Battery Charger Basics
Posted: Monday, February 13, 2012
Written By: Gary Katzer
Copyright:© 2012 Horizon Hobby, Inc.
Charge Your Batteries Safely and Effectively
There are few items that you will use as much with many different vehicles as a battery charger. Whether you own electric or nitro-powered vehicles, you’ll find yourself needing to recharge a battery of some sort. There are a lot of different options out there when you’re first choosing what charger to purchase, let alone when you first go and start using your battery charger. We’ve sat down to try to explain what some of the different features you might want to consider when purchasing a charger. We also take you though some of the initial setup steps you may discover when configuring your charger for the first time and provide some key definitions and terms you’ll frequently run into when working with your battery charger.
Peak Detection Charger—A battery charger that monitors the condition of the battery pack while charging and stops the charging process once complete.
Charge Rate—The amperage output of a battery charger.
1C—A charge rating for Li-Po battery packs. 1C refers to a charge rate of 1-times the capacity of the battery. As an example, a 2000mAh Li-Po battery would be charged at 2000 milliamps, or more precisely, 2 amps.
2C—A charge rating for Li-Po battery packs. 2C refers to a charge rate of 2 times the capacity of the battery. As an example, a 2000mAh Li-Po battery would be charged at 4000 milliamps, or more precisely, 4 amps, which will reduce the time it takes to charge the battery fully when compared to a 1C charge rating.
3C—A charge rating for Li-Po battery packs. 3C refers to a charge rate of 3 times the capacity of the battery. As an example, a 2000mAh Li-Po battery would be charged at 6000 milliamps, or more precisely, 6 amps, which will reduce the time it takes to charge the battery fully when compared to a 1C or 2C charge rating.
Over-Charging—Continuing to charge a battery pack when it has already come to a complete charge. This can damage your batteries and potentially cause a fire.
Timer Charger—A battery charger that ends the charge cycle when a set timer runs out.
Trickle Charging—A constant charge at a low amperage rate that maintains the voltage and capacity of a battery pack prior to its use.
Capacity—The maximum amount of energy, rated in milliamp hours (mAh) a battery can store. The higher the capacity of a battery, generally, the longer it will last on a charge.
mAh (Milliamp Hour)—A measure of a battery's capacity. The larger the number of milliamps the longer the battery cell will last.
Ni-Cd / Ni-Cad—Abbreviations for Nickel Cadmium, the chemical compound used in some rechargeable batteries.
Ni-MH—Abbreviations for Nickel Metal Hydride, the chemical compound used in some rechargeable batteries. Ni-MH batteries tend to have fewer issues with “memory”.
Li-Po—Abbreviations for Lithium Polymer. Li-Po batteries feature weight, “memory” and voltage advantages over Ni-MH and Ni-Cd battery packs.
Memory—Some batteries, such as Ni-MH and Ni-Cd batteries, must be completely discharged before a subsequent recharging. If they are not discharged, the batteries will not recharge to their fullest potential, resulting in reduced runtime and performance.
Discharger—A device that drains the energy out of a battery pack.
Balance Port/Balancer—A feature or device that monitors the voltage and capacity of the individual batteries that make up a Li-Po battery pack.
Cell(s)—The individual batteries that make up a battery pack.
Battery Pack—A group of individual batteries wired together to increase either voltage or capacity.
Series Battery—A battery pack that is configured in such a way that the voltage of the individual cells is added together to raise the overall voltage of a battery pack.
Parallel Battery—A battery pack that is configured in such a way that the capacity of the overall battery pack is increased.
Delta-v—Also referred to as Peak Detect or Delta Peak. Delta-v refers to the voltage drop-off that occurs in Ni-MH and Ni-Cd battery chargers once a battery pack comes to a complete charge.
CC/CV—Constant Current/Constant Voltage. This is the charge process used to properly charge Li-Po batteries.
Integrated Power Supply—A feature of some battery chargers that allows them to be powered by plugging it into a wall outlet.
Multi-Chemistry Charger—A battery charger that can charge more than one type of battery chemistry.
Li-Po Sack—A Kevlar-reinforced bag used to store Li-Po batteries while charging. In the event of a problem, the Li-Po sack can help protect the surrounding area from potential fire damage.