Keeping track of battery charging

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gregh
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Keeping track of battery charging

Post by gregh » Tue Dec 04, 2018 3:33 am

I now have about 30 locos and 6 carriages, fitted with batteries, so I thought some of you might be interested in how I keep them charged. All the batteries are charged in the vehicle and never removed.

As you can see in the pic, I made up a blank excel spreadsheet listing all my locos in the columns across the page and a simple 'calendar' down the page. The blue columns just represent LiPo batteries to remind me to use the correct charger.
I pencil in the coloured lines as I charge each battery. I use blue color when they are charged using my two, Turnigy automatic chargers, and red for my home made trickle chargers. ( I don't really know why I differentiate. )

This way I can ensure all NiMH batteries are topped up every month or so, and track if any are getting so bad that they self discharge completely in a month. And I can check how long the charge lasts on the LiPos.

Note that this method does not record how discharged the batteries were or how much a loco had run. It just shows when I decided that each one needed a recharge. (I have noted in 2 places that the battery was 'flat'.)
2018 batt charge record.JPG
You might notice that the in 2nd last col on the right, a passenger car lights fitted with a 2S LiPo, has not been charged this year. I just checked and it still has 80% charge. LiPos are great for shelf life where they get little use.
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Re: Keeping track of battery charging

Post by ge_rik » Tue Dec 04, 2018 8:54 am

Useful info, Greg. My system uses a booklet with half a dozen pages for each loco in which I record not only charging but also maintenance and upgrades (eg change of batteries). Not as easy to see at a glance when locos were last charged. I now use li-ions exclusively and so find they keep their charge all year. I store fully charged locos facing out on the shelf and semi discharged locos facing in, just to keep some sort of track.

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Re: Keeping track of battery charging

Post by Andrew » Tue Dec 04, 2018 1:16 pm

Sounds like a great idea!

My current preference is for removable batteries, just because my track-record for remembering to charge on-board ones is so bad - my Andel "Moelwyn" has been out of use for years because the batteries have died and need replacing, and those on my Baldwin and Bertie models must be suffering, I haven't charged them for yonks. It doesn't help that my locos are stored scattered about the house wherever I can find space - I can't actually use the Baldwin or Bertie at the moment because I've lost the Tx they share!

When I finally get my act together (maybe one day when I can pinch one of the kids' bedrooms as a workshop/engine shed!) I shall make myself a similar spreadsheet, thanks for the idea! Like your booklet idea too Rik...

Cheers,

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Re: Keeping track of battery charging

Post by -steves- » Tue Dec 04, 2018 8:14 pm

gregh wrote:
Tue Dec 04, 2018 3:33 am

The blue columns just represent LiPo batteries to remind me to use the correct charger.
I am sure you are already aware, but just in case I shall say on here. For anyone with Li-Po's, you should never store fully charged li-po's, you should put them in store mode (about 65%) if they are being laid up for more than a few days. Failure to do so will at minimum cause your batteries to eventually puff up, at worst, well let's not go there.

Two other things on Li-Po's:
Never charge them in your house, preferably always in a Li-Po bag and not in a loco.
Never ever charge them in the cold and then store them in the warm as the voltage increases with heat and will cause at minimum puffy batteries.

I know these things as I had a very close friend who tested Li-Po's for a living and two other good friends who one lost a shed and the other lost a garage to them. Personally, I used them for years with no ill effects, but then I guess I was lucky or they were unlucky, but either way, they have the potential to be dangerous items. I know only use Li_lo's as they are a lot more forgiving in all respects.

Just don't want anyone else having the problems my friends have had, fortunately both happened in the day time and did not affect their houses.
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Re: Keeping track of battery charging

Post by tom_tom_go » Tue Dec 04, 2018 8:40 pm

-steves- wrote:
Tue Dec 04, 2018 8:14 pm
I know only use Li_lo's as they are a lot more forgiving in all respects.
You just got to watch out when they blow!

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Re: Keeping track of battery charging

Post by gregh » Tue Dec 04, 2018 9:57 pm

ge_rik wrote:
Tue Dec 04, 2018 8:54 am
.......I store fully charged locos facing out on the shelf and semi discharged locos facing in, just to keep some sort of track.
Rik
Now that's a good idea.
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Re: Keeping track of battery charging

Post by gregh » Tue Dec 11, 2018 3:59 am

-steves- wrote:
Tue Dec 04, 2018 8:14 pm

I am sure you are already aware, but just in case I shall say on here. For anyone with Li-Po's, you should never store fully charged li-po's, you should put them in store mode (about 65%) if they are being laid up for more than a few days. Failure to do so will at minimum cause your batteries to eventually puff up, at worst, well let's not go there.
Two other things on Li-Po's:
Never charge them in your house, preferably always in a Li-Po bag and not in a loco.
Never ever charge them in the cold and then store them in the warm as the voltage increases with heat and will cause at minimum puffy batteries.
I know these things as I had a very close friend who tested Li-Po's for a living and two other good friends who one lost a shed and the other lost a garage to them. Personally, I used them for years with no ill effects, but then I guess I was lucky or they were unlucky, but either way, they have the potential to be dangerous items. I know only use Li_lo's as they are a lot more forgiving in all respects.
Just don't want anyone else having the problems my friends have had, fortunately both happened in the day time and did not affect their houses.
While the subject of LiPo charging doesn't fit with my topic heading, I feel I have to reply and offer my experiences. I see these ideas offered many times as gospel and wonder how many potential users of Li batteries are put off using them. Theory is fine, but experience counts more in my book.
Most of these 'theoretical' statements are derived from aero modellers' usage at very high charge and currents. I just offer my comments to balance what I consider are comments largely inapplicable to our hobby.

