Government Energy Agencies Crack Down Again On Battery Chargers

Sanyo Eneloop AA AAA Ni-MH Battery ChargerRechargeable batteries and their battery chargers are regarded as a bastion of eco awareness and a way to decrease energy consumption. Why are more and more government agencies around the world cracking down on battery chargers?

In a never-ending attempt to whittle down the world’s energy consumption, many energy agencies throughout the world continue to impose strict energy standards on electronic products. Perhaps the most pervasive energy agency in the world today is the United States’ Department Of Energy, which regulates energy consumption and standards for a wide range of power-consumption interests in the U.S.. Most notably, they have the power to impose standards on imported electronics’ power usage, which is turn forces manufacturers in Asia to tweak their electronics’ designs.

We’ve already reported on several recent moves by governing bodies in both Australia and the U.S. to regulate battery chargers. Most recently, the DOE passed a stringent set of new battery charger regulations that could severely affect the cost and design of battery chargers as we know them today. According to the NRDC, an environmental watchdog group, the new regulation will affect “products and gadgets such as cordless phones and cell phones, laptops, power tools, electric toothbrushes etc [that] use rechargeable batteries to support user mobility and convenience, making our lives easier, more productive and fun.”

In spite of strict, new standards, NRDC comes down surprisingly hard on rechargeable batteries and their chargers, saying “As battery chargers have become ubiquitous in our homes, their electricity use has exploded: American consumers today use more than 1 billion devices with rechargeable batteries that use an amount of electricity equivalent to the output of 9 medium-sized 500-MW power plants.” While this statistic may be true, using it to malign rechargeable battery chargers doesn’t seem quite fair, especially when you consider the fact that the NRDC doesn’t reconcile the use of rechargeable batteries in these one billion devices versus what the energy consumption and waste would be if rechargeable batteries didn’t exist.

But the watchdog’s claims get even less believable.

Citing no references, NRDC blogger Pierre Delforge claims the following: “Unfortunately for consumers who pay the electricity bills, many of the battery-powered products on the market today still use inefficient and outdated charging systems that on average waste two thirds of their charge energy as heat.¬†This wasted electricity represents the equivalent output of 6 medium-sized 500-MW power plants, producing unnecessary nitrogen oxides (NOx), mercury and ¬†other harmful air pollutants. These unnecessary NOx emissions alone are equivalent to those emitted by 160,000 vehicles every year.”

However, if this statistic is citing reliable data, is still certainly cannot be accurately representing battery chargers. According to the ultra-reliable Tom’s Guide, the average Sanyo Eneloop AA battery charger daws an incredibly small amount of power: “At 2 watts, the Eneloop charger . . . should cost about 3 cents a year in power if used weekly.”

Other reports I found in forums around the web from battery charging aficianados, such as this one, claim that the Sanyo Eneloop “15mn Fast Charger draws 65-70 Watts,” while the “Normal Charger (6-8 Hrs) draws 4 watts.”

It would seem that environmentalist groups are looking to leverage the statistics of wasted energy caused by leading charging cables plugged into walls as a major part of the above-quotes energy consumption as being “all battery chargers.” But we’ve seen that, even if you were to use a Sanyo Eneloop battery charger weekly, you’re really putting very little pressure on your local electrical grid. And whatever energy use is associated with battery chargers, that usage is defrayed by being able to recycle batteries, as opposed to continuously purchasing alkaline batteries.

One has to wonder if the big disposable battery companies are lobbying behind the scenes to actually make rechargeable batteries and their chargers look anti-green.

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