No-Waste Battery Charges Phone, Gets Sent Back to Maker

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LAS VEGAS -- You'll never be stuck with a dying smartphone again. Instead of digging through your bag to look for a charger you left behind, or carrying around a bulky external battery pack, you will go into a convenience store or coffee shop to get a one-time-use battery pack. Then you'll mail the battery pack away for recycling.

That's the dream, anyway, of London-based startup Quick Energy with its new Quick-E Charge program that it is showing off at CES 2018.

Credit: Andrew E. Freedman/Tom's GuideCredit: Andrew E. Freedman/Tom's Guide

Right now, in London, you can go into select shops and get a single-use battery for all types of charging: iPhones, micro USB, Qi wireless charging and USB Type-C. You pull off a cover to reveal an adhesive backing and stick it to your device.

When the charge is up, you drop the battery into one of London's famous red mailboxes. Postage is pre-paid, and the battery goes to be recharged and put back into the distribution channel. There's no waste. All of the packaging is made from recycled material and will be recycled again when the batteries are retired.

The micro USB and Lightning (for iOS devices) batteries are 1,620 mAh and will cost $1.99 when the service comes to the United States. The larger Qi wireless charging, Lightning and Type-C batteries (for phones) will cost $2.49 per 2,500 mAh battery (2,000 mAh for the Qi). Finally, a larger, 7,120 mAh Type-C battery for laptops will cost $3.49.

The adhesive doesn't leave residue on the phone, and Quick Energy even claims it won't stick to other mail in the mailbox.

Quick Energy head Stefan Paris Michael told me that he's looking for investors to help him bring the batteries to the United States, and that there is no clear U.S. release date. The one thing Michael does know is that his first stop will be Manhattan.

In case you're thinking you could keep the battery and recharge it yourself, you'll be sadly mistaken. Each battery has a proprietary port that prevents anyone but Quick Energy from doing the recharging.

Those looking for a Quick-E Charge battery can download the iOS or Android app to find participating retailers and mailboxes in which they can drop the return packages.

That last part is the tricky one. Quick Energy needs to find a way to ensure that batteries are mailed back rather than tossed into a trash can. If that happens, then the whole concept won't be so environmentally friendly after all.

Michael believes his approach is greener because people do eventually throw out their own external batteries once they hold a charge. But he's competing with the fact that you have to pay for your own batteries only once.