I pulled out the latest issue of Green Futures for a bit of light relief. It instantly lifted my mood as it reminded me just… how exciting sustainability issues can be.
A colourful, pocket-sized charger which addresses the issue of ‘vampire power’ – the power wasted when devices are left plugged in when fully charged – is set to go into production, having exceeded its $25,000 funding goal on Kickstarter.
Currently, 25% of average household electricity is wasted due to devices being left plugged in when fully charged, costing the US $3 billion per year according to the U.S. Department of Energy. And according the UK Energy Saving Trust, “A typical household could save between £45 and £80 a year just by remembering to turn off appliances left on standby.”
Powerslayer, created by the US firm Velvetwire, is equipped with a microprocessor that monitors when the energy supply for charging a device is no longer required, stopping the flow without the need for human intervention. It could therefore reduce electricity waste and bills by a substantial amount.
A series of algorithms is used to detect when a connected device is full charged. “Our embedded software intelligently powers off and back on, automatically, delivering energy only as needed to protect against overcharging and energy waste”, the Velvetwire team state on their Kickstarter page.
The eyecatching design includes a single, triangular LED that glows through the surface of the device. Orange means charging, green is fully charged, and no light means the device is charged but not drawing power. Part of the aim of this aesthetic – as well as the bright cloth that covers the USB charging cables – is to draw attention to the device and spark conversations about energy use.
Jennifer Lee, a former Motorola employee, dreamt up Powerslayer with Eric Bodnar, another Motorola veteran, during a break from their corporate day jobs. They intend to charge $75 for it when it enters commercial production, and have managed to secure manufacturing suppliers within 70 miles of Velvetwire’s Santa Cruz headquarters in order to keep the supply chain local.
The 597 people who backed the device on Kickstarter will be the first to receive one. However, widespread adoption will be needed to generate a significant improvement on current rates of energy wastage – perhaps through incorporation into future electronic devices. – John Duffy