The Tiny Zolt Portable Charger Powers Three Devices at Once
No matter how feather-light and pencil-thin our laptops, tablets, and phones get, we’re still encumbered by the power bricks and hefty cords we use to charge them. It’s a damn shame, but bulky chargers tend to negate the point of dainty devices themselves.
Enter Zolt: The device—which debuted at CES this year and will ship November 17th for $100 a pop—is roughly the size of a roll of quarters (though, at 3.5 ounces, it’s significantly lighter). But what’s really impressive about Zolt is what it does with that tiny form factor: Plug it into a wall outlet, and the 70-watt tube gives you enough power to charge a laptop and two additional devices, simultaneously.
Yves Béhar partnered with the Zolt team to design it and, although Béhar has worked on a plethora of electronic products (the Jawbone UP, the Jambox, the August lock, the Edyn Garden Sensor, the Hive thermostat, Le Cube S—the list really marches on), it’s clear this one had a special resonance with the designer: “Every time I’ve worked on products, whether it’s a light with Herman Miller or another electronic product, at the end the charger becomes a sort of last minute problem that’s not really addressed.”
It’s true: charging is the unglamorous infrastructure that surrounds our otherwise beautiful products. Chargers tend to be clunky because of a basic industrial design problem: The circuitry within them can generate a lot of heat, and needs as much space and airflow as possible. It’s a basic form-follows-function scenario, in which adapters grow in size and shape to accommodate all those wires. With the Zolt charger, however, extra space wasn’t a luxury its makers could afford; the whole point of the device was that it be pocket-sized.
The answer lay in simple geometry. Béhar says he and his team looked at all manner of shapes for the Zolt gadget—triangles, rectangles, and so on—before settling on an octagonal form. The eight sides of the Zolt casing cocoon around the smaller, eight-sided charger, forming little triangle-shaped gaps that let air breeze through the device. When the designers and engineers tested for external and internal heating, they found that the shape kept the Zolt’s temperature right where it needed to be—at no more than 65° C (149° F).
The body of the Zolt also swivels to align with hard-to-reach outlets—another way Béhar plans to get consumers to love “the lowly laptop charger, an unloved product.”
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