So for my experiences...
My philosophy is "use them well below their rating and charge them well below their rating".

Fire risk.....
Like everyone, I don't take the LiPo out of my laptop when I charge it. I just make sure I use the supplied charger.
And I don't take the LiPo out of my mobile phone when I charge it either.

All my train batteries are charged in the locos, in my train room, and have been for up to 8 years. I charge both NiMH and LiPo - at 300mA which is around 1/8 of their capacity. (Most of my loco batteries are around 2200-2400 mAh.) I have never 'balanced charged' my LiPos, but have checked cell voltages very periodically and never found any unbalance.

Storage voltage...
I have been keeping records of the charging, as above, for 8 years. In that time I see I have charged LiPos 153 times - almost always to 100% charge and they mostly sit there for months. I don't know if that has reduced their life or not. Who knows what other factors are at play. But I do know I have only replaced one LiPo in that time - due to me leaving it turned on till it became fully discharged.

Similarly, my phone battery has be 'fully' charged for years. I am a very 'light' user of my phone and I doubt the battery voltage has ever fallen below the 80% level that you are 'supposed' to store at.

Everyone sets their own 'level of risk' in their life. I for one would never use a gas stove - they scare me.
But my experience with LiPo and discussions with other users convinces me I can ignore the 'experts' and use them safely in the above circumstances.
Greg from downunder.
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Re: Keeping track of battery charging

Post by ge_rik » Tue Dec 11, 2018 7:47 am

I don't have as much experience as Greg with lipos, but I have been using them for nearly 5 years. I have a couple of locos equipped with the poly bag type lipos and the rest have cylindrical li-ion cells. I have had one lipo go puffy, which I've now replaced with cylindrical li-ions and I had one of li-ion cell which went into thermal runaway when I accidentally short circuited it while soldering up a pack. The cell got very hot and vented gasses for a couple of minutes. A bit disappointing given the horror stories I'd been told.

Like Greg, I slow charge my batteries and all are protected from overcharging and discharge with protection boards and also fuses, though the latter are a last resort in case of accidental short circuit. I use a good quality intelligent charger and check cell charge levels at least once a year.

If handled with respect, I don't think lithium cell equipped locos are any more dangerous than gas filled live steam locos.

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Re: Keeping track of battery charging

Post by FWLR » Tue Dec 11, 2018 9:14 am

This is a brilliant thread. Lots of very useful advice...

Aren't all battery's dangerous no matter what they are.....
Rod

Life is so easy when I run my trains. :thumbright:

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Re: Keeping track of battery charging

Post by SimonWood » Tue Dec 11, 2018 12:35 pm

I'm learning a lot from this thread about battery types!
gregh wrote:
Tue Dec 11, 2018 3:59 am
Fire risk.....
Like everyone, I don't take the LiPo out of my laptop when I charge it. I just make sure I use the supplied charger.
And I don't take the LiPo out of my mobile phone when I charge it either.
How common is it for LiPo batteries to be used in laptops and phones? Every device I've had going back to about 2001 was Li-ion powered (though almost all Apple stuff, so not a very broad sample!) I'd just assumed LiPos weren't used for the safety reasons you are debunking.

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Re: Keeping track of battery charging

Post by tom_tom_go » Tue Dec 11, 2018 12:58 pm

I have never come across a commercially available LiPo powered laptop.

Lithium Ion is what they use (certainly in devices I have purchased through work for Dell, Apple, Lenovo, HP, etc).

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Re: Keeping track of battery charging

Post by big-ted » Tue Dec 11, 2018 5:24 pm

The abuse a garden railway loco puts on a LiPo battery is nothing compared to what the drone and R/C car guys do to them. I just bought a charger capable of charging on two separate channels at 15A. It's not uncommon for guys to charge 2S LiPos at up to 40A to deliberate heat the cells so as to lower their internal resistance for added oomph.

That said, I would still be mindful to store at 3.6V per cell and balance charge where possible, just to prolong the life of the battery.

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Re: Keeping track of battery charging

Post by gregh » Tue Dec 11, 2018 9:48 pm

tom_tom_go wrote:
Tue Dec 11, 2018 12:58 pm
I have never come across a commercially available LiPo powered laptop.
Lithium Ion is what they use (certainly in devices I have purchased through work for Dell, Apple, Lenovo, HP, etc).
Do a google for yourself and you'll find LiPo and Li-ion are the same thing chemically. Different package and electrolyte. So concerns over fire and storage voltage are the same for both types. in general, Li-ion have a solid case, LiPo a 'soft' case, so more prone to mechanical damage.
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Re: Keeping track of battery charging

Post by tom_tom_go » Tue Dec 11, 2018 10:11 pm

What I have said though is not incorrect regardless if they are packaged differently.

Lithium Ion batteries are used in laptops because they are cheaper to make and less likely to get damaged.

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Re: Keeping track of battery charging

Post by ge_rik » Wed Dec 12, 2018 8:09 am

big-ted wrote:
Tue Dec 11, 2018 5:24 pm
The abuse a garden railway loco puts on a LiPo battery is nothing compared to what the drone and R/C car guys do to them. I just bought a charger capable of charging on two separate channels at 15A. It's not uncommon for guys to charge 2S LiPos at up to 40A to deliberate heat the cells so as to lower their internal resistance for added oomph.

That said, I would still be mindful to store at 3.6V per cell and balance charge where possible, just to prolong the life of the battery.
I think that's the crux of the issue. The stresses the car, plane and some boat modellers put on their batteries is considerable. We railway modellers are much more considerate and gentle folk by comparison, though I've not yet reached the stage where I give my batteries names. Mind you, I have noticed some of them have distinct personalities. :shock: :D

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