Thursday, April 21, 2011

Eco-Drive - Looking Beyond The Watch

One of my brothers suggested the Citizen Eco-Drive is a Well-Met men's example of men's fashion that is 'green'. The watch's design includes both great style and design, as well as being eco-friendly since you never need to replace a battery. Per their web-site:

Citizen Eco-Drive watches use the simplest, yet most technically advanced power generating and storage system in the Watch Manufacturing Industry. A Solar conversion panel and energy cell are the power provider for these Quartz Watches. Eco-Drive's ability to use light from any source to generate electrical power means that the supply is limitless and free. The absence of any added complex power generating machinery that would require additional upkeep is another big advantage.

That is pretty cool, if not just for the fact that batteries seem to run out on you and your watch stops at the most inopportune times. But we also need to be cognizant of what batteries do. Sure they are small, especially watch batteries, and can't take up much space in landfills - however we still dispose of 168,000 pounds of batteries a year. And in the case of batteries space is the lesser issue. The problem with turn-over of batteries is twofold - first they retain a charge and grouping used batteries together can bring these "live" batteries into contact with one another, creating safety risks, second most batteries contain hazardous chemical waste that seeps from the landfills and dump sites into the water we use.

So this all got me thinking. Why don't we make more devices with similar powering methods to the Eco-Drive? Sure there are cases here and there where devices are going beyond the normal power design, devices that supplement the main power source with a greener option like hybrid vehicles, vehicles with solar panels to power auxiliary systems, you can get external or case-like devices that are solar chargers, and I have seen reports that next gen phones and laptops are looking into incorporating solar (here is an article about how the touch screen itself can be a solar panel). And of course electric vehicles are out now. But can't we use these options more often? And are there other options?

Phones (and other personal devices like portable media players) to me are the most obvious scenario, as well as mice. They are still small enough to not require a lot of energy so an alternate source should be feasible. Besides solar power, what about energy-return, Kinetic energy, charging like many hybrid vehicles use with their braking systems? Can't the very energy of the device moving around as you walk, move, and use it, charge the device? I swear at one point that was what the Eco-Drive itself was advertised as doing versus solar energy (Do you remember commercials of a tennis player wearing it while playing that made you think his movement did the charging?) - something like a gyroscope that transfers the very energy of movement into stored energy.

With Earth day tomorrow, it just got me thinking...