All posts in “charging”

Keep the power in your pocket with this Anker charging bank that’s only $42 today

Anker charging banks are on sale at Amazon.
Anker charging banks are on sale at Amazon.

Image: Anker / Mashable Photo COmposite

The only thing worse than your phone running out of power while traveling is the often fruitless search for a place to plug in. Your phone deserves better, and you can get it with an Anker power bank on sale today for 58% off.

Anker devices are often on sale at Amazon, with most of them boasting an Amazon’s Choice seal of approval. Consider the Anker PowerCore Speed 20000 to be part of that club. It’s small and compact enough to fit in your bag without any hassle, but it supposedly packs quite the punch.

Its PowerIQ technology allows it to deliver a fast charge to USB devices. It can deliver power to devices like the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S8 multiple times over, and according to the product page, only needs a 6-hour recharge. Your phone and tablets will probably thank you for hooking them up with more power — if they could talk, that is.

Amazon typically lists the price at $100, but you can get it today for only $42.

Free advice: Turn your phone’s damn battery percentage off

Attention is a kind of love. 

Except when it’s directed toward your iPhone and its unending series of notifications, at which point, if you’re anything like me, is nothing more than a specific kind of anxiety unto itself: “Why am I staring at this thing so much, and why’s it making me feel awful?”

To really fix this, you’d need a psychiatrist. But! One modest, simple change could help put a stop to this: 

Stop your phone from displaying the percentage of battery life it has left.

That’s it.

That little number, affixed to the top-right of your screen if you’ve enabled it*, is a countdown clock of disaster and doom, kept minutes away from midnight only by the repeated jamming of a power cord into your device’s greedy little maw. Seeing this percentage may invite obsessive charging; I find that stress starts creeping in around 64 percent. 

Turn it off!

Turn it off!

And sure, it seems like there’s a logic to turning the percentage on. Knowing exactly how much battery life you have left helps you figure out when you’ll need to haul ass to an electrical outlet. Say you’re leaving the office with 30 percent left: You’ll definitely have enough juice to browse the internet on your commute and make an emergency call if, for example, a wayward Humvee runs over your ankle and you need to go to the emergency room. You’ll probably have enough to play a game in the ambulance! 

Leaving with 2 percent, though? R.I.P., friend. If that Humvee runs you over, you’ll bleed out and die, alone — from an ankle wound — on the side of the road. 

But indeed, the logic is only seeming. The battery icon, without a specific percentage number, gives you all the information you need, but not enough to drive you Shining levels of crazy. Here’s how it works:

– When you’ve got half your battery life left, the indicator will appear half-full; you’ll make it home without a charge. 

– If it’s red and nearly empty, perhaps plug your iPhone in for a few minutes before leaving.

Again: That’s it.

What does a number offer you that this icon cannot? Nothing! Unless you’re trying to diagnose exactly how much battery life having Snapchat open on your screen for five straight minutes will consume (the answer is one entire percent), there’s no meaningful gain to the numerical value over the icon. 

We’re trained, by our phones and the software they run, to obsess over numbers. How many likes did your post get? How many unread emails do you have? How many iMessage notifications did you miss while you were asleep?

“Convenience” excuses all these numbers, which are often designed to command your attention to the benefit of companies like Facebook and Apple. Social media apps profit when a number convinces you to spend more time in in your feeds, on their platforms. And tech manufacturers stand to benefit if you’re so obsessed with your battery life that you buy new charging peripherals or, eventually, a new device.

And that’s fine, kind of, as long as we’ve at least got some options. And indeed we do! Untether your mind from your phone. Disable the battery percentage indicator. Liberate yourself. 

[I also try to cut out “badge notifications,” those encircled numbers you see on apps when they have something new to show you, but you do you.]

The overall idea here is nothing more than to be smarter (or: mindful, if you’re like that) about how you approach the things in your life that generate endless, nagging data. Maybe you’re not an anxiety-stuffed, phone-obsessed, fidget-spinning meatbag like I am; that’s great! But if you suspect you might be, well, take a baby-step, and turn off one number at a time. You’ll thank yourself.

* Yes, okay, I invited this. By default, your iPhone will simply show you a little battery icon that depletes over time. This is much better! It seems Apple knows a thing or two about designing an operating system that doesn’t make you want to dropkick your own brain (sometimes). 

A charging cable for your iPhone that works just like Apple’s MagSafe power adapter

A tough charge for your phone.
A tough charge for your phone.

Image: Armor-x

Apple may have killed the MagSafe in its latest array of MacBooks, but that doesn’t mean that magnetic charging cables have become obsolete. 

