Buying a Mac is the right decision for lots of reasons. Apple builds its hardware to last, and OWC builds the upgrades, docks, storage, and more that makes that Mac run better and with the same lasting quality to be there for the long haul beside your Mac.
We provide technology to extend the life of your technology. We use technology to minimize our impact further and maximize the sustainability of everything we do. Being uncompromising in our choices, I believe we do provide the ultimate win-win-win that saves your money and time, and we do it in a way that also ensures we’re not harming our environment in the process. Quality that lasts reduces resource use and waste and saves you a lot of time and money in the long run. The sustainable choices we make may only be drops of water compared to the ocean. But that ocean is what all those drops combine to be.
Sometimes we have to look beyond convenience and think about the options we have. Plastic water bottles used to be my #1 target, and I am encouraged today by all the free refill stations now in airports, malls, government buildings, offices, etc. While marketing prowess is creating huge waste with the impact of a multi-billion dollar bottled water consumption industry, choices that are easy to make today can absolutely put an end to that waste.
Today, wireless charging is one of the things I hope we give a lot more thought.
For the past few years, wireless charging has become an ever-more-present and promoted technology for our convenience. This year at CES, a full-on wirelessly powered kitchen is on display in the passageway between exhibition halls. I am pleased to note that walking through this space isn’t going to get you zapped by power beams passing through your body. All wireless distance technologies are point-to-point directional, and they use sophisticated transmission and receiving coils and micro dishes that can only connect when unobstructed. Being able to power everything in your house wirelessly sounds great, but it is the far higher cost that comes with this convenience that raises the most significant concern.
However, before we get into the higher-power devices, let’s start by looking at the impact of the lower-power ones most widely used today – mobile devices.
All the latest mobiles can do near field “Qi” charging, and a decent charger achieves efficiencies of 60-75% in terms of power used, vs. 85-95% efficiency delivered by wired charging. Now, let’s be generous and assume that the AC to DC power adapter is 95% efficient, and the Qi charger is 75% efficient. Let’s also assume that the device is charged once a day on average for a year. That means we’re talking roughly 1.2 kilowatts of additional power consumption per year using wireless. Sure, it’s just pennies of waste, and wireless is convenient – but at what cost? It’s such a small impact each of us would have, but en masse, those drops add up. And not in a good way. Because if you multiply that 1.2 kW with the 13 billion mobile devices in the world today, it’s an additional 15.6 Gigawatts of waste – enough to power one million homes for a year.
Now, what about those higher-power devices like most things in your house? The expected efficiency of wireless point-to-point charging at a mere 6ft is about 10%. Imagine a world where the wireless consortiums have everything moving towards wireless power—kitchen appliances, TVs, lights, etc.—yet it makes us 1/10th as efficient on net? Now you’ve got me worried.
I do believe that Qi charging and other inductive/close proximity charging has its place. It can potentially save unnecessary material consumption by protecting sealed devices from the elements. Ideally, this extends their life and lowers the net cost/material impact when used with relatively low power consuming mobile devices, toothbrushes, etc. But when I see car brands trying to show up Tesla (which is all plug in, direct connect charging) with wireless/inductive charging solutions, I see only wasted energy. It defeats the benefits of the car being electric in the first place.
When I look at the new beamed charging technologies, I really worry. All the substantial efficiency gains we have made over the years with our appliances, light bulbs, etc., and now we’re going to use 100 Watts to sustain what less than 10 Watts would take via direct power?
We have many great conveniences today, so is it necessary or beneficial for wireless power to be one of them? Outside of sealed, low power devices where a physical connection would be a detriment, I would personally say no. The little things add up, and wireless charging could be an unneeded step back for a world trying to address its carbon footprint. Even if all your power comes from renewable sources, every extra watt you use from the grid is a watt that can’t replace conventional power somewhere else on the grid.
One day we’ll live in a world with an abundant, renewable, non-impactful energy supply. A world of incredible possibility where such abundance comes without cost to the world we live in and that will enable us to seek out and explore new worlds. I believe that and think we will get there. But until we do, and even if we do, I suggest questioning technologies that are there just for our convenience. Like the water bottle, they often come with little short term benefit while having a myriad of impactful, long term costs.
When the world achieves an abundance of 100% clean power, I will be the first to cheer for wireless everywhere!
~ OWC Larry