Archive for April, 2013

28
Apr

Are rechargeable batteries in smartphones at their limit?

We have come to a point in technology where it appears we are not progressing any further in rechargeable battery technology for Smartphones. It’s either pick one for battery life, and make it threw the day with so-so performance, or the high end quad core phone that should make it threw lunchtime.

Sure, you can just simply get a battery extender case, which almost doubles the weight and thickness of the phone, but why should we have to? Can’t we simply have a Smartphone that will just last all day and into the next?

iphone-battery-dead

As contemplated by The Independent regarding this balance of battery life vs performance:

The Great Smartphone Conundrum. The time has come – we’re going to have to choose between performance and battery life. Smartphones keep getting faster. If you buy a new high-end phone this year, you’ll find it’s noticeably more powerful than last year’s best gadgets. It will let you run much more demanding apps, it will load up web pages more quickly, and it will deliver sharper, more advanced videos and games.

The Independent continues to dissect the problem:

One of the reasons phones have been getting faster is that they’re also getting bigger. A bigger phone allows for a bigger battery, which allows for a faster processor. But now we’ve hit a wall in phone size: Today’s biggest and fastest phones carry screens of around 5in, and they’re not going to get any bigger than that. (If they did, they wouldn’t fit in your hand.)

Well, they actually have gotten bigger than 5”, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 has proven that at 5.5” and they just seem to get closer and closer to the 7” tablet market size. But there needs to be a better solution than simply installing the largest battery that will fit and making phones that weight .22kg or more.

We need to see some changes at the rate the Smartphone market is growing as well, as that is the single biggest complaint, and limitation of the industry today.

By Michael Nace

 

25
Apr

Electronics Warehouse was in the TOP 5% of WOMO businesses for 2012!

Womo (Word of Mouth Online) recently tallied the reviews for 2012 and based on customer feedback, Electronics Warehouse was in the TOP 5% of businesses for that year!

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As documented from WOMO:

“WOMO is all about helping consumers find great businesses AND helping great businesses get the recognition they deserve. So, we’re very pleased to announce our new “WOMO Service Awards”.

The WOMO Service Awards are designed to honor those businesses that have given outstanding service based on member feedback during the year. They’re for businesses that have received a substantial number of glowing reviews (and a minimal number of negative reviews).

Less than 5% of all businesses listed on WOMO qualify for the award.

 

 

23
Apr

Just how dangerous are generic batteries?

When shopping online for various Rechargeable Batteries, you are bound to run across some brands that are far cheaper than the quality name brands such as Vapex or Ansmann. They seem like such a great deal that you just can’t pass them up – 3000mAh AA batteries for 1/4 the price of the name brands. But what value really do you get for your money?

bty-rechargeable-1-2v-3000mah-ni-mh-aa-batteries

A user over from CandlePowerForums had the following review and opinion after purchasing some to test:

I made the sad, sad mistake of purchasing some cheap BTY brand batteries awhile back, thinking that even if they’re not as good as advertised they’d at least be somewhat close.

I got 8 AAs and 8 AAAs for some obscenely low amount, shipped from somewhere in the orient. I forget where exactly.

The AAs are advertised as “2500”.. no “mah” after that number, but the ebay listing said “2500 mah”. The AAAs have “1000,” again with no “mah” on them.

Whereas all my other Nimh AAs weigh 28-30g, these BTYs weigh in at 16g. Waaay lighter. The BTY AAAs are about 2g lighter than my other-branded AAAs. A little lighter.

So I did some testing recently on my LaCrosse and it turns out that, after a couple of chargings, the AAs have an average capacity of 450 to 500 mah. The AAAs actually have MORE capacity than the AAs… around 600 mah.

The more disturbing part is that when put on the charger, the AAs will rise up to 1.8 volts before the charger stops charging them. This happens for all of them. I don’t know why.

The item of concern is not the lower than average mAh capacity than advertised  but the excessively high voltage that was being registered. 1.8v per battery can wreak havoc on some sensitive electronic items, and possible do some irreversible damage. If a device was designed to run on 6 AA batteries, at a typical alkaline voltage of 1.5v per cell, this would give you around 9v output. It you were using these BTY brand, you could be pushing as much as 10.8v, and possibly render the device or gadget useless from excessive voltage.

