Back in the day, that little round hole located on your dashboard only had one purpose–heating up the cigarette lighter. Fortunately for tech savvy people on the go, someone realized that the little round hole also offers a direct line to a car’s electrical system and can provide juice for an assortment of different devices besides a cigarette. Once that discovery was made, outlets started popping up all over the automobile, allowing you to keep your cell phone fully charged and allowing the kids watch a DVD in the backseat.
As convenient as all of those plug-ins are, sometimes there simply are not enough of them for the number of gadgets we carry on a daily basis.
You can walk into any cell phone store and walk out with a car adapter, but what else can it do? Some chargers come equipped with folding prongs that allow you to charge your cell in a hotel room or at home when you’re not using it on the go, but the ones that really intrigue me are the ones with a USB plug. USB has become ubiquitous with “charging system,” which means you no longer need a special car adapter.
Some cars now come with USB ports, but a number of car chargers have a cord for one item and a USB port built into the plug, allowing you to charge two devices from the same port. Say you carry an Android phone and an iPad tablet, if you have a charger with a built-in microUSB cord, you can plug your iPad cord into the USB port. Presto, you’re charging both devices at once.
While this is a great way to handle phone and tablet charging needs, what if you’re between appointments and your laptop needs to be topped off? An “inverter,” which plugs into the electrical port like a charger, provides outlets that are similar to standard wall outlets.
Two issues related to inverters:
First, some can get quite warm, and, due to their size and usually short cords, it can be difficult to find a good place to set them in your car.
Second, the outlets are usually very close together, so if you want to use a device with an odd-sized plug, like a portable gaming charger, you’re only able to use one outlet at a time.
Fortunately, solutions to this bulkiness issue have begun to emerge. One product actually sits in a cup holder like a coffee cup and has power outlets in the lid. The spacing is a bit tight, but it’s a creative idea that allows you to store your inverter in a safe, logical place.
All chargers deal with electricity, so we recommend that you read all safety precautions and make sure the charger or inverter is rated to handle the power draw of the devices you plan to plug into it.