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Consumer Electronics Show: Kinetic-energy battery charger, nPower Peg, looks for juice

January 9, 2011 |  1:32 pm

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is filled with nearly all of the big names in the tech industry, but there are also thousands of start-ups looking for attention, funding, a chance to break out. For most, success never comes.

But if success were measured simply by the number of people who stop by a booth, Tremont Electric and its nPower Peg might be on their way. The nPower Peg is a hand-held battery rod that charges up using kinetic energy.

When thrown in a backpack or purse, the nPower Peg juices up as a user moves around, walks, hikes or runs.

This year's CES was the first for Tremont, a company founded in Cleveland in 2007, and the nPower Peg seemed to attract a crowd of onlookers without a problem.

Company founder and Chief Executive Aaron Lemieux said he hoped some of those who stopped by to  check out the firm's only product so far would be willing to help get his invention out to consumers.

As of now, that's a bit tough for the small firm of about six employees to do on its own. Tremont began taking orders for its nPower Peg in September of last year and so far has sold "a couple hundred," Lemieux said.

But the company also has had "a couple thousand" orders, resulting in an ever-growing backlog of waiting  customers. The nPower Peg isn't yet sold in any stores.

"We'd like to get it to be where you can order and we can ship the same day -- we just aren't there yet," he said. So, at CES, Tremont was -- along with a sea of other entrepreneurs -- looking for a little help.

"We're looking for people that can write checks, companies to partner with," Lemieux said. "I think we're demonstrating that there is a market for this product, we just need to get this product out there."

The nPower Peg is a scalable device, which means it can be made larger for longer charges, such as a larger unit attached to a buoy in the ocean and generating power with the movement of the sea, he said.

The $149 gadget, when fully charged, can power an Apple iPod Nano or about 20 minutes of iPhone life, to send off an urgent text message or e-mail, Lemieux said. A USB input allows the nPower Peg to output energy to a variety of cellphones, cameras and GPS devices.

Tremont is currently building all of its nPower Pegs by hand in Cleveland, with 90% of the parts coming from other companies in Ohio, he said.

"We're located in a revitalized part of Cleveland that has recently had new restaurants and businesses move into the area, but in order to sustain this revitalization, we need more jobs to come to Cleveland, and hopefully we can a part of that too," Lemieux said.

The idea for the nPower Peg came in 1996 when Lemieux, who says he's a long-distance backpacker, was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

"In 1996, we weren't even dependent on cellphones, so it took awhile for me to be able to even get ahold of the technology needed to make this thing," he said. "But once we had it figured out, I told my wife I needed to quit my full-time job, I filed a patent, I emptied our bank account, and now we're fully in this.

"Basically, I have a beautiful, loving and wonderful wife that has allowed me to do this."


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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Video: Tremont's nPower Peg at CES. Credit: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times