If you've ever had your car battery die, or your phone run out of juice at a sports event or concert, you'll get a charge out of two brand-new gadgets - locally sourced - that Gizmo Guy is surveying this week.
I go, you go, Weego! Even if the Weego Portable Power Jump Starter 44 hadn't been designed in our backyard - Westampton, N.J. - I'd be celebrating it loudly as the "Swiss Army Knife of Power Chargers." The thing's not just super versatile, it's also unusually safe to use.
Newest and smartest in the Weego line of portable lithium ion jump starters, portable battery packs and accessories, the Jump Starter 44 fits in a back pocket and weighs less than a pound. Yet the thing packs enough wallop (a fast throughput, 12,000mAh battery) to jump-start a gas engine as massive as 6.4 liters or restore life to a truck or boat with a diesel engine upwards of 3.2 liters.
Far better still, the Weego-developed "Smarty Clamps" cable system that connects to and jump-starts that dead battery is foolproof, a far cry (and trust me, I have) from the use-at-your-own-
peril jumper cables one normally connects from a live battery to a dead one. A special in-line, circuit sensing/indicator box stands guard in the middle of the cable. So it's impossible to set off sparks that can blow things up, do damage to a vehicle's electrical and computer systems, and yourself, if you accidentally reverse the plus/minus polarity or tap the clamps together.
That's just the beginning of the Jump Starter 44's charms. Never have you seen so many ports packed on one battery for plugging in and charging devices. A USB connector has the smarts to recognize and properly feed 5-, 9-, and 12-volt products, such as phones and tablets, using another safe sensor system dubbed "Detect-O-Matic."
The 12,000mAH pack also sports a 12-volt port, to work with some of the smaller stuff (like a tire pump) you'd normally plug into a car's cigarette-lighter socket. Plus, there's a 19-volt, 3.5-amp port for laptops (PCs, not Macs), and a bright 500-lumen LED light that can run for 14 hours in pulsing "SOS" or 24-plus hours in full-on form. A great comfort when you're digging under the hood on a dark and stormy night. (And did we mention, the device is splash- and dustproof-rated, too?)
Starting next month, you'll find this Weego wonder in outdoor gear stores (Cabela's) and online at Amazon, priced at $149.
The Weego backstory is interesting, too. First emerging in 2014, the company is a spin-off of Paris Corp. - a spawned-in-Philly, 50-plus-years maker of paper products (business forms and securitized doctor's scrip pads). CEO Gerry Toscani ventured into the battery-pack business as a diversification strategy.
"We're still profitable, but everybody's using less paper," he said recently. And while "not particularly a gadget guy," the idea of getting a really good charge on interested him personally. "I'm a boater and have a little farm and four kids. In all that, dead batteries are a way of life and a pain in the neck. So when I found this tech, I immediately saw the potential."
Toscani initially looked to partner with existing battery marketers, "but after a year I realized they didn't know any more than I did, so why not do this myself? I can hire the talent, the expertise, and be almost on the same par, but I control my own destiny."
Weego battery packs are far from the cheapest, "but when it comes to emergency power, you don't want cheap, you want reliable, trustworthy, best quality, and that's what we're offering," he believes. User friendliness is another differentiator, from battery clamps that open super wide and easy to a "crazy long" 18-month warranty.
A black Lab pooch is pictured in their "Lab Tested" seal of approval. Their "showy" test car is a 1966 Ford Falcon wagon. "We're having fun," Toscani said.
Battery recycling. Fortune may shine on you twice at Lincoln Financial Field this Eagles football season. If you're lucky enough to score tickets in a suite or on the club level, you'll also enjoy free loans of an NRG Go power pack, dispensed from special vending-
machine kiosks in the Panasonic Club and SCA Club.
Put in a credit card and pull out a precharged, 4400mAh pack with built-in iOS or Android cable that can repower two smartphones or a tablet. Return the pack, and you'll pay nothing for the loan. Accidentally take it home and it will be yours, with a $40 charge on your credit card.
One of the top alternate-power suppliers, with national headquarters in Princeton and a major regional presence at the University City Science Center, NRG is testing here to see if portable power could be a strong market for it, as well.
Another NRG Go kiosk is newly installed at Philadelphia University, where a day loan goes for $3. The concept could fly if the kiosks were ubiquitous - grab a battery here, drop it there. But if you're really obsessed (who isn't?) with losing power on your phone, you've likely bulked it out in a case with an extra battery built-in, or maybe keep an external battery or cable/charger in your bag.