This new report states that Apple and Intelligent Energy are working closely together, with Apple perhaps considering bringing this new technology to a future iPhone.
The tech works by producing electricity in a hydrogen fuel cell by combining hydrogen and oxygen, which creates a small amount of vapour that escapes via a built-in vent. Intelligent Energy has a patent on this technology and already has a popular portable charging device that uses this tech called ‘Upp’, which it released last year.
I’m familiar with Intelligent Energy’s work and I reviewed Upp last year, but I hadn’t considered the possibility of it being made into a smartphone battery. Although a great concept; there are obvious flaws, which make it difficult to see its potential as a replacement for lithium-ion batteries used in modern smartphones.
The biggest issue is around the water vapour that’s produced from the chemical process, creating electricity. Upp uses fans to blow air across the fuel cell and, as such, needs to remain in a ventilated area to work.
This means it can’t be kept in a bag, or, in terms of smartphone use, deep in your pocket. This, I imagine, is the main stumbling block to this technology being adapted for the mobile market.
Other issues will persist around size and weight (Upp was extremely heavy) and air-travel (carrying a hydrogen-based fuel cell got me searched by airport security twice).
For its part, however, Intelligent Energy’s Chief Executive, Henri Winand, told the Telegraph that the company had managed to “make a fuel cell so thin we can fit it to the existing chassis [of an iPhone 6] without alterations and retaining the rechargeable battery.”
This is incredibly impressive, given how large and cumbersome Upp is. What’s also interesting is that the prototype Intelligent Energy is working on is refuelable, via an adapted headphone socket.
Consumers wouldn’t have to worry about this, however: as is the case with the Upp charger, you’ll slide out the depleted battery out and replace it with another at a participating store (Apple being one retailer that stocks replacement fuel cells).
This is a practice that already works quite well for Upp customers, with plenty of participating stores in major cities. I had no problem finding places to buy a new cell in London, but move further away from the city and things became a little more sparse.
The challenge will be to create an easily replaceable – and affordable – battery that’s readily available at stores across the country. And, you know, making sure the tech works. Clear those admittedly tall hurdles, and we could have a very exciting development in battery technology on our hands.
This article was written by Jay McGregor from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.