Another example of a generic boost’ battery (Charge your gadgets on the go) goes the extra step to fool the purchaser – by adding sand to the inside of the battery case to give the illusion of battery weight. It is highly unlikely this company that slapped this battery together took any time to make sure that the battery would safely charge your devices as intended. All they care about is that the appearance of a initial charge passes to make a quick sale.

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So what may seem like an initial savings up front, may cost you far more than you think if these bargain cheap batteries do any damage to your expensive goods. And good luck trying to file a claim for damages, it is likely the complaints will go unanswered.

Thanks for reading our article!  Make sure you shop at a reputable Battery supplier such as Electronics Warehouse for all your Rechargeable battery needs!

 

By Michael Nace.

21
Apr

Are rechargeable battery kiosks really a good solution?

A new start-up is trying out rechargeable battery dispensing kiosks at a local store chain. The premise is that you pay for a set of 4 batteries at a set price. Then you take the batteries home and use them until spent – then return them to the same kiosk for fully charged replacements at a discounted price.

BETTERY-Station-Swap-Station

As detailed on The Bettery website:

“Swapping batteries is simple, you just: Buy batteries at any BETTERY Swap Station, at participating retail locations.  

Take the batteries home, and use them until they are drained.

Swap the drained batteries at the BETTERY Swap Station for freshly tested and charged batteries – without the hassling with recharging at home”

This is a good concept to get consumers familiar with the use of Rechargeable Batteries, but at a fairly high cost to the individual. The cost of ‘purchasing’ a set of AA’s is near retail of the cheaper brands. When the batteries you have used are finished, you need to drive to the store that the kiosk is located at to exchange – hopefully the store is open when you want to get more batteries.

Essentially the cost to swap out batteries is 1/4 the price of the initial purchase. However after a few cycles of driving to the kiosk to swap out batteries, you may be questioning yourself why you did not simply purchase batteries and a charger outright in the first place.

The statement of “without the hassling with recharging at home.” May need to be questioned, as having to drive to a local kiosk and paying a fee every time to recharge seems like a much larger hassle in my opinion.

By Michael Nace

Skip the Kiosk and stay at home while ordering up some Rechargeables from Electronics Warehouse today!

 

18
Apr

Are you ready for a power outage?

Are you prepared for a power outage of any length of time in your home? We really don’t think of this situation until it is upon us, so perhaps now is a good time to gather together some essentials in the unfortunate event of a blackout.

flashlight torch

 

Do you have enough Torches, and especially batteries to power them?  Vapex instant D sized Rechargeables have excellent shelf life.  They retain 80% of their capacity after 6 months and 70% after 12 months compared to standard Ni-MH rechargeable batteries.

If you happen to have an abundance of AA sized rechargeables around the house already, then perhaps some AA to D sized Battery Convertors might be of interest to you.  These allow you to run 2 AA batteries in parallel to double the mAh output of the battery, and make the most of what you already have.

Vapex also makes a nifty 12v AAA and AA battery charger that can run off of a car charger in the event you need to recharge some AA’s to keep powering smaller emergency devices like portable radios and smaller battery lamps.

Just make sure that you don’t forget to keep spare batteries fully charged in the event of an emergency, if you don’t want to sit around in the dark wishing you had dropped the batteries in the charger just a few days ago.

By Michael Nace

 

14
Apr

Are Rechargeable Batteries the best form of grid reserve power?

Utilizing Wind turbines and expandable lithium-ion batteries installed in mobile storage containers, AES Energy Storage is making a profit over an easy to deploy solution. By having the rechargeable battery banks installed in semi-truck containers, they can be easily be piggybacked upon an already up and running installation to provide more backup power as needed.

Laurel Mtn Energy Storage Containers (2)

Some experts consider Lithium-ion too expensive a solution for this type of power, but AES Energy argues that it’s solution is working and exceeding customer expectations.

