Hydrogen Phone Chargers: Africa Phone Users Get Alternative in Power Shortages

November 14, 2013 Updated: July 18, 2015

Hydrogen phone chargers in Africa could be an important tool for many living in countries that experience frequent power outages. The portable phone charger will rely on hydrogen fuel cells.

Reuters, in an exclusive, reported that U.K. company Intelligent Energy will introduce around 1 million of the chargers next month in Nigeria and South Africa.

They were successfully tested in Nigeria over the past five months, said Amar Samra, who is the director of consumer electronics for Intelligent Energy.

“In emerging markets where the grids are not reliable and people are using (mobile phones) as a primary device, it is mission critical; if you’re out, you’re out,” Samra told the news agency.

Cell phone company Ericsson predicts that smartphone traffic in Africa will increase about tenfold from 2013 to 2019.

Samar said the device would cost around $200 but there will be plans to pay about $10 per month for two years.

Samara said it would cost around $5 to refuel the charger cartridge.

“Alternative sources of power are very important, because smartphones and other devices need lots of power and you need to charge up every four hours, so for a businessman it is crucial,” said Melvin Angula, an engineer at an industry meeting in Cap Town, told Reuters. 

Power failures have been a problem in much of sub-Saharan Africa for years.

In June, President Obama announced a new plan to double access to electric power in the region.

Gayle Smith, Obama’s senior director for development and democracy, told The Associated Press that about two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africans do not have electricity, including 85 percent of people living in rural areas.

“If you want lights so kids can study at night or you can maintain vaccines in a cold chain, you don’t have that, so going the extra mile to reach people is more difficult,” Smith said at the time.