This is my article from “The Scroll” for the October 2nd, 2007.
Lithium-ion batteries power everything these days. Items include any cellphone, camera, laptop or mp3 player. Lithium-ion batteries are relatively maintenance free. However, unless they are shown proper care, they will deteriorate at a much higher rate.
Before talking about the proper care for Lithium-ion batteries, it is good to understand the advantages and disadvantages to using a Lithium-ion battery.
Lithium-ion batteries have three big advantages over other types of batteries. First, they are very light. Lithium is the third lightest element, and the light weight makes it a perfect choice for using in portable devices. Secondly, Lithium-ion batteries have a huge potential for storage capacity, which means that the battery will hold more charge than other chemistries of battery. The third big advantage is that Lithium batteries have an extremely low ‘self-discharge’ rate. When some batteries are not in use, they still drain a small percentage of power, Lithium-ion batteries use significantly less power then other battery types.
Lithium batteries are far from perfect, though. The biggest drawback to a Lithium-ion battery is that it begins to degrade as soon as it is manufactured, regardless of whether it is charged or not. Typically, a Lithium-ion battery will last between 2-3 years from the date of manufacturing. Lithium-ion batteries are also very sensitive to heat, and prolonged exposure to high temperatures shortens battery life significantly. Lithium-ion batteries are also very expensive to make, because they have a special onboard computer chip to help monitor the status of the battery.
So what’s the best way to save a lithium-ion battery? Here are two big tips to help keep them in tip-top shape.
Lithium-ion batteries work best when they are ‘exercised.’ Charge lithium-ion batteries frequently, recharge the battery whenever it gets down to 70-80 percent. Lithium-ion batteries do not need to be drained before recharge. Doing so will actually shorten the battery’s life span. Most lithium-ion batteries will last for 300-500 full discharge cycles.
On the same note, devices (like laptops) that keep track of the current battery charge will slowly become less accurate over time if the battery is only partially drained. To fix this, allow the device to run until it shuts itself off, about once a month, then perform a full recharge.
The big reason that laptop batteries fail so often and so quickly is simply that the batteries are always too hot. To help keep laptops cool, only set them down on hard surfaces; beds, blankets, and soft locations don’t allow air to circulate properly. Don’t leave cellphones or mp3 players in hot cars.
Lithium-ion batteries are not cheap, so it is a good idea to keep them working as long as possible. Just give them proper care and they’ll be able to serve well for several years.