I am replacing my VW's cigarette lighter with a permanent USB port

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/08/26/i-am-replacing-my-vws-cigare.html


Now I want to do that to my Prius.

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One of the first things many Vanagonistas do…replacing the vent by the rear cubbies with one that sports both a dual USB charger and a 12V outlet is next. The most important thing I see on the voltmeter is how much voltage drop there is from the battery to the dash (almost a full volt). Old inadequate wiring is, well, old and inadequate.

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Not very futureproof with type-A ports, though. Type C would be nice for charging laptops, Nintendo Switch, etc. If you have old micro-USB stuff just get some cheap C to micro cables.

So many people complain about Type C requiring dongles for everything, but I look at it differently. Type-C is only bad as long as we cling to Type-A as “default USB”. It’s cheaper and easier to just replace all type A cables with type C ones than deal with tons of different dongles and bricks. I was shopping for a new USB battery bank recently and was dismayed that they all have a single type-C port (for both input and output, precluding passthrough charging) and then several type-A ports, so I’d need to carry a crazy array of cables and AC adapters (C-C, A-C, C-lightning, A-lightning, C adapter, A adapter) to be able to charge the battery bank and quick-charge devices that support USB-PD while also being able to use those type A ports on the battery to charge multiple devices. If someone would just make a battery with multiple type-C ports, I could carry only two types of cables (C-C and C-lightning) and one type of brick, and get quick charging for any device that supports it.

I wish I shared your optimism that Type C is the One True Connector that we’ll all be sticking with from here on out. Type A has a gigantic installed base; Type C is being adopted by a few tech companies who’ve long since proven to have the attention spans of so many squirrels. Type C does seem good, but that has never been a guarantee of longevity.

My prediction (for what it’s worth) is that in five years, Type C devices will seem as quaint as mini-B connectors do today (my dashcam uses Mini-B, and Monoprice still sells the cables, but good luck finding them at the counter of your local 7-11), and we’ll all still be scrambling for adapters from Type A to whatever the New Hotness turns out to be next. I hope I’m wrong, but history is on my side.


Thumb drives will keep type a around for a long time yet.


I think there’s a very real chance that type C is the last connector which has the ubiquity that the USB-A host/micro-B device combo enjoyed for the last decade or so. Data transfer (for consumer-grade stuff) is all wireless now; physical connectors are needed for power only and I think type C will serve that role until manufacturers inevitably force wireless/inductive charging down our throats. At least for devices which are big enough to fit the port easily (laptops, power bricks). Apple’s Lightning for example is a bit better for thin, waterproof phones, but even those use USB-PD with a USB-C brick for quick charging (via a USB-C to Lightning cable).

At the higher end, for professional applications where wireless is too slow/unreliable, I’m not as optimistic on the USB-C connector [carrying Thunderbolt aka USB 4 data or whatever future protocol] sticking around; but that’s not relevant to what cables go in my backpack every day.

Anyway the lifespan of a battery pack (or even a cable that gets [un]plugged and flexed regularly) is only maybe 5 years, so it only needs to last that long before my charging kit needs to be replaced regardless.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I used one. Company security policy heavily discourages them. Helps that I and everyone I work with are on Apple devices so we can use airdrop. It would be great to have an open standard for local wireless transfer.


Yeah, but when was the last time you had to re-charge one?

(I’ll see myself out. :rofl:)

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I’m really tempted but there are a couple of meh reviews saying the factory opening in the vehicle was a lot smaller and needed to be dremeled or drilled. Has anyone here tried one of these and had that problem?

Plenty of times

the designers say

A staggering 95% of consumer devices are vulnerable: laptops, telephones, consoles, cars, networking equipment… Many industrial devices (ticket machines, control systems, in-flight entertainment systems) are also vulnerable. Thanks to our clients, the USB Killer has been legally tested on hundreds of different devices, revealing which manufacturers have taken steps to protect their customers. The goal of legal testing is to raise awareness, forcing manufacturers to protect their customers.

It’s not an act of vandalism. It’s spreading awareness-- a public service, even.


Heh. I’ve got the opposite problem. I want to install a Sirius/XM radio in my Tesla. It needs a lighter socket, not a USB port.

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Huh, I hadn’t even thought of that. Do electric cars even have a normal 12V DC system?

I don’t know, I prefer to keep the 12 volt outlet and plug in an adaptor. Yeah, it loses contact when it gets jostled by a kid or a dog, but that’s better than actually breaking the USB A socket of the permanent port. And if the adaptor does get broken, it’s easy enough to switch out and replace.

And it’s easier to upgrade. I had a dual USB A adaptor, but I switched to a combo USB A and USB C outlet, supposedly good for up to 35 watts at twenty volts (and ten watts on the USB A side). Actually, I have a dual outlet splitter, so I still have another 12v outlet available.

Admittedly, this is not in a VW, so I probably don’t have the space constraints you do.

Every day in the car. Instant jukebox better than any radio station except KEXP.

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Good! Now pay attention to what someone fingered onto your dirty rear window and wash your car!


Yep, they do! There’s a normal 12V car battery in them (at least in the two I have owned, a Leaf and a Bolt). That battery runs the headlights, wiper motors, and other standard automotive accessories that are all 12VDC. The Li-ion pack is used to keep the “normal” car battery charged.

ETA: The entire car’s electrical system is “standard” automotive stuff. Only the drivetrain uses the special lithium power cells, and then just to run a big inverter to make AC for the motor(s). Electric cars are way more normal than you’d expect.

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Huh. Having a 12V lead cell which is topped up from the li-ion bank seems rather inefficient and inelegant, but I guess it’s easier than re-engineering all the normal electrics, especially for Nissan and Chevrolet since they benefit from using the same components across their gas and electric lines.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Teslas do things radically differently, though…

And within hours after I wrote this, xkcd published this:


Tesla cars are no different. They use stock automotive products everywhere they can (depending on a lot of variables, of course.) They will custom design a part if the off-the-shelf options violate their constraints, such as energy or weight. But much of it, like the safety systems, are ordinary CAN bus.

and can light joints with a lighter.

Romance is dead.

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