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Calculating the Battery Runtime

If the battery were a perfect power source and behaved linearly, the discharge time could be calculated according to the in-and-out flowing currents. What is put in should be available as an output in the same amount goes the argument, and a one-hour charge at 5A should deliver a one-hour discharge at 5A, or a 5-hour discharge at 1A." This is not possible because of intrinsic losses. The output is always less than what has been put in, and the losses escalate with increasing load. High discharge currents make the battery less efficient. To learn about the coulomb counter, see Inner Workings of a Smart Battery.

The efficiency factor of a discharging battery is expressed in the Peukert Law. W. Peukert, a German scientist (1897), was aware of this loss and devised a formula that expresses the loss at a given discharge rate in numbers. Because of sluggish behavior of lead acid, the Peukert numbers apply mostly to this battery chemistry and help in calculating the capacity when loaded at various discharge rates. The Peukert Law takes into account the internal resistance and recovery rate of a battery. A value close to one (1) indicates a well-performing battery with good efficiency and minimal loss; a higher number reflects a less efficient battery. The Peukert Law of a battery is exponentialand the readings for lead acid are between 1.3 and 1.4. Nickel-based batteries have low numbers and lithium-ion is even better. Figure 1 illustrates the available capacity as a function of ampere drawn with different Peukert ratings.

Figure 1: Available capacity of a lead acid battery at Peukert numbers of 1.081.50 A value close to 1 has the smallest losses; higher numbers deliver lower capacities. Source: von Wentzel (2008)

The lead acid battery prefers intermittent loads to a continuous heavy discharge. The rest periods allow the battery to recompose the chemical reaction and prevent exhaustion. This is why lead acid performs well in a starter application with brief 300A cranking loads and plenty of time to recharge in between. All batteries require recovery, and with nickel- and lithium-based system, the electrochemical reaction is much faster than with lead acid. Read more about the Basics About Charging.
The runtime of batteries in portable devices relates to the specific energy marked in Ah (mAh in personal devices). Ah as a performance indicator works best at low discharge currents. At higher loads, the internal resistance begins to play a larger role in the ability to deliver power. Resistance acts as the gatekeeper. Energy in Ah presents the available storage capacity of a battery and is responsible for the runtime; power governs the load current. These two attributes are critical in digital devices that require long runtimes and must deliver highcurrent pulses.

Ah alone is not a reliable runtime indicator and the relationship between capacity and the ability to deliver current can best be illustrated with the Ragone Chart. Named after David V. Ragone, the Ragone chart evaluates batteries not on energy alone but also represents power. Figure 2 illustrates the Ragone chart on a digital camera that is powered by an Alkaline, Lithium (Li-FeS2) or NiMH battery drawing 1.3W. (1.3W at 3V draws 433mA.) The horizontal axis displays energy in Watt/hours and the vertical axis displays power in Watts. The scale is logarithmic to allow a wide selection of battery sizes.

Figure 2: Ragone chart illustrates battery performance with various load conditions. Digital camera loads NiMH, Li-FeS2 and Alkaline with 1.3W pulses according to ANSI C18.1 (dotted line). The results are: - Li- FeS2 690 pluses - NiMH 520 pulses - Alkaline 85 pulses Energy = Capacity x V Power = Current x V Courtesy of Exponent

The dotted line represents the power demand of the digital camera. All three batteries have similar Ah rating: NiMH delivers the highest power but has the lowest specific energy. This battery works well at high loads such as power tools. The Lithium Li-FeS2 offers the highest specific energy but has moderate loading conditions. Digital cameras and personal medical instruments suit the system well. Alkaline offers an economic solution for lower current drains such as flashlights, remote controls and wall clocks, but a digital camera is stretching the capability of Alkaline. Read more about the Choices of Primary Batteries.

Basics About Discharging


The purpose of a battery is to store and release energy at the desired time and in a controlled manner. This section examines discharges under different C-rates and evaluates the depth to which a battery can safely be depleted. Chapter 5 also observes different discharge signatures and explores how certain patterns can affect battery life. But first, lets look at charge and disc harge rates, also known as C-rate.

Depth of Discharge
The end-of-discharge voltage for lead acid is 1.75V/cell; nickel-based system is 1.00V/cell; and most Li-ion is 3.00V/cell. At this level, roughly 95 percent of the energy is spent and the voltage would drop rapidly if the discharge were to continue. To protect the battery from over-discharging, most devises prevent operation beyond the specified end-of-discharge voltage. When removing the load after discharge, the voltage of a healthy battery gradually recovers and rises towards the nominal voltage. Differences in the metal concentration of the electrodes enable this voltage potential when the battery is empty. An aging battery with elevated self-discharge cannot recover the voltage because of the parasitic load. A high load current lowers the battery voltage, and the end-of-discharge voltage threshold should be set lower accordingly. Internal cell resistance, wiring, protection circuits and contacts all add up to overall internal resistance. The cut-off voltage should also be lowered when discharging at very cold temperatures; this compensates for the higher-than-normal internal resistance. Table 1 shows typical end-of-discharge voltages of various battery chemistries. End-of-discharge Normal load Heavy load Li-manganese Li-phosphate Lead acid NiCd/NiMH

