Fuel-cell maker claims smartphones with 7-day battery life just 2 years away

by: Andrew GrushFebruary 8, 2016

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For all our fast processors, QHD displays, and other bleeding edge jumps in tech, the holy grail of mobile innovation remains a way to meaningfully improve battery life in today’s devices. It’s something we’ve been promised time and time again with no real progress, so forgive us if we aren’t at least a little skeptical by Intelligent Energy Holdings, a British fuel-cell developer, claim that they are working to finally crack the battery life code in the near future.

This particular fuel-cell developer is best known for its work on a hydrogen-powered black cab in London (seen below) and on creating a fuel-cell-powered aircraft with Boeing. With more than 25 years research and a patent arsenal of over a thousand, it’s clear that Intelligent Energy Holdings is an established player in the emerging fuel-cell game. Translating that research into the mobile landscape isn’t going to be easy though, regardless of the company’s experience, but they apparently are already pretty far along.

From cars to phones?

From cars to phones?

The fuel-cell maker says that an “emerging smartphone maker” will provide them with $7.6 million to develop a fuel cell small enough for the use in mobile phones in the near future. Reportedly such a system would reduce the need to charge significantly, meaning that once a week plug-ins might become reality. So how exactly would such a battery work? In the simplest terms, a fuel-cell battery would convert hydrogen into electricity, leaving water vapor as a byproduct.

Mobile fuel cell batteries could reportedly see market availability in around two years.

As for when we supposedly might see a phone using fuel cell power hit the market? Unlike many similar battery innovations we’ve wrote about that had no timeline for release in sight, Intelligent Energy is supposedly much closer to actually making the dream a reality.

The Chief Executive of Intelligent Energy, Henri Winand, says that if the partnership with the undisclosed handset maker goes well, it could see market availability in around two years. Of course, there’s still a lot of unknowns here – costs, rechargeable or replaceable, etc. This timeline is also hinging on “things going well”, and new tech breakthroughs often run into big hurdles. We wouldn’t get our hopes up too much at this point, but the idea of one week charging is certainly an intriguing one. For now, the closest we get to that with mobile phones is the 2-3 day battery life found on devices like the Huawei Mate 8.

What do you think, excited by the prospect of one-week charging?

  • Kody

    I’m not getting my hopes up. I’m gonna keep my hopes low so I won’t suffer heart break if they don’t deliver.

    • jrod3737

      Don’t you mean “when?”

      • Kody

        That’s a little too pessimistic.

  • retrospooty

    I will believe it when its released and independently tested in a normal priced phone (as in a standard $650 flagship, not a $2000 special order phone) . We have had “fuel cell smoke” blown up our asses for 15+ years and none of it has really come to fruition.

    • Andrew Grush

      Well said.

    • Wolf0491

      While $2000 sounds ridiculous I would pay maybe an extra $100 if it meant I only had to charge once a week. People pay an extra $100 for storage so what’s difference lol.

      • retrospooty

        I would pay that too, any day, but $100 extra is still a normal priced phone, not a special order limited edition type thing. The point was we have been hearing about how fuel cells will change our lives and revolutionize any and all devices that use batteries for almost 2 decades (if not longer) and none of it has amounted to anything tangible.

        • Wolf0491

          I realize what you meant. I was just saying if I went to store and was about to buy a phone and they said by the way for an extra $100 you can have an upgraded battery that last a week I would be all over it lol. No matter what the regular price was.

    • SamsaraGuru

      I agree with you. The stories about how we are right “on he verge of, cusp of a new and exciting, earth changing advance in (insert next technological wonder of the world you desire_____ here) “that is finally almost, nearly finally, just about here…” has always been a great attention grabber, newspaper seller, but usually like the ever about to arrive “cure” for cancer sadly doesn’t ever seem to actually arrive!

      There is a well done – considering its modest budget – movie from about 20 or so years ago entitled, “To Live and Die in LA”, which starred the then young, very buff actor destined to play the head of the CSI iteration set in Las Vegas as the character, Gil Grissom, that had in it a great scene that is SO apropos this story.

      In it, a lower level drug dealer was sitting in jail talking with the lawyer that Mr. Big drug dealer had sent to represent him and was being assured that despite fact he had been caught with several pounds of uncut cocaine, heroin or whatever, he shouldn’t worry because they had his back.

      His to the point and I found hilarious response to the lawyer’s BS was, “Yeah, sure, ‘The check is in the mail. I love you and I won’t come in your______.'”

  • Kukujiao

    Fuel cell on phone? Phone leaks water?

  • Cakefish

    It’s boiling down to Galaxy S7 vs iPhone 5SE for me. Samsung wins on camera, customisability and probably battery life too. iPhone wins on software support, one-handed use and perfect integration with my iPad Air 2. Tough call.

  • Brad Fortin

    So, in 2 years, when our phones still barely last 1 day, we’ll be able to come back to this company and ask how those 7-day batteries are coming along, right?

  • wric01

    Bring back removable batteries , problem solved.

  • Samrq

    It’s all BS until it’s released to the market.

  • Randy N. Gaston

    “meaning that once a week plug-ins might become reality.”

    Why would you have to plug it in at all? It is a fuel cell, wouldn’t it have to be refueled and not recharged?

  • pseudo

    I’ll believe it when I see it™

  • D C

    They should have stuck with methanol based fuel cells that were being developed a few years back. The fuel for those is cheap, easily handled/contained, and readily available without the complications of Hydrogen.

  • Ang Li

    The figure is suspiciously close to 50 million RMB,which is the Chinese Yuan.

  • Bob Garon

    how safe is it having hydrogen in our phones near our bodies and our children?

    • TheJeebus

      About as safe as lithium batteries.

  • Kunal Narang

    Great! Phones in future could sweat too!

  • Jonathon Rios

    The future is always just 2 years away..2 years every 2 years until your dead.

  • Choda Boy

    1. Will these be banned on airplanes and other forms of transportation or shipping?
    2. Will the refueling be more onerous than simply carrying an extra (external) battery?

    EDIT: I found this in the Source article.
    “It says that unit is best suited to people living without access to a power grid, such as large parts of Africa.”

  • seth mogley

    if you only care about battery life and I mean only that then check out the oukitel k1000