According to reports, Intelligent Energy has created a working iPhone 6 prototype that looks no different from any other iPhone 6 except for tiny vents in the rear that allow imperceptible amounts of water vapor to escape.
The prototype contains both a rechargeable battery and its own hydrogen fuel cell, according to a report in the Telegraph.
Hydrogen fuel cells generate energy by combining hydrogen and oxygen; the only emission from the process is water.
Fuel cells supply hydrogen to a negative anode (an electrode through which electrical current flows), releasing electrons. The electrons then flow to a positive cathode (another electrode) to generate electricity. In addition, after releasing electrons, the hydrogen becomes a hydrogen ion moving to positive cathode and bonding with oxygen in the air, forming water.
Hydrogen is the simplest and most common molecule known to exist. Because of that, it is a part of almost every other substance, such as water and hydrocarbons. Hydrogen is also found in biomass, which includes all plants and animals.
Intelligent Energy has produced more than 2,000 patents related to fuel cells, which it has used to create batteries for cars and a portable recharger called the Upp. The Upp is a mini-hydrogen fuel cell that charges any USB-compatible mobile device, including smartphones, tablets, portable gaming consoles or digital cameras.
Like any fuel cell, the one in Intelligent Energy’s iPhone requires recharging with hydrogen gas. Intelligent Energy said that could be done through an adapted headphone socket.
Intelligent Energy is now working on a commercial version of the smartphone fuel cell that would be in the form of a small cartridge that fits into the bottom of a phone. The cartridge would supply power for a week and could be discarded after use.
Twenty-six-year-old Kuniako Saito and his team at Cocoa Motors recently unveiled the lithium battery-powered “WalkCar” transporter, which is the size of a laptop and resembles a skateboard more than a car.
The slender WalkCar is made from aluminum and weighs between two and three kilograms (4.4 to 6.6 pounds), depending on whether it is an indoor or outdoor version.
Saito expects to see many other uses for his transporter, as he says it has enough power to help people push wheelchairs with ease. The lightweight aluminum board is stronger than it looks, and can take loads of up to 120kg (265 pounds).
It reaches top speeds of 10 kilometers per hour (6.2 miles per hour), for distances of up to 12 kilometers (7.4 miles) after three hours of charging.
Its developer says it’s also extremely simple to ride. Once the rider stands on it the WalkCar starts automatically, while simply stepping off stops the vehicle. To change direction, the user just shifts their weight.
Best of all, there is no need to find a parking space, because it fits into a small bag when not in use.
Saito said his studies in electric car motor control systems sparked the idea for the new kind of ride.
“I thought, “what if we could just carry our transportation in our bags, wouldn’t that mean we’d always have our transportation with us to ride on?” and my friend asked me to make one, since I was doing my masters in engineering specifically on electric car motor control systems,” he told Reuters.
Saito says he is confident that WalkCar goes beyond bulkier devices such as the Segway or Toyota’s Winglet.
Workhorse isn’t as high profile as Amazon or Google, but it demonstrated an eight-rotor delivery drone designed to work with its electric trucks and use some of the same battery technology.
“Our concept is, you have a package-delivery drone that rides on top of a truck as the driver goes about his day, and helps to pick off outliers on his route to help cut down on the cost of delivery per package,” said Elliot Bokeno, a mechanical engineer with Workhorse, who demonstrated the drone at a conference at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.
If a driver had four deliveries in one part of town but only one in another, the drone might be able to handle that single, less convenient delivery.
The technology combines autonomous and manual control.
GPS is used to determine the delivery location, and the drone flies there without any human input, Bokeno said. But when it gets to the address, a downward-pointing camera switches on and an operator at a remote center takes over.
The operator guides the drone down, making sure to avoid people and obstacles, and releases the package. The drone then resumes autonomous flight and makes its way back to the truck.
In tests, the drone has flown as fast at 55 mph and has a maximum flight time of 30 minutes. The company is working with Panasonic, which provides batteries for Workhorse’s electric vehicles, on more advanced battery technology that will increase flight times to 45 minutes.
Bokeno said his company has already talked to several package delivery companies about using its technology.
For now, tests of the technology over relatively short distances continue. Workhorse is collaborating with the University of Cincinnati and hopes to begin multi-mile delivery tests soon.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is backing a requirement that the country’s telecom carriers warn residential and business customers about plans to retire copper telephone networks for IP-based systems.
A proposal from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler would also require telecom carriers retiring their copper networks to offer customers the option of purchasing battery backup systems so that they don’t lose voice service during an electrical power outage, officials said Friday. IP-based voice service depends on working Internet service, which, in turn, requires electricity.
The old copper-based phone service works without electrical service available at the customer’s address, and a loss of voice service during power outages is one of the major concerns of consumer groups as major telecom carriers move to retire their decades-old copper networks.
Wheeler’s proposal, likely to be voted on by the commission during its Aug. 6 meeting, would require telecom providers that are retiring copper to make battery backup systems with eight hours of standby power available to affected customers, either through the carriers themselves or for third-party retailers. Voice customers would have to pay for the battery backups, which now cost $40 and up, but they could choose whether or not they want the backup.
Most consumers and consumer groups in contact with the FCC wanted the option to purchase battery backup from sources other than carriers, an FCC official said. Requiring battery backup systems during VoIP installs could have discouraged customers from signing up for the service, he added.
Within three years, carriers would have to offer a battery backup option with 24 hours of standby power, under the rules proposed by Wheeler.
Telecom carriers retiring their copper would also have to alert customers that their old telephone service was going away. Telecom carriers currently aren’t required to notify customers, but under the proposed rules, residential customers would get a three-month warning, and business customers would get a six-month warning, agency officials said during a press briefing.
Telecom carriers would also have to notify interconnecting carriers of their copper retirement plans, and competitors using the existing copper to provide business voice and Internet services would be eligible to receive similar pricing deals from the large incumbent carriers, the FCC said.
Hyundai, the largest carmaker in South Korea, began selling its Tuscon Fuel Cell SUV last year, but only 273 out of a target 1,000 vehicles were purchased or leased.
Most of the Tuscon Fuel Cell vehicles, which retail for $76,000, were purchased in Europe and California, according to reports confirmed by Hyundai America.
Over the next four years, Hyundai plans to invest another $10 billion in hybrid cars, electric battery vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell models.
Fuel cell vehicles, however, represent a better opportunity for growing sales — even over electric vehicles — because there is less market competition, according to Kim Sae Hoon, general manager at Hyundai’s fuel cell engineering design team.
The hydrogen vehicles also offer grater flexibility for designers, in that they can scale in size from small cars to buses, Hoon said.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are already being used in trucks and buses. That’s an advantage for hydrogen vehicles since all-electric engines don’t perform as well in larger vehicles, which require bigger batteries that need more charging, according to Devin Lindsay, IHS Automotive’s senior analyst.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles emit only water vapor as exhaust. They also have remarkable advantages over all-electric vehicles, such as the Tesla Model S, in that they can travel 300 miles on a tank of fuel and can refuel in just five minutes. By comparison, a Tesla using the company’s so-called “Superchargers” requires at least 20 minutes to achieve a half-charged battery. A full charge will provide a range of up to 265 miles.
High prices and the dearth of fueling stations are barriers to sales of fuel cell vehicles. Hyundai said it will be another 10 years before hydrogen cars start gaining wider acceptance. Today, hybrid cars and electric vehicles are dominating the green-vehicle market.
As was the case with all-electric vehicles when they first emerged in the mid-2000s, high prices and the lack of fueling stations have stifled uptake of fuel cell vehicles. In a statement, Hyundai said it will take another decade before hydrogen cars gain wider acceptance.
The Mercedes-Benz energy storage plants for private use are available for order now and are expected to ship in September.
The batteries were first developed for cars, but Mercedes-Benz said the energy storage units “meet the very highest safety and quality standards” for home use.
Up to eight battery modules with an energy capacity of 2.5 kWh can be combined into an energy storage plant with a capacity of 20 kWh.
