When Battery Rebuilds Go Wrong: Understanding BMSs, Spot Welders, And Safety

Batteries are amazing. Batteries are horrible. Batteries are a necessary evil in today’s world of portable everything. If you’re reading this sentence, even if it’s not on a mobile device, somewhere there is a battery involved. They’re that ubiquitous. There’s another thing batteries are: Expensive! And at $350 each for a specialized battery, [Linus] of Linus Tech Tips decided to take battery repair into his own hands.

Rather than do a quick how-to video about putting new cells in an old enclosure, [Linus] does a deep dive into the equipment, skills, and safety measures needed when dealing with Lithium Ion cells. And if you watch the video through, you’ll even get to see those safety measures put to good use!

The real meat of the video comes toward the end however, with its explanation of the different Battery Management Systems (BMS), and a discussion of the difficulty of doing battery repair correctly and safely. Lastly, the video covers something a bit more sinister: Batteries that are made to resist being repaired with new cells; DRM for batteries, so to speak.

Overall we found the video informative, and we hope you do too. You might also enjoy this peek into the chemistry behind your favorite battery types.

Continue reading “When Battery Rebuilds Go Wrong: Understanding BMSs, Spot Welders, And Safety”

Screenshot from the video in question, showing 12:54 of the video, demonstrating how the electrons are being exchanged when circuit is completed

Li-ion Battery Low-Level Intricacies Explained Excellently

There’s a lot of magic in Lithium-ion batteries that we typically take for granted and don’t dig deeper into. Why is the typical full charge voltage 4.2 V and not the more convenient 5 V, why is CC/CV charging needed, and what’s up with all the fires? [The Limiting Factor] released a video that explains the low-level workings of Lithium-ion batteries in a very accessible way – specifically going into ion and electron ion exchange happening between the anode and the cathode, during both the charge and the discharge cycle. The video’s great illustrative power comes from an impressively sized investment of animation, script-writing and narration work – [The Limiting Factor] describes the effort as “16 months of animation design”, and this is no typical “whiteboard sketch” explainer video.

This is 16 minutes of pay-full-attention learning material that will have you glued to your screen, and the only reason it doesn’t explain every single thing about Lithium-ion batteries is because it’s that extensive of a topic, it would require a video series when done in a professional format like this. Instead, this is an excellent intro to help you build a core of solid understanding when it comes to Li-ion battery internals, elaborating on everything that’s relevant to the level being explored – be it the SEI layer and the organic additives, or the nitty-gritty of the ion and electron exchange specifics. We can’t help but hope that more videos like this one are coming soon (or as soon as they realistically can), expanding our understanding of all the other levels of a Li-ion battery cell.

Last video from [The Limiting Factor] was an 1-hour banger breaking down all the decisions made in a Tesla Battery Day presentation in similarly impressive level of detail, and we appreciate them making a general-purpose insight video – lately, it’s become clear we need to go more in-depth on such topics. This year, we’ve covered a great comparison between supercapacitors and batteries and suitable applications for each one of those, as well as explained the automakers’ reluctance to make their own battery cells. In 2020, we did a breakdown of alternate battery chemistries that aim to replace Li-ion in some of its important applications, so if this topic catches your attention, check those articles out, too!

Continue reading “Li-ion Battery Low-Level Intricacies Explained Excellently”

Ask Hackaday: Why Don’t Automakers Make Their Own EV Batteries?

Sales of electric vehicles continue to climb, topping three million cars worldwide last year. All these electric cars need batteries, of course, which means demand for rechargeable cells is through the roof.

All those cells have to come from somewhere, of course, and many are surprised to learn that automakers don’t manufacture EV batteries themselves. Instead, they’re typically sourced from outside suppliers. Today, you get to Ask Hackaday: why aren’t EV batteries manufactured by the automakers themselves? Continue reading “Ask Hackaday: Why Don’t Automakers Make Their Own EV Batteries?”

Robert Dunn holds a button in his hand for controlling a spot welder

Gorgeous Battery Welder Hits The Spot

Raise you’re hand if you’ve ever soldered directly to a battery even though you know better. We’ve all been there. Sometimes we get away with it when we have a small pack and don’t care about longevity. But when [Robert Dunn] needed to build a battery pack out of about 120 Lithium Ion cells, he knew that he had to do it The Right Way and use a battery spot welder. Of course, buying one is too simple for a hacker like [Robert]. And so it was that he decided to Build a Spot Welder from an old Microwave Oven and way too much mahogany, which you can view below the break.

A Battery Cell with a spot welding tab attached
Spot Welding leaves two familiar divots in the attached tab, which can be soldered or welded as need.

