Electronic toys of yesteryear were fantastic objects of desire, but came with the fatal flaw of requiring batteries. Batteries that cost more than the average youngster’s pocket money and for which the pestered parent were usually unwilling to fork out every couple of days to support an incessant playing habit. It’s something [Sen] has addressed for the Nintendo Game Boy, and rather than cutting the device up and soldering wires, the result is a unit that neatly slots into the existing 4AA battery enclosure.
Electrically it’s a simple case of wiring up an Adafruit module and a pouch cell, but that’s not the essence of the job in this case. Instead a huge quantity of work and iteration has gone into CAD design to the perfect-fitting pack. It’s sure to be a boon for today’s Game Boy player, but much more than that it should be of interest to owners of far more devices that take four AA cells. Most of us probably keep a few packs of AAs for just those moments, perhaps meanwhile something like this could be a handy thing to have instead.
Making battery packs is a common pursuit in our community, involving spot-welding nickel strips to the terminals on individual cells. Many a pack has been made in this way, using reclaimed 18650 cells taken from discarded laptops. Commercial battery spot welders do a good job but have a huge inrush current and aren’t cheap, so it’s not uncommon to see improvised solutions such as rewound transformers taken out of microwave ovens. There’s another possibility though, in the form of cheap modules that promise the same results using a battery pack as a power supply.
With a love of putting the cheaper end of the global electronic marketplace through its paces for the entertainment of Hackaday readers I couldn’t resist, so I parted with £15 (about $20), for a “Mini Spot Welder”, and sat down to wait for the mailman to bring me the usual anonymous grey package.
The Mavic Mini uses I2C to communicate with official packs, making the hack relatively straightforward. [aeropic] built a board nicknamed B0B, which tells the drone what it wants to hear and lets it boot up with unofficial batteries installed. The circuit uses a PIC12F1840 to speak to the drone, including reporting voltage on the cells installed. Notably, it only monitors the whole pack, before dividing the voltage to represent the value of individual cells, but it shouldn’t be a major problem in typical use. Combined with a few 3D printed components to hold everything together, it allows you to build your own cheap pack for the Mavic Mini with little more than a PCB and a few 18650 cells.
It’s often said that one of the advantages of owning an electric vehicle is reduced maintenance costs, and for the most part, that’s true. That is, until the vehicle’s battery pack starts to show its age. Then you might be on the hook for a repair bill comparable to swapping out the engine on your old gas-burner. Depending on the age of the vehicle at that point, you might find yourself in the market for a new ride.
But in his latest video, [Daniel Öster] demonstrates that you can replace the battery in a modern electric vehicle without breaking the bank. While it’s not exactly an easy job, he manages to swap the pack in his 2012 Nissan LEAF from the comfort of his own garage using common tools and with the vehicle up on jack stands. The old battery wasn’t completely shot, so he was even able to recoup some of his costs by selling it; bringing the total price of the operation to approximately €2,122 ($2,500 USD).
While that wouldn’t be a bad deal even for a simple swap, the operation was actually an upgrade. The car was originally sold with a 24 kWh battery, but [Daniel] has replaced it with a 30 kWh pack intended for the 2017 LEAF. His car now has a greater range than it did the day it rolled off the assembly line, though as you might expect, the installation was more complex than it would have been with a contemporary battery.
[Daniel] has produced a kit that has all the adapters required to perform your own battery upgrade, including a module that translates the diagnostic signals from the newer battery into something the older vehicle can understand. With all the electrical bits simplified, all you’ve got to worry about is drilling the new battery mounting holes in the frame.
If you own a laptop that’s got a few years on the clock, you’ve probably contemplated getting a replacement battery for it. Which means you also know how much legitimate OEM packs cost compared to the shady eBay clones. You can often get two or three of the knock-offs for the same price as a single real battery, but they never last as long as the originals. If they even work properly at all.
Which is why [Alexander Parent] decided to take the road less traveled and scratch built a custom battery for his ThinkPad T420. By reverse engineering how the battery pack communicated with the computer, he reasoned he would be able to come up with an open source firmware that worked at least as well as what the the third party ones are running. Which from the sounds of it, wasn’t a very high bar. From a more practical standpoint, it also meant he’d be able to create a higher capacity battery pack than what was commercially available should he chose to.
A logic analyzer wired in between one of the third party batteries and a spare T420 motherboard allowed [Alexander] to capture all the SMBus chatter between the two. From there he wrote some Arduino code that would mimic a battery as a proof of concept. He was slowed down a bit by an undocumented CRC check, but in the end he was able to come up with a fairly mature firmware that even allows you to provide a custom vendor name and model number for your pack.
The code was shifted over to an ATtiny85, with a voltage divider wired up to one of the pins so it can read the pack voltage. [Alexander] says his firmware still doesn’t do a great job of reporting the actual battery capacity remaining, but it’s close enough for his purposes. He came up with a simple PCB design to hold the MCU and support components, which eventually he plans on putting inside of a 3D printed case that actually plugs into the back of his T420.
This project is obviously still in a relatively early stage, but we’re very interested to see [Alexander] take it all the way. The ThinkPad has long been the hacker’s favorite laptop, and we can think of no machine more worthy of a fully open hardware and software battery pack.
The build starts with 18650 lithium-ion cells sourced from a recycler, packed inside obsolete modem battery packs. After harvesting 390 cells, the best 364 are chosen and assembled into plastic holders to create a 14S26P configuration. A spot welder is employed to weld the pack together, with XT60 connectors used as the main bus connectors, albeit in a very non-standard configuration. Balance leads are hooked up to a 14S battery management system, to keep things in check. The huge pack is then installed inside a stout Craftsman toolbox, along with a MPPT solar charger module, and a 1500W inverter for output.
The build video is a great resource for anyone interested in building custom 18650 packs or battery solar power systems. [LithiumSolar] does a great job of clearly explaining each step and the reasons for part selections along the way. Of course, in a neat dovetail to this project, we’ve even seen solar-powered spot welders before – which would be useful if you need to replicate this build out in the field somewhere. Video after the break.
Power tools have come a long way. It used to be you needed extension cords or a generator for your tools, but now you can get just about anything with a nice rechargeable battery pack. As it turns out, most of those packs are made by the same company, and [syonyk] wanted to see how similar two different Makita packs and a Rayovac pack were. What he found was surprising. The outsides were very similar, but what was on the inside?
The Rayovac pack was easy to open and had a controller, a thermal cutoff device, and two layers of 18650 batteries. The similar Makita pack looked identical from the outside until he tried to take it apart. The maker had plugged one screw hole and used security screws instead of the Phillips heads like on the Rayovac.