Impulse's Electric Cooktop Gets a Boost From Batteries

Is this really the hottest idea in cooking in 50-plus years?

Impulse cooktop in action


Ask Impulse Labs and they'll tell you that home appliances haven't changed much over the past five decades. "We're here to change that," claims the company on its website. They just launched the Impulse induction cooktop, which has a big lithium battery built-in "that will help people remove fossil fuels from their homes, while delivering a premium experience with top performance."

"Over the past 20 years, home appliances have seen little to no game-changing innovation and are still largely powered by gas—a nonrenewable energy source that, when burned, we know harms the environment and isn’t great for people," said founder Sam D'Amico in the funding announcement. "When you cook with gas, toxins from combustion (the act of igniting the gas from your stove into a flame) are released directly into your home. These fumes include toxins such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and formaldehyde, which are known lung irritants that are linked to respiratory conditions and asthma in children." 

While all the statements about the problems of gas are true, I do wonder about his statement about no "game-changing innovation." What does he think the induction cooktop is? What does his cooktop do that is different?

"When asked about switching from gas stoves to electric options such as induction, people usually sympathize with the environmental and health benefits, but they’re often torn over frustrations with performance and bad prior experiences such as: scorched pots, uneven heating, confusing controls, expensive panel upgrades, wiring nightmares, the list goes on. Frankly, they’re not wrong. Switching to an electric option is often painful and even if you do, the experience isn’t great—we plan to change this."
Complete impulse range


The panel upgrades and wiring issues seem to be the critical pitch for this product. Noah Smith, who invested in the company, claimed most homes don't have the wring to go all-electric. "You have to tear out the wiring and install better wiring, and that is difficult and expensive," said Smith. "Anyone who has installed an induction stove knows this all too well."

All of this confuses me to no end, having installed an induction stove just three weeks ago. It was a drop-in replacement for a dead gas stove with an oven, and I called an electrician who was there the next day and charged me a thousand bucks to install a 40-amp breaker and outlet in the kitchen. Expensive, but it's likely that the batteries needed to run the Impulse cost close to that much.

And difficult? Not really. It didn't require rewiring the house or getting a bigger electrical service, and I suspect it wouldn't be in most of the houses in the U.S, where the wiring has been capable of handling electric ranges in the kitchens since Ronald Reagan told us to live better electrically and the 100-amp panel became standard. According to BGH, it's the "minimum panel amperage required by the National Electrical Code (NEC). A 100-amp service panel will typically provide enough power for a medium-sized home that includes several 240-volt appliances and central air-conditioning."

However, in homes with 240-volt wiring, the cooktop can act as a power source for other appliances. D'Amico told Techcrunch: “At minimum this means we can electrify that previously gas appliance, and moving forward towards newer properties it also means that storage can be put to use for the home as well.”

It's also apparently really fast, with D'Amico claiming that it is 10 times faster than a high-end gas range, bringing a liter of water to boil in 40 seconds, which immediately reminded me of a great "The Simpsons" joke.

boiling water
Boiling water at peak power on Kitchenaid induction range.

Lloyd Alter

To compare, I placed a liter of water in a Le Creuset pot on our new induction range and put it to full power, and it took 80 seconds—or twice as long as the Impulse. So perhaps that battery really gives it a boost. Although my spouse Kelly, who does the cooking here, says 80 seconds is amazing compared to the old gas range.

Duck curve

Jordan Wirfs-Brock / Inside Energy

Smith does make the valid point that batteries can help kill the duck curve, a problem in places with lots of sunshine and solar panels like California, where the demand for power peaks when everyone comes home and cranks up the AC, and starts cooking dinner while the sun goes down. Smith describes a vision where every appliance can store power.

"The stove, or dryer, or oven, or heat pump, or whatever — and it can draw power slowly throughout the day through your regular wimpy old 120V power outlet. And then when it comes time to cook your food, or dry your clothes, or cool down your house, or whatever, the appliance’s battery will release the stored electricity all in a rush. FWOOM!"

But ... dryers and heat pumps are fixed and never have run on a wimpy 120-volt outlet; you don't move them around and look for a place to plug them in. I have never heard of this being a problem. Dryers and heat pumps can also address the problem of the duck curve by putting the duck on a diet and not running at the peak time, which is how the duck is squished by dynamic pricing. And it makes no sense for them all to have separate batteries unless they are wired together somehow— they don't all have to go FWOOM! at once.

Finally, let's address the question of whether there has been innovation in the last 20 or even 50+ years. There has, in fact, been an induction revolution that happened without batteries. Professionals are switching to them in droves. When we bought ours from a high-end appliance store full of Wolfs and Dacors, we were told that the gas ranges were gathering dust and the inductions were flying out the door.

knobs on impulse

Impulse Range

Those induction cooktops have an innovation that Impulse seems to have missed: they are flat sheets of glass. There are often no—gasp! KNOBS!—other places to gather grease and gook. It is true that many people prefer traditional knobs and don't find electronic sliders intuitive, but then they are traditionally found on the front of the stove, leaving the clean glass top that you can wipe off so easily. There are no raised elements that have to be cleaned around or limit where you put the pot.

Where we're going, they don't even have fixed elements, as in this NOBLE induction cooktop where you put the pot anywhere you like.

wall mounted range
Adriano Studio

Where Impulse is weighing down our induction ranges with batteries, other companies like Fabita are ephemeralizing them, making them lighter and smaller and hanging them on the wall. It just isn't true to claim there has been no innovation.

Impulse side view
That is a battery beneath the top there.


But then we have been pitching the idea of sufficiency and ephemeralization forever, the idea that we should use less stuff. Somehow, dedicating a big battery to run an electric stove seems like going in the wrong direction.