3.00V/cell 2.70V/cell 1.75V/cell 1.00V/cell 2.70V/cell 2.45V/cell 1.40V/cell 0.90V/cell Table 1: Recommended end-of-discharge voltage under normal and heavy load The lower end-of-discharge voltage on a high load compensates for the losses induced by the internal battery resistance. Some battery analyzers apply a secondary discharge (recondition) that drains the battery voltage of a nickel-based battery to 0.5V/cell and lower, a cut-off point that is below what manufacturers specify. These analyzers (Cadex) keep the discharge load low to stay within an allowable current while in subdischarge range. A cell breakdown with a weak cell is possible and reconditioning would cause further deterioration in performance rather than making the battery better. This phenomenon can be compared to the experience of a patient to whom strenuous exercise is harmful.

What Constitutes a Discharge Cycle?


Most understand a discharge/charge cycle as delivering all stored energy, but this is not always the case. Rather than a 100 percent depth of discharge (DoD), manufacturers prefer rating the batteries at 80 percent DoD, meaning that only 80 percent of the available energy is being delivered and 20 percent remains in reserve. A less-than-full discharge increases service life, and manufacturers argue that this is closer to a field representation because batteries are seldom fully discharged before recharge. There are no standard definitions of what constitutes a discharge cycle. A smart battery that keeps track of cycle count may require a depth of discharge of 70 percent to define a discharge cycle; anything less does not count as a cycle. There are many other applications that discharge the battery less. Starting a car, for example, discharges the battery by less than 5 percent, and the depth of discharge in satellites is 6 to 10 percent before the onboard batteries are being recharged during the satellite day. Furthermore, a hybrid car only uses a fraction of the capacity during acceleration before the battery is being recharged.

Discharge Signature
A classic discharge is a battery that delivers a steady load at, say, 0.2C. A flashlight is such an example. Many applications demand momentary loads at double and triple the batterys C-rating, and GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) of a cellular phone is such an example (Figure 2). GSM loads the battery with up to 2A at a pulse rate of 577 micro-seconds (s). This is a large demand for a small 1,000mAh battery; however, with a high frequency the battery begins to behave like a capacitor and the characteristics change.

Figure 2: GSM Pulse of a cellular phone The 577 microsecond pulses adjust to field strength and can reach 2 amperes. Courtesy of Cadex In terms of cycle life, a moderate current at a constant discharge is better than a pulsed or momentary high load. Figure 3 shows the decreasing capacity of a NiMH battery at different load conditions and includes a gentle 0.2C DC discharge, an analog discharge and a pulsed discharge. The cycle life of other battery chemistries is similar under such load conditions. Figure 3: Cycle life of NiMH under different operating conditions NiMH performs best with DC and analog loads; digital loads lower the cycle life. Liion behaves similarly. Source: Zhang (1998)

Figure 4 examines the number of full cycles a Li-ion battery with a cobalt cathode can endure when discharged at different C-rates. At a 2C discharge, the battery exhibits higher stress than at 1C, limiting the cycle count to about 450 before the capacity drops to half level.

Figure 4: Cycle life of Li-ion with cobalt cathode at varying discharge levels The wear-and-tear of a battery increases with higher loads. Source: Choi et al (2002)

For a long time, Li-ion had been considered fragile and unsuitable for high loads. This has changed, and today many lithium-based systems are more robust than the older nickel and lead chemistries. Manganese and phosphate-type Li-ion permit a continuous discharge of 30C. This means that a cell rated at 1,500mAh can provide a steady load of 45A, and this is being achieved primarily by lowering the internal resistance through optimizing the surface area between the active cell materials. Low resistance keeps the temperature down, and running at the maximum permissible discharge current, the cells heat up to about 50C (122F); the maximum temperature is limited to 60C (140F). One of the unique qualities of Li-ion is the ability to deliver continuous high power. This is possible with an electrochemical recovery rate that is far superior to lead acid. The slow electrochemical reaction of lead acid can be compared to a drying felt pen than works for short marking but needs rest to replenish the ink.

Simple Guidelines for Discharging Batteries


The battery performance decreases with cold temperature and increases with heat. Heat increases battery performance but shortens life by a factor of two for every 10C increase above 2530C (18F above 7786F). Although better performing when warm, batteries live longer when kept cool. Operating a battery at cold temperatures does not automatically permit charging under these conditions. Only charge at moderate temperatures. Some batteries accept charge below freezing but at a much-reduced charge current. Check the manufacturers specifications. Use heating blankets if batteries need rapid charging at cold temperatures. Prevent over-discharging. Cell reversal can cause an electrical short. Deploy a larger battery if repetitive deep discharge cycles cause stress. A moderate DC discharge is better for a battery than pulse and aggregated loads.

A battery exhibits capacitor-like characteristics when discharging at high frequency. This allows higher peak currents than is possible with a DC load. Lead acid is sluggish and requires a few seconds of recovery between heavy loads.

How to Charge - When to Charge Table


Batteries have unique needs and Table 1 explains how to satisfy these desires based of common batteries. Because of similarities within the battery family, we only list lead, nickel and lithium systems. Although each chemistry has its own requirements, there are common denominators that affect the life of all batteries. These are: Keep a moderate temperature. As food stays fresher when refrigerated, so also does cool temperature retard battery corrosion, a life-robbing adversary of any battery. Control discharge. Each cycle wears the battery down by a small amount. A partial discharge before charge is better than a full discharge. Apply a deliberate full discharge only to calibrate a smart battery and to prevent memory on a nickel-based pack. Avoid abuse. Like a machine that is exposed to strenuous work, a battery wears down more quickly if discharged harshly and if force-charged with high currents. Strenuous demands cannot always be prevented, but the user has the choice of selecting the right battery size, keeping the temperature moderate and following life-extending service guidelines.

Batteries for the electric powertrain have changed the philosophy of battery manufacturers from designing packs for maximum energy density, as demanded by the consumer market, to focusing on optimal safety and longevity. Batteries on the road are exposed to extreme environmental hazards; they must perform at maximum duty under severe heat, cold, shock and vibration. Storing energy of several kilowatts, batteries for the electric powertrain can be dangerous if stressed beyond normal conditions. Furthermore, vehicular batteries are expensive and must last for the life of the car. Pampering a battery to achieve an extended service life, as is sometimes possible with a laptop or cell phone pack, is more difficult with a large battery in a vehicle that must deliver high load currents on command and is exposed to freezing temperatures in the winter and blistering summer conditions. The user has limited control as to the care and attention of the battery. This task is passed over to an intelligent battery management system (BMS), which takes over the command and does the supervising. The BMS assumes the duty of a lead commander who must make sure that the troops in a large army are well organized and that all soldiers are marching in the same direction. While a battery in a portable device can have its own personality and occasionally slack off, this liberty does not exist in a large battery system where all members must be of equal strength. Managing fading and failing cells as the battery ages is a complex issue that the BMS must address effectively. Monitoring and eventual replacing the cells or battery groups is far more complex than getting a new pack for a portable device when the old one becomes a nuisance.
Lead acid (Sealed, flooded) Nickel-based (NiCd and NiMH) Lithium-ion (Li-ion, polymer)

Frequently asked question How should I prepare a new battery? Can I damage a battery with incorrect use? Do I need to apply a

Battery comes fully charged. Apply topping charge

Charge 1416h. Priming may be needed

Apply a topping before use. No priming needed Keep some charge. Low charge can turn off protection circuit Partial charge better

Yes, do not store Battery is robust and the partially charged, keep performance will improve fully charged Yes, partial charge with use Partial charge is fine

full charge? Can I disrupt a charge cycle? Should I use up all battery energy before charging? Do I have to worry about memory? How do I calibrate a smart battery? Can I charge with the device on? Must I remove the battery when full? How do I store my battery? Is the battery allowed to heat up during charge? How do I charge when cold? Can I charge at hot temperatures? What should I know about chargers?

causes sulfation, Yes, partial charge causes no harm No, deep discharge wears battery down. Charge more often No, there is no memory Not applicable Some UPS systems simultaneous charge and deliver current. Depends on charger; needs correct float V Keep cells above 2.10V, charge every 6 months Battery may get lukewarm towards the end of charge Interruptions can cause heat buildup Apply scheduled discharges only to prevent memory Discharge NiCd every 1 3 months

than a full charge Partial charge causes no harm Deep discharge wears the battery down

No memory

Apply discharge/charge when the fuel gauge gets inaccurate. Repeat every 13 months It's best to turn the device off during charge; parasitic load can alter full-charge detection and overcharge battery or cause mini-cycles Remove after a few days in charger Store in cool place; a total discharge causes no harm Battery gets warm but must cool down on ready Not necessary; charger turns off Store in cool place partially charged, do not fully drain Battery may get lukewarm towards the end of charge Do not charge below freezing Do not charge above 50C (122F)

Slow charge (0.1): 045C (32113F) Fast charge (0.51C): 545C (41113F) Above 25C, lower threshold by 3mV/C Battery will not fully charge when hot

Charger should float at Battery should not get too Battery must stay cool; 2.252.30V/cell when hot; should include temp no trickle charge when ready sensor ready

Table 1: Best charging methods. Strenuous demands cannot always be prevented.