“Households with their own photovoltaic systems can thus buffer surplus solar power virtually free of any losses,” the carmaker said in a statement.
What wasn’t announced by Mercedes-Benz was information about the size of or pricing for the new batteries.
In May, Tesla announced its Powerwall batteries for home use and its Powerpack batteries for commercial use. Today, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced his company would double the power output of the Powerwall batteries but keep their prices the same.
Tesla’s Powerwall batteries will go from having a two-kilowatt (kW) steady power output and 3.3kW peak output to a 5kW steady output and 7kW peak output, Musk said. The price of the batteries will remain the same: $3,000 for the 7kW/hour (KWh) daily cycle version and $3,500 for the 10kWh backup UPS version. Total installation cost will run around $4,000, according to Musk.
Up to nine Powerwall battery units can be daisy-chained together on a wall to provide up to 90kWh of power.
The average U.S. household uses about 20 kWh to 25 kWh of power every day, according to GTM Research.
Tesla Energy’s new commercial-grade battery is called the Powerpack, and will sell in 100kWh modules for $25,000 each. Musk said the Powerpack can scale infinitely, even powering factories and small cities.
Mercedes-Benz’s batteries, being produced by subsidiary Deutsche Accumotive, are its first industrial-scale lithium-ion units, and they’ve already been tested “on the grid,” the company said.
Ossia originally announced its Cota wireless charging technology, in 2013, saying the antenna and chipset could receive power from wireless transmissions up to 30 feet away.
The company announced that mobile device makers can now integrate its Cota chipset into mobile products without adding additional antennas; the chip simply uses the antenna that comes with the mobile device to receive power.
Ossia’s Cota remote wireless power receiver uses a mobile device’s existing antenna, eliminating internal coils needed by magnetic induction wireless charging systems that dominate the market today.
“Wi-Fi and Bluetooth antennas can perform double duty as both data and Cota wireless power receivers,” the company said in a statement.
Hatem Zeine, CEO of Ossia and inventor of the Cota system, said the technology addresses internal mobile device “real estate” that limits what can be placed, not only inside smartphones and tablets, but also more compact wearable devices, all of which are increasingly thinner and lighter.
Additonally, the Cota chipset can be used in stationary technology, such as in smoke detectors or even AA or AAA batteries, to keep them fully charged.
The Cota technology consists of two parts: a charger and a receiver. The internal Cota receivers charge batteries and send out omnidirectional beacon signals. Once the Cota charger receives these beacons, it returns thousands of targeted signals that build pockets of energy at only the precise locations of the beacons’ origins.
“This pinpoint precision targeting of energy safely and efficiently powers all Cota-equipped devices and batteries within its effective radius, even as they move around the room,” Cota said in its marketing material.
Cota claims its technology is “inherently safe.” Its tracking beacons use only about 1/10,000th the signal power of Wi-Fi, which itself is a low-power signal.
Ossia hopes to begin shipping its Cota technology to equipment makers this year.
HTC and Samsung Electronics impressed Mobile World Congress attendees with new high-end smartphones, but they won’t be the only game in town for long: LG Electronics and Huawei Technologies are gearing up to announce new devices next month.
The shortage of new flagship smartphones at the show was a bit of a disappointment. But for those who weren’t entirely convinced by the HTC One M9, Samsung’s Galaxy S6 or the Galaxy S6 edge, more devices are on the way for buyers who aren’t afraid of pricier products.
The most highly anticipated is the successor to the LG G3, which unsurprisingly is expected to be called the G4. LG has so far kept quiet on when the smartphone will be unveiled, but an event is expected to take place in April. To steal some of Samsung’s thunder, the company would do well to at least start posting teasers before April 10, which is when the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge go on sale.
In light of the growing focus on design at Mobile World Congress, it wouldn’t be surprising if LG uses better materials for the G4 than it did for the G3. But don’t necessarily bet on a nice high-end, all-metal design or a metal frame combined with a glass back (which the Galaxy S6 has).
The G3 might be made of plastic but it looked much better than the Galaxy S5. So, LG isn’t under as much pressure as Samsung was to update the looks of its flagship. Also, sticking with plastic allows the company to keep the price down.
