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A Brilliantly Simple Way to Recharge Your Batteries

| Wednesday March 12th, 2008 | 4 Comments

Ask yourself this: How many devices in your house use batteries? How often do they need to get replaced? How often have you thought of getting rechargeable batteries? How often have you actually done it? If your answers are many, often, every time, and never, you’re not alone.
According to Earth911.org, every year in the US, we throw out 180,000 tons of batteries. Personally I think a number of batteries would have even more impact, but the point is clear: We go through a lot of batteries. Batteries which contain a lot of materials that we’d all rather not see making their way into our environment, and many of which are actually recyclable
I recently faced this very dilemma: We bought a hand crank powered flashlight, which you would think would diverge cleanly from the battery habit, but for one thing: The noise of the gyro inside while cranking drove my wife bananas. She demanded that we get another, crank free flashlight.


My first thought went to getting a LED flashlight, the last of which we owned lasted nearly 3 years on one set of batteries. Then I thought about getting rechargeables, but then that involves getting another gadget to do the actual charging, and I’m, well, busy. Yeah that’s it. And then I found the perfect solution: The USB Cell.
What’s so different about this battery is how you recharge it: pop the top off, and inside is a USB connection. Plug it in to a USB port on your computer, game console, or wherever else a USB port is showing up these days, and it does the rest. According to the site it’s ready to be used again in minutes, for those short of patience.
This NiMH battery has won a number of awards, including the UK CEED National Energy Efficiency Award, and Pocket Lint’s green gadget of the year. Currently USBCell makes one model, for AA batteries, but there are plans to create AAA, 9V, C, D, and PDA/Cell phone batteries as well. According to the site, you can buy these batteries from 50 countries via their website, and if you’re in the US, at REI and Office Max.
As I wrote in my article on cell phone recycling last week creating products that remove the roadblocks, real or imagined, to greater adoption of a eco friendly behavior is the best thing, outside of $6 a gallon gas, to motivate people to change.
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. His overarching talent is “bottom lining” complex ideas, in a way that is understandable and accessible to a variety of audiences, internal and external to a company.


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  • jhiga

    great idea except that usually one uses 2-4 batteries at a time…a battery-charger allows for recharging in multiples. charging them one at a time would not be tolerable “for those short of patience.”

  • Allen

    Please wait until to try it before doing the review.
    “According to the site it’s ready to be used again in minutes”
    I don’t mean to be cranky but I could have simply read their ad — the review does not add any content. I got most way done and felt like a dope for reading it.

  • Mary Jo

    “According to the site it’s ready to be used again in minutes”!!! Actually, the site states, “the charge should take about 5 hours by USB and the light should go off when USBCELL is fully charged.” ( http://usbcell.com/support/faqsection/5 ). For me, 5 hours is much more than “in minutes”. I don’t see what’s so hard about placing batteries into a recharger.

  • Eugene

    I think that this is a good thing, in general.
    However, we should remember that what we are seeing is a cell with a recharger already included. I have to really wonder if this is actually more environmentally friendly. As each cell wears out, then each recharger will have to be thrown out or recycled.
    That being said, I think that this does have something to offer, in that it might be easier to recharge the cell. We don’t have to bring a seperate recharger with us, because it’s already compact enough to drag along. Also, the manufacturers don’t need to create some kind of a wall rat.