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Small power inverters for cars are big this year

Small power inverters for cars are big this year

Having flown into the SEMA show from a newly reopened JFK airport in New York City in the wake of hurricane Sandy, it’s fair to say that my perspective on the auto aftermarket’s annual celebration of chrome, metal flake paint, lift kits, and more ordinary parts was somewhat skewed this year.

I found myself walking the extensive, product-lined aisles at the Las Vegas event with thoughts of the storm and those affected by it.

Maybe it’s just me, but power inverters seemed big this year, with a number of manufacturers, including Schumacher Electric, displaying compact units that plug into a car’s power outlet and can keep cell phones and other electric devices juiced up and running.

The new Energizer-branded line caught my eye, with a total of nine models ranging from 120 to 4,000 watts that can power everything from a laptop to a refrigerator. Larger models are equipped with an LCD readout that displays either DC volts or AC watts, and have outlets for up to four standard power cords. An overload safety switch shuts down the device if the draw of an appliance exceeds capacity.

Possibly the coolest of the Energizer lineup is the ultra compact EN120, which weighs less than half a pound and fits into a cup holder. It provides 120 watts of power through a standard outlet for plugging in a laptop or DVD player and boasts four USB ports for charging small electronic devices. It retails for $29.99. The slightly more powerful EN180 provides 180 watts and costs $39.99.

Even if you were spared the wrath of Sandy, a power inverter can be a real convenience to have on board, especially if you work from the car or travel with kids. And a compact unit might be a real lifesaver in an emergency.

Related:
Emergency kits
Sandy aftermath: How to avoid buying a flooded used car
What to do if your car is damaged in a storm
Driving after a storm
Get your car ready for bad weather
How to drive safely in heavy rain and wind

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