The idea behind magnetic ports is simple, but genius: rather than firmly sticking a cable into a device — leading to the possibility of someone tripping over the cord and yanking the expensive equipment to the ground — the MagSafe allowed the charging cable to clamp on to the device firmly enough to hold on, but light enough to detach easily when tugged.

While you can no longer experience MagSafe’s brilliance on your computer, you can still enjoy its convenience on your smartphone. The ARMOR-X Magnetic Charging Cable works just like the MagSafe in the sense that it makes use of a magnetic clip that can be plugged and be left alone in your device’s charging socket. When it’s time to juice up, you only have to move the cable close to the clip and watch them snap together instantly.

The wire it comes with isn’t too shabby either. Built with a sturdy, fray-resistant nylon, this cable puts the standard Apple charger’s durability to shame. It also boasts a 2.4A fast charging capability.

You can score the ARMOR-X Magnetic Charging Cable on sale for just $19.99 right now — that’s a 50% discount.

Quick-charging battery startup StoreDot gets $60M on $500M valuation led by Daimler

As we continue to see a proliferation of wireless connected devices make their way into the mainstream consumer electronics market, there has been growing attention on a key issue that will be central to making all these devices work: efficient power supplies, and specifically practical battery systems. Today, one of the startups that’s hoping to lead the conversation on how this will develop has raised a significant round of funding as it inches closer to a commercial launch.

StoreDot, a startup out of Israel that is developing a new kind of quick-charging (five minutes or less) battery to replace the lithium-ion components largely in use today in phones, electric cars and other un-wired devices, has raised $60 million in funding led by carmaker Daimler with participation also from Samsung Ventures and Norma Investments, an investment firm linked to the Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich. Daimler and Samsung have been prolific investors in autonomous car and other transportation-related startups (Samsung just earlier today signalled a new fund for this purpose; Daimler announced a round in Via just last week.)

StoreDot is not disclosing its valuation, but we understand from reliable sources close to the deal that the valuation is $500 million.

Daimler’s trucking division led the investment, and Doron Myersdorf, the CEO and co-founder of StoreDot, tells us that it will be the first ones to roll out its batteries in vehicles, expected to happen around 2020, with phone batteries coming sooner — in other words, the company has yet to launch any products. “The technology we’re developing for car batteries is similar to what we’re making for mobile,” he said in an interview. “Our focus is to get the mobile batteries to market next year.”

He also said that while Daimler’s trucks might be first in line, the plan is to integrate StoreDot’s batteries across other vehicles from the carmaker and its competitors. “We are working on the whole fleet, including luxury cars, passenger cars and buses,” Myersdorf said.

Half a billion dollars in value is a big leap forward for a startup that has raised $108 million to date. But there is a reason why companies like StoreDot are attracting a lot of attention these days.

The boom in wireless computing devices has well and truly descended upon us. From smartphones, tablets and laptops through to cordless speakers and watches, and now electric connected cars, there are more wireless devices in the world than there are people. We are fast approaching a time when it will be not just a choice but an expectation that we can use and interact with things whenever and wherever we want, not just when we’re tethered to a connection in the wall.

That brings various challenges to the tech world around computing power and network connectivity, but also how these devices will be powered, which is the challenge that StoreDot is addressing.

To do so, Myersdorf’s team is rethinking the whole concept behind the battery — an effort that has already generated 50 patents for the startup with more on the way, he said.

“We are designing a new generation of batteries,” he said, essentially rebuilding across all four components that currently make up lithium-ion batteries: the anode, the cathode, the charge transfer and the separator put in place to prevent shorts. “In order for fast charging to work, all these have to be totally redesigned because the tradition structure was focused on fast discharge, but there was no symmetry,” he said, referring to getting a charge to the battery in the first place.

In fact, we’ve seen some very high-profile examples of just how dangerous it can be to try to quickly charge batteries that exist today: The Note 7 fiasco at Samsung (which tellingly is an investor in StoreDot) highlighted how graphite, one of the key materials in lithium-ion batteries, overheats when charged too fast. 

StoreDot’s solution, in a less-technical nutshell, brings together a new combination of nanomaterials, both organic and inorganic, to both take in the charge and hold it, without heating up in the process and shorting the battery or worse.

The company started out in its labs with a charging solution that could fill up a battery in 30 seconds (read our report on that here), but as Myersdorf describes it, it was not a practical option:

“We could charge the full battery for a phone or car in a minute or less,” he said. “The tech allows for it, but it’s a question of practicality because one minute requires a very large charger, for a phone it would need a 750-watt charger.” This, he said, would look like a brick, and “it doesn’t make commercial sense to carry a small phone and big brick next to it to charge it.”

