[LONDON] A British fuel-cell developer that was first to put the technology harnessing the power of hydrogen into London's distinctive black cab said it's working on a system that would allow mobile phone users to charge just once a week.
Intelligent Energy Holdings Plc said an emerging smartphone maker will provide 5.25 million pounds (US$7.6 million) to develop a fuel cell small enough to be embedded in mobile phones.
The technology converts hydrogen into electricity, leaving only water vapor as a byproduct. It's spreading quickly at a bigger scale to drive commercial power generators used by businesses including the furniture retailer Ikea and investment bank Morgan Stanley to reduce emissions and ensure electricity supply.
"Embedding fuel-cell technology into portable devices provides a solution to the current dilemma of battery life," Julian Hughes, acting managing director for Intelligent Energy's Consumer Electronics division, said in a statement. "With consumers demanding more and more from their phones, battery innovation has not kept up." A fuel-cell powered phone could be on the market in two years if the partnership goes to plan, Henri Winland, chief executive of Intelligent Energy, said in an interview.
"The killer app is a battery with a seven-week refresh life and we think that will appeal to everyone. It's not just for intrepid explorers," Winland said.
Based in Loughborough in central England, Intelligent Energy has been researching energy technology for more than 25 years and has more than 1,000 patents. In addition to work on zero emissions taxis, it also worked with Boeing Co. on the first manned aircraft powered by fuel cells.
The contract with the unnamed smartphone maker will allow Intelligent Energy to further develop a prototype fuel cell phone announced last year. It says that unit is best suited to people living without access to a power grid, such as large parts of Africa.
Intelligent Energy has expanded beyond hydrogen-powered transport to develop stationary back-up systems to power telecom towers in India, and last month signed a letter of intent to develop hydrogen-powered drones.
"What we offer is a solution that is clean and efficient and means consumers could be truly mobile and free from the constraints of the grid," Hughes said.