Since FuelRod kiosks debuted at Walt Disney World last year, I’ve heard from guests singing their praises. I didn’t plan on writing a post when they were originally launched since I figured the FuelRod kiosks would be another failed experiment that disappeared quickly. Since they’ve now spread to Disneyland, I figured it was time to tackle the topic. FuelRods are pretty great…for people who have never heard of Amazon.com.
Let’s back up a second. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, FuelRods are rechargeable battery packs/portable chargers that can be used to recharge your iPhone or other device on the go. The general concept of these portable chargers is great for the parks–using the My Disney Experience app alone is a big drain that people underestimate as is browsing brilliant Disney blogs to figure out where you should eat–as it’s easy for your battery to die early in the day. Rechargeable battery packs have existed for some time (so to that end FuelRod is hardly revolutionary), and are one of the recommended staples on our What to Pack for Disney List.
The ‘twist’ with FuelRods is that when you’re done using them, you can trade out your depleted FuelRod for a fully-charged one at the many kiosks throughout Walt Disney World and Disneyland. The appeal is thus the ‘unlimited’ charge the FuelRods offer by virtue of swapping them out. When put that way, it’s easy to see the appeal of FuelRods…
Basically, the argument in favor of the FuelRod is the same as the Disney Dining Plan: convenience. However, like the argument in favor of the Disney Dining Plan, I’d counter that it’s the illusion of convenience, rather than actual convenience. And, like the Dining Plan, you’re paying extra for that illusion.
The problems with FuelRods are two-fold. First, the $30 price (some point out the ‘hack’ of buying them off-site to save $5) is very high for a battery pack of this capacity and quality. Second, the aforementioned capacity is poor by modern battery pack standards.
Essentially, FuelRod is creating a problem (selling battery packs with poor capacity) and then spinning the ‘solution’ to this problem they’ve created as something great and convenient. You know what’s actuallyamazing? Buying a battery pack with sufficient capacity to get you through an entire day in the parks, nothaving to find a kiosk and swap that battery pack out a few hours later, and paying less for that superior battery pack in the process. Now, that is a great idea!
Why hasn’t anyone ever thought of this great idea before?! Oh wait, every other company selling battery packs already has, and that’s the basic business plan of Anker, Aukey, and myriad other companies…
Let’s talk a bit more about FuelRod’s capacity relative to its competitors. Unlike virtually every other battery pack on the market, FuelRod does not indicate its charge capacity. (Which alone should set off red flags.) Scant information is available via the Google machine, but it looks like it can charge an iPhone about halfway, which would put its capacity at under 1,000 mAh.
Let’s give it the benefit of the doubt and say the FuelRod has 1,000 mAh capacity. This Anker charger offers 5,200 mAh for $16. Five times the capacity in a similarly-sized charger for half the cost. For under $30, you can get this Anker charger that can charge two devices at once and has 10,000 mAh capacity–or 10x that of the FuelRod.
To put this into perspective, Anker is one of the more expensivebrands of portable chargers. We have recommended alternatives on our packing list that offer larger capacity and lower cost. Some of these chargers will not only get you through an entire day in the parks–they’ll charge your entire family’s devices for the day.
To be fair to FuelRod, the argument could be made that there’s a certain convenience in never having to charge a battery pack–just being able to swap out the existing pack ad infinitum. True, that does offer appeal. When I get back to the hotel at the end of a long day, I hate having to plug everything in before getting ready for bed. The thing is, I have to do that regardless with my camera, phone, etc. Plugging in one additional item is (literally) a <30 second commitment that hardly poses an insurmountable obstacle between me and a good night’s sleep.
Moreover, this argument is only even superficially plausible in a world where FuelRod kiosks are ubiquitous. Such a world does not exist, nor will it ever exist. FuelRod’s business model relies upon spontaneous purchases from consumers who either don’t do the research or don’t have a viable alternative. Outside of airports, theme parks, and similar ‘vacuums’, they will lose to competitors. (For the same reason that no one in their right mind would pay $12 for a cheeseburger at Cosmic Ray’s if it were located in their hometown.)
I’ve yet to see a FuelRod kiosk while hiking in Yosemite, much less while needing to power my iPhone to use Google Maps for navigating the transportation grid of [insert name of literally any major city, as I’ve never seen FuelRod kiosks dotting the streets of any of them]. So if you ever go anywhere that is not Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or the airport, you’re going to run into problems if you’re relying upon the low-capacity “solution” that FuelRod offers.
The onlypeople for whom I can see FuelRod holding appeal once they get past the initial illusion/gimmick of convenience is those who have never heard of rechargeable batteries before stumbling upon the FuelRod kiosk while in the parks. Yes, these people do exist. We see countless guests sitting in corners charging their phones in random outlets during the course of their vacations. For those people (or people who simply forget to pack their portable chargers), the FuelRod presents a good spontaneous purchase, as the cost (in time) of sitting in a random corner everyday during a pricey Walt Disney World vacation far outweighs even the $30 cost of a FuelRod. However, now that you have read this post, you are not one of those people. 😉