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NTT DoCoMo confirms fuel cell battery for mobile phones May 27, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in Japan, Mobile, technology, Uncategorized.
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Asahi Shimbun is reporting that NTT DoCoMo will be marketing a external fuel cell battery for phones in 2007.

DoCoMo head Masao Nakamura confirmed his company's intentions to sell a methanol fuel cell battery next year.

This is a result of DoCoMo's research into fuel cells with Fujitsu. Last year, DoCoMo and Fujitsu showed off their prototype fuel cell, press release here.

The prototype is pretty bulky, hopefully they will have managed  to make it a little smaller by the time it hits the shops.

The battery uses a methanol cartridge holding 18ml of high purity methanol, and a claimed capacity of 3 times the capacity of the Li-ion battery used in the phones.

It would seem that the energy density (taking into consideration the required associated parts) is a lot lower than Li-ion batteries at present.
Battery capacity is a pressing problem for handset manufacturers as phones become more powerful and with carriers pushing energy consumption intensive services like audio/video streaming, more powerful games (like full RPGs from SquareEnix), and providing the ability to watch analog/terrestrial digital TV on the phone. The new Vodafone 905SH (on sale today) manufactured by Sharp has a 4 hour battery life when watching TV, which seems to be enough endurance to keep a phone going for a day out even with liberal use of the phone even after watching a football game on the phone. (as an aside, the 905SH also has the ability to record TV programmes to an SD memory card)

Given how small battery chargers are (the one for my phone measures 3cm x 3cm x 1cm excluding the wires), and given there are USB chargers which can charge your phone from your computer, I wonder how much demand there will be for a bulky fuel cell battery extender. For the time being, people who need extended battery life would be better off getting one of those plug in battery extenders and some alkaline batteries. It would take up less space than the prototype and is probably cheaper to boot.

Comments»

1. James - May 27, 2006

Finally a long-lasting battery cell for the numerous homeless people with ketais!

2. fukumimi - May 28, 2006

Isn’t it amazing how (some of) the homeless in Japan have TVs, PCs, and mobile phones?

There is clearly a significant number of homeless in Tokyo who are living on the street (or in blue tents in public parks) at least partly out of choice.

I wonder if the Methanol cartridges are tamperproof. I wonder how much they are going to charge for a cartridge containing18ml of methanol, given methanol costs about $1/gal in the US.

Hope the wider access to methanol doesn’t tempt desparate substance abusers….

3. Thomas Balis - May 29, 2006

What I don’t get is how homeless people can have a keitai or a tv… Well, you can own one, that is part 1, but part 2 is to get a subscription of some sort. Don’t they have to register an address to receiver a phone number or TV subscription? I’m a little lost in de dark here, how is that organized in Japan?

4. fukumimi - May 30, 2006

TV subscriptions – now there is an interesting story. The TV subscriptions (more accurately, NHK subscriptions) are “voluntary” in Japan, which is why about 30% of households refuse to pay. The refusal rate has increased in recent years due to scandals at the NHK. Others refuse to pay saying that they don’t watch NHK. I guess that until analogue terrestrial TV is phased out and switched to scrambled digital completely in 2011, the problem is not going to go away. There are plans to make TV licenses mandatory, but there is opposition in the face of the wastefulness and embezzlement being unearthed at the NHK.

As far as keitais are concerned, in the past you could just walk into a convenience store, put down your cash, and get a pre-paid (pay as you go) keitai. No questions asked. Of course, that invited people with less than honest motives to go this easy route to getting an anonymous keitai. Extortionists, kidnappers, drug dealers, etc etc. So now you need to show some ID.

The thing is, one of the official IDs which still widely are accepted are national insurance cards, which are photo-less. (Of course, if you get found using someone elses ID, you get in trouble)

Anyway, it is now illegal to sell (new or used) phones without confirming identity. But as you would expect, an underground market does still exist.

There are also some homeless people who have bank accounts and income of some sort (usually not a regular job, obviously. But there are markets for manual labour where you get paid cash. Middlemen drive up in a van, select willing volunteers, and drive them to some construction site or something). You’ll see this market in operation in places like the Sanya district in Tokyo and similar “doya-gai” in other cities around Japan, which are basically slums with homeless and hostel dwellers subsisting on handouts and some jobs now and again.

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