In 2016, Disney parks began offering the FuelRod brand of portable charging system as an option to recharge their guests’ smart phones and tablets. It sounds like an awesome deal – buy a fully charged FuelRod & phone cable at any FuelRod kiosk, and swap it out for a new fully charged FuelRod as needed. But is it really all that awesome? Well, yes and no, Well, moreso maybe not so much. Read on:
As per Disney’s website, here’s how the system works (this one is WDW-specific, but there’s a similar page for Disneyland, too):
Buying Your Portable Charging System
For $30, you can purchase a portable phone charging system at kiosks located throughout Walt Disney World Resort. Using any major credit card, just follow the prompts on the kiosk screen to dispense a kit that includes:
- One fully charged portable battery
- One 6” USB to micro-USB cable (for most Android devices)
- One Apple 30-pin to USB cable (for iPhone and iPad generations 1-4)
- One Apple Lightning to USB cable (for iPhone generations 5+)
Recharging Your Mobile Device
Use one of the cables provided to connect your mobile phone or tablet to the portable battery. Then keep talking, texting or taking pictures while your device charges on the go. Fully charged, it provides up to 8 hours of talk time or up to 4 hours of mobile tablet usage. Hours of charged talk time and device usage are dependent upon age and condition of the mobile device.
Recharging or Replacing Your Battery
If your portable battery runs down (indicated by a red LED light), just:
- Recharge it using a USB cable to plug into a computer or into an AC outlet through a USB charging port.
- Swap it for a fully charged replacement at any portable phone charging system kiosk at no extra cost. Just insert your used battery, take a fresh one and you’re on your way! Swap batteries as often as you want; anywhere you want (at Walt Disney World Resort and other locations around the world).
FuelRods cost $30 on Disney property. However they cost $25 [$20 + $5 shipping]) on their website and apparently are $20 if you can find an airport kiosk that sells them.
It all sounds great on paper, but there are a few problems:
- FuelRod kiosks are really hard to find outside of Disney parks – The idea of swapping it for a fully charged replacement sounds great! And while you’re at a Disney park, it IS pretty great, with at least one location at each park (at WDW, Magic Kingdom has 4, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios each have 3, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has 1) and there are locations at Disney Springs, ESPN Wide World of Sports, and at some Disney resort hotels. Disneyland also boasts 13 FuelRod kiosks at their resort. But after you leave Disney, then what? Well, a quick search of FuelRod’s Location Map reveals that outside of Walt Disney World, there’s only ONE other public location in Central Florida – it’s on the Atlantic coast, at the Daytona Beach Ocean center. Similarly, once you leave Disneyland, there are no public FuelRod kiosks within 50 miles of Anaheim. And even if you go to a larger city, the availability of public FuelRod locations are VERY limited; for example, the greater NYC area has exactly one location, at JFK Int’l Airport’s Terminal 1.
In the greater Los Angeles area, there are a whopping 3 public FuelRod kiosk locations (one in Carlsbad and two in Escondido). There are 2 in Philadelphia (one at a hotel, one at the airport), one in Boston (it’s at the airport, in Terminal B) and zero in Seattle, Las Vegas, Chicago, Cheyenne, Omaha, Buffalo, or Dallas. Oh, and if you’re outside the United States, the only public FuelRod locations are in France and Switzerland. Now, I get that the company is only about 4 years old and are still working on expanding, but for right now, it kinda makes the whole “swapping out for a fully charged replacement” something of a near non-entity once you leave a U.S.-based Disney property.
- A FuelRod’s battery life is pretty horrible – Even if you can’t swap a FuelRod out because there aren’t FuelRod kiosks within 100 miles of where you are, you can still recharge your FuelRod and juice up your phone or tablet that way! Sounds great, huh? Wellllll, not if you’re expecting your battery to go back up to a 100% charge. Ed from Pizza in Motion bought a FuelRod kit and kept track of how much battery life he got after charging his iPhone with a “fresh” FuelRod. He averaged about 66% to 68% recharged. That’s…pretty disappointing. Click here to read Ed’s post about it and here for his WDW-specific post about FuelRods.
