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January 11, 2004

More on Li-Ion Batteries

Since sending my letter to Senator Leahy theres been a lot of press on the Li-Ion issue. The Washington Post wrote Battery And Assault. The New York Post had a story on the iPod battery price. Reuters' story, Apple Users Threaten to Sue Over IBook, IPod, was widely reported in every major newspaper, news web site, and on cable TV News. CBS Evening News interviewed the Neistat brothers about their site, iPod's Dirty Little Secret. USAToday Got to the core of Apple's shortcomings. Best of all, the Washington Post just had a wonderful article specifically on why the Batteries Can't Keep Up.

If the bad press wasn't enough to wake up consumers and more importantly manufactures that this technology is a failure, Girard Gibbs & De Bartolomeo LLP, a San Francisco law firm, filed a class-action suit in Santa Clara County Superior Court, on behalf of iPod owners whose built-in batteries have died. The plaintiffs seek free battery replacements, legal fees and a few other wonderful concessions! I'll be joining this one. Sometimes nothing else but a class action law suit can put the fear of god in poor behaving corporations.

I've been busy researching Li-Ion batteries and their history. Last week, I was able to find some information on the specific people that originally developed lithium batteries and shifted to the non-metallic lithium battery using lithium ions, thereby starting this entire Li-Ion fiasco. To my surprise I even found and was able to speak with a chemical engineer who retired from Sony Corporation and was on the team that created the lithium ion battery and put it into the first rechargeable consumer electronics in the early 90s.

My conversation with this engineer was extremely interesting and I've learned quite a few things from this very nice man who, at his request, I'm going to keep anonymous. Most interesting perhaps was the politics that was involved in creating and brining the Li-Ion battery to market and also how it was never thought it would be used in devices that were used constantly. Rather, it was developed for devices that might be used only a few times a month. Perhaps the most helpful and useful information I've learned from him was how one could increase Li-Ion battery life, albeit by not that much.

Tips for making Li-Ion batteries last longer:

  • Unlike nickel based rechargeable batteries (NiCd and NiMH), Li-Ion batteries should be charged after each use and very often. Never allow them to discharge completely before recharging. However, if they are not used for a longer time, they should be brought to a charge level of around 40%.
  • Li-Ion batteries should be kept cool. Ideally they are stored in a refrigerator. However, they should not freeze. At higher temperatures they age quicker. Storing them in a hot car or subjecting them to high temperatures even for short periods can kill them immediately. (Bad news for hot laptop owners.)
  • Buy Li-Ion batteries only when they are needed. Don't buy a spare battery for future use when you purchase a new notebook, cell phone, or camera for example. Always look at the manufacturing date. If they don't provide one don't buy it! This is because Li-Ion battery's life cycles are almost completely dependent upon its age from the time of manufacture, regardless if it has been charged or not. In fact, Li-Ion batteries irreversibly lose at least approximately 20% of their capacity per year from the time they are manufactured. I've also discovered that this figure is dependent on its stored temperature; 6% at 0 degrees centigrade, 20% at 25 degrees centigrade, 35% at 40 degrees centigrade. When stored at 40% charge level, these figures are reduced to 2%, 4%, 15% at 0, 25 and 40 degrees centigrade respectively.
  • When using a notebook computer running from AC power over extended periods, it is advisable to remove the battery and store it in a cool place.
  • Every (deep) discharge cycle decreases their capacity. The degradation is sloped in such a way that 100 cycles leave the battery with about 75% to 85% of the original. When used in notebook computers or cellular phones, this rate of deterioration means that even in short as one year the battery could have capacities that are too low to be still usable.

Just to keep you updated on my call to action to Senator Leahy there has been no word from him, at least as of yet. But, I will follow up this week by calling and making an appointment to speak with someone on his staff. In the meantime all your letters and comments to me (as well as his office) are welcomed. I really appreciate all the email and shows for support I've been getting, even from people who normally don't read my blog. Thanks!

Posted in Podcasts & iPods by usrbingeek at 2004-01-11 15:43 ET (GMT-5) | 0 Comments | Permalink



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