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IEC announces universal laptop charger standard

IEC announces universal laptop charger standard

The IEC has published a standard for a universal laptop charger, but does it have what it will take to compete with the upcoming USB Power Delivery standard?

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has announced a new specification for laptop chargers, designed to banish incompatible devices from the market in favour of a one-size-fits-all solution to getting power into next-generation portable computers.

As anyone who has ever had a laptop from more than one manufacturer - or, in extreme cases, even upgraded from one generation to another with the same manufacturer - will know, laptop chargers are fickle things. Between incompatible plugs and the requirement for different voltages, upgrading your laptop typically means replacing any spare chargers you have at the home or the office. Even so-called 'universal' chargers typically work with only a sub-set of the most popular manufacturers' models, and come with a dizzying array of tips that get lost almost as soon as the currently-required tip is connected to the charger cable.

It's a problem that the IEC claims generates a lot of waste: the standards body claims that electronic waste from discarded laptop chargers equals around half a million tonnes per year globally.

The solution: a new standard, building on the group's work on a micro-USB-based universal charger for data-enabled mobile phones first published in 2011. 'The IEC International Standards for the universal charger for mobile phones has been widely adopted by the mobile phone industry and is already starting to help reduce e-waste.' claimed Frans Vreeswijk, general secretary and chief executive of the IEC, at the announcement. 'A single power supply covering a wide range of notebook computers is the next step in lowering e-waste and its impact on our planet. I am proud that the IEC has yet again managed to make the best possible technical solution available.'

The standard, which is available only to IEC members, covers various functions of an external charger for laptop devices including standardisation of the plug and connector, interoperability, performance and - given the group's focus on electronic waste reduction - environmental considerations. Should the standard be adopted, the group claims, it would make it possible for consumers to share chargers between multiple laptop models from different manufacturers while also making it easier to replace faulty or end-of-life chargers.

;The IEC is all about bringing concrete, feasible solutions to the market place,' claimed Vreeswijk. 'We welcome input from many sides to make our work as broadly relevant as possible. The result are state-of-the art tools that allow policy makers to initiate achievable and effective energy-efficiency and waste-management programmes. They also enable industry, research institutions and other stakeholders to consistently develop better, more environmentally friendly products.'

While Vreeswijk may state that his company is focused on providing concrete solutions to the market, there's one thing missing from the IEC announcement: confirmation that any manufacturers have expressed interest in adopting the new standard. That said, the group has form: its micro-USB charging standard for data-enabled smartphones and tablets was adopted by the European Union following its publication, and the IEC claims around 82 per cent of EU standards in electrotechnology are either identical to or based upon standards it has published.

This time, however, the company may have a swing and a miss on its hands: the new standard will be directly competing with the rival USB Power Delivery Standard, allowing compatible USB cables and ports to carry up to 100W of power - easily enough to charge a laptop without the need for a traditional DC socket like that proposed by the IEC.

The IEC has not given a date for when the new universal charging standard will begin to appear in the market.

19 Comments

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Corky42 17th December 2013, 11:53 Quote
Universal chargers are all well and good, but until manufactures stop providing new universal charger with every device aren't people just going to have a draw full of them, instead of throwing the old charger out with the old device ?
ZeDestructor 17th December 2013, 12:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
Universal chargers are all well and good, but until manufactures stop providing new universal charger with every device aren't people just going to have a draw full of them, instead of throwing the old charger out with the old device ?

Nah, you end up in my situation: one charger per desk. I've actually bought extra chargers so I could do that... I'm that lazy.
Gareth Halfacree 17th December 2013, 12:33 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
Universal chargers are all well and good, but until manufactures stop providing new universal charger with every device aren't people just going to have a draw full of them, instead of throwing the old charger out with the old device ?
Oh, that could well come. We've already seen smartphones being sold sans-charger for that very reason, the 3DS XL comes without a charger, and Amazon's Kindle does the same. Give it a few generations of universality - assuming that anybody actually picks up the IEC's standard, which ain't a given - and manufacturers will make the cable optional, just like printer manufacturers did with parallel and later USB cables.
Unicorn 17th December 2013, 12:47 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
a draw full of them

Drawer* "draw" is a verb :)

I am all for universal laptop chargers. As it is I have to keep spares for about 10 different types in the workshop just for troubleshooting and repairs. You would not believe the number of laptops which come in with chargers that are in bad enough shape to make me refuse to use them.
Corky42 17th December 2013, 12:49 Quote
Sorry, I will take myself outside to be shot immediately.
No, No, i don't need a blindfold.
ZeDestructor 17th December 2013, 13:03 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
Oh, that could well come. We've already seen smartphones being sold sans-charger for that very reason, the 3DS XL comes without a charger, and Amazon's Kindle does the same. Give it a few generations of universality - assuming that anybody actually picks up the IEC's standard, which ain't a given - and manufacturers will make the cable optional, just like printer manufacturers did with parallel and later USB cables.

With any luck this gets applied worldwide...

And hopefully some MagSafe-like contraption we can all benefit from.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Unicorn
I am all for universal laptop chargers. As it is I have to keep spares for about 10 different types in the workshop just for troubleshooting and repairs. You would not believe the number of laptops which come in with chargers that are in bad enough shape to make me refuse to use them.

Just how many laptops do you have to deal with? In my experience its fairly standard: 20V for Lenovo, 19.5V for Dells, 18.5V for HPs and 19V for other generics... Same connector withing manufacturers if you discount Ultrabook chargers as well...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
Sorry, I will take myself outside to be shot immediately.
No, No, i don't need a blindfold.