There are other places on the ‘net that have recommended AGAINST purchasing FuelRods, including Rope Drop [dot] Net, DisneyTouristBlog, and guide2WDW.
Would I recommend using FuelRods?
If you’re at a Disney park, left your battery pack at home or at the hotel and it’s worth $30 for you to be able to recharge your phone an average of 67% at a time until you’re able to buy a good charging bank, then sure, so ahead. But otherwise? NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT!
What are some good options instead of FuelRods?
If you look at Amazon.com, you’ll see lots of different power banks. Just do a search for PHONE CHARGER and keep in mind that the larger the number of mAh (milliamp Hours), the more capacity it will have. Through experimentation, it’s been hypothesized that FuelRods have about 1100mAh (FuelRods don’t mention capacity anywhere on their website, kiosks or products – that’s pretty telling in itself). Meanwhile, you can find lipstick-sized 5000mAh portable chargers that are about the same physical size as FuelRods for about half of their price (5000mAh will generally give you 2 charges to an iPhone 6S or at least 1 to a Galaxy S7). Or you can go bigger, and the more it will be able to charge. For example, we have an Anker 20100 (20100mAh) that cost us $40 and charges an iPhone 7 almost seven times, a Galaxy S6 five times or an iPad mini 4 twice before having to be recharged.
But right now, nope, I wouldn’t recommend buying FuelRods.
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Maybe you should mention that the larger battery packs over a certain size/capacity cannot be taken on an aircraft so no good if you have to fly.
As to charging a phone to full capacity that will always depend on the charging battery capacity and what size of battery you are trying to charge. Once the fuel rod is empty just get another to charge your phone up to 100%. It isn’t rocket science.
Hi John! Welp, our Anker 20100s have been transported in our carry-ons when we’ve flown with no problems. Those are the largest once we’ve used to date and are one of the largest ones out there. Which ones are not allowed because they’re too big? If that’s the case, I’d love to write an article about those!
As we wrote in the article, FuelRods are approximated to be about 1000mAh, which is generally not enough to charge a modern-day smartphone. But you’re right…as long as you stay on Disney property, you can just switch them out. But on the day someone goes to Universal or Se World or Legoland? Or is using their phone on the plane home and it’s a 5 hour flight? Or if they go to the county fair or concert in their hometown? Or if they bring it with them on their trip to NY? Or to England? Have a FuelRod won’t help them because there are no FuelRod kiosks around to be able to switch out. So no, we can’t say it’s the “be all, end all.” We think there are lots of battery banks out there that are cheaper and can charge much longer. As always, your mileage may vary 🙂
You won’t believe how much crap I get on my blog from people thinking these horrible batteries are a good value. It’s like I called their baby ugly or something. They really think I’m nuts.
Oh yes, I know ;-). I posted the link to my article onto a few Disney boards and with a few exceptions here and there, got the same feedback. My general response is if they like them for use in the parks, that’s awesome and I can see the appeal. But they’re not practical for real-life, non-Disney all day activities.
There’s also Fuel Rod kiosks in the Orlando airport. The website has not been updated in ages, so your article is not accurate, either. FYI… Magic Kingdom has 5 kiosks, not 4. We LOVE our fuel rods and are NEVER without a fully charged phone!
Hi Linda and thank-you for the info! Unfortunately, if Fuel Rods are not updating their website, that’s only going to hurt their business. But again, as of right now, between their low power ability and their not being plentiful in non-Disney places, we don’t consider them to be useful in “real life” situations at this time. If you’re on vacation at Disney and like to use them there, so be it. But it’s a shame to buy a $30 battery that has less than 1500mAh when you can spend the same amount on an Anker battery on Amazon.com that will give you 10,000mAh before you have to recharge it. But of course, as always, Your Mileage May Vary :-). Again, thanks for writing!
[…] we originally wrote about FuelRods, the only places you could find them in Anaheim was at Disneyland and in New York City was at JFK […]