It looks and acts like a battery pack but kraftwerk is actually the first hand-held fuel cell generator that can regenerate energy in less than 3 seconds. And it can power all your mobile devices for weeks.
kraftwerk, which translates to “power station” in German, is the product of eZelleron, an engineering team that spun out of German research firm Fraunhofer Gesellschaft. So far the company has raised almost half its $500,000 goal for kraftwerk in just three days on Kickstarter. Three people have even pledged $10,000 to get distributor rights for the product when it becomes available.
Fuel cell technology has been bandied about since the 1950’s (Wikipedia says the first reference to it was in 1838) but gas and other fossil fuels have eclipsed it as a preferred energy source. The reasons for low adoption of the tech are varied (and it may continue if our current abundance of crude oil keeps up) but it does hold the promise of a cheap, clean and efficient source of energy. It works by converting chemical energy into electricity instead of needing to plug it into the power grid. This means kraftwerk units can be taken all over the world, including vast regions of Earth that aren’t connected to electricity, and your cellphone can get instant, clean power for a long period of time.
There have been a few other fuel cell Kickstarters for powering cellphones, but none look as slick as kraftwerk. The Devotec Micro Fuel Charger, a key ring sized fuel cell cellphone charger, added about 20-30 minutes of extra talk time if plugged in. There was also the unsuccessfully funded HALO fuel cell charger. Touted as emergency preparedness for the outdoorsy type with an iPad, it was a bit clunky looking. But you could charge two devices at the same time on it.
The kraftwerk units come in three different colors, “Urban,” “Outdoor” and “Glam” and run on a short spray of camping gas or standard lighter fluid. This is something you can easily find at most corner stores throughout the world. It will charge anything that can be plugged into a USB cable such as your iPhone, tablet, or even a GoPro. One “filling” supplies power for up to 11 iPhones. Once depleted, the unit will recharge itself in the aforementioned 3 seconds.