An Obsessively Thorough Battery (and more) Showdown

Lots of battery reviews and more!

There are a number of resources scattered across the Internet that provide detailed breakdowns of common products, such as batteries, but we haven’t seen anything quite as impressive as this site. It’s an overwhelming presentation of data that addresses batteries of all types, including 18650’s (and others close in size)26650’s, and more chargers than you can shake a LiPo at. It’s an amazing site with pictures of the product both assembled and disassembled, graphs for charge and discharge rates, comparisons for different chemistries, and even some thermal images to illustrate how the chargers deal with heat dissipation.

Check out the review for the SysMax Intellicharger i4 to see a typical example. If you make it to the bottom of that novel-length repository of information, you’ll see that each entry includes a link to the methodology used for testing these chargers.

But wait, there’s more! You can also find equally thorough reviews of flashlights, USB chargers, LED drivers, and a few miscellaneous overviews of the equipment used for these tests.

[Thanks TM]

Hack a Mag-Lite to be Rechargeable

rechargeMaglite

Most tools sport rechargeable batteries these days, but there’s no need to toss that old flashlight: just replace the cells with rechargable ones!

[monjnoux] had a 3-cell D-sized MagLite lying around—though you could reproduce this hack with a 2 to 5 cell model—which he emptied of its regular batteries and replaced with some 11000mAh NiMHs from eBay. The original bulb was also tossed in favor of a 140-lumens LED.

After disassembling the flashlight, [monjnoux] set about installing the new parts. He replaced the original bulb with the LED, soldering it into place and securing it with hot glue. He then drilled a hole in the body of the flashlight for a DC socket. The charger he purchased is adaptive, detecting the number of cells and adjusting its voltage accordingly. It had the wrong connector, though, so [monjnoux] simply chopped off the end and soldered on a new one. For a hack that comes in at 40€, it’s definitely a cheaper alternative to the official rechargeable model: which costs 80€. And with a duration of 7 hours (though it’s unclear whether this number reflects continuous use), it likely outlasts the official model, as well.

Goal Zero Bolt hack lets your flashlight use non-proprietary batteries

goal-zero-bolt-modification

[Harrson] was really excited to get a deal on this Goal Zero Bolt flashlight. It’s and LED flashlight that uses Lithium batteries that are recharged via USB. That’s really handy. But when he cracked it open, like any good hacker does with new toys, he found that it won’t charge standard 18650 Lithium cells. That’s the form factor it’s using, but the proprietary cell that comes with it has both conductors at the top.

So where did [Harrson] start with the project? He called the company to ask about the setup. They were able to confirm that the proprietary cells just have a conductor which brings the bottom contact of the cell up to the top. We’d bet this is to make the flashlight itself easier to manufacture.

He got to work by scavenging a flat Kapton covered conductor from an old laptop battery. This thin strip is manufactured for connecting the cells of a battery, and it’s quite flat so it will be able to bypass the 18650 cell housing inside of the battery compartment. He made a solder connection for the strip inside the recharging compartment, leaving a tail which makes contact with the base of a standard cell.

If you’ve ever cracked open a dead laptop battery you probably found round Lithium cells. These are most commonly the 18650 variant we’ve been talking about. The battery dies when just one cell goes bad, so [Harrson] has a supplies of the good cells which he’ll be able to substitute into his flashlight as needed.

Salvaging Lithium cells and circuits

salvaging-lithium-cells-and-circuits

Lithium cells outperform Nickel Cadmium and Nickel Metal Hydride in almost every way. But they also need a little bit more babysitting to get the most out of them. That comes in the form of control circuitry that charges them correctly and won’t let them get below a certain voltage threshold during discharge. We enjoyed reading about [Carlos'] Lithium cell salvage efforts as it discusses these concerns.

He wanted to salvage a Lithium power source for his projects. He had the three cell pack from a dead Macbook Pro seen in the upper left, as well as the single blown cell from a digital picture frame shown on the right. The three-pack didn’t monitor each cell individually, so the death of one borked the entire battery. He desoldered them and probed their voltage level to find one that was still usable. To prevent his project from draining the source below the 2.7V mark he scavenged that circuit board from the digital picture frame. A bit of testing and the system is up and running in a different piece of hardware.

Don’t be afraid of this stuff. If you learn the basics it’ll be easy to use these powerful batteries in your projects. For more background check out this charging tutorial.

Recycle lithium cells by building custom flashlights

This isn’t a brightest flashlight in the world type of hack (but it does manage to push about 1000 lumens). [Stephen Webb] is finding a use for leftover parts by building his own simple LED flashlights. As you can see, he uses PVC parts available at any hardware or home store. These are a good choice; they’re cheap, light weight, resilient, designed to be water tight, they easily thread together and have connectors that reduce the diameter of the fittings.

The electronics use standard size cylindrical Lithium cells. These are found in many types of Laptop and Power Tool batteries. Often when one of those battery packs bites the dust it’s an issue of one or more bad cells. [Stephen] desolders the cells, and reuses the good ones in this project.

We didn’t see any mention of a recharging technique. Does anyone have any advice on how to top these cells off if they’re not in their original power pack form?

Coin cell battery charger

[Jay Kickliter] built his own coin cell battery recharger. This won’t work on the vast majority of coin cells as they are manufactured as disposable parts. But there are rechargeable options out there with model numbers that start with LR instead of CR. In this case he tailored the charging circuit around MCP73832 IC and chose components best suited for charging his 110 mAh LR2450. But we believe all of the LR options out there are rated for 3.6V so altering his design for use with different models should be a breeze.

We’ve been unhappy with the use of disposable coin cell batteries for some time. Sure, in a real-time clock where the cell might last 6-8 years this is not very wasteful. But in an Apple TV remote that gets a lot of use, we hate the choice of a disposable battery. All of our less-hip remotes which use AA or AAA have NiMH rechargeables in them and have used the same pair for year and years. So we’re happy to see this charger project come along.

Now the bad news. We looked around and indeed you can find LR2032; a rechargeable replacement for the CR2032. But the capacity rating falls way flat. The model we looked at boasts only 50 mAh while the disposable CR2032 offers something along the lines of 240 mAh. Hopefully this will change as battery tech evolves.

Camping light retrofitted as a solar recharging station

With grand plans of tenting out for several days at a music festival [Josh] needed a way recharge his portable devices. In the past he’s lugged around a 12V battery with him, but this year he wanted to make things easier. He ended retrofitting a camping light to do the job with the help of the summer sun.

The first step of the project was to source some rechargeable batteries. He toyed with the idea of Li-Ion cells but ended up going with NiMH because the charging is more forgiving and he got them at a great price. Because of the lower operating voltage (1.2V versus Alkaline’s 1.5V) he needed to squeeze two more into the lamp housing. Here you can see that he just managed to get them to fit in the wire-run area down the middle of the case.

Next comes the recharging circuit. He based his design around an ATmega44, using a voltage divider and the ADC to detect when the batteries are topped off. During the day this is connected to an external solar panel and it’s ready to charge his phone when he gets back at night.

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