LAS VEGAS--You can now use muscle power to charge your electronics. Easy Energy at CES 2010 showed off the YoGen hand charger, which is now available for $40. When you pull the string, it turns a mini flywheel that produces a steady stream of power--up to five watts--for small, portable devices. One minute of pulling is enough to charge a cell phone, according to the company. Easy Energy is adapting the same flywheel alternator technology for a pedal-powered laptop, called the YoGen MaxT, which is still under development.
CES 2010's Sustainable Planet zone featured a number of solar chargers and other small-scale solar-powered devices, such as garden lights, flash lights, and camping lanterns. Here are a number of options from MiniWiz, including a charger for AA batteries. In the foreground on the right is MiniWiz's HyMini, a wind power device that can be attached to a bicycle to charge an internal battery with a USB port.
Most small-scale solar chargers are mainly geared for off-grid use, although they can be used at home for daily use. Regen in June is releasing a solar charging system that's really been designed for home use. Each solar charger features a 6-watt panel and an integrated battery with USB port. It also includes a suction cup for hanging the small table in a window and a stick for tilting it toward the sun on a table. The company plans to offer an optional docking station, which can provide a read-out of available charge in the battery. It also showed off docking stations that have a built-in iPod attachment and speakers for music, and one with an LED light that acts as a desk lamp.
CES 2010 featured a number of products geared at home energy efficiency, including smart plugs from Tenrehte and this "modlet" from start-up ThinkEco. The modlet, which stands for modern outlet, works with software on a USB key that lets people control appliances plugged into the modlet from a Web application. People can set on/off schedules for computers and peripherals or for an entertainment center. The company says the smart plugs, which are expected to be released in early 2011, will pay for themselves within six months in energy savings.
Another way to ratchet down stand-by power on electronics is with automated power strips. A new one on the market is from HiSaver, which reduces stand-by power to near zero by using an optical sensor that could go under a desk. At its booth at CES 2010, they showed how turning off peripherals for a PC dropped power use from 180 watts to 80 watts. The company hopes to sell the HiSaver plug, which will be available online in February for $99, to both consumers and business.
Another company to show off a standby power killer was Embertec, a company from Australia that expects to release a product in the U.S. in 2011. Its smart plug products use wireless home networking--either Z-Wave or Zigbee--to both cut stand-by power and give people a display of energy use from a PC. In field trials in Australia, the company has found people save $85 a year on entertainment systems and $41 a year on PCs, said David Levine, the chief marketing officer from Embertec.
Home energy monitoring and management was a theme at CES 2010, with a number of devices on display. Here is a system from U.K.-based AlertMe, which the company hopes to bring to the U.S. later this year. It monitors energy use and lets people remotely control appliances, such as heating systems and lights from a smartphone. In the U.K., AlertMe sells the energy monitoring service along with a home security system for a monthly fee. Different devices, such as smart power strips and heating/cooling controllers, communicate using a Zigbee home network built around a central hub (the cube behind the monitor prototype). The system comes with a key fob (on left), which lets people turn home devices and heating/cooling on or off simply by walking in the house, according to the company. AlertMe chief technology officer Paul Fellows has been using the system in his home for a year and said that he has reduced electricity use by 25 percent just by turning things off when they are not in use.
LED lighting is one area that consumer electronics companies have already branched into. Here is a display of Toshiba's E-Core light bulbs, which the company expects to offer in the U.S. by the spring. A bulb that's the equivalent of a 40-watt incandescent will consume 6 watts, and a 60-watt equivalent will consume 8 watts. LED bulbs are also projected to last longer: 40,000 hours versus 1,000 hours on an incandescent. They don't contain mercury, as compact fluorescents do.
Panasonic is another consumer electronics company with a broad portfolio of home and commercial products. At CES 2010, it had a room dedicated to eco-ideas including a home energy management system that can be controlled through a TV. Here is a fuel cell that uses natural gas and converts it to electricity. One of the byproducts is heat, which is used to heat home hot water. Its home energy products are being tested in Japan and Denmark now. By 2018, Panasonic aims to be the dominant supplier of energy-efficiency products in the home, company executives said.
General Motors was at CES 2010 showing off its smartphone application for remotely controlling the Chevy Volt. Having tools to manage charge time and track remaining range will be very important for electric vehicles, as consumers need to adjust to a different fueling system. The application, which will run on the iPhone, Blackberry Storm, and Android smartphones, lets people view range, mileage, and to schedule charging to take advantage of off-peak rates. It also has remote control functions, such as turning on air conditioning while the car is still plugged in, rather than drawing on the battery, and remote unlock. The Volt is due for release in November of this year for about $40,000 before tax credits.
The Sanyo Eneloop electric bike created a good amount of buzz at CES 2010. It uses a motor/generator in the front hub to give bike riders a boost while they are pedaling. When you stop or hit the brakes, the generator recharges the battery pack (in black, attached to the frame below the seat). Once the batteries are worn out, people can return them to Sanyo and purchase a new battery pack for $40. The company expects that 2010 will be a big year for electric bikes in the U.S., which it will market to people looking for another option for commuting or running errands. It's expected to cost $2,300 and be available in Best Buy and other retail channels.