No charge?

 Posted by on 30 January 2013
Jan 302013


For a small device, mobile chargers are a high-profile product in the quest to cut energy use and carbon emissions. They’re part of the overall problem of things left on standby in the home of course, but also there are loads of them knocking around homes, calling into question the need for them being automatically sent with a new phone at all.

Although there’s a bit of disagreement about what the energy and carbon impact of leaving mobile chargers plugged in is (the Government’s chief scientific advisor reckons that, on their own, chargers don’t account for too much) there’s no doubt that as a package of positive behaviours in the home, pulling them out of the socket when they’re not required, along with other gadgets, can add up to decent savings. After all, the average home spends £35 a year on standby consumption.

Small changes in behaviour are also instrumental in creating an overall consciousness of energy efficiency – and it’s made even easier when savvy innovators have stepped in to provide the gadget-happy with solar chargers and ones that automatically cut off when the phone’s battery’s full.

But it’s the impact of the charger in manufacture, in use and in disposal that paints the biggest picture of concern. No-one wants tonnes of chargers going to landfill, and equally not being manufactured just to sit in drawers, unused, either. This website has some cracking statistics looking at the carbon impact of chargers over their entire life-cycle – and it’s sobering reading.

Mobile company O2 estimates that could well be 100million unused chargers in UK homes – so it’s perhaps no surprise that their new customer research has showed 82 per cent being happy to receive charger-less phones. When thought about in terms of annual UK sales of mobile phones, that’s a cool 24 million chargers that wouldn’t have to be made, packed and sent out.

Significant stuff; and also significant was the company’s highlighting the importance of delivering clear information at the right time as being a key factor in their customers making the more sustainable choice.

A move towards universal chargers is also a plan mooted with the self-same aim of reducing the need for a new charger with every phone – and 10 major companies including Apple have signed up to a European Commission Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to do just that. The USB port may well be the whole world’s phone-charging future.

Cynics might argue that companies are of course creating the opportunity to reduce their own overheads by backing charger-less universality, but sometimes you can bicker too much about what’s driving change. If it offers a more sustainable future in a small part of our lives, and sets an example of a more realistic chain of supply and demand in our personal consumption, this can only be a good thing.

  2 Responses to “No charge?”


    It seems to me that converting 240 v AC to 5 volt DC is will in itself generate heat from the iron losses in the transformer etc. Would it not be worth while to have pv panel trickle charging an adjacent 12 volt lead acid cell which would in turn supply a number of cigar 12 volt (via a fuse) thus proving energy to a charging station for mobile phones and tab?lets etc. Car chargers are available for most devices until the usb sockets become more common. The benefit would be that the conversion from 12v to 5v DC would I think be more efficient… The charging station could be some distance away from the solar panel/ battery as the current flow to the device on charge would be very low and hence voltage drop in the cable wold not be an issue. Like wise, I suspect charging leads for use in cars will give out a regulated 5 volts using supply voltages well below 12 volts as the output voltage is perhaps controlled by a clamping zenna diode.


    A universal charger would be the answer. We have a number of different phone chargers at home as a result of phone upgrades – often the new phone can’t be charged with the old charger. How many people have chargers in drawers but don’t know what they connect to? A one size fits all would mean more room in drawers for a start!

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