Have you ever been stuck on the brink of an online disaster trying to fix some problem at work over a VPN connection while your laptop battery keeps dropping to 0%? This is a situation that many hard-working mobile users often find themselves in, and the options available to keep a laptop battery charged are not as well known as you might think.
Yes, you need an outlet. If you are camping, you may be desperate to find a way out somewhere outside the home. If you are traveling, you can stop at a rest area and hope that the roadside facility is equipped to serve travelers like you. However, if you really want to be ready to run powerful computers when you’re on the go, there are certain things you can do to ensure that not only is your laptop powered anytime, anywhere, but also that power lasts as long as as long as possible.
In this article, I’m going to explain how the charging process works when your laptop is connected to your car’s battery (cigarette lighter) and how you can control this setting to reduce the amount of fuel you use to charge your battery. car battery and extend the time you can use your laptop using only the batteries you have available.
Ideal setting for mobile laptop charging
For my mobile purposes, I bought a 350 watt inverter from Radio Shack that can be plugged into my car’s cigarette lighter/electrical system. Power draw is the power draw of your laptop and some may also be referred to as Volt-Amps. It’s basically the voltage rating of a laptop power supply multiplied by its current rating. For example, a laptop power supply that requires 19 volts and draws a maximum of 4.75 amps requires about 90.25 watts of power.
It’s nice to have a 350W inverter that’s powerful enough to charge two laptops and then more. Keep in mind that when using your device, you will be drawing much more current from your car battery, reducing the time you have to recharge your devices before the car battery itself begins to discharge too low. Here is my 350 watt box with laptop connected and box turned on. This inverter has an LED on the front to indicate that it is currently on.
As I said, I purchased this 350 watt inverter from Radio Shack. You can find them on Amazon for less than $40 or anywhere else that sells electronics. A good inverter unit will include both a switch and a fuse on the back, as well as a plug that goes straight from the back of the inverter into the car’s cigarette lighter/socket. A device like the 350 watt inverter also has its own cooling fan, so unfortunately it will also draw extra power from the car battery, but that’s not enough to worry about.
To understand how such a mobile charging system works and how it works more efficiently, it is important to understand each component of the system and its role.
Automotive Charging System Components
A car’s electrical system isn’t really all that complicated, unless you’re talking about the engine’s valve timing or the computerized chip that runs it — it can all get a little more intense. However, the power system that powers the electrical outlets inside your vehicle is actually made up of a few basic components that you need to be aware of in order to fully utilize the system in your mobile office.
Here’s a very simple diagram of how to power a car with an inverter connected, like the one I’ve pictured above.
This is an extremely simplified layout, but the main thing here is to understand what the main components are and what they do. The alternator is the only key to maintaining a long-term charge in the system. Your alternator will be buried somewhere in your engine, usually recognizable by the copper coils visible in holes on the side of the case, and driven by the engine through a rubber belt.
The alternator is connected to your battery, a 12-volt electrical source that powers all the systems in your vehicle through a fuse box (not shown in the diagram above). As long as your engine is running and turning the generator, this 12-volt car battery will continuously charge and stay charged.