It would be even worse for a car, which would need a one-megawatt station to charge a car to run for 300 miles. In the end, it came up with chargers that were much smaller and took five minutes to charge either a phone or car, or whatever.

Next to come for the company — and it’s not a small thing — is the fact that it has yet to get any regulatory approvals for its batteries.

“This is a major challenge because we are breaking the rules of what is known in charging,” he admitted. “This is why we are engaged with the process of trying to open and accelerate the adoption of new standards for charging, which includes the connector, the charging station, and what runs in the car [or other device].” He noted that this is another reason why the investment from Daimler and Samsung is so critical: “For a startup to push those regulatory bodies is a challenge, but if you have a large player you have better chances to get this done in a reasonable timeframe.”

Still, Myersdorf remains realistic about what StoreDot has already solved, and what lies ahead. He recognises that there have been various failures in the battery and energy storage markets, and is focused on making sure that StoreDot is not going to be the next in line.

“Now, for StoreDot it’s more of an execution risk rather than an R&D risk,” he said.

Zero Motorcycles CTO Abe Askenazi on the future of two-wheeled EVs

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Electric cars and buses have already begun to take over the world, as evidenced by daily sightings of EV brands like Tesla, Prius, Bolt and Proterra on U.S. roads. But two-wheeled EVs are still a rare sight. The motorcycle industry has been much slower to put out all-electric and hybrid models relative to peers in automotive.

Big brands like Harley, Honda and Ducati don’t have EV motorcycles on the market today, though customers have indicated interest when they’ve teased electric concepts. And a few startups have failed to make electric bikes that could give combustion engine models a run for their money.

Mission Motors went bankrupt. Brammo put its Empulse EV motorcycles out there to some fanfare, but the small Oregon-based startup sold its bike business to Polaris. The parent company of Victory Motorcycles, Polaris eventually killed off the Empulse. And Brammo now sells power systems to other vehicle and equipment makers.

Survivors and newcomers are still churning out EV motorcycles, though. They include Zero Motorcycles, Lightning Motorcycle and Alta Motors in the U.S., Energica Motor in Italy and China’s Evoke Motorcycles. All are helping to awaken market demand. According to forecasts from ID Tech Ex, the market for smaller electric vehicles, including motorcycles, will comprise about 5 percent of overall EV sales, generating some $35 billion annually by 2027.

Zero Motorcycles CTO Abe Askenazi.

TechCrunch recently caught up with Zero Motorcycles CTO Abe Askenazi, who has been in the motorcycle industry for about two decades, to get his take on what could make electric motorcycles the first choice for riders.

Askenazi said right now, a lot of Zero Motorcycles’ customers buy the company’s EV bikes alongside market-leading V-twins and V-4s. To him, that indicates Zero’s bikes perform at the same or better levels as riders’ long-held favorites.

Besides that, he said, electric bikes are quiet, so riders can hear what’s happening around them, and won’t disturb the peace, which their neighbors appreciate. That quietude is one reason police departments buy Zero Motorcycles for their fleets. They can ride at any hour, and approach suspects stealthily if they drive electric.

Of course, electricity costs less than gas most of the world over. That’s appealing to a certain set of riders — so is the ability to power your bike with solar or wind-generated electricity for those most eco-minded motorcycle enthusiasts.

Zero Motorcycles’ dual-sport electric, the Zero DS.

Zero’s today makes everything from lightweight “hot rods” to sporty off-road models that cost from $8,495 to $15,995. Appreciated for their acceleration, speed, control and easy-to-read instruments, in the past the bikes drew complaints around range. The company has worked hard to improve its battery tech, however, and some bikes in Zero’s 2017 lineup promise 200 miles per charge. That compares to e-motorcycles with a 40-mile range made by Zero just a few years ago.

“Optimization of chemistry has gotten us here. The beautiful thing is that batteries are plug-and-play. When that battery comes that will give you 1,000 miles, we’ll be able to use it,” the CTO said. “Where the industry is going though is not so much a bigger battery to go further between charges, but faster charging so you can go grocery shopping, plug it in, come back and then you’re ready to go again.”

Over time, batteries will take up less weight and space on e-motorcycles, beyond what we can even envision today, the CTO said. That will leave room for cargo and other components, potentially. Already, Zero Motorcycles S and DS bikes give riders a large storage space behind the batteries. “You gain a lot of practicality with this bike,” Askenazi said. Lighter-weight and stronger materials will also transform design, he predicts.

Featured Image: Gregory Manalo/TechCrunch