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PowerSafe jumper cables take danger out of playing with electricity

We purposely attempt common jumper cable errors with the PowerSafe cables and live to tell the tale.

PowerSafe demo unit
We purposely attempted common jumper cable errors with the PowerSafe cables and lived to tell the tale. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

I was given my first set of jumper cables at the same time I received my first car. Before setting me loose on the world, my father gave me a very serious speech about the dangers of improperly jump-starting a vehicle. I was warned of potential electrocution, sparks igniting gasoline fires, and--most seriously--acid spewing battery explosions if the cables weren't connected in just the right way and in just the right order. Even armed with this sacred knowledge, I still throw sparks every time I jump-start a car, just for kicks. Sorry, dad.

However, most drivers didn't get my dad's speech and as a result, they find themselves in an even more precarious situation when the day comes that they need to borrow a few electrons to jump a dead battery. Here's where Energy Safe Technologies come in with its PowerSafe jumper cables.

The PowerSafe jumper cables look like your standard jumpers, with a pair of terminal clamps on each end. However, midway through the cables' length is a small electronic brain that monitors the state of the connections and only lets power flow when everything is hooked up just right.

So, if you accidentally connect your cable backward on either end, the system will display a red warning light and the power stays off. If you accidentally touch the loose ends of a live cable, the red light glows and there are no sparks. If there's a short of any kind, even within the dead battery, the red light glows and everyone remains safe.

Once both ends are properly connected and both indicator lights glow green, the system uses a soft start circuit to gradually ramp up the power flow, eliminating power spikes and protecting delicate vehicle electronics.

We were given a demo of the PowerSafe cables prototype at Energy Safe Technologies' booth, tucked away in the back of the SEMA Show's north hall. No matter how haphazardly we connected or disconnected the cables, we were unable to cause a fire, throw wicked sparks, or create an acid-spewing battery explosion--which is boring, but very safe.

The PowerSafe jumper cables should be available in early 2010. Pricing has not yet been announced.