EU Could Force Universal Charger Standard for Mobile Phones


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51,000 to 82,000 tons of waste. That is the volume of phone chargers that are sold with replacement handsets every year, assuming 50 to 80% of new mobile phone sales are "upgrades" for existing cell phone owners, according a GSMA analysis from UNEP, Gartner, European Commission Integrated Product Policy Pilot on Mobile Phones, University of Southern Queensland data. That is not counting manufacturing wastes and emissions either.

A Universal Charger Standard would make it possible for you to simply continue using the perfectly good charger you already have at home. Or to swap with a friend, or borrow a charger when travelling. With standardization, manufacturers could put more investment into developing smart chargers with better energy efficiency. But is it technically feasible? And is it too late?Shortly on the heels of a call by G√ľnter Verheugen, EU Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, to legislate standardization if voluntary action is not quickly forthcoming, the mobile phone majors made a press release promising (finally!) standardization. With a goal that is being reported as ambitious:

The group agreed that by the 1st January 2012, the majority of all new mobile phone models available will support a universal charging connector and the majority of chargers shipped will meet the high efficiency targets set out by the OMTP (Open Mobile Terminal Platform), the industry body who developed the technical requirements behind UCS.

The press release came only days after Verheugen said in an interview with the German media company Deutsche Welle that his patience has given out. He put his cards on the table: he expects a voluntary universal charger standard to come out of industry -- and soon -- or industry will feel the "severe measures" which the European Union can bring to bear.

So why do we not have standard chargers so far? Industry claims it is not that simple. Differences in voltage and battery requirements make universal charging a challenge. And cell phone design will require a radical rethink to make UCS happen.

And is it too late? With consumers hoping for solar chargers, turning to USB charging and looking for more imaginative innovation, will anyone get excited about a standard charger? Well, that depends on what comes out of it all. If cameras and laptops and mobile phones all join the standard, this could be really useful. And it will certainly reduce a lot of waste. The time for words is over. Look for action from you mobile phone provider.

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