How to get rid of gadget chargers and power supplies

The Slashdot question about this topic reminds me of the overwhelming array of 9 chargers and low voltage power supplies which power my equipment.

In the comments, it was mentioned that a connector manufacturer employs a lobbyist to foil any attempt to mandate standardization of the connectors and low voltage power supplies.

Another comment mentioned the 12V standard car cigarette lighters. This standard is currently usable only in cars, and most gadgets are not designed to be powered from them.


  1. Manufacture a splitter which allows 5-6 plugs (shaped like car cigarette lighter plugs) to receive power at the same time.  Those splitters are meant for use at homes,  and will allow several gadgets to be powered/charged at the same time.
  2. Manufacture a DC to DC converter for each gadget, to allow most gadgets to be powered from standard car cigarette lighters. It may be possible to miniaturize those converters, as they don’t require a 110V/220V step down transformer.  People will prefer to carry those converters with their gadgets, rather than the bulkier manufacturer-provided power supplies.
  3. Manufacture a car cigarette lighter lookalike socket, powered by a step down transformer, for use at homes.  This will allow homes to provide the same power connectors as cars.

Then, car cigarette lighter sockets will become the de-facto standard power supply for gadgets. Those three products will solve the chicken-and-egg problem of introducing a standard power supply for gadgets, which require DC power.

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Comment by Ira
2008-08-28 03:16:26

Most gadgets these days are already charging off USB, that includes both my Jawbone and Motorolla BT earpieces, my GPS, most new phones on the market and many other things. in fact the Jawbone came with an earpiece-to-USB cable (where it magnetically latches on at one end a-la macbook power sockets), and the Ebay seller dropped in the box both the original AC-to-USB adapter as well as a car-plug-to-USB DC-DC adapter. I have even seen a USB battery charger from GP and a coffee warmer (and that makes no sense at all to me, but those and other silly gadgets exist)

I think USB is a pretty convenient way of managing this. the problems at the moment are actually computers with not enough current driven via the USB ports, and I have seen laptops with burnt USB ports because people overloaded them. the 0.5 amps listed in the standards book are not really supplied I think… then again the standard USB plug also uses tiny contacts, and maybe supplying too much current on that is a bad idea too. most USB hubs heat up like crazy which for me means they are eating up way too much power off the battery of the poor laptop they are hooked up to.

either way, car plugs are awkward, tend to lose contact, not all car manufacturers make them exactly the same, and that all stems from the fact they were originally made for lighters and not necessarily gadgets. while they are a cool way to stick an electric mini-bar (צידנית חשמלית) in your car, I think they are so badly designed I would not want to perpetuate the crappy standard.

My car now has a Sony CD-radio with a USB socket, where I stick my old Sandisk MicroCruzer 4G full of music and podcasts, Some new cars feature that now in their built-in models. I wish new cars would also come with 4-6 USB sockets for power (and maybe some data?) in the dashboard, for powering a PDA/phone, maybe secure ignition, audio (speakerphone) and whatnot. makes more sense and looks more aesthetic and space saving than those ugly 14v plugs.

Comment by TDDPirate
2008-08-28 13:08:59

The USB charging option was mentioned also by some commentors to the Slashdot article.
1. Standardized connectors.
2. Several gadgets already support it.
- Insufficient power transportation capability through the USB port.

We need either a rugged USB port, which can carry strong currents, or a standardized and reliable design of a car cigarette lighter socket and plug.

We also need a rugged USB hub, to serve as a splitter, which can power several USB devices simultaneously - without the need for its own power supply.

Comment by Nathan Zeldes
2008-08-28 19:56:18

Of all possible plugs to standardize on, car lighter would be my last choice. It’s BULKY! It was optimized, in a day when all electronic gear was bulky, for the now dated usage of lighting cigarettes in a moving vehicle while driving.

IMHO, if we’re going to standardize, we should use a much smaller plug - and then add a single adapter to our cars for converting from the round lighter socket to the new one…

Comment by Omer Zak
2008-08-29 02:01:18

Any connector, which needs to be able to transport a lot of power, has a limit how much can it be miniaturized. This is why USB is problematic when trying to power gadgets with high current consumption. When room temperature superconductors, which can stand moderate magnetic fields are discovered, then power connectors can be miniaturized.

Car cigarette lighter sockets already exist and are (very) partially standardized. If we try to standardize on any other power connector, it would beg the chicken-and-egg question.

Maybe someone can design a reliable car cigarette lighter socket+plug system and then offer upgrade kits for installation in cars with sockets, which are too incompatible with the plug.

Comment by TDDPirate
2008-09-04 10:17:50

Apparently the USB approach is more viable than I thought. There is a company which offers an external power adapter, which combines USB power with interchangeable ac plugs. They claim that the power adapter provides 1.6A at 5V DC.

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