8 alternative ways to power a laptop

-October 13, 2015

Editor's note: This article was edited to address errors pointed out in the comments on November 3, 2015.

Mobile devices are notorious for bleeding power. Laptops are no exception when it comes to power drainage, even if in standby mode.

The question arises, though, as what to do if you’re in an area with no electrical outlet, or worse yet, forgot the charger and the laptop battery power is on the brink of being depleted? The answer depends on how creative the user is (and if they can rely on all those episodes of MacGyver to get them through).

In this roundup, we look at some unusual alternative solutions laptop users have devised to power or charge their devices without the advantage of using an electrical socket.

  1. Car battery
  2. Solar charging kit
  3. Portable wind turbines
  4. Micro hydroelectric power plants
  5. Bicycle gears
  6. Utilize heat sources
  7. Chemical alternative
  8. Hand crank generators
  9. Bonus: Power extenders

Car battery

The first alternative on our list is probably the most well-known -- the car battery, which can be a tricky endeavor depending on how it’s approached.

Wiring the laptop directly to the battery is really not an option as most newer models have battery voltages ranging from 8V and up, while most car batteries are rated at 12V. Sure, there are a myriad of ways to "hotwire" a laptop to a car battery if the voltage is 12V or less (just do a Google search), however, in this case it's better to be cautious as the laptop could become damaged or you could wind up with a dead car battery. Newer laptops typically contain a battery with six cells, which need to be taken into account as well. For example, if it uses an 18.5V NiCd, it will typically require 4.2V per each of the six cells, making it able to power off of the 12V car battery, albeit with significant power bleed.

The more efficient way of adapting the power from a car battery to charge or power a laptop is to use an inverter, such as TBS’ Powersine series PS600-12, which generates AC current from a DC source and can output from 12 to 24V depending on the requirements. These can be connected through the vehicles cigarette lighter or wired directly from the car battery and have the added benefit of being able to charge other devices such as audio/video equipment or even other mobile devices.

The TBS Powersine PS600-12 is an excellent choice when it comes to powering a laptop using a car battery.

TBS’ Powersine series PS600-12

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