News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

The Aesthetics of Design Meets Emergency Backup Power

The "Juice Can"

Let's start the week with something upbeat, shall we?

One of the things that made life significantly easier for people struggling to cope with the megastorm that hit the East Coast last month was the proliferation of different, low-impact ways to keep cell phones and laptops charged. Power-on-the-go helped people stay in touch with their loved ones, assisted first responders in prioritizing their efforts, and helped squelch a few deliberately planted rumors. The storm showed both how fragile our power grid is, and how important decentralized energy sources are in an emergency -- and, by extension, in everyday life.

Now, one tech developer is proposing an appliance that might make it a whole lot easier to keep your appliances powered up when the power's out.

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The Juice Can, a quickly-chargeable auxiliary battery, looks to be a promising entry in the burgeoning world of home power backup systems. With a capacity of 7,800 milliAmp-hours, it stores about as much power as your typical laptop battery, meaning that a fully-charged Juice Can can provide two full charges for a tablet computer or three for a new, power-hungry smartphone.

Two things set the Juice Can apart from other similar batteries ReWire has seen. First off, designer Wei Long has paid attention to the unit's "form factor": the Juice Can is a pleasingly shaped, ergonomic concave cylinder that Long compares to a bamboo node. Gearheads with an Apple-influenced sense of style will keep this appliance out on display rather than hidden beneath a utility desk. Plans are to make the Juice Can available in a range of colors.

Secondly, Long has hit on what seems to us a brilliant way of bringing the Juice Can out of the "preparedness" niche market. Each JuiceCan is also a flashlight, with an included 2.4 watt LED that provides 200 hours worth of light on a full charge. Long plans other attachments for the Juice Can including nightlight shades, Bluetooth wireless speakers, and even what Long delicately calls a "personal massager."

And each Juice Can can be linked to another, in a configuration Long refers to as a "Juice Cane": seven of the things linked up will provide a whopping 55 amp-hours of power storage, enough to keep a smartphone charged for about two weeks.

Long's hoping that enough potential gearheads will respond to his Indiegogo campaign that he'll be able to put Juice Cans into production. Expected retail is about $50, though Long's offering them to Indiegogo donors for substantially less.

It's one thing to have the forethought to have a backup battery charged and ready to go. It's another to be able to take your stereo speakers or massager off the shelf when disaster strikes, and use them to stay in touch with the outside world. If the Juice Can lives up to anything close to it's promise, it could be a very cool thing.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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