For the unfamiliar, a battery spot welder is the magical device that attaches tabs to rechargeable batteries. You’ll notice that all battery packs with cylindrical cells have a tab with two small dimples. These dimples are where high amperage electricity quickly heats the battery terminal and the tab until they’re red hot, welding them together. The operation is done and over in less than a second, well before any heat damage can be done. The tab can then be soldered to or spot welded to another cell.

One of the most critical parts of spot welding batteries is timing. While [Robert Dunn] admits that a 555 timer or even just a manual switch and relay could have done the job, he opted for an Arduino Uno with a 4 character 7 segment LED display that shows the welding time in milliseconds. A 3d printed trigger and welder handle wrap up the hardware nicely.

The build is topped off by a custom mahogany enclosure that is quite a bit overdone. But if one has the wood, the time, the tools and skills (and a YouTube channel perhaps?) there’s no reason not to put in the extra effort! [Robert]’s resulting build is almost too nice, but it’ll certainly get the job done.

Of course, spot welders are almost standard fare here at Hackaday, and we’ve covered The Good, The Bad, and The Solar. Do you have a battery welder project that deserves a spot in Hackaday’s rotation? By all means, send it over to the Tip Line!

Continue reading “Gorgeous Battery Welder Hits The Spot”

Murata To Deliver Solid State Batteries To Market In The Fall

Solid state batteries have long been promised to us as the solution to our energy storage needs. Theoretically capable of greater storage densities than existing lithium-ion and lithium-polymer cells, while being far safer to boot, they would offer a huge performance boost in all manner of applications.

For those of us dreaming of a 1,000-mile range electric car or a 14-kilowatt power drill, the simple fact remains that the technology just isn’t quite there yet. However, Murata Manufacturing Co., Ltd. has just announced that it plans to ship solid state batteries in the fall, which from a glance at the calendar is just weeks away.

It’s exciting news, and we’re sure you’re dying to know – just what are they planning to ship, and how capable are the batteries? Let’s dive in.

Continue reading “Murata To Deliver Solid State Batteries To Market In The Fall”

Electric RC Plane Flies For Almost 11 Hours

Electric RC aircraft are not known for long flight times, with multirotors usually doing 20-45 minutes, while most fixed wings will struggle to get past two hours. [Matthew Heiskell] blew these numbers out of the water with a 10 hour 45 minute flight with an RC plane on battery power. Condensed video after the break.

Flight stats right before touchdown. Flight time in minutes on the left, and miles travelled second from the top on the right.

The secret? An efficient aircraft, a well tuned autopilot and a massive battery. [Matthew] built a custom 4S 50 Ah li-ion battery pack from LG 21700 cells, with a weight of 2.85 kg (6.3 lbs). The airframe is a Phoenix 2400 motor glider, with a 2.4 m wingspan, powered by a 600 Kv brushless motor turning a 12 x 12 propeller. The 30 A ESC’s low voltage cutoff was disabled to ensure every bit of juice from the battery was available.

To improve efficiency and eliminate the need to maintain manual control for the marathon flight, a GPS and Matek 405 Wing flight controller running ArduPilot was added. ArduPilot is far from plug and play, so [Matthew] would have had to spend a lot of timing tuning and testing parameters for maximum flight efficiency. We are really curious to see if it’s possible to push the flight time even further by improving aerodynamics around the protruding battery, adding a pitot tube sensor to hold the perfect airspeed speed on the lift-drag curve, and possibly making use of thermals with ArduPilot’s new soaring feature.

A few of you are probably thinking, “Solar panels!”, and so did Matthew. He has another set of wings covered in them that he used to do a seven-hour flight. While it should theoretically increase flight time, he found that there were a number of significant disadvantages. Besides the added weight, electrical complexity and weather dependence, the solar cells are difficult to integrate into the wings without reducing aerodynamic efficiency. Taking into account what we’ve already seen of [rcflightest]’s various experiments/struggles with solar planes, we are starting to wonder if it’s really worth the trouble. Continue reading “Electric RC Plane Flies For Almost 11 Hours”

A Beginner’s Guide To Lithium Rechargeable Batteries

Batteries were once heavy, awkward things, delivering only a limp amount of current for their size and weight. Thankfully, over time, technology has improved, and in 2020, we’re blessed with capable, high-power lithium polymer batteries that can provide all the power your mobile project could possibly need. There are some considerations one must make in their use however, so read on for a primer on how to properly use LiPos in your project!

So Many Types!

With the first commercial lithium-ion battery entering the market in 1991, the (nearly) 30 years since have seen rapid development. This has led to a proliferation of different technologies and types of battery, depending on construction and materials used. In order to treat your batteries properly, it’s important to know what you’ve got, so paying attention to this is critical. Continue reading “A Beginner’s Guide To Lithium Rechargeable Batteries”