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  1. #1
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    How to make lithium-ion batteries last for years




    TOP STORY

    How to make lithium-ion batteries last for years


    By Fred Langa

    The lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries used in most of today's tablets, smartphones, and portable PCs require very different care and feeding than with the nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) and nickel-metal-hydride (Ni-MH) batteries used in earlier devices. In fact, proper care of a Li-ion battery can result in as much as 15 times longer service life than with an improperly cared-for battery. Here's how to make sure that your expensive Li-ion batteries last as long as possible in all your portable devices.

    The full text of this column is posted at windowssecrets.com/top-story/how-to-make-lithium-ion-batteries-last-for-years (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.

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    Nice article. The conclusion is that batteryies and their charging is rocket science and that you're dependent on how the OEM has designer the charger and the Phone.

    My Nokia Lumia 1520 consumes a lot and has a large battery. It ofter runs hot with GPS in a car. I have the OEM charger and wireless car charger. Incidentally the car charger is not capable of giving the juice needed when running GPS and perhaps streaming internat audio at the same time. So mayb I should stop useing the phone in the car: big negative.

    But I guess the tricky quastion es to know how well my OEM did his job with the charger : Id' suppose a company like Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Samsung and Apple did quite a good job, but does the OEM charger
    - have a suitable reaction when I connect it longer than needed, like change to some support mode ?
    - privilige/optimize for fast charging or long battery life - or both
    - have securite not to generate a fire if you leave it plugged in with or without the phone charging by the way

    This is sure something I'd like to know for my OEM and it could have an impact on the choice of my next phone.

    P.S. The issue is present also with good old car batteries, which also evolve. A company called CTEK claim to have the best charges in the world
    (such modesty is normally a trait of US companies). Thes chargers have 8 different modes between which the switch automatically and they even
    recondition batteries. Having a little intelligence in a Phone charger would probably add about 10$ to it's price. Is this a Kickstarte idea?

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    The "charger" that comes with your phone is normally just a USB port that produces 5 volts at some current. The actual charger is inside the phone. A lithium-ion battery is very sensitive to overcharging, and the way that the end of charging is detected is usually that the battery voltage goes DOWN a bit when it is at full charge. At this point a well-designed charger will shut off and stop charging the battery until some of the charge has been depleted. So a cheap generic USB supply might not provide enough power for a fast charge, or if it puts out the wrong voltage, it might damage the phone. It won't do anything to harm the battery, since that is protected by the charger circuit in the phone. The same is not true for things like power tools where there is a separate charger that needs to be matched to the battery.

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    Quote Originally Posted by metramo View Post
    Incidentally the car charger is not capable of giving the juice needed when running GPS and perhaps streaming internat audio at the same time
    You need a more powerful charger. This won't adversely affect your phone unless the charger produces poorly regulated voltage.

    cheers, Paul

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    Misinformation, unfortunately

    ...especially in tips 2 and 4.

    First off, what you connect to the device such as a phone is technically NOT the charger, even though it is often called that. It is a power supply. The actual charger is the combination of electronics and software in the device, and in the battery itself.

    Indeed, each Li-Ion battery has its own controller that makes sure that most of the "bad things" such as overcharging, deep-discharging and charging too fast that the author mentions simply can't happen. Lithium is a very volatile and dangerous element so that the protective electronics is mandatory. Normally the battery also has a temperature fuse that will (permanently) trip if it becomes too hot. Either the author's battery didn't have it, or the overheating wasn't severe enough to trip it but (over time) enough to allow the gases to develop.

    Now what seems to fuel the misconception about "chargers" is the fact that the device electronics can have different charging modes depending on what the connected power can provide, normally low-current charging up to 500 mA ("USB") when connected to a PC or a weak power supply and high-current charging up to 1-2 Amps ("AC") when connected to the OEM power supply. Some manufacturer have implemented even faster charging, called "fast", "turbo" or "quick" by tuning their own OEM power supplies and built-in charger and battery electronics. It's all safe, but yes, faster charging will generate more heat and age the battery faster, that much is true, so slow and steady charging is best when you have the time or can use spare batteries.

    Also, more recent Ni-MH batteries have LSD (low self-discharge) technology which is great.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian Keydel View Post
    Some manufacturer have implemented even faster charging, called "fast", "turbo" or "quick" by tuning their own OEM power supplies and built-in charger and battery electronics. It's all safe, but yes, faster charging will generate more heat and age the battery faster, that much is true, so slow and steady charging is best when you have the time or can use spare batteries.
    Does this apply to Qualcomm's Quick Charge? My phone is compatible with it, so I got one of the chargers, but now I'm thinking that was a bad idea, at least for regular charging?

    Also, is there any good way to distinguish a "quality" home/car charger from crappy ones?

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    Christian is correct. Qualcom Quick Charge 2 is a charging SYSTEM that requires the device (see the list on their web site, such as my Samsung Galaxy 4, and Amazon Fire) to have a specific Qualcom processor and associated hardware and software, and a specific Qualcom QC2 compliant power source. In general he is right about slow being better than fast, but I have used the QC2 for two years on my Galaxy and experienced no degradation in the battery's performance.
    Last edited by doug-jensen; 2015-08-13 at 11:51.

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    Amazon sells a neat device that tests chargers (the power source part) and USB cables for performance.

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    The best performance test is "does it charge my device in a reasonable time".

