Taking Ownership of Your Battery!

The thing about batteries is that there is never one that quite gives you enough power/energy in the form factor you want. It all seems so simple, identify an ‘AA’ cell and allocate the right space and holder for it: simple! But your design has evolved, you need more voltage, more capacity and a bit more power, nothing quite seems to fit the bill. This situation seems to always occur for that big, prestige job. The big, one off buy’ project for a blue chip client. So your search is on, how do you get the voltage/capacity/power combination you need? Time to look at having a bespoke battery designed! There are so many different cell sizes and chemistries that can be used in various series and parallel combinations that it can seem like doing a jigsaw puzzle without knowing what the end result will look like. And what about those extra goodies that look so good in the electronics press, some capacity gauging perhaps, state of health monitoring, communications? Then there are the additional bits that go into the battery to make sure it can operate safely, what effect do these have on overall performance? Oh, and how is it going to be housed, in a rigid case or a ‘softpack’ built into the main equipment? Plus considerations for the environment it is going to be used in, end user industry specific requirements, transportation, the list of considerations seems endless. Your hunt is on for a supplier, and there are lots around. The chances are that they will tell you not to worry, they will do all the work for you and you will get a shiny new battery with everything sorted out. The problem is you will have lost control, even if you make sure you select a supplier using ‘industry standard’ cells in the design. At first this does not seem to be a problem, it is a few years later when there is a need for the kit to be produced again for a new ‘one off’ order that the troubles start. Yes, you may have chosen industry standard cells, but the original supplier no longer produces them. Fine, you will find another source, but then you find that there is a little special ‘tweak’ in the battery designed to give you the best performance that is proprietary to the original battery supplier. They will not produce it for a third party, and they will not license the design to you. You are faced with finding another supplier to produce an equivalent design from scratch. So now your original budget for this new ‘one off’ order has gone out of the window because you need to pay for another new battery development programme along with re-qualification and generation of new support documentation. This is why it is advisable to make sure you keep full design rights over the bespoke battery for your fabulous new bit of kit, and the easiest way to do that is to keep ownership of the design. If you do not have the in house capability to do this it is a simple task to bring someone in to help your design team through the process. The use of a battery application and design consultant will help you keep ownership of your design, giving you the assurance that the job has been done properly and will not leave you with an unnecessary obsolescence problem later.