 at 16:22 | #5

    I recently was looking into getting a power bank and looked all over the internet for a good deal on a respected product. A friend of mine recently bought a 50,000mAh bank, but as typical of most products from a Chinese company, it wasn’t operating as stated. It is supposed to be able to output 5V at 1A and 2.1A, but that isn’t the case, it actually only outputs 500mA, enough to charge a phone, very slowly, but not enough to run a tablet. The actually capacity is another issue, from reviews all over the net, the actual capacity will range from 5000-15000 mAh and the actual amperage output is also variable. Some people have even reported the unit failing after a few recharging so I’m guessing the build quality is very poor. The units are all generic and look identical, but they are resold under many different names. Just give eBay and Amazon a search and you’ll see them. With that said, I wouldn’t blame the reseller as they are probably not aware of how crappy the product really is. Some of these resellers even produce their own product that are very reliable so I don’t want to really bad mouth any of these companies, but a little common sense should be used. America has some of the best technology around, and some unknown company in China was able to produce a 50,000 mAh battery in a form factor a fraction the size of the American version for 1/10 the price. I’m thinking that if something like that did happen, we would all hear about it on every tech blog and news agency as battery efficiency is a hot topic. With all that said, if you’re lucky enough to find one of these power pack for $30 at 15,000mAh, you’re lucky, but then again, you could be one of the really lucky ones to get a 5,000mAh version. I recommend this product as the company is relatively new, but they have had good reviews on all of their products. Plus, this version can also be used to recharge a laptop, which none of it’s competitor is able to do. http://www.amazon.com/Bolkin-16800mah-Capacity-Rechargeable-blackberry/dp/B00D4F45CM/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1384766385&sr=8-6&keywords=bolkin

  6. November 18th, 2013 at 16:47 | #6

    @Thieu
    I’ve recently bought a 15000mAh Solar Power Bank for $28.80 – http://dx.com/p/portable-5v-15000mah-li-ion-battery-solar-power-bank-w-dual-usb-led-black-white-240475.

    I haven’t received it yet, so I can’t comment on the power bank myself, but the 2 reviews on dx.com are positive.

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