Why Do Batteries Suck So Much And When Is It Going To Stop?

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Had a simple enough job to do today. Wanted to run the base, chair rail and bed molding in our 5' x 8' bath.
I've a Paslode finish nailer but, since I don't make my living doing this sort of thing anymore, when the extra battery fried, I didn't replace it. I just used this sucker about two weeks ago and set the battery in the charger when I was done, as is my habit. I took it out the next day and put it in the box.
Today I go to fire the bad boy up and got this weak assed response from the battery.
Batteries Suck.
I was an early adopter of battery driven drills, starting with a troika of Makita's and currently housing a similar group of Dewalts.
In every instance I bought extra batteries, treated them according to specs, and cursed them as they quickly degraded into too short useful run times.
Batteries Suck.
Blought myself a nice Dell laptop about eighteen months ago and only got one battery because, with a runtime of about four hours, I didn't figure on needing more. Now the battery runs for about two hours - and that ain't enough. Yes, I followed all of the instructions and advice about how to maintain battery life.
Batteries Suck.
I'm looking into a new car, with the express intent of reducing the cost per mile, so that my sixty miles of commuting a day will not continue to eat my wallet.
I'd be interested in some of this current drop of hybrids, which use batteries - except for one thing...
Batteries Suck.
watson - who is thinking about oiling up the old Yankee, cleaning the rust off the trim hammer, and looking for a good mileage car that doesn't rely on batteries - because...
Batteries Suck.
Tom Watson - WoodDorker tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1/ (website)
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I have heard that the batteries in these hybrids only last 6 years or so. It costs $$$$ to replace the battery pack. The high cost of replacement means that you will not save money by buying a hybrid. Also, the high cost of replacement is well known to used car lot folks... Jim
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They certainly do. Unlike digital electronics, which are improving so fast it makes your head spin, technology for storing electricity hasn't improved much in over 100 years. There's some history at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battery_%28electricity%29
On the wet side of the house, the modern lead-acid cell isn't much different from a lead-acid cell from the Civil War era. The glass tank gave way to bakelite and then to plastic, and we've got gel cells now, but all those are minor details.
In dry cells, we've gone from carbon-zinc to alkaline for primary cells and from NