kulula introduces rechargeable suitcases

(Jo’burg) Tuesday April 1, 2008 - South Africa’s most innovative domestic airline has come up with a not-so-down-to-earth solution to the country’s power woes.

On five of its new fleet of Boeing 737s, kulula is trialling a novel technology that allows customers to transport their own ‘power pack’ between cities.  Described as a “jet-powered portable generator” the environmentally friendly devices called ‘jpacks’ are about the size of a small suitcase and have the capacity to store up to 12 kilowatts of power.

During a two-hour flight, the Val-ease can be fully recharged with electricity generated from excess heat produced by a plane’s two jet engines. The device’s multiple outlets are able to power anything from a hairdryer to a laptop.  The units weigh about 6 kilos and up to ten of them can be installed in any of the kulula planes currently trialling the service.

“We see the jpack as a convenient way to counter the inevitable blackouts South Africans will have to deal with,” says Gidon Novick, Joint CEO of Comair, the parent company of kulula.com.  “It’s a simple way to bring your power with you in the event of a power outage.  In one day, we can charge up to 1 200 units on behalf of our customers.”

The cost to charge the device on kulula flights is R50 per hour.  Assuming a passenger takes four return trips between Cape Town and Johannesburg each month, the cost for effective ‘power insurance’ is approximately R400 per month.  Based on a similar trial in Sweden, it is estimated that the jpack is 60 percent less expensive to run than most generators.

“From high-powered executives on a business trip to sun-seeking vacationers, South African travellers can now recharge their batteries with us, literally,” adds Novick.

From April 1 until the end of the week, consumers may purchase the units for a special price of R699 at all kulula ticketing counters at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International and Lanseria airports.  The Val-ease ordinarily retails for R999.