I greatly admire what Brunton is trying to do with the Hydrogen Reactor. They’ve but a big fat toe in the water with a brand-new technology to the outdoor market, and they’ve put a lot of marketing spend behind it. Their money is where their mouth is on this one.
But it’s a gamble. And I remain a little sceptical because it’s a product which is almost wholly dependent not on customers, but on the setting up, developing and management of a worldwide infrastructure to support a product which (unless you spend a lot of money) you can’t run without that network.
The device itself converts little cartridges of Hydrogen in to electricity, which in turn powers your USB-compatible device. There are no batteries. No wall chargers. No solar panels and no winding anything up. It’s really bloody clever stuff.
But, the little cartridges of Hydrogen cost £15 each new. And £4 to recharge or swap for a full one. And unless you spend £225 on your own recharger, you have to go to a retailer to have them recharged. But my nearest recharging centre is a 44-mile round-trip. (According to Brunton’s own website, it’s a 70-mile trip, but their site neglects to count Blacks stores, which their UK distributor says all have a recharging station)
You start to see the problems associated with being an early-adopter for this otherwise awesome technology. The question is, does Brunton have big enough pockets to get a recharger either subsidised to the point where it’s viable to have one at home, or widely-spread enough that there’s one in every town?
With each cartridge containing enough energy to generate 8500MaH (which is enough to recharge an iPhone 6 five times), and the whole unit weighing just 240g, you can see the weight benefits over a heftier-end battery pack or big solar charger for those travelling light.
But if you’re travelling will you be in places where you can get the cartridges recharged, or will you need to take more cartridges? And if you’re travelling by plane, you’re only allowed to take 2 cores with you, so is that enough?
No, you’re going to have to rely on that infrastructure to support this product. And according to Brunton’s website, the nearest place to get a recharge if you’re in Santander, Spain, is Basingstoke or Bristol.
In fact, the only way I can see this working is if the Intellectual Property behind the device becomes open source with an agreed common standard for the recharger stations, and we then start to see them pop up at airports, bus stations, newsagents… everywhere you can currently by a standard AA battery in fact.