A portable hydrogen fuel cell for your mobile devices
The Upp is unlike any portable USB power bank we’ve seen before. Most have a battery, similar to the one in your smartphone or tablet, that’s charged from a wall socket. The Upp is a hydrogen fuel cell, which uses a technology that converts hydrogen into electricity.
This technology sounds futuristic and has been mooted as a more energy-efficient alternative to petrol engines and laptop batteries for years. But fuel cells have previously been bulky, so we were impressed that the Upp is small enough to fit in your bag. It’s still a beast compared to other power banks though (weighing 620g), and is comparable in shape and size to a large torch.
The Upp actually consists of two parts – a hydrogen cartridge and a converter, which houses the USB port into which you plug your smartphone or tablet. The two sections are attached magnetically. The converter needs a good air supply to work properly, so it would be best not to leave it in your bag when charging. Hydrogen fuel sounds dangerous, but it’s safe enough to be allowed on commercial flights.
The Upp Starter Kit comes with one fuel cartridge. Participating retailers are currently thin on the ground though, with around a dozen in London and just three in Birmingham. You can use the free Upp app to find your nearest shop. When connected, the app can also tell you how much charge is left in your mobile device and your fuel cell.
In our tests, the Upp added an extra 16 hours of video playback time to our first-generation Moto G phone. While this is a respectable score, it’s disappointing for a power bank at this price, weight and size. It’s also worth pointing out that the Upp makes a faint clicking sound when charging which, along with its size, can make you feel conspicuous in public.
The Upp’s hydrogen fuel cell technology is clever, but the product is flawed. It’s big, heavy and expensive, yet delivers a relatively small amount of extra battery time compared to traditional power banks, making it poor value. If you’re heading into the wilderness for a long time and need power for your mobile devices, then an Upp and several cartridges might be worth considering, but even then you’ll need deep pockets and lots of room in your rucksack.
Heavy and expensive, this futuristic power bank is only for the well-heeled.
Converter: 120x40x48mm, 235g • Cartridge: 91x40x48mm, 385g