The specifications for LG’s new smartphone are the subject of multiple rumors, and include a screen with a 1620 x 2880 pixel resolution. But I am keeping my fingers crossed for a 5.3-inch screen that keeps the G3′s 1440 by 2560 pixel resolution.
That would mean shrinking the screen size from 5.5 to 5.3 inches, which might seem like a strange move, but to me the G3 feels a bit too wide. Also, LG has shown it isn’t averse to the concept: the G Flex2 has a 5.5-inch screen instead of the 6-inch screen on the G Flex.
While LG is quiet on its plans for the G4 launch, Huawei has started to post teasers for an event on April 8. The date likely isn’t a random pick, since the company is expected to present the P8. It also comes before the Samsung ship date.
All those people you see charging their phones at airports, coffee shops and other public places are a testament to how often batteries die out during the day. So while engineers are fighting against basic chemistry and physics to improve current Lithium Ion cells, is there a better way to recharge?
One answer might be fuel cells, which generate electricity through a chemical reaction and provide instant power anywhere. Unlike portable battery packs, they don’t need to be charged in advance. You just need a fuel cell cartridge.
The promise has been there for some time. A few years ago, electronics companies tried to popularize fuel cells based on methanol but they failed to take off. This time around, the focus is on hydrogen.
As hydrogen gas enters the fuel cell through a membrane, the electrons are stripped off and travel through an external circuit — that’s the flow of electricity. Upon exiting the fuel cell, the electrons are recombined with the ionized hydrogen and oxygen from the air, so the only by-product is water.
There’s already one hydrogen fuel cell on the market, with another promised for this year. Both were on show at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
The main difference between them is in how the hydrogen is packaged so it’s safe to handle.
Intelligent Energy’s Upp stores it in a metal hydride compound that’s contained in a cartridge that snaps onto the fuel cell with magnets. Each cartridge is good for about 5 recharges of a smartphone and once exhausted should be returned to an exchange station for a fresh one.
The fuel cell, which is already on sale at Apple Stores in the U.K., costs £149 (US$228) and each cartridge is £6 (US$9). One downside: its heavy. The fuel cell and cartridges weigh 620 grams (1.3 pounds), and that’s not something you want to carry in your bag all the time.
The watch is designed to replace car keys and the clumsy, large fobs that are now used in many vehicles, Cook told the newspaper.
Its battery will last the whole day, and will not take as long to charge as an iPhone, the report quoted Cook as saying.
Apple Watch will also work as a credit card through Apple Pay, Cook told the paper, but did not mention how user verification will work with the watch.
The rollout of the watch might pose a challenge for Apple’s stores, which may involve “tweaking the experience in the store,” the Telegraph said, citing Cook’s conversation with the staff at Apple’s Covent Garden store in London.
Last March, Apple unveiled CarPlay, which lets drivers access contacts on their iPhones, make calls or listen to voicemails without taking their hands off the steering wheel.
Earlier this month, Reuters reported that the iPhone maker is looking at making a self-driving electric car, and is talking to experts at carmakers and automotive suppliers.
In the interview, Cook said that the Apple Watch will operate a special rewards system, track the user’s activity and “be correct to 50 milliseconds”.
Apple was not immediately available for comment.
The company has scheduled a special event on March 9, where it is expected to showcase Apple Watch, which will be launched in April.
Security vendor AVG has spotted a malicious program that fakes the sequence a user sees when they shut off their phone, giving it freedom to move around on the device and steal data.
When someone presses the power button on a device, a fake dialog box is shown. The malware then mimics the shutdown animation and appears to be off, AVG’s mobile malware research team said in a blog post.
“Although the screen is black, it is still on,” they said. “While the phone is in this state, the malware can make outgoing calls, take pictures and perform many other tasks without notifying the user.”
The malware requires an Android device to be “rooted,” or modified to allow deep access to its software. That may eliminate a lot of Android owners who don’t modify their phones.
But some vendors of Android phones ship their devices with that level of access, potentially making it easier for the malware to get onto a device.