    The only measure of charger quality is price, but it's a very poor measuring stick - unless you have specialized test gear, of course.

    cheers, Paul

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    I have a iphone 4s (0ld but very functional). The battery life seems to be holding steady although I have noticed it does not hold a charge as long as it did when new. This article informed me of several items I had not known such as no need to let the battery get down to nearly zero before recharging (I always thought batteries had a 'memory' and needed to discharge nearly complete to maintain a longer life). I have also kept the phone relatively cool over the years. One question I have, however is the use of the phone as GPS. I typically connect the phone to its OEM charger in the car and set it in a cradle. This cradle is setting in front of the a/c vent giving a nice cooling effect to the phone however the phone then is at 100% for sometimes several hours. Can this reduce the life of the battery? So far, all is well but since I plan on keeping this phone for a while longer I am wondering if I should stop this 'constant charging' practice?
    Life is short, eat dessert first.[media]http://www.radreise-verlag.de/UBCmedorand.jpg[/media]

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    Quote Originally Posted by cyraxote View Post
    Does this apply to Qualcomm's Quick Charge? My phone is compatible with it, so I got one of the chargers, but now I'm thinking that was a bad idea, at least for regular charging?
    I would hope that they have optimized their algorithm so that you get most of the benefit, meaning to get you going faster, with minimum adverse effect which is premature aging. I would use it and personally would love to have faster charging available to me when I am in a bind. Also, Doug said it worked fine for him.
    Quote Originally Posted by cyraxote View Post
    Also, is there any good way to distinguish a "quality" home/car charger from crappy ones?
    Yes there are indicators. First, if it looks crappy/flimsy/cheap, it probably is. Second, the rated output current should be greater than 1000 mA. Most crappy ones are rated exactly that, or at least claim it on their sticker or print. What you need here depends on your device, but I would go for at least 2 Amps (= 2000 mA). Third, if you have an Android device that is compatible with it, there is a nifty app called "Ampere" that tells you the charging current. You should be under 75% battery when using it, and of course plugged in. If you get a current at or not much above 500 mA even with a good quality USB cable (try your phone manufacturer's OEM cable first), you can throw away the "charger" or use it for those times when you can let it charge 12+ hours. With a good "charger" it should be above 1000 mA or at least not much under. If Ampere doesn't work with your device there are meters that go in between the charger and the phone to tell you the charging current. Type in "USB power meter" "USB current tester" or similar in your favourite search engine or online auction house and you will find them. I used to build my own, but now there are many models, and cheaply available.

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    The Amazon-sold device is a simple lost cost "specialized test gear" that works well for me in gauging the charger and cable performance, but of course professional lab gear would be much better.

    I don't find price to be a decent measure of price of most anything, it includes product advertising and manufacturer recognition--Bose and Monster being classic examples (not of chargers of course).

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    Yes--my QC2 charging system definitely increases the charging speed--faster at first and then gradually slowing down as the battery charge approaches maximum capacity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BarbieGee View Post
    I have a iphone 4s (0ld but very functional). The battery life seems to be holding steady although I have noticed it does not hold a charge as long as it did when new. This article informed me of several items I had not known such as no need to let the battery get down to nearly zero before recharging (I always thought batteries had a 'memory' and needed to discharge nearly complete to maintain a longer life). I have also kept the phone relatively cool over the years. One question I have, however is the use of the phone as GPS. I typically connect the phone to its OEM charger in the car and set it in a cradle. This cradle is setting in front of the a/c vent giving a nice cooling effect to the phone however the phone then is at 100% for sometimes several hours. Can this reduce the life of the battery? So far, all is well but since I plan on keeping this phone for a while longer I am wondering if I should stop this 'constant charging' practice?
    iPhone 4s? You seem to want to keep your old, trustworthy devices alive for a much longer time than average, and I totally respect that!
    Regarding your battery, this sounds much more like regular, not excessive aging. Li-Ion batteries always degrade over time, even with the most careful use. If you are handy, I would just replace the battery for under $30 - you get everything you need for this online. Or, there are many shops (local and remote) that will do that for you. Prices will vary a lot though, so it pays off to shop around.
    Oh, and no, keeping your phone at 100% doesn't hurt the battery, the built-in electronics will make sure of that.

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    Yes, the piece was written by a software guy, and not run by a hardware guy first. The biggest errors concern all the stuff about charging. Meltdowns and fires almost always occur during charge. Electric RC plane (read "drone") batt charging at meetups is usually required to be in fire proof/explosion proof bags! Yes, charging of LiPo batts is completely under control of the device and the external DC supply is usually irrelevant in well engineered devices. Still, you will have "best luck" using a standard USB in a computer, which is always limited to 500 ma. All remarks about overcharging are simply incorrect. All LiPo chargers completely cease charge at precisely 4.20 volts/cell, and that termination voltage is always not user adjustable. To illustrate, lowering the cutoff voltage from 4.20v to 4.15v will double the typical 300 charge cycles of a LiPo batt., but reduce cell charge capacity only 7%. Don't worry about excessive discharge, as all well engineered devices always do this automatically.

    Since I have been thru the hassle of replacing LiPo batts in my iPhones (about $25 at iFixit dot com), I manually cut off charge at about 90% to increase batt life. I find that my iPhones consistently charge at 1.1-1.2 minutes/% of charge. So, seeing the phone showing 50% charge, I would check at (90%-50%) x 1.1 or about 45 minutes, set a kitchen timer, and kill charge myself when I see about 90% on the phone. If I find charge reading 100%, no biggie, it's really taken care of. The admonition to never leave devices charging is simply wrong. LiPo chargers never "trickle charge" as has been done in all older chemistries.

    As was noted, do not charge a hot device and do not leave any heavily working device in full sun. Otherwise, the user actually has very little battery management control of devices with LiPo batteries.

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