An Unexpected 12v Power Source

One of my favorite YouTube channels is Temporarily Offline Ham Radio by Steve K9MG. He does a lot of great technical videos, from radio reviews where he tests them to confirm their documented specs, electronics kit builds – some of which include some excellent pointers on how not to get lost in a sea of parts which has boosted my confidence, and unusual equipment, parts and components that he discovers.

One of his discoveries in particular piqued my interest: He discovered that the fairly new USB-C “PD” or power delivery can provide 12 volts! He found a USB-C to barrel connector cable for his ICOM IC-705 and confirmed that he is able to power his QRP (low wattage) radio.

From Temporarily Offline Ham Radio, by Steve KM9G

Curious, I researched and did some measurements to identify the barrel connector size for my Yaesu FT-817nd. I purchased the same battery that he recommended, and located a premade cable that has the smaller barrel connector and advertises 12V. This cable was fabricated and shipped from China, so it took almost two full weeks to arrive despite being ordered on Amazon.

The power cable is labeled as 12V, and will trigger the PD circuit in the power bank – this is key!

Once the cable arrived, I paired it with the battery, removed my Anderson Power Pole to Barrel adapter from the radio, and connected the mobile battery pack to the radio. Voila! 12V and a full 5W. I keyed up a repeater 11 miles away from my desk inside the office, using an Abree foldable antenna on a BNC elbow adapter.

The radio displays 12 volts!

This is great. I’ve gone from a chunky LiFePO4 6 aH (amp hour) battery and charger to a petite battery brick that can be recharged from any USB power source! Of course, at 1.5 amps output, we’re limited to 18 watts, but that’s perfect for QRP radios.

The 6 aH LiFePO4 battery and Dakota 3a charger

I feel like they weigh about the same, but one will fit in the pack a lot easier, I don’t have to worry about a tool hitting the posts in my bag, and it will be so much easier to charge. Further, it can be used to charge my cell phone, my son’s Nintendo switch, and even my Microsoft Surface Book laptop.

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