Acer: No major laptop battery improvement in offing

Fuel-cells and other power technology for laptop PCs won't likely be available for years, an Acer executive says

Dreams of fuel cells serving the power needs of a laptop PC or other new technology to significantly increase battery life won't likely be available for years, according to an Acer executive.

In fact, the recent recall of nearly 9.6 million notebook PC batteries over fears a manufacturing problem could cause them to overheat or catch fire highlights the main reason why battery technology moves slower than other technologies inside a laptop, Acer president of IT products, Jim Wong said in an interview.

Safety is a huge issue with batteries. Electricity is generated by chemical reactions inside a battery, which produces heat as a byproduct. With so much chemistry involved, a lot more product testing was required, therefore battery technology progressed more slowly, he said.

"The lithium-ion materials used in batteries today were discovered 30 to 40 years ago," Wong said.

Fuel cells are promising, but the technology isn't ready yet, and an infrastructure needed to be in place before the technology could be widely used, he said.

Fuel cells require fuels such as hydrogen, butane, methanol, or natural gas to produce power. Not only would fuel packets or refueling stations be needed for mass adoption of the technology in laptops, they would also need to be approved by aviation officials for use on airplanes.

There has been progress made on such approval, but in an age of terrorism fears, where even cigarette lighters have been banned, the process is moving understandably slow. And users aren't likely to buy a laptop that can't be taken with them on vacations or business trips that require air travel. The battery issue is gaining more importance recently because the new era of multimedia laptops threatens to shorten battery life.

"High definition is a most formidable enemy to battery life," said Wong.

HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc players in laptop PCs really drag on battery life. Companies offset some of the drain by putting bigger batteries inside machines and with power management technology aimed at shutting off parts of the machine that aren't immediately being used. But such improvements only help a little bit. They're not the kind of breakthrough that fuel-cells are expected to be.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Dan Nystedt

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?