Intelligent Batteries

You know the feeling of frustration when an appliance suddenly stops working because of empty batteries.  Of course, it always happens when a) you really need to use it, and b) another battery of the correct type is not at hand.  Frantically hunting for (usually) two you rummage through uncounted drawers, inspect the tool box and search any other place where a battery could be hiding in a dark corner. With desperation you realize there is no alternative to jumping into your car and driving to a store that sells “juice” packed in torpedo-formed metal mini tubes.  Grabbing your keys you realize with dismay that no shop within reasonable distance is open.

Don’t you wish you could buy batteries that…? Okay, I’ll come to that in a moment. Facts first. We can fly to the moon, but we can’t standardize wall sockets and electrical plugs on planet earth. No, hang on. The mess with a plethora of different plugs and systems will be the topic of another blog. Today’s is with portable electrical juice.  We humans use billions of “disposable” batteries every year, 600 million in the UK alone. Don’t worry, I won’t speak of the terrible impact gazillions of batteries have on our environment in South Africa when we ditch them indiscriminately.  I won’t mention issues so “sensitive” to pro- and anti-consumption extremists that they make the opposing camps of the 1966 Soccer World Cup match (England vs. Germany) look like close friends hugging each other after a near-death experience. Not yet, but watch this space for (more) controversial topics.

I ask today why man can fly to the moon in steel tubes and manipulate flat screen TVs in his living-room with (admittedly unwieldy) remote controls, but why on earth can’t he make batteries showing their charge level? Better yet, batteries indicating diminishing “juice power” by changing colour? Green is good, yellow means put batteries on your shopping list. And red signals your having to grab those car keys. Now. Or start feverishly checking every remote control in an unsuccessful search for a battery that works.

Forget (for a moment) the worries about the Euro, criminal governments killing their own people, global warming and other priorities on the endless list of our problems. Instead, can we pleeeease put the invention of an “intelligent” battery with a simple colour indicator on the “To-Do list” of our best and brightest for the coming year? It could help avoid many a mad dash to the next battery supply facility (like a petrol station still open after midnight). It would also help saving the environment. Man would not have to get into a hissing fit when the remote refuses all his attempts at killing channels. And she wouldn’t suddenly run out of batteries in her bedside drawer. Now, there’s a challenge!