Photos via Jaymi Heimbuch
Ultralast batteries made quite the impression on me last year with their incredibly poor judgment on packaging. This year, I was happy to stop by the booth and see a new solar charger in their line-up, along with an option for more eco-friendly packaging. But while one green(er) product made it into their product line, another also made it in that is anything but.First up, the Ultralast solar charger. It's basically the same as any other solar battery charger you see these days. I'm assured that in a sunny place like California, it'll take "a day or two" to charge up a couple AA batteries if you place it in a south-facing window. However, I wasn't told a guesstimate for if you're somewhere not so sunny. Plan on the same 4-5 days that we've heard about with other chargers. It runs about $35 and is available at places like Amazon.com and Best Buy.
Now...that other not so friendly product. Ultralast has put out AA batteries that give an extra power boost. I'm told they're nickle-zinc, and intended to replace lithium batteries.
However, because they provide an extra power boost, they don't work in regular battery chargers. You have to purchase a special battery charger that has the correct software to keep charging them to full. So, if you want something "for high power consumption devices, such as digital cameras, flashes, hand-held games, RC toys, and other items that require high power or long-usage time," you'll have to shell out extra money, and bring home an extra piece of plastic in order to recharge them.
Yes, it's great to have high quality rechargeable batteries. No, it's not great to design a product that requires a specialized charger. That's exactly the issue so many other innovators at CES are working to change by developing universal chargers for devices.
Still, if you need green(er) rechargeable batteries, Ultralast is an option.
So, while Ultralast has its usual spot in the "Sustainable Planet" zone, there isn't much that is really sustainable about their products. The sustainable part comes with people (both designers and consumers) moving away from devices that use these batteries in the first place.
More on CES 2010
More on CES 2010
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Consumer Electronics Show 2010 - A Steaming Pile of Hypocrisy? Does it Really Matter?
Gearing Up for Consumer Electronics Show 2010 - Green Products We Can't Wait to See