It’s all about Power
From phone chargers to home chargers, it’s all about power.
Back in the olden days, it seemed like everyone made a mobile phone. Motorola, Nokia, Sony, Ericsson, Orange, Philips, even Boshe made a handset, and each model had a different charger. Unsurprisingly the number of obsoletes was huge, but thankfully this was a temporary and natural stage of tech innovation. Apple’s iPhone wiped out most of the competition and massively raised the bar for entry into the market. The next stage was consolidation, which is where we are now, as the number of phone options reduces down to just a handful, then, perhaps, for chargers, ubiquity, as the option is standardised to one. We have a standard three pin plug in the UK; should there be a standard device charger as well?
The EU thinks so and is once again looking at whether to insist manufacturers standardise due to the now pressing reason of 50,000 tonnes per year of electronic waste in the form of old ones.
Apple, always a company to do everything on their own terms, will resist these external regulatory pressures, they have a billion devices in the hands of customers and their own way of doing things and that probably includes what will be a gradual phase out of ‘plug in chargers’ as wireless charging does to plug ins what wifi did to dial up modems a decade ago.
But it won’t end there. The next step, perhaps the final one, after wireless charging, is ‘over the air’ charging. This technology is rapidly improving, and the consequence of delivery to the mainstream will be homes and buildings with wireless power, just like wifi, charging devices automatically. And that spells the end of the ‘phone charger’ altogether, replaced by the ‘home charger’ as the entire house or office building powers phones, tablet and even laptops. Give it another ten years or so and this may well be the new normal. Just as each house has a ‘wifi box’ we’ll have a ‘power box’ or two. This also opens up the space for many more smaller home devices, if they’re always on charge the batteries can be tiny. Perhaps a security drone that hovers around the house, constantly checking on things and mini robot cleaners picking up crumbs. Completely doable, for very little cost, unless you have a cat.
Back to the present, and Nottingham is about to install wireless electric charging points for taxis. The taxis won’t need to plug in, the chargers are embedded in the ground in the taxi ranks, and automatically charge the cars above them as they’re waiting for the next customer.
Let’s hope more councils get with the program, especially in Yorkshire. If you’ve ever walked out of Sheffield train station into a line of black cabs pumping out diesel fumes and noise, you’ll know what I mean. And for the drivers, not having to buy fuel, or plug the car in, that’s extraordinary. This kind of progress requires the collaboration of local Government to achieve the harmonisation of our urban infrastructure with durable technology that’s been through the innovation cycle and is sufficiently future proof to be installed. We’re just about arriving at that point. Electric taxis, wireless charging points in taxi ranks. Common sense. The vision of companies like Chargifi is electric charging embedded in car parks, in roadside parking, then even at traffic lights, places where cars stop. The result; charging your car becomes something you never really have to think about. It just automatically happens.
This is the breakthrough required to leapfrog our reliance on petrol and diesel. Rather than replacing petrol stations with ‘electric charging stations’ the chargers will be integrated into the places where cars are parked. And for long motorway journeys, park, get your coffee and browse the overpriced shops for twenty minutes, return and drive away, vehicle and driver recharged. I’m sure they’ll work out how to charge us for it seamlessly as well.
This article first appeared in the Yorkshire Post Newspaper.