This malware is unlikely to show up in Google’s Play Store, since Google tries to block applications that have malicious functions. But it could be a candidate for one of the many third-party app stores with looser restrictions.
A year and a half ago, Apple Inc applied for eight patents related to car batteries. Recently, it has added a slew of engineers, just one of whom had already filed for 17 in his former career, according to a Thomson Reuters.
The recent spate of hires and patent filings shows that Apple is fast building its industrial lithium-ion battery capabilities, adding to evidence the iPhone maker may be developing a car.
Quiet, clean electric cars are viewed in Silicon Valley and elsewhere as a promising technology for the future, but high costs and “range anxiety”, the concern that batteries will run out of power and cannot be recharged quickly, remain obstacles. Those challenges could also be seen as opportunities to find solutions to take the technology mainstream.
The number of auto-related patents filed by Apple, Google Inc, Korea’s Samsung, electric carmaker Tesla Motors Inc and ride-sharing startup Uber tripled from 2011 to 2014, according to an analysis by Thomson Reuters IP & Science of public patent filings.
Apple has filed far fewer of these patents than rivals, perhaps adding impetus to its recent hiring binge as it seeks to get up to speed in battery technologies and other car-building related expertise.
As of 18 months ago, Apple had filed for 290 such patents. By contrast, Samsung, which has been providing electric vehicle batteries for some years, had close to 900 filings involving auto battery technology alone.
The U.S. government makes patent applications public only after 18 months, so the figures do not reflect any patents filed in 2014.
Earlier this month, battery maker A123 Systems sued Apple for poaching five top engineers. A search of LinkedIn profiles indicates Apple has hired at least another seven A123 employees and at least 18 employees from Tesla since 2012.
The former A123 employees have expertise primarily in battery cell design, materials development and manufacturing engineering, according to the LinkedIn profiles and an analysis of patent applications.
A123, which filed for bankruptcy in 2012 but has since reorganized, supplied batteries for Fisker Automotive’s now-discontinued hybrid electric car.
“Looking at the people Apple is hiring from A123 and their backgrounds, it is hard not to assume they’re working on an electric car,” said Tom Gage, Chief Executive of EV Grid and a longtime expert in batteries and battery technology.
Apple is building its own battery division, according to the A123 lawsuit. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Internet of Things is can’t operate without plugs and/or batteries. But it’s possible to build a sensor network that uses harvested energy that comes from changes in temperature, vibrations, wind and light, as Texas Instruments (TI) will demonstrate at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.
The idea of harvesting power has a long history and there are many applications of it today. However, big solar panels or large sensors that can capture energy from vibrations, heat and light are impractical in many Internet of Things sensor applications, which are tiny in size.
TI said it has developed electronics capable of taking small amounts of power generated by harvested sources and turning them into a useful power source. This means that the sensors used to collect the energy can be small as well.
All these ambient energy sources, such as the difference in temperature in a pipe carrying hot water and the outside air, can generate 300 to 400 millivolts, which isn’t enough to power anything. TI has built an “ultra-low powered” DC-to-DC switching converter that can boost this power to 3 to 5 volts, which is sufficient to charge a battery, according to Niranjan Pathare, senior marketing development manager at TI.
To power wearables, the company has demonstrated drawing energy from the human body by using harvesters the size of wristwatch straps, Pathare said. It has worked with vibration collectors, for instance, about the same size as a key.
It’s possible that a smartwatch could use two harvested power sources, light and heat, from the body. These sources may not gather enough power to keep a smartwatch continuously operating without action by the user to charge it, but it may give the user’s device a lot more battery life.
“Obviously, the longer you can make that [battery] last the happier the consumer is going to be with its performance,” said William Cooper, a TI product marketing engineer.
The technology has many applications in industrial and home environments. If a device or sensor isn’t connected to a power network, it will need a battery. Vendors will say that these batteries have the potential of lasting for years since they are only transmitting small amounts of data. But, still, who wants to worry about a battery?
