We all the know the pain of our beloved smart phones rapidly running out of battery, just when we need them most.  We try hacks to keep them alive for just a minute or two longer, such as switching to airplane mode.  We try installing apps to make the battery last longer, adjust the lighting and push notice settings.  But if we’re honest with ourselves, none of these adjustments make a whole lot of difference.

Like me, you’ve probably found that the only thing which does actually make a difference is the addition of a portable charger.  But of course for a portable charger to work, you have to remember to charge it first, before it can then charge your phone.

I have a portable charger, and to be fair I really do like and value it.  It’s small, light weight and aesthetically pleasing.  Its certainly helped me out in a few tricky battery related situations.  However I am conscious of it needing charging in order for it to then do its job.

That’s why I was really quite excited when I was approached about testing out a new charging devices by Upp that uses fuel cell technology.  A portable charger, that doesn’t need charging!  It sounds like the dream come true.

Fuel Cell Technology – What?

A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that produces electricity without combustion.  The optimal energy carrier for fuel cells is hydrogen. When hydrogen is combined with oxygen (from air) it produces electrical energy. The conversion process is environmentally friendly and emits zero emissions.

Fuel Cell Technology – How?

Its so much easier to show you rather than try explain, especially considering this whole concept was entirely new to me only three weeks ago, so I’m hardly an expert.

So that’s pretty simple then right?  Hydrogen and Oxygen react within a Proton Exchange Membrane to produce heat, water vapour and most importantly electricity.

Fuel Cell Technology – Using the Upp

OK this bit I get, because simply put, its idiot proof.

  1. Take the cap off of your cartridge and snap (snap meaning there are magnets in there) onto the fuel cell
  2. Connect your smart phone/camera via USB to the fuel cell
  3. Press the power button on the fuel cell
  4. Charge

 

That’s its really.  Once charged, power down the fuel cell, disconnect the fuel cell from cartridge and then place the cap back on the cartridge until next time.

Upp fuel cell charger

Upp fuel cell

Key Points

  • You should note that air is needed during the charging process, and passes through the Upp device, so need need to use it out in the open as such, and not stuffed in a bag somewhere.
  • Also, you may notice a popping or cracking sound whilst the Upp charges your device, this is not a problem or a reason to run for the hills, its result of the reaction happening inside the device.  Nothing to worry about.
  • Each cartridge will charge your phone/camera maybe 3-4 times over before needing to be refilled, but there is an App which can show you just how much juice your current cartridge has left.
  • The app can also show you your nearest refill location.
  • The app is available for both Android and IOS

 

Upp app

Vital Stats

  • The Upp cartridge (left in below pic) – 90.5mm by 40mm by 48mm  and weighs 385g.
  • The fuel cell block (right in below pic) – 119.5mm by 40mm by 48mm and weighs 235g.

 

Upp fuel cell

How much?

  • To purchase an Upp starter kit, comprising of a hydrogen fuel cell and 1 x Upp cartridge: £149
  • To exchange an empty Upp cartridge at participating locations, for a full one: £5.95
  • To purchase a spare Upp cartridge: £39.95

 

When?

The Upp is now available at Apple Stores across the UK and can also be ordered from the Upp website: BeUpp.com.

What I liked

  • How much charge can be produced – up to 35 hours worth of charge for my iphone/camera.
  • The Upp itself doesnt need to be charged.
  • The power the Upp outputs never degrades, not like a battery does.
  • Zero emissions
  • Ease of use … SO easy!
  • It can charge any type of device, so long as the devices uses a USB charger.

 

Kaizen

In terms of producing a zero emisons power source, there is nothing that can be improved on the Upp, but I do wonder if the price might put backpackers like myself off a tad.  Its hard to say really as I cannot speak for everyone, but the Upp costs a lot more than my current portable charger, and unlike my current portable charger the Upp does not fit in my pocket.  I think the key is that the Upp would be the solution if you were completely off the grid and in desperate need of keeping your camera/phone etc charged.  Maybe whilst treking or camping perhaps on a once in a lifetime kind of trip.

Also, being that Hydrogen is flamable, whether or not you can carry the Upp in hand luggage on a flight is up for debate.  Personally I had no problems on a recent flight to Ireland though, so maybe officials are aware of the device and OK with it.  To be safe, maybe stick it in your hold luggage, or take the official Upp documentation with you.

Verdict

Like most things, there are pros and cons to the Upp device.  I very much like that it produces clean energy, I like the design, the ease of use and that it can charge multiple devices.  Its the price that weighs on me a little, if that could come down in any way I can really see potential in this kind of technology.

 

Official Press Release here