Perhaps the solar charger has gotten too mundane. Perhaps the crank charger has doled out one too many sore wrists. Perhaps it's just a damn cool proof of concept and doesn't need any further reasoning than that. Whatever the reason behind it, Toshiba is introducing a new electronics charger that distributes power from a fuel cell.
The Dynario charger uses a 14mL fuel tank that is filled with methanol. It takes just 20 seconds to fill and can then charge two cell phones from one tank. How does a tank of methanol recharge a battery? According to Toshiba, the methanol reacts with ambient oxygen, and the product of the reaction is electricity. The device delivers the electricity via USB cable. While Toshiba claims the theoretical advantage of not needing a number of adapters, you'll still need the right tip to plug into your device if it doesn't have a USB port. One big plus is that it the electricity supply is instantaneous, unlike solar and crank chargers that require plenty of time to charge up enough to juice your devices.
The palm-sized Dynario is scheduled to hit Japan on October 29. Only 3,000 units will be sold. Unfortunately its cost will limit it to the techiest of tech geeks and most misguided of eco-warriors--29,800 yen (app. $324). A five pack of methanol solution refill bottles will run another 3,150 yen ( app. $34). That's a lot of coin for a charger that you'll constantly have to fill with highly flammable, poisonous liquid. The rest of us will remain better off with the solar or crank charger.
While it isn't yet the most practical or cost effective way to charge your electronics, a fuel cell charger is definitely an interesting advance.
Toshiba via Dvice