As documented by Technology Review talking with Chris Shelton, the president of AES Energy Storage:

At the Laurel Mountain facility in West Virginia, the batteries, supplied by A123 systems, are capable of charging or discharging at the rate of 32 megawatts for up to 15 minutes. Because it’s connected to a wind farm, the energy emissions-free. But AES Energy Storage earns money on the flexibility and stability it can provide to the local grid operator. In contrast to many fossil fuel plants, the batteries are used continuously and can respond within seconds, says Shelton. The project was also helped by a change in FERC regulations that rewards power providers on their ability to supply services quickly. “You can’t just look at the cost in dollars per kilowatt. There are so many factors that apply,” he says.

For a easy to deliver on demand solution that is also Eco-friendly, AES Energy Storage is certainly on the right track vs utilizing costly fossil fuels as an alternative. You just can’t put a cost on a zero-emissions power solution when it comes to the impact on the local environment.

By Michael Nace

 

11
Apr

Chevy Volt Battery Tech Questioned After Billions needlessly spent

The Chevy Volt is being questioned as to the reliability and cost of it’s rechargeable battery design. It appears that never ending funding has been poured into this, and similar vehicles by the government due to their policies concerning low emission vehicles.

Regardless of the billions the US government has spent toward development costs and tax credits to purchasers of the vehicles themselves – the electric rechargeable vehicle is still not a viable alternative to a gas or diesel powered engine for the large majority of the public.

As noted from National Legal and Policy Center:

In addition to the efficiency limitations, we have an even more troubling question as to the safety of the Volt’s technology. GM keeps a team of Hazmat specialists on call to respond to any Onstar notifications of accidents involving a Volt. Firefighters, unless properly trained, must stay away from the complex, volatile power source which has more than 600 seals and cooling components to keep it safe. In fact, according to Josh Payne who worked on the first Volt battery and is now senior engineering manager at Energy Power Systems, “That’s 600 seals that all have to stay for the entirety of its life otherwise you have catastrophic failures.” That does not sound too reassuring!

The worst part of this mostly-untold story is the taxpayer money that continues to be wasted on the green pipe dream. The American people were lied to about the potential for the Chevy Volt, as well as for the technology behind it. Billions of dollars were spent on grants and failed loans for production of plug-in EVs, lithium-ion batteries and charging stations. Wealthy purchasers of $40,000 Chevy Volts and $100,000 Teslas receive federal tax credits for $7,500 each. Subsidized battery makers like A123 Systems are bankrupt and government-supported, green automaker Fisker is not far from it. How are middle-class or poor Americans benefiting from any of this?

The answer simply is – they are not seeing any sort of benefit. Most middle-class purchasers are not spending $40,000 on a car to save a few mpg or to have to plug it in every $200 miles, they want a practical vehicle they can refill its ‘power’ in under 10 minutes – At the gas station.

By Michael Nace

 

09
Apr

has the Rechargeable battery vehicle died?

People are wishing for an affordable electric vehicle that you can simply plug in for a short duration to charge, and have the range of a typical gas guzzler or more. The problem here is not the vehicle itself, but the Rechargeable Battery that is powering said vehicle. It is currently expensive, takes hours to charge vs 5 minutes at the gas pump, and offers limited range for the amount of energy you just put into it.

As noted from Business Insider:

A much better battery is the “holy grail,” says Jack Nerad, executive editorial director and market analyst at Kelley Blue Book. While lots of parties are working on it, “nobody’s got there yet.”
Until someone does, the story of the electric car in the United States will continue to be one of high expectations and consistent letdowns.

Fisker, a startup funded in part by nearly $200 million from the Department of Energy, just fired three quarters of its workforce and is in the process of imploding. It has not produced a single Atlantic, the model designed to be the “volume car that begins to build growth.”

Tesla, another government-funded startup, has achieved profitability for this quarter (a major milestone), but despite unending promises that it will soon bring an affordable car to market, its prices have only gone up.

Are we just spinning our wheels handing out government funds to start-ups without seeing anything in return? Or will we keep trying to find the elusive formula to the magical rechargeable battery that will finally outperform the traditional fossil fuel engine?

07
Apr

What is the best battery for your Flash Photography?

SLR Lounge had done a thorough investigation into what they considered the best AA battery for Flash Photography use, due to low availability of practical real world use for results. This is their testing of Eneloop brand against the top available alkaline batteries currently available.

