The cigarette lighter receptacle in an automobile, initially designed to power an electrically heated cigarette lighter, became a de facto standard DC connector to supply electrical power for portable accessories used in or near an automobile. While the cigarette lighter receptacle is a common feature of automobiles, as a DC power connector it has the disadvantage of relatively low current rating and poor contact stability.
Examples of devices that can be operated from a cigarette lighter receptacle include lights, fans, beverage heating devices, and small motorized tools such as gas compressors for inflating tires. Many portable electronic devices such as music players or mobile telephones use a cigarette lighter receptacle to recharge their internal batteries or to directly operate from the vehicle electrical system. Adapters for electronic devices may change voltage to be compatible with the supplied device. Devices that require alternating-current mains electricity can be operated with a plug-in inverter.