VOTO Turns Thermal Energy of Cooking Fires Into Battery Power

The season for hiking, camping et al is nigh, so having a reliable power source nearby is important, especially if you’re the kind of person who cannot leave his smartphone at home while recreating.

VOTO is a device developed by Point Source Power based on a fire-activated fuel-cell. Anyone with a cooking fire nearby will be happy to own such a gadget, as that is the key element that ensures its functionality. More precisely, in order to generate power, people need to place the fuel cell under hot charcoal. The oxygen from the air and the hydrogen resulted when burning charcoal or wood have a chemical reaction whose result gets stored in the fuel cell as electricity, instead of heat.

VOTO’s 4000 mAh battery gets fully charged in two cooking sessions, but that’s pretty ambiguous, don’t you think? How much does a cooking session last for you? On top of that, the device comes with a 25 lumen LED, which should satisfy anyone’s basic needs. By comparison, a 100W tungsten light bulb operating at 220V puts out around 1400 lumens. I’m pretty sure that the luminous flux does not work the same way as the sound pressure (a 3 dB increase in power doubles the volume), so they’re probably talking about VERY basic needs. After cooking twice, thus having the battery full, the LED can provide light for up to 30 hours. That might sound impressive for some, but most people know that LEDs are not that power hungry.

This device reminded me about the First World Problems Anthem, which emphasizes in a very sad manner the difference between developed countries and the not-so-lucky ones. In the above video, Point Source Power’s CEO Craig Jacobson points out that VOTO wasn’t exactly built only with campers in mind. In fact, Jacobson claims that this device also addresses the needs of people from undeveloped countries who own a cell phone despite not having access to electricity and/or running water. If this is the case, I’d like to ask Mr. Jacobson something: Will your company offer the device for free to people who are in that particular situation? If not, what’s the point?

As seen in the above picture, VOTO will be available in four different colors: red, orange, yellow and blue. There has been no word about its price, but a “buy one, have one sent to someone who can’t afford one” scheme would redeem some of this company’s sins. Also, as someone pointed out on PopSci, the developers of this device encourage burning trees to generate energy. I’m really curious about what Greenpeace or other environmental organizations have to say about this.

If you liked this post, please check the world’s first algae-powered building and Cyclus, the cool way of saving energy.