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Climate change is an issue that’s constantly in the news. Just on the day I was putting this review together the headline on the BBC News web page stated that ‘Climate change fight ‘can’t wait’’. While cars shoulder a lot of the blame, it’s also wasteful things such as batteries that contribute. Rechargeable batteries are more eco-friendly, but many people are put off them because they’re expensive and inconvenient to recharge.
This is why a product such as these USB Cell batteries make so much sense. Our news Editor Gordon first revealed these back in September, and gave a comprehensive description of what these new types of batteries claim to be able to do. Having got hold of four of these in the office, the only thing that was needed to be done was to actually test them to see if they do as they claimed.
The concept is ingenious and one can only wonder why it’s taken this long for somebody to come out with them. Invented by a company called Moixa, the founder of which incidentally also created the foldable keyboard for PDAs, the USB Cells are Nickel Metal Hydride AA batteries that recharge over USB. They are, perhaps obviously, the same size as regular AA batteries – if they weren’t they wouldn’t be much use. What’s different is that the top pops off to reveal a standard USB port connector.
With USB ports appearing on every PC, laptop and even games consoles it makes it very convenient to charge them without having to faff around with a clunky wall charger. This will also saving weight and bulk when your travelling. It’s also quicker – while you often have to charge overnight in some conventional chargers, these claim to charge to 90 per cent in five hours. Finally, it’s environmentally friendly, as indicated by the Recyclable icon on the batteries
The only issue I can see is that you could have trouble fitting them into some recessed USB ports, but you can at worst charge in a regular NiMH charger, though this takes up to seven hours. Moixa recommends that you don’t put them in extra fast chargers that charge in less than two hours. In a USB port however, you can pop them in for half and hour and gain a significant charge.
The top of the battery comes off easily and is held in place by a piece of elastic. It feels like it could be pulled off it you really tried hard but it’s tough enough. However, after only brief use one of the metal covers for the USB plug came off revealing the bare connections underneath. The cover remained lodged itself in the lid. This only happened with one of the three batteries though.
Once plugged in the batteries indicate they’re charging via a ring of yellow LED lights at the top of the main section. It’s clearly printed on the battery that the light indicates that the battery is charging, slowly flashes when 90 per cent charged and goes off when fully charged. However, I’ve yet to see this flashing – the light is either on or off. What would be even cooler though was if there was some way of finding out how much charge there was by looking at the battery itself – perhaps by pressing a button, like on some Duracell batteries.
When the batteries finish charging I found that they were very warm to the touch, though that’s what you would expect. I also found that you have to push them in firmly – the first time I thought they weren’t working but in fact they weren’t properly in the socket.