Charging batteries rapidly and safely
Any hobbyist can charge a battery quickly, but can you do it without an explosion, excessive heating or major degradation in battery cycle life?
Well many companies have managed fast charging techniques that typically use specialized algorithms. These algorithms take into account the chemistry of the battery and some sort of non-standard charging rate curve. Many device manufacturers and wireless operators are now providing a minimum two-year warranty on smart phone devices setting 800 cycles as the battery cycle life of the battery.
I have yet to see many, if any, published lifetime test results from any fast charger supplier with popular battery types. One of these companies willing to publish life tests is Chargetek. They, in conjunction with Potential Difference, Inc., have managed to safely return a 51% charge in 25 minutes. Their technique is based upon proven patents, chemical analysis, and the all-important confirmation of the technology by extensive testing.
Their technique uses batteries ranging from Lithium Ion 18650 cells to 20,000Ahr batteries. Their technique is also applicable for lead-based batteries like Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM), Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) and maintenance free. Lithium cobalt oxide and Lithium iron phosphate are also able to use this rapid charge technique.
I spoke to Lou Josephs, CEO of Chargetek and we discussed their proprietary software that can be customized for the customer’s application. One nice feature of their patented and proven algorithm is that they can rapid charge two large battery banks from a single charger. Each bank will be independently regulated.
Josephs explains how this works:
The battery charger has two ports, one for each battery pack. Battery pack 1 and battery pack 2 are alternately charged and discharged. In the figure below, the battery voltage curve is depicted in green, the battery charging current is depicted in red and the battery discharge current is depicted in purple. See Figure 1.
Figure 1: Battery pack 1 and battery pack 2 are alternately charged and discharged. In the figure below, the battery voltage curve is depicted in green, the battery charging current is depicted in red and the battery discharge current is depicted in purple. (Image courtesy of Chargetek)
A positive voltage slope (voltage increase) is generated during charge. A negative slope (voltage decrease) is generated during discharge. The flat area is the rest period of the charging cycle. The positive charging current amplitude can be three to four times the magnitude of a conventional charger due to our patented algorithm.
The industry standard charging current is based upon the amp hour (Ahr) rating of the battery and is denoted by C. For example, if each battery pack Is 500Ahr, then the standard charge rate would be in the range of C/3 - C/5 resulting in a charging current range of 100 – 170 amps. There would be variations depending upon the characteristics of a particular battery.
For this particular application, the charge current would be set to 2C (1000A) with a 50% duty cycle resulting in a charge rate of C or 500 amps. The discharge current would subtract from this slightly. The resulting charge time would be approximately 1.1 hours. This charge time is two to three times faster than what would be attainable using a conventional charger. With a conventional charger, the charge current would be limited to a maximum of C/3 or 170 amps.
The cost savings would be significant since there is only one charger required for two battery packs. In addition, at least twice as many battery packs could be charged in the same time. In summary, our charger has four times the charge capacity of a conventional charger.