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Flashlight adjusts itself to battery size

Anyone who has fumbled and cursed when the power goes out and the flashlight goes dead may have something new to beam about _ a flashlight that accepts batteries of different sizes.

St. Louis-based Energizer Holdings Inc. considers its Quick Switch a shining example of utility, with users able to raid batteries from such things as remote controls, toys or wall clocks and plunk them into the flashlight.

No more scrambling to find the right battery; the Quick Switch takes two C, D or AA batteries, and users can simply adjust a switch to the proper cell size, automatically locking the batteries into place.

The light output is the same no matter the cell size, though operating time will vary.

Launched nationally this month as the latest entry in the often look-alike arena of flashlights, the Quick Switch "solves the No. 1 consumer concern with flashlights _ "It never seems like I have the right batteries when I need them,' " Energizer's Mark Larsen said.

"It is literally sliced bread for our category," said Larsen, brand group director for Energizer Lighting Products, an Energizer Holdings division. "We're not adding a lot of bells and whistles. This is just intuitive, easy to use, and it works."

Touted on its packaging as a "revolutionary flashlight," the Quick Switch retails for $9.99 to $12.99.

Two truckloads of the flashlights already have been hustled to Florida, where hurricane-weary consumers have been stocking up on D-cell batteries, in some cases depleting supplies.

Still, "we weren't planning on launching this in the middle of the hurricane season," Larsen said.

Calling the Quick Switch a "stunningly innovative" product from the company that also makes batteries and shaving products, RT Jones analyst Juli Niemann said the flashlight "makes a heck of a lot of sense."

"Everyone always ends up with too many AAA or AA batteries, and you can never find the right batteries when you need them," said Niemann, whose home has a flashlight in each room. "This is the first answer to the world of standardized batteries."

A spokesman for Energizer rival Rayovac declined to discuss the Quick Switch, saying he hadn't yet seen the product. But he suggested that the Quick Switch may be an extension of some available battery adapters, which convert a smaller battery size to the next size up.

Phooey, Larsen said.

"When you really want a light, the last thing you want to figure out is, "Where did I put my D-cell tray?' " he said.

The Quick Switch spotlights how the flashlight has evolved since its inception more than a century ago as a "hand torch," then primitively made of crude paper and fiber tubes, with a bulb and a rough brass reflector.

With flashlights more of a novelty then, folks did what they knew best to search in the dark _ grab a candle or kerosene lantern, knowing the possible downside was seeing their home or office accidentally go up in flames.

There wasn't battery power strong enough to power a flashlight for long stretches, and carbon filament bulbs were inefficient. So users pushed a button to literally _ and for a moment _ "flash light" on the path in front of them, giving the devices their name.

Since then, the flashlight has become ideal for more conventional uses, with its size and shape morphing as batteries became smaller and stronger.