Friday, February 1, 2013

Lithium Battery Information

Many of you know that a tiny Lithium battery has grounded the long awaited Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The reason is that Lithium batteries can explode and catch on fire at high altitudes.  

International shippers have long known that you should never, ever, ever. ship a charged Lithium battery by air.  This is why batteries are always (or should be) shipped uncharged, which brings us to the reason for sharing this information with you.

We are not in the airplane business, although I once worked for Boeing.  We are in the wireless communications business which now uses Lithium batteries as the preferred alternative (in most cases) to Nickel-Cadmium or Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries.  The  main reason being based on the assumption that Lithium batteries do not lose capacity due to improper charging.  The fact is that Lithium batteries DO lose capacity, but not in the same way as a Ni-Cd battery.

We have received a number of warranty claims involving Lithium batteries lately.  In most cases, we found the reason was the result of improper charging, so we thought it might be helpful to tell you how to properly charge a Lithium battery.  First you first get your new pager or portable radio, turn it on and let the battery run all the way down.  It may be dead on arrival or shipped with minimal charging for testing purposes.  In any event, let the battery go completely dead.  Then turn the device off and charge the battery for 48 hours to make sure that you have it fully charged.  This creates a "memory".

Unlike a Ni-Cd battery, we can teach a Lithium battery to have a long memory by subjecting it to a long charge, the exact opposite of what happens with overcharging of a Ni-Cd battery.  If you don't initially charge a Lithium battery to full capacity, if will base it's capacity on the amount of time it has been charged.  If you charge the battery for only a few hours and put your radio or device in service, you are almost certain to have battery problems.  

Fortunately, if you have already improperly charged a battery, the condition can be reversed by following the same procedure applicable to the first time use of a new battery.  Totally deplete the battery, turn the device off, and charge for 48 hours.  Thereafter, the normal charge cycle recommended by the manufacturer (typically 3 to 8 hours) will be sufficient.

Charge a battery correctly and it will give you years of reliable service.  Otherwise, keep in mind that if it can ground a 787, it can also let you down when you need it.  We don't want that to happen!  By the way, if you need replacement batteries, give us a call at 800.489.2611.  We offer nothing but the best quality batteries at fair and affordable prices.