USBcell turns unused USB ports into battery chargers

Save money - and the environment - with new rechargeable batteries that plug straight into a USB port.

Bulky charging kits could be a thing of the past thanks to a new battery that charges directly from a USB port.

Moixa Energy's new USBcell batteries look like normal AA cells and fit into any device that takes AA batteries. - but there's a big difference. Flip the green top down to reveal a hidden USB connector that fits into any USB port to recharge the batteries.

Market research company Mintel points out that the UK spends nearly five million pounds a week on batteries. There's a convenience factor, as it's often easier to buy a new battery than recharge a custom built-in battery. Rechargable AA cells are a lower cost option, but they remain inconvenient, as they require separate chargers.

The switch to rechargables saves money, but Moixa founder Simon Daniel, developer of the original PDA folding keyboard, says the real value of USBcell is the convenience. He calls the 2 billion USB ports on PCs, Macs and other hardware "2 billion free chargers, so you can always charge if you forget your mains cable or suddenly run out of power".

The size of the USB connector does mean the capacity of the battery is a little less than a standard rechargeable , at only 1300mah, but Daniel claims "future versions will address this". Plugging a USBcell into a USB port for just a few minutes will give it enough power to run most devices for a few hours. A two cell pack costs 12.99, more expensive than other NiMH cells. Costs are higher because each battery contains its own recharging circuitry.

The first USBcell batteries are AA; other formats including AAA and custom sizes for popular phones (including RIM's BlackBerry) will follow soon.