JAQ claims to be the smallest fuel cell charger on the planet: How does it hold up to the competition?
If you are like every other smartphone junky, then you understand what it is to be constantly engaged with your device. The craving to check for updates, message friends, or get out that one last work email of the day keeps pulling you back to get that fix.
As people, we have become so addicted to that stimulation from our phones that a study from last year found that 2/3 of men would rather receive an electric shock than sit with their own thoughts.
Speaking of electricity, all this use on our devices rips through our batteries at lightening speeds. This has led to a new trend of carrying around large and often bulky external batteries that make our obsession with thin phones seem comical. These batteries themselves need to be charged, and have the down side of degrading over time, thus losing their effectiveness after a while.
To keep our phones running in a smarter way, Sweden-based myFC has come out with the JAQ, the device they say is going to upend how we think about mobile power. The company claims that this is the world’s smallest pocket-sized fuel cell charger.
How does it work?
The device provides power using disposable cards containing water and salt. When these elements mix with oxygen, it creates hydrogen to power the fuel cell and generate instant electricity.
These cards are basically one-offs, so thankfully they can be recycled.
The charger can be used for nearly any kind of USB-powered device. This includes phones, tablets, and other similar devices. The startup says that each card can be used to power a device once through with an 1,800mAh charge.
As an added bonus for travelers who always want to charge their devices, the company says that the JAQ has been approved for use on planes.
How does the JAQ hold up to the competition?
The JAQ isn’t myFC’s first time at the fuel cell tech ball. Though if it was, it might look like this:
Their previous model on the market is the PowerTrekk, which uses large puck sized fuel cells that produce a 1,400mAh charge when water is added. It also comes with an internal battery that can be charged from a socket ahead of time, meaning that it uses less of the pucks. Coming in with a larger size, it is capable of pushing out more power for your devices.
One of the upsides with the JAQ is that it does not require the user to add water, as the power cards are self contained units. The downside is the loss of the internal battery option.
As far as competitors go, the alternative power options for these fuel cell batteries are filling up quick with different offerings.
The German built kraftwerk by Zelleron (not to be confused with the German electronic band Kraftwerk) ditches the basic hydrogen card model and goes straight to using lighter fluid to power its fuel cells. After hitting their goal of raising $500,000 on Kickstarter one week into their campaign, the team pulled in over $1.5 million for this highly anticipated gadget. It is expected to start shipping in February 2016 with a price tag of $150 a pop.
Also using the hydrogen fuel cells is Upp from the British company Intelligent Energy. This device can be used to charge your phone an estimated five times before needing to switch out the fuel cards. The Upp comes with an app for regulating its use, and knows to power off when the smartphone or tablet has completed its charging, helping to save power.
These two features seem to give the Upp points over the JAQ. However, their refillable cartridges are a bit more expensive than JAQ’s, costing £5.95 each in comparison to JAQ’s $2 disposable cartridge. The Upp is also physically larger than the Swedish charger, which can be a big consideration for a lot of users looking for a smaller profile.
Does this device charge me up?
At first glance, I am very excited to take the JAQ for a test run. As a general rule, I never leave home without at least one external battery. One of my most recent purchases was the JBL Charge 2+ with its extra power pumping capabilities. These are both great, but are still reliant on the grid for powering up, so once their charge is gone, I’m stuck until I can plug in again. As someone that can spend a week or so at a time in the field, I’m hopeful that the JAQ will allow me to stay connected with civilization.
Even though this could be a great option for remaining charged while I’m off the grid, I would be hesitant about making this a day-to-day choice for urban settings. The thought of having to put out cash for the cards every time I want to power up my phone is a bit off putting. In these cases, I would stick to my standard external batteries.
I am excited to see more movement towards the fuel cell model, with most of the relevant innovation currently coming out of Europe. Hopefully we will see more manufacturers expand in this direction, perhaps even by extending to other types of devices. I’m still waiting for an upstart that can offer improvements on external batteries for laptops. Who’s up to that challenge?