Why did I build a power bank?
Why would anyone even try to build a power bank – i.e. an external battery for charging mobile devices – these days? These things are commodity, it’s impossible to compete. Right? Well, that is until you find out that the type of power bank for your application, namely charging a higher-end tablet with 12V input, does not exist cheaply. Looking around for 12V power banks yields a lot of li-ion car jumpstarters (*) and very few actual power banks. Those that exist are pretty expensive and often don’t even perform that well. Let’s run down the list:
(*) Car jumpstarters will not work, because they have a 3S pack of li-ion cells directly connected to the output, meaning the output actually varies from about 10-12.6V. My tablet (Cube i7 Stylus) and the Microsoft Surface series only accept 12V +/- 5%
Prices exclude shipping. I tried my best to include an example of every ‘category’ of available power bank in this list, but there are obviously hundreds. They fall into four general categories:
- QC2.0 chargers, which use the new Quick Charge protocol to deliver 5-12V at up to 18W to supported mobile devices. These are the only ‘cheap’ 12V power banks, but unfortunately also woefully underpowered as well as using a communication protocol on the charging port. That makes it very hard to use as a generic 12V charger for a tablet.
- Ridiculously expensive chargers. There are a bunch, and they all retail for between 100-400 dollars. Some are specifically marketed towards high-end laptop/audio/photographic gear. They do have really good specs (often up to 4-6A outputs and variable output voltage), but are also generally heavy and very proprietary in their connections.
- ‘Almost there’ power banks. There are a lot of 12V/1.5A and 12V/2A power banks in the $60-100 price range. Unfortunately, I need 2.5A to be able to charge AND use my tablet and $60 is a bit on the high side, especially with more than $15 shipping (to Europe). Locally, these tend to retail for €100+.
- Weird application-specific stuff. I put in a solar charger. Often without satisfactory documentation
So, how do we fix this? Well, build your own.
Read more: Open source 12V powerbank