Desperately Trying To Find A Use For The ChugPlug

[AkBKukU] writes in to tell us of his experiments with the rather vile-sounding “ChugPlug”, an odd portable AC power bank designed for the express purpose of powering MacBook chargers. It would seem more efficient to simply build a DC power bank with a MagSafe connector to cut out the charger all together, but presumably there is some market for this particular niche device. Especially at the $15 they are currently selling for on Amazon.

Unfortunately, the ChugPlug that [AkBKukU] bought doesn’t seem to work. After some experimenting he found that it appears to only be outputting 80 VAC, obviously too low for many devices to function. But he reasoned that some things, like switch mode power supplies or restive loads, might still work. He just needed to come up with a way to plug them into the ChugPlug.

If his testing setup gives you a case of sweaty palms, you aren’t alone. He breaks open a dead MacBook charger to recover the female AC connector, and then solders that directly to an AC grounding adapter. The resulting pigtail lets [AkBKukU] plug in various AC loads while allowing him to probe the wires with his multimeter and oscilloscope.

Once he’s satisfied his hack works conceptually, that is, he’s able to plug arbitrary AC loads into this purpose-built battery pack, he follows up with a less dangerous looking adapter. Making use of the shell of the dead MacBook charger and what some might describe as a salacious amount of hot glue, he produces a compact and relatively safe looking device that will let him use his handicapped ChugPlug as a general purpose source of AC power.

It’s not the most elaborate portable power supply we’ve ever seen, and certainly wouldn’t be our first choice in an emergency, but at least [AkBKukU] managed to wring some use out of the thing in the end.

21 thoughts on “Desperately Trying To Find A Use For The ChugPlug

  1. A helpful guy named “Patrick” on Amazon left this review which talks a little about the guts of this thing:

    “Okay, it looks like a tumor! Well it is NOT a tumor, it is some pretty amazing hardware serving a very simple purpose, but here is the best part: it is 15 dollars. So I cannot find ANYONE ELSE who has torn this guy down, so I will tell you my experance and what is inside.

    3 Boards not counting the 3S Balancing board on the 4AH 3S Pack. 11.1v-12.6v 3S with Balacing and Protection. (This is itself a module in shrink wrap.

    AC to RAIL Voltage Board (This board takes the AC power from the Wall and makes it so the Transfer board can use it to charge the battery, and drive the DC to AC Power Invert-er Board.

    Transfer board, this board has some circuitry on it, but is a housing for the bridge rectifier, and connects everything via traces, wires, and ICs. It is less packed than the AC-DC or DC-AC boards.

    Finally the Power Inverter very simlar to what you have in a car/truck/van. Simple Transformer that takes DC and makes 120VAC 45W-65W to power the Apple Adapter.

    So YES, it takes AC, makes DC, then Takes DC and Makes AC again. So in a way, it is very silly way to create a backup battery, but in another way, it is a goldmine of DIY parts waiting for you to jump in. You can also power anything with the 2 pin AC plug, not just the MacBook. I used mine as a UPS for my Gateway Router/AP Controller and it worked great until I couldn’t take it anymore and had to find out what is inside. To be clear, it still works, I just dumped the tumor case, and turned it into a combination SMPS that also makes 19.5v 4A + USB in addition to the AC this unit makes stock. 65watts isn’t much for AC appliances, but for things that take AC and make DC like iPhone USB Chargers, it is awesome.

    So I am buying another and making an instructable on it since no one else has. For 15 bucks this is WAY more than worth it, but be careful it is more than likely cheap because it didn’t sell well and it is being liquidated. Try and be fair and not buy them all or ruin a good thing.

    So before you even think about opening this thing up, the Wires from the AC board to the AC connectors are NOT soldered. They have a very strange unsafe Paste that connects them NOT a solder weld. It comes off very easily and could injure you, in my opinion all the more reason to fix that factory oversight and do it right. Again electronics are dangerous, but if your a DIY guy, this is the one to grab.

    This works almost identical to a VERY expensive Double Conversion commercial UPS for again 15 dollars, not 600. Way different scope of power, but again, it is interesting

    When working with electronics do not open anything you do not understand, or cannot evaluation the danger of. This unit has constant AC in 2 forms as well as a Lithium Battery. Be Safe and if you have doubts, don’t do it.”

    1. Interesting that it could be used for a UPS, though it seems like this guy has a hell of a time getting it to power anything in the video. Unless his unit is really defective anyway, it doesn’t seem clear.

  2. One good use I can think of right away is powering a soldering iron while away from mains. Granted, it’s not quite as big of a deal now that there’s the TS100. Too bad it can’t supply enough power to run a soldering gun. (For that matter, I wonder why I have yet to find any soldering guns that use high frequency inverters to reduce weight. And then make it battery powered!)

      1. Generally speaking, high voltage DC (usually pulsed) is much more effective for electrofishing than AC. It’s more likely to induce narcosis, rather than just tetanus, and has the benefit of drawing fish in to the anode which simplifies collection and raises capture probability.

        In most places it’s also quite illegal without the proper permits…

  3. > It would seem more efficient to simply build a DC power bank with a MagSafe connector to cut out the charger all together

    At least in the past, Apple sued companies making things with MagSafe connectors, e.g. HyperJuice.

  4. Can confirm most Apple supplies will (sort of) run on 85VAC, as that’s all that was available on the trans-Siberian railway shaver-sockets :) It was enough to kind-of charge a Kindle…

  5. A figure-eight socket should also work with some modification, if you don’t have a junk MagSafe charger lying around. One of the ribs would need to be flattened to make it more of a figure-B.

    I’ve always used a cheap and common figure-8 cord with my iBook charger, which is compatible (at least on the mains side) with the MagSafe.

  6. I grabbed two of these on eBay. It seems like they only output 200V DC, not AC, which could explain why non-switching wall transformers kill it, because they act as shorts without the impedance from the AC.

  7. I’m really surprised this took this long, they’ve been around for ages, about as long as MacBook chargers have been square, I’ve had mine about two years and it’s been very hard to resist the urge to tear it down, there are definitely multiple versions they made which is odd because it was a short lived product, mine outputs a nice 110 pure sine that’s nice to electronics – I noticed my mag safes make an ubearable buzzing on modified sine which could be the reason for the variations, trying to find the cheapest design that doesn’t cause “interference” – as to which you’re gonna get it looks like a crap shoot since they must not have used different model numbers for revisions

    From experience it’s great for 30 watt soldering irons and glue guns – the battery life is only about 30 minutes though for loads of that nature – it’ll run a 3 watt led light bulb nigh on into the next day as I found out camping – and we get a good 2/3 hours on a 23 inch lcd tv

    A short figure 8 adapter and a cord end socket is how I made my adapter to plug “normal” devices into it – the figure 8 was left over from some link together under cabinet lights, and I keep cord ends plentiful for various reasons

    The HAD article seems to have artificially raised the price of them, up until a year ago eBay was lousy with 9.99 ChugPlug a for sale, wish I bought more then ;) – still a portable power supply for around $20 that’s pure sine (if you’re lucky) is pretty great

  8. Does someone actually showed the inside of this Chugplug? Given the age, it is likely that it is slowly time to replace the batteries inside. And that could give a good option to put some in with more capacity.

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