Here, have a .357 Magnum for the shooting.
RichCreedy 17th December 2013, 13:18 Quote
it could save money as well, "damn my charger has died, have to get a new one, oh wait, my old laptop had same end, maybe that will work"

eventually, we wont need chargers for anything, as near field charging becomes the norm, with walls and floors having the fields built into them
Sheiken 17th December 2013, 17:48 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichCreedy
it could save money as well, "damn my charger has died, have to get a new one, oh wait, my old laptop had same end, maybe that will work"

eventually, we wont need chargers for anything, as near field charging becomes the norm, with walls and floors having the fields built into them

Yeah, I really hope that doesn't happen.
RichCreedy 17th December 2013, 18:01 Quote
I actually like the idea of wireless power
Corky42 17th December 2013, 18:59 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sheiken
Yeah, I really hope that doesn't happen.

Do i dare ask why ? and am i going to need my tin foil hat ?
ZeDestructor 18th December 2013, 01:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sheiken
Yeah, I really hope that doesn't happen.

Me too.
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichCreedy
I actually like the idea of wireless power

The idea is good, but I simply don't see how it could be executed reliably
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
Do i dare ask why ? and am i going to need my tin foil hat ?

Burns. Fire. Burns and fire everywhere. 100W is a lot of power to send over wirelessly, and with the sort of absorption human tissue/water has, you'll end up with second/third degree burns near instantly. Not to mention the arcing that will happen in normal electronics (thus frying them) or the EM interference to other stuff...

Yeah, no. No wireless power past ~5W very short distance for me. And even those have issues already which mean I stick to cables eitherways.

NB: This is all armchair physics, since I can't be arsed to do the math, but the concerns are real... And why we don't have wireless power for that matter.
Corky42 18th December 2013, 01:30 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by ZeDestructor
Burns. Fire. Burns and fire everywhere. 100W is a lot of power to send over wirelessly, and with the sort of absorption human tissue/water has, you'll end up with second/third degree burns near instantly. Not to mention the arcing that will happen in normal electronics (thus frying them) or the EM interference to other stuff...

Yeah, no. No wireless power past ~5W very short distance for me. And even those have issues already which mean I stick to cables eitherways.

NB: This is all armchair physics, since I can't be arsed to do the math, but the concerns are real... And why we don't have wireless power for that matter.
That isn't how inductive charging works, no electric current is passed through the air as it uses an alternating electromagnetic field. Inductive charging has already been used to power an entire room full of electronics.
ZeDestructor 18th December 2013, 08:56 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
That isn't how inductive charging works, no electric current is passed through the air as it uses an alternating electromagnetic field. Inductive charging has already been used to power an entire room full of electronics.

Radio waves are also alternating magnetic fields.

Do you have any links on the roomful of stuff powered wirelessly? I'm interested in seeing what hallenges they had to overcome, how they did it and what the base tech they used is...
Sheiken 18th December 2013, 09:30 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
Quote:
Originally Posted by ZeDestructor
Burns. Fire. Burns and fire everywhere. 100W is a lot of power to send over wirelessly, and with the sort of absorption human tissue/water has, you'll end up with second/third degree burns near instantly. Not to mention the arcing that will happen in normal electronics (thus frying them) or the EM interference to other stuff...

Yeah, no. No wireless power past ~5W very short distance for me. And even those have issues already which mean I stick to cables eitherways.

NB: This is all armchair physics, since I can't be arsed to do the math, but the concerns are real... And why we don't have wireless power for that matter.
That isn't how inductive charging works, no electric current is passed through the air as it uses an alternating electromagnetic field. Inductive charging has already been used to power an entire room full of electronics.

I know it is tinfoil hat related speak, but still I can't help thinking of my home being turned in to a large-scale microwave oven. I don't like that thought.
Corky42 18th December 2013, 11:46 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by ZeDestructor
Radio waves are also alternating magnetic fields.

Do you have any links on the roomful of stuff powered wirelessly? I'm interested in seeing what hallenges they had to overcome, how they did it and what the base tech they used is...

One of the company's are WiTricity Corp.
http://www.witricity.com/index.html
And an article done by Computerworld gives a fairly good synopsis of it.
http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9232953/Power_play_Wireless_charging_at_a_distance_arrives
Unicorn 18th December 2013, 12:31 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
Sorry, I will take myself outside to be shot immediately.
No, No, i don't need a blindfold.

No need for blood to be spilled, just a helpful correction :)
ZeDestructor 18th December 2013, 12:43 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
One of the company's are WiTricity Corp.
http://www.witricity.com/index.html
And an article done by Computerworld gives a fairly good synopsis of it.
http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9232953/Power_play_Wireless_charging_at_a_distance_arrives

Thanks!

I'll have a read tomorrow morning!
soopahfly 3rd January 2014, 17:50 Quote
Laptops need some sort of wireless charging imo, however the charging pad should be integrated into desks.

Just plonk the laptop down, and it charges. It would be brilliant in schools, as the kids are useless at plugging them back in after they've used them, and the cabinets generally only charge them up for 2 hours overnight.
ZeDestructor 4th January 2014, 08:41 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by soopahfly
Laptops need some sort of wireless charging imo, however the charging pad should be integrated into desks.

Just plonk the laptop down, and it charges. It would be brilliant in schools, as the kids are useless at plugging them back in after they've used them, and the cabinets generally only charge them up for 2 hours overnight.

Like one of these?:

http://texascomputerstuff.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/yp021-overall-800-amz.jpg

I have one for my Dell, and another is inbound for my lenovo...
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