Should You Purchase A Fuel Rod?

Keeping my various electronic gadgets powered on the road can be cumbersome, but I have a pretty good system worked out.  That being said, I’m always looking for a better way to keep my gear charged.  So, when I happened to walk by a few Fuel Rod kiosks recently, I was at least initially curious.

Fuel Rod

It was a long shot this would be a viable option, but I did a little research anyways to see if it would be a good fit for any of my readers.

The machines advertise a $20 fully charged battery to charge your various devices.  $20 buys you the battery and charging tips for Android and Apple devices (both the older 30-pin connection and the newer lighting cable) as well as a cable to recharge your battery if you so choose.

You can also deposit your spent battery (fuel rod) in a machine and get a fully charged one.

I spent some time on the Fuel Rod website trying to figure out what the capacity of the battery is.  Unfortunately, they’re not very forthcoming about that.  By looking at pictures on the website and other places on the internet, I can gather it’s pretty similar to the smallest Anker battery I carry in my backpack.

Fuel RodThe cheapest I had seen it over the last few months was $13.99, but Amazon has it for $9.99 (as long as black is your color, since they charge $20 for some of the other colors).  That’s rated as a 3350 man battery, and I can generally get almost 2 charges of my iPhone before this little guy dies.  For roughly the same $20 Fuel Rod is charging, you can get this 6400 mAh battery from Anker (again, the other colors will cost you more).

Fuel Rod

So far, Fuel Rod has 9 airport locations:

  • San Diego
  • Oakland
  • Sacramento
  • Atlanta
  • Cincinnati
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul
  • Kansas City, MO
  • Columbus
  • Philadelphia

I happen to have run through two of their 9 airports in the past couple of week (Kansas City and San Diego) or I probably wouldn’t even have gotten curious.

There’s probably a business model here for them, but they’re going to need a lot more airports.  Is it worth it for you to pay $20 for one of these batteries?  If you’re in the airport and running desperately low on juice and you don’t have a power cord, maybe.  But, there are a lot more places to charge your phone than there used to be, including quite a few airplanes.

Oh, and the links for the Anker batteries above are Amazon referral links for me.  If you bought half a dozen of these I could buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks.  Good thing I don’t drink coffee.  That’s the lowest price I’ve seen for the smallest Anker, and about half what I paid when I bought mine.

If I happen to be through one of these airports again, I’ll likely buy one and compare the charging time to one of my current batteries.  Even if it’s a good battery, Fuel Rod will need more locations if they want to build a viable business model.

21 Comments

  1. Battery that little? Pfft. I carry an Omaker 15,600 Mah battery and it’s currently $21.99 off Amazon. Once when I was in a country that I didn’t have adapters for, I charged multiple devices off it for several days.

    1. Vicente, I have a monster like that as well. But, I found the form factor on the 6400 mAh one I carry has a form factor that fits in a specific pouch in my backpack. I like it for size and weight. But, I have lots of respect for someone who carries a battery that big.

  2. I travel through Atlanta almost weekly and I was just as curious. For $20, I figured I’d give it a try. Since I have my iPhone, iPad and Noise cancelling headphones that all require charging it seemed like a decent option so I didn’t have to leash myself to a plug somewhere in the airport. I have to say that it is pretty convenient and it does a good job of charging my devices. I know there are cheaper batteries out there but the cost paid for this one is worth the convenience of being able to swap for free at any time at a kiosk. It may not be a viable option to a user who does not travel through one of those airports, but for me, it works very well.

  3. Over the summer I flew through Atlanta and saw the same kiosk and promotion poster as you displayed in your post. I was not in immediate need of the battery but when I considered the value of the battery, micro usb cable and micro usb to lightning adapter I figured it way a decent price and I would be willing to put some money in with hopes that if ever in need I would be able to swap it. So I bought it. I got an immediate email receipt. I pulled it up on my phone and thought that’s weird. There were 3 line items, 1 battery $10. 1 cable kit $9. And 1 recharge fee $1. I thought about this. The posters say “free unlimited swaps”. Fine print says “swap yours for a fresh one for free.” I haven’t flown again or seen another fuelrod kiosk to confirm, but I would go double or nothing with my fuelrod that if I tried to “swap it for a fresh one” they would request another $1 charging fee.

    Note to fuelrod.com: $1 to swap it for a charged one is probably still worth it. No waiting for it to charge, 30 second and I have a full battery. But don’t have a big poster that says unlimited free swaps if you’re planning to charge me if I want that “fresh one” to be charged.

    1. Steve, I would be royally pissed if they charged me $1 to recharge. I’m already a bit skeptical on their model given how much the price of chargers have come down. If they charged for a charge, especially without disclosing, that would be no bueno.

      1. They don’t charge for a replacement. I depleted mine in an hour or so after buying and put it back in the machine and received another fully charged fuel rod. No email receipt or anything. Totally free.

        1. Brock, sure, if you’re close enough to a machine to get a refill. But, without a lot of machines, you’re stuck with a sub-standard battery that doesn’t actually charge that much.

