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Sharing Battery Knowledge
Aug 14, 2018


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Battery research is advancing at a rapid pace, which is a clear indication that the Super Battery has not yet been found, but might be just around the corner. While today’s batteries satisfy most portable applications, improvements are needed if this power source is to become a serious contender for the electric vehicle.

 

With so much hype about batteries, people want unbiased information and Battery University promises to provide this. The website went live in 2003 and quickly gained popularity. Besides being a teaching tool, it has become a social media network to exchange valued information about your battery experience. Users' input, in my opinion, is as important as reams of laboratory test data. The critical mass speaks louder than promises made by device manufacturers that cannot always be met.

 

The website is continuously being upgraded and much of the information comes from the best-seller Batteries in a Portable World: A Handbook on Rechargeable Batteries for Non-engineers. The book will soon be in its fourth edition.

 

The first edition of Batteries in a Portable World went into print in 1997 and the handy little book sold out quickly. The larger second edition was published in 2001 and served public safety, healthcare and defense industries, as well as the esteemed hobbyists and everyday battery users. The expanded third edition was released in 2011 before low stock prompted me to write the up-and-coming new edition.

 

There are no black and whites in the battery world, only shades of gray. The battery is a black box with a mind of its own; mystical and unexplainable. For some, the battery causes no problems whatsoever; for others it’s nothing but a headache.

 

Much effort is devoted to battery care, and it appears as if battery diagnostics are stuck in medieval times. Let’s not blame our scientists for this; the technology is complex. Also good care alone does not always show the expected results. The often asked question, “How many cycles can I get out of my battery if I do this?” has no quantitative answer. The reasons for the eventual demise are multifold and have similarities with our own human frailty. We suffer health issues even if we try to keep fit and eat our vegetables.

 

Battery University is for the professional needing a basic understanding of how a battery behaves, a student completing an essay, and a user wanting to get the most out of a battery. The information comes from my battle-tested experience working with batteries in the Cadex laboratories, as well as other research organizations and the input from battery users. I appreciate these contributions and I add citations where appropriate.

 

There is no perfect battery and each pack is tailored for a given use. Batteries in consumer products are optimized for long runtime, small size and low cost; longevity is less important. Industrial batteries may have high load capabilities and improved reliability, but the pack gets bulkier. A third variety offers long service life and these packs are expensive.

 

All batteries have one thing in common: they run for a while, need recharging and require an eventual replacement as the capacity fades. Battery replacement comes often before retiring the host. The idea of an uninterrupted energy source is still a pipedream.