Suddenly there are over 5 billion people who need a charger for their phones, and there are a billion of them either living without regular power or preparing for the day the power goes out. A Seattle startup company, Hydrobee SPC, claims its new charger has “cracked the code” for the best design of a universal charging system for personal energy security that works when regular power is long gone. The company has won four leading business contests this year so the judges appear to agree with them.
What’s the Design Code of a Universal Charger?
Rechargable from any energy source: Recharge from the wall or grid, car batteries, solar, wind, or any other renewable energy resource. The Hydrobee has a tiny dynamo that generates power from rotary motion from wind, water currents, farm carts, muscles, etc. Hydrobee is developing accessory solar panel, wind turbine, bike mount etc. It also has micro-USB ports for accepting charging power from a solar panel, fuel cell, wall socket or other electricity source. No other charger can recharge from so many energy sources.
Both Portable and Permanent: Batteries take hours to charge, get used to it. For 3 straight hours of charging from a dynamic renewable energy source like a bicycle, waterwheel, water or wind propeller, the unit must be fixed in place, yet easy to remove. The Hydrobee has a mounting bracket onto which the dynamo and battery screw like a bottle lid. The energy source spins the dynamo for hours and charges the battery. When it’s full, the pocket-size battery can be unscrewed and used on the go. Empty batteries can be swapped for charging right onto the dynamo without changing anything else.
Modular and Recyclable: Batteries die eventually and must be replaced. Circuit boards and software must be updated as technology standards and options change. Bearings wear out. The Hydrobee has modular dynamo, battery and control modules which can be individually replaced and recycled if there are collection agencies.
Connected: If it has a battery and a circuit board it can be a phone or network node. In the Internet of Things there is no reason for a power generator to be “dumb” when it can be controlled by a smart phone app that shows the performance and other data. The Hydrobee is equipped with a GSM sim card and standard phone radio so it can receive and send data. Two or more Hydrobees can “talk” to each other and create local wireless mesh networks for communications and data over wide areas.
Affordable: Many people will buy a backup emergency charger if it is really affordable. But that’s possible only if the charger is made with simple parts in high volume. In developing countries affordable often means Pay-As-You-Go sales of a few dollars a week for a year or more. Such micro-financing is possible where cell phone networks allow mobile payments, or local vendors can sell activation codes for devices. The Hydrobee is made with standard parts from existing factories and is massively scalable to production of millions of units per month, driving down costs. Because it is connected, it is affordable by micro-finance to 2 billion people living on a few dollars a day.