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A Powerful Case

Power banks are popular, but low quality versions are a blight. Choose wisely, says Matt Pluckrose.

Portable lithium batteries or ‘power banks’ have become the must have promotional tech gadget over the past two years. The global market is forecast to grow to $18 billion by 2020.

While delivering good branding and an increasingly affordable price, they do bring with their own dangers. When made poorly, they are a fire and public health risk, with airlines designating them‘dangerous goods’ and imposing a ban.

Power banks are subject to the same compliance requirements as many other electrical items and need CE, Reach and RoHS. They also need battery reports to allow them on to cargo aircraft and dangerous goods handling rules must be followed. However, low quality models have found their way on to the market, and brands such as EE and Samsung have suffered damaging publicity in relation to power packs. Other companies have been affected and will no longer use them.

So, what should you look for?

World-renowned American testing facility United Laboratories (UL) has developed a specific testing accreditation for power banks – UL 2056. This certification nowmeans that manufacturers and importers can demonstrate that their power banks meet the stringent testing.

With a glut of power banks, price competition becomes the norm, which results in manufacturers cutting corners, compromising product quality. UL 2056 covers products including mains power or portable USB chargers. The output of the devices must be a safe voltage and the instant high-energy must also be within the safety limits.

Key tests for power banks include electrical, mechanical and verification testing. To comply with UL 2056, specific requirements include: failure of a single component will not cause explosion or fires; the material must be fire resistant, and product labels and instructions must be clear.

Power banks will remain in high demand over the coming 18 months, until gadget manufacturers enhance their built-in batteries,  or until wireless charging emerges – watch this space. Until then our industry must look more at quality and compliance, and less at how cheap power banks can be bought and sold for if we are to safeguard both consumer and brand health.

Matt Pluckrose is managing director of Desktop Ideas.

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