Hack a USB port into your 2010 Prius

prius_usb_port

[Rosenberger31] did a nice job of adding a USB port to his 2010 Toyota Prius. He removed the access door on the console where the traditional “cigarette lighter” 12 volt port is located. A Dynex 12-volt to USB adapter was piggy-backed onto the power lines and the USB connector was then fit into the blank accessory plate next to it.

There is no data connection here, the port only provides 5v regulated power to devices plugged into it. None the less, it is still a pretty nice looking alternative to having a power adapter hanging out of the dash all the times. If you try this, heed one of the warnings from the comments and make sure you add a switch if you vehicle powers the 12 volt port even when the car is not running.

This makes us wonder: will this void your warranty?

Thermoelectric Solar Power

Thermo_Electric_Solar_Power

[Colin] has put together an instructable for a solar power generator that uses the thermoelectric effect instead of the photovoltaic (PV) effect. We have seen Peltier devices used in cooling cans, solder paste, backs, and hacked hard drives. This is the first hack we have seen where a Peltier device is used to generate electricity from heat, essentially running the device backwards. The thermoelectric effect is the same principle that is used to generate electricity in radioisotope thermoelectric generators used in deep space probes such as Cassini. What applications can you come up with to use the thermoelectric effect as a power source?

Tapping Tree Power

[bugloaf] tipped us off about this flower power hack. University of Washington researchers, [Babak], [Brian], and [Carlton] have developed very low power circuits to run directly off of trees. This builds upon the work of MIT researchers and Voltree Power. A voltage of up to around 200mV is generated between an electrode in a tree and an electrode in the ground. Identical metals can be used as electrodes as the process is not like that of a lemon or potato battery. The significant development here is the use of a boost converter and exceptionally low power circuits. What kind of applications can you come up with for this source of power? Maybe you could try to combine this power with the power from donuts and hair.

Tweet-a-Watt wins Greener Gadgets design competition

tweetawatt

The team behind the the Tweet-a-Watt/Wattcher just won first prize at the Greener Gadgets design competition. The device is a hacked Kill A Watt that transmits power consumption using an XBee. After checking out DVICE’s preview of the competitors yesterday, we’re happy to see a prototype win instead of just a concept sketch.

Wattcher, twittering Kill A Watt plans posted

kill-a-watt

You probably saw [Phillip Torrone] and [Limor Fried]‘s twittering Kill A Watt earlier this week. It was an entry in the Core77/Greener Gadgets Design Competition. We saw a little bit about how it was assembled, but now they’ve posted a full guide to assembling the hardware. Each Kill A Watt gets an XBee radio that transmits back to a receiver that logs the power usage. The difficult part when putting this design together was the XBee required 50mA when transmitting. This is well above the Kill A Watt’s internal power supply. They remedied this by adding a 10,000uF supercap to act as a rechargeable battery. The daily twittering is just a side-effect of the project. The Kill A Watts transmit every 2 seconds, so you’ll get a very accurate report of your power usage. This is a great project for renters who can’t permanently modify their power infrastructure. Each Kill A Watt can support quite a few appliances since they’re rated for 15A, ~1800W.

USB power from your VGA port

vga_usb

[gmgfarrand] needed an extra USB port to power some devices. Since he just needed power, and no data, he slapped together this quick adapter that pulls power from the vga port instead. While we’re not sure if this could possibly damage your video card if you pull too much power from it, we’re happy to see someone being original. That VGA port goes unused so often, this adapter might just make it a tad more useful.

[thanks Adam]

SSD hard drives tank laptop battery life


Tom’s Hardware has been running some tests to challenge the common assumption that SSD hard drives use power more efficiently than magnetic plate drives. Their results were quite definitive: not only are they not as energy efficient, SSDs actually use more power than conventional hard drives.

What they found is that most plate drives are at peak consumption (up to 4W) when accessing files fragmented across the media, which causes the actuator to move back and forth across the media several times. However, this is almost never sustained for extended periods of time; the actuator usually doesn’t move much when reading unfragmented data, and most plate drives are also capable of going idle when they are not in use.

Most SSDs on the other hand, only have two states: on and off. This means that when they are on, they are always at peak energy consumption. Though this number hovers around 2W for most of the SSDs they tested, over prolonged periods this can mean a great deal more power consumption than is immediately apparent, which can have short and long term effects on the battery life of a laptop. See the Tom’s Hardware article for benchmarks of specific products and more in-depth data.