  4. I too was curious. I bought one at CMH right before 3 trips in a month. The first battery comes in a compact plastic container with fairly cheap adapters for micro usb, lightning, and old ipod. The first battery charged my droid completely and then my 5S halfway. Not bad. The second battery was not as good. I’ve swapped it out 4 times and the battery gets worse everytime. I can’t get the current battery to even hold a charge. Won’t charge any phone even 25%. I would like to trade it in for a new one to see if I can get one that works. Unfortunately I don’t have another trip till next month. The only kiosk around me is in the airport. I don’t really feel like getting searched just to swap a battery out. I’m getting ready to email the company. We will see how that goes.

  5. Bought one yesterday @ CVG.

    Same break out on the receipt so I too question the free swap.

    Specs: 2500 mAH @ 1 amp.

    Charged my Nexus 6 from 75% to 86% when the phone was OFF. And then, no more. Not on any device (Kindle Voyage; Bose noise Cancelling Earbuds.) Dead.

    And, a DUD. Stay away

    Keeping my Anker and Aukeys…

    1. vagabondjim65, sorry to hear you got screwed by it. I likely would have tried to test it myself if I ended up in one of those airports. But, given the feedback from a couple users, I’ll stick with my Ankers.

      1. An Update

        I replied to the FuelRod email receipt commenting on how poor the product was. Without a specific request, they proactively refunded my money. And, they asked a series of questions that indicate they are clearly concerned with improving things going forward. That’s far more important than $20 from my perspective.

        I’ll continue carrying it as an absolute emergency backup. Plus, I want to see how the exchange process works.

        Further updates as warranted…

        1. vagabondjim65, that’s a pretty darn good first step, I would agree. I guess I could see the convenience aspect here, but I’m still inclined to buy a high quality battery and handle this myself.

          1. No argument there — I travel with a 15,000 mAH Anker and a 14,000 mAh Aukey (which has QC 2.0). This was never going to replace those things. Never.

            I bought out of a sense of curiosity about the process (free swaps) than the functionality. I’ll keep it as an option for charging in dire emergencies or light load products that get overlooked and undercharged (i.e., Kindle, Bose NC Earbuds, etc.)

            Jim

          2. Jim, some of the new Anker stuff has QC 2.0 as well. I’m an Anker guy myself but I’ve heard good things about Aukey. Thanks, again for taking one for the team and giving us updates!

  6. Hi there! I can tell you that to swap it out, (at least the Minneapolis airport), there is no charge. My intial purchase said the same thing as yours ($1 for ‘recharge). I work at the MSP airport, so today, I was there for over 8 hours. Some days, I don’t want to carry my laptop around, so I have heavy phone usage. I burned through three of these little guys today alone– came with a full battery, used it down to 30%, swapped my (dead) fuelrod for a fresh one, and plug in my phone. It charged it up to 100% and then I used it to charge my personal (rather than work) phone to 100%. This wore the second guy out, so I swapped again for a third fuel rod. Each time, it never asked for my credit card/etc. Simply deposit the ‘dead’ fuel rod and receive a new (fresh) one. Haven’t received a receipt since the initial purchase, nor an additional charge to my credit card.

    I don’t think this is the solution for someone who is looking for 5+ full phone charges off of one $20 device; but if you have a reasonable expectation, you’ll be satisfied. This is for the guy who’s at the airport and about to have a dead phone. Perhaps chargers/etc are in the checked bag. Or he has a charger, but his plane is about to board/etc… There is definitely a market for it, and it sounds like they are trying to find/improve their business model.

    I personally could not sit at a charging station to charge my phone (nor did I have cables). purchasing a cable alone would have been more than $20, so the portability of a fuel cell + cords + free exchanges for fully charged replacements was way more than worth it for me.

  7. Hi. I bought one of these at the San Diego airport- I have a million portable chargers- hello conference giveaways- but never charged with me when I need them. So I found myself at the SD airport with no available outlet and about 2 percent battery life.

    So, I bought the fuel rod charger without looking at locations for the swap. They are definitely light on kiosk locations, but it did the job intended and I got a full have I my iPhone. I don’t know what if any charge was left after my phone was charged.

    We’ll see how the swap process goes the next time I have a trip coming up to one of their locations.

  8. As a big YouTube viewer of Disney vids, I can confirm that they now have kiosks inside of at least 1 park in Disney World. The key to this business model will be to expand quickly into airports, amusement parks, and possibly shopping malls and movie theaters in a short time. As a Northern Californian, there are only 2 locations near me, both in airports and both over an hour away. If I had this product on my college campus or at my local mall, I would invest in. A fuel rod. I usually carry a large recharge pack, but the option to replace rather than recharge is very compelling

    1. Raymond, I guess it depends on your definition of “expanding quickly”, since I first discovered Fuel Rod a year ago and they’ve added very few placements since then. Recharge, don’t replace. Your wallet will thank me.

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