Fuel cells could power future iPhones for weeks at a time

A fuel cell iPhone or Mac is a possibility.
Apple engineers are always looking to the future. Today, it’s patent for a fuel cell for an iPhone or iPad.
Photo: RF._.studio/Pexels CC

Rather than traditional batteries, a future iPhone or Mac might be powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. Apple on Monday received a patent for a fuel cell that might be used in future devices. The goal is a device that can go days or weeks without needing to be refueled.

The patent is for a Portable computing device for external fuel cell control. It’s patent number 10,790,561.<!– –>

Advantages of a fuel cell iPhone

Hydrogen-powered fuel cells aren’t at all like traditional batteries. They generate power by combining hydrogen and oxygen.

Apple’s patent filing lays out the benefits. “Fuel cells and associated fuels can potentially achieve high volumetric and gravimetric energy densities, which can potentially enable continued operation of portable electronic devices for days or even weeks without refueling.”

But there are disadvantages also. The cells produce water as a byproduct. And they must be physically refueled with fresh hydrogen, not simply plugged into a wall electrical socket.

Plus, there’s a third drawback. As Apple says in its patent filing, “it is extremely challenging to design hydrogen fuel cell systems which are sufficiently portable and cost-effective to be used with portable electronic devices.”

This patent is undeniable evidence that Apple is considering a fuel cell iPhone or Mac. But it’s not conclusive proof that the company will introduce such a device. It frequently researches possibilities that are never made into shipping products.