The mobile market is aching and consumers are frustrated with the pace, which the industry implements new battery saving features. Yes, we saw a significant increase in battery performance for the last couple of years in all mobile devices like smartphones and laptops thanks to the shrinking die size and maturing manufacturing process – Intel went down to 14nm, NVIDIA announced its Pascal 16nm GPU chips, Qualcomm’s mobile SoC Snapdragon 820 also boasts a 14nm process and even AMD is expected to shift its upcoming Polaris GPU production to 14nm. This saves a lot of space and power at the same time to a point when gaming powerhouse notebooks like Alienware 17 and Predator 17 deliver more than a few hours battery life, and the Alienware 13 reaches whopping ~9 hours of working time.
The OLED displays are another reason for the slight increase in battery performance on tablets and handsets but, to be honest, still the best way to offer exceptionally long battery life is to cram up a bigger battery inside those devices. That’s unfortunate because this takes up a lot of space, adds weight and bigger batteries charge slowly.
With all innovations, manufacturers are meeting a dead end in increasing battery performance so all points to the fact that the market, and industry, of course, is ready for the next big thing in power management. A lot of companies work towards better portable power solutions but few have succeeded in what the micro fuel cells have to offer.
It’s not a brand new technology but it needs more time maturing as at last year’s CES 2016 introduced us an iPhone with the aforementioned hydrogen-powered “battery”, which can be refueled and can hold its power for about a week. A hydrogen-powered drone was also introduced and it showed remarkable 6 times better runtimes than its conventional battery-powered variant. With fuel cell technology developing, we can expect to refuel our devices once or twice a month without the need to wait for a “recharging.” Hydrogen fuel will be sold in stores all around the cities making it extremely convenient for customers and profitable for manufacturers. And besides, the newly developed method is more energy-efficient, eco-friendly and the electrochemical conversion of fuels into electricity still outperforms standard battery storage. But at what cost?
Probably, when the technology becomes available to the public, the prices of hydrogen fuel tanks – assuming hydrogen will be the fuel but it might change over time like in Kraftwerk’s Kickstarter project – will be considerably high and will probably cost you about $100 to refuel your device annually. So the question is whether the general user will think that the extra hundred bucks a year are worth the convenience.
Judging by the consumer demand and the need of more energy-efficient devices, the revolutionary breakthrough of fuel cell power storage might come sooner than later. The first fuel cell-powered devices will hit the market in the following 5 or 8 years as more companies show interest in adopting the technology early on – Brunton, MyFC JAQ.
And when the new batteries come, laptops should last days without the need of refueling. Though, some skepticism is present and sometimes coming from industry leaders like Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk. He allegedly said that fuel cell batteries are not the future, yet he is one of the biggest investors in developing battery technologies. If he has something ground-breaking in mind, we would really like to hear it but for now, fuel-powered cell batteries seem like a great deal. Or maybe, he just refers to the use of hydrogen batteries in cars. Only time will tell.
Are you ready to pay about $100 a year to maintain your fuel-powered cell instead of charging your old-fashioned battery daily?