Of the work done by Texas Instruments, Steve Ohr, an analyst at Gartner, said, “they have the parts that will take this micro-power input and actually make some useful voltage and current that could power something.”
Ohr said there’s a lot of work that needs to be done before this technology finds its way to the market in uses such as powering a smartwatch, specifically in improving the sensors that collect energy.
An Israeli firm claims it has developed technology that can charge a mobile phone in a few seconds and an electric car in minutes, advances that could transform two of the world’s most dynamic consumer industries.
Using nano-technology to synthesize artificial molecules, Tel Aviv-based StoreDot says it has developed a battery that can store a much higher charge more quickly, in effect acting like a super-dense sponge to soak up power and retain it.
While the prototype is currently far too bulky for a mobile phone, the company believes it will be ready by 2016 to market a slim battery that can absorb and deliver a day’s power for a smartphone in just 30 seconds.
“These are new materials, they have never been developed before,” said Doron Myersdorf, the founder and chief executive of StoreDot, whose investors include Russian billionaire and Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich.
The innovation is based around the creation of “nanodots”, which StoreDot describes as bio-organic peptide molecules. Nanodots alter the way a battery behaves to allow the rapid absorption and, critically, the retention of power.
The company has raised $48 million from two rounds of funding, including backing from a leading mobile phone maker. Myersdorf declined to name the company, but said it was Asian.
With the number of smartphone users forecast to reach 1.75 billion this year, StoreDot sees a big market, and some experts think that — with more work — it could be on to a winner.
“We live in a power hungry world … people are constantly chasing a power outlet. StoreDot has the potential to solve this real big problem,” said Zack Weisfeld, who has worked with and evaluated ventures in the mobile phone sector globally.
“They still have some way to go, to deal with size of battery and power cycle rounds, but if solvable, it’s a very big breakthrough,” he told Reuters. A power cycle round refers to the number of times a battery can be re-charged in its lifetime.
Myersdorf said a fast-charge phone would cost $100-$150 more than current models and would ultimately be able to handle 1,500 recharge/discharge cycles, giving it about three years of life.
The electronics maker on Friday announced a “pin-shaped” lithium-ion battery that’s 20 millimeters (.03 inches) long with a diameter of 3.5 mm, about one-twentieth the size of AAA batteries. Panasonic said it’s the smallest in the industry in terms of capacity by volume.
The CG-320 battery has a nominal capacity of 13 mAh and voltage of 3.75 V, which allows for Bluetooth and NFC (near-field communication) links with smartphones.
Its compact form factor and low weight make it ideal for wearable devices such as smart glasses, fitness bands and hearing aids as well as electronic pens, according to Panasonic.
While compact batteries could shrink the overall size of wearables, usability and interfaces help determine how big they are.
“The size, which is the smallest of its kind in the industry, can allow more flexible product design, and high strength and stability of form delivers high reliability,” a spokeswoman for Panasonic wrote in an email.
The battery could also help reduce the size and weight of wearables, she said, adding that the Internet of Things (IoT) is another possible application.
The CG-320′s capacity is lower than that of a wearable battery such as the Jawbone UP24 activity monitor’s 32 mAh lithium-ion polymer battery, but the latter is larger.
Panasonic is developing two more pin-shaped batteries with capacities of 30 mAh and 50 mAh. They’re slightly larger and heavier than the CG-320.
Battery size and power are a key aspect of wearable devices that has been putting a damper on wider-scale development and popularization. The Apple Watch, for instance, will likely require a daily recharge. That can be seen as a big hassle for a device that’s relatively small.
A number of attempts to innovate on materials and control systems for wearable batteries are being pursued.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has tested a prototype battery based on the lithium carbon fluoride (CFx) chemical formula that could go for 10 years or more without a recharge.
Jawbone, meanwhile, doubled the battery charge of the UP24 to two weeks through a firmware update with enhanced algorithms.
Panasonic’s battery is similar to conventional cylindrical lithium-ion batteries. It has negative and positive electrode sheets wrapped around each other inside a small stainless steel tube.
The company plans to mass-produce the battery, with monthly production of 100,000 units and shipping to begin in February.