A good approach
to take is to treat batteries and battery-powered devices
like you do dairy products. Buy the freshest one whenever
given the choice. A slightly older product is fine - particularly
if you're offered an outstanding discount - but expect
it to expire sooner.Steer clear of anything with questionable
origin. And avoid buying something that you only expect
to use a long time from now.
are a few things you can do to make your lithium-ion (Li-ion)
batteries last longer, whether they be used in an electric
car, a large home installation - such as Tesla's newly announced
Powerwall - or in your portable device, such as a smartphone
or laptop. These tips will focus primarily on extending
the lifespan of Li-ion batteries, so they don't need to
be replaced as often. But if you are looking to maximise
running time just for this very moment, possibly at the
expense of having to replace the battery earlier, there
are some added tips at the end.
In terms of operating environment, the most important influence
on battery life is temperature. Li-ion batteries are typically
happiest at around room temperature of 20 to 25°C. In
warmer temperatures, a protective layer inside the batteries
breaks and needs to be reconstituted, which sucks up some
of the energy capacity the battery has to offer. And in
colder temperatures the chemical reactions inside the battery
slow down. When coupled with significant power draw, this
causes a problem similar to roadworks during rush hour traffic:
too many cars trying to get through too few roads. On the
whole, though, cold is usually less harmful than heat. So
if you have the choice between placing your phone in the
sun or the shade, the latter is probably preferable.
IT OR LOSE IT
is important to remember that batteries degrade not only
during use, but also when sitting idly on a shelf. This
is one reason why most manufacturers specify not only a
cycle life but also a calendar life for their batteries.
a good approach to take is to treat batteries and battery-powered
devices like you do dairy products. Buy the freshest one
whenever given the choice. A slightly older product is fine
- particularly if you're offered an outstanding discount
- but expect it to expire sooner.Steer clear of anything
with questionable origin. And avoid buying something that
you only expect to use a long time from now.
The third tip relates to when and by how much batteries
should be charged. One of the more widely known aspects
about battery life is the "memory effect". In
older rechargeable battery chemistries, such as nickel cadmium,
partial charging and discharging significantly decreases
the energy capacity. What is less known is that the memory
effect in lithium-ion batteries, if it exists, tends to
be very small. Instead, they have quite nuanced characteristics.
When not in use, batteries degrade most when fully charged.
So if left for several days or weeks without use, they should
ideally be kept at a relatively low charging state, e.g
around 20 per cent charged. Conversely, when being charged
and discharged a lot, it is best to keep the batteries as
close to the 50 per cent mark as possible. So if you are
only charging and discharging batteries a bit at a time,
it is much better to do this between 45-55 per cent than
between 90-100 per cent.
The last tip relates to power draw. Forcing batteries to
provide high amounts of power output or to charge very quickly
is equivalent to both heating and cooling at the same time:
the protective layer breaks and rebuilds, and simultaneously
too many cars cause a traffic jam even without roadworks.
charging and discharging at lower rates tends to be worse
even than sitting idly fully charged. So try not to put
too much stress on your battery at any one time.
TERM BATTERY EMERGENCIES
If you're looking to maximise the capacity of your battery
today without worrying about tomorrow, here are a couple
of tips. Firstly
and most importantly, reduce the load: close apps, turn
off Wi-Fi and GPS, lower screen brightness, etc. And secondly,
keep your device in a warm (but not hot) place. A warmer
battery allows the chemical reactions to take place more
easily, thereby unlocking a little bit of extra energy.
that if the battery gets too hot then the device will ramp
up its cooling system (if it has one), using power you want
to preserve. And if it gets way too hot, it will shut down
entirely for safety reasons. Depending on the application,
typically Li-ion cooling systems kick in between 30-50°C,
and shut down around 55-65°C. However
keeping your device at an elevated temperature over a significant
period of time will decrease its life substantially. And
when your current battery not longer cuts it and you buy
a replacement, you may want to consider following the four
Li-ion is not a single chemistry, but a range of chemistries.
The above is intended as rough guide for iron-phosphate
or cobalt-based cathode chemistries, which tend to be the
most widely used. However, there are others including manganese-spinel
which have slightly different characteristics. If in any
doubt, ask the battery manufacturer for guidance.
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