Battery chargers are continually evolving with the addition of advanced features that have made the charging process more convenient, reliable and simple. The greatest benefit these chargers provide is in prolonging the life of the batteries.
By Potshangbam July
The initial cost of a battery charger may make you think it is not worth investing in one, but it will be a pragmatic move to do so in the long term. A decent battery charger is as important as the battery itself, as the performance of the latter depends on how carefully you charge and use it. In fact, battery chargers act as the catalyst to extract the optimum performance from your batteries, and make them more powerful and resilient. There are some common issues with regard to batteries, such as overcharging, undercharging, etc. Overcharging is generally worse than undercharging. The former results in heat and pressure building up inside the batteries, which can make them leak chemicals or gases, rupture and even explode. Therefore, it is recommended that you use good quality battery chargers to avoid such scenarios. With constant tech advances, battery chargers now come in a variety of designs and sizes. LCD screens in these devices indicate the charge in each battery.
Types of battery chargers available in the market
The slow charger is the most basic type and is used overnight to charge the battery. This type is not capable of detecting the charge level. Such chargers generally take 14-16 hours to fully charge an empty battery. Slow chargers are mostly used to charge AAA, AA and C cells, and other children’s toys.
The rapid charger is an upgraded version of the slow variant. It has the temperature sensing feature, which makes it possible to charge even a faulty battery with higher levels of safety. When the charge is full, it changes its status to ‘Ready’. Such chargers are largely used to charge the batteries of consumer products, and take three to six hours to do so.
Fast chargers come with several advantages, the main one being a shorter charging time. This calls for good communication between the charger and the battery. This charger is ideal for charging weak batteries which have not been used for a long time, and can charge these batteries within an hour or two. This charger is perfect for starting vehicles with weak batteries, especially in winters.
Ultra-fast chargers are compatible with batteries that are in good condition. These batteries are designed to accept ultra-fast charge. It should be noted that ultra-fast charging is suitable only in the first charge phase. Once the battery reaches 70 per cent state-of-charge (SoC), the charge current should be reduced. Ultra-fast charging is effective only in moderate temperatures. It should be avoided in low temperatures as it slows down the chemical reaction.
How battery chargers extend battery life
- Battery chargers are designed based on battery types. Therefore, it is important to use the right charger. Charging with the wrong amperage can reduce the life
span of the battery, even to the extent of damaging it.
- Unplug the charger from the outlet when it is fully charged. If a fully charged battery is plugged in continuously, it can affect the durability of both the charger and battery. Sometimes the battery bulges out a bit because of the overcharging current.
- One needs to be cautious while using fast chargers as they are prone to overcharging. Besides, they use the constant current charging method to charge the battery very quickly. In such cases, there is a risk of exceeding its safe operating temperature limits, specified by the manufacturer. In turn, this can hasten the death of the battery.
Choosing the right battery charger
- Select a charger based on the battery type A charger is not compatible with all types of batteries. Therefore, it is important to identify the chemistry and the type of a battery for which you need a charger. All the batteries do not have the same characteristics, which is why each battery needs a specific type of charger. For example, lithium based batteries are very sensitive to high voltage; therefore, a charger with sharp output voltage regulation is required to avoid fire.
- Determine the charge storage/size Here we don’t literally imply the physical size, but how many amp hours a battery can store. Every battery has different ampere-hour ratings, which is the charge storage of the battery. If your battery is big enough with a 10 amphour rating, then you can consider it a a1A charger. This will take nearly 10 hours to recharge the battery fully. The effective way to calculate the total charging time of the battery is to take the amp-hour rating of the battery and divide it by the charger rating (amps), and add about 10 per cent for the extra time taken to totally top up the battery.
- Find the voltage rating It should be noted that the voltage rating of the charger should not exceed the voltage rating of the battery. Otherwise, there is a high chance that the battery will start deteriorating very soon or may even explode.
- Quality of the chargers Chargers of good quality usually come with safety features such as protection against over voltage, over current or short circuits. What is most attractive about low quality battery chargers is that they are cheap. But the dangerous aspects of such chargers are that they do not have any safety mechanism. Therefore, it is important to consider good brands and manufacturers that provide the proper guidelines and specifications.
|Advantages of smart chargers
Smart chargers are highly sophisticated and work intelligently. They use microchip based electronic circuits that can sense and gauge how much charge is stored in the batteries, and allow a much finer control over the charging process. They come with high tech features, including battery monitoring capabilities, providing protection from overcharging or undercharging, automatic switching off/on after setting a time; regulation of over temperature, current and voltage, etc. They have the capability to communicate with a smart battery pack’s battery management system (BMS), which results in effective charging management.
Smart chargers gather information from the battery, and adjust the charge current and voltage based on the data collected. This provides an opportunity to act quickly if any
errors occur in the process and rectify it. Smart chargers can also be programmed to give a planned and varied output to charge and maintain the battery in a good condition. Besides, they come with advanced circuitry that indicates when the batteries require to charge or stop charging, or how fast they can charge. Further, these chargers are able to determine the quality of the battery—how old it is, which cell is performing better than others, etc. Smart chargers are programmed to perform typically eight or nine distinct automated steps to ensure a favourable environment for the battery to accept a full charge.
Trends in the market
With the expansion of the electronics industry, there is higher demand for battery chargers. The increased use of connected devices and the steady rise in electric vehicle (EV) adoption are driving the growth of the battery charger market. The miniaturised devices and components popular today are extremely prone to overheating, which can cause serious equipment damage. Since heat control/dissipation has become paramount, the demand for wireless and high temperature resistant smart chargers has picked up. These chargers have many benefits. Another factor driving the growth of the smart battery charger market is the increasing awareness about the harmful carbon emissions from fossil fuels, their impact on the environment and the importance of renewal energy. However, the high cost of smart chargers is hampering quicker growth. The demand for smart chargers is high in sectors like telecommunications, consumer electronics, automotive electronics, etc.
According to a report by Research and Markets, the global battery charger market reached a turnover of around US$ 18.5 billion in 2018. The market is further projected to reach US$ 29.8 billion by 2024, exhibiting a CAGR of 8.3 per cent during 2019-2024.