Per SLR Lounge, this is the criteria that they adhered to:

We used the exact same Vivitar 285HV flash for all batteries tested. After each battery was tested, we allowed the flash unit at least one hour to completely cool down before testing the next set.
We selected the most common sets of Alkaline batteries for our testing including Duracell Coppertop (standard Duracell), Duracell Ultra Advanced, Energizer Max (standard Energizer), Energizer Lithium and finally Costco Kirkland batteries since they are so wonderfully inexpensive… and because everyone loves Costco. We selected the Eneloops as the rechargeables to use for the test because based on our experience, they have held up better than all other rechargeable batteries that we have used.
For all alkaline batteries, we purchased new batteries in their retail packages and pulled them directly from the retail package and placed them into the Vivitar flash test unit. For the rechargeable Eneloops, we purchased new batteries in retail packages and charged them to full power prior to placing them into the Vivitar flash. All batteries were brand new, and the test results were based on their first time use.

Testing consisted of utilizing a flash unit at full 1/1 power connected to a timer unit, with each battery being tested for a total of 75 full power flashes.

After all testing was completed, here were the top 3 contenders for best battery:

#3 Duracell (Standard) – It had an exceptionally quick 1st flash recycle time of 7.3 seconds and a 75th flash recycle time of 14.1 seconds giving it a average flash recycle length of time of 11.68 seconds. They were just sizzling hot to the touch upon removal. This was the best Alkaline toss-away disposable for photography and flash.

#2 Standard Eneloop – The Eneloop posted the speediest beginning recycle time of 6.8 seconds and a 75th flash recycle time of just 10.5 seconds! This gave it a average for the flash recycle time of 8.94 seconds. Also, the batteries was just warm to the touch upon removal.

#1 Eneloop XX – The XX’s were just a cut above the standard Eneloop. It had a slower 1st flash time of 7.1 seconds, yet a slightly snappier 75th flash recycle time of 9.9 seconds giving it an average recycle time of 8.75 seconds. At around the 25th flash the standard Eneloop started to lose power more quickly than the Eneloop XX which brought about a decently noteworthy contrast of .6 seconds on the 75th flash.

Both Eneloop types are fantastic batteries, easily beating out the standard alkaline cell single-use types. It’s a good idea to have a set on hand in emergencies, but for power to depend on, you should get yourself a set ( or several sets) of Eneloops!

Get your Eneloops right here at Electronics warehouse!

By Michael Nace

 

04
Apr

Moore’s Law for rechargeable batteries?

Electric cars are starting to catch on, but quite slowly. Perhaps it’s the size and cost of the huge rechargeable battery that can cost up to a 3rd of the vehicle price that is deterring potential buyers. Along with the price comes a limited driving range as well – people are watching the power level while they are driving not unlike a smartphone user hoping their battery lasts the day until they can recharge again.

Photo credit: jurvetson / Foter.com / CC BY

Moore’s law is the observation that over the history of computer hardware, the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles roughly every two years. We take technology for granted – we expect the computer we buy 2 years from now to be twice as fast as our old one.

Fred Schlacter has an essay on why batteries are basically different from computers, or other electronic gadgets such as tablets:

“The reason there is a Moore’s Law for computer processors is that electrons are small and they do not take up space on a chip. Chip performance is limited by the lithography technology used to fabricate the chips; as lithography improves ever smaller features can be made on processors.
Batteries are not like this. Ions, which transfer charge in batteries, are large, and they take up space, as do anodes, cathodes, and electrolytes. A D-cell battery stores more energy than an AA-cell. Potentials in a battery are dictated by the relevant chemical reactions, thus limiting eventual battery performance. Significant improvement in battery capacity can only be made by changing to a different chemistry.
Scientists and battery experts, who have been optimistic in the recent past about improving lithium-ion batteries and about developing new battery chemistries—lithium/air and lithium/sulfur are the leading candidates—are considerably less optimistic now.”

So to be realistic, we cannot expect to continue to utilize the same technology and demand to have smaller, lighter, and more powerful rechargeable battery technology. Changes will have to be made, and new research heavily funded to make sufficient progress. We are still utilizing technology developed in the late 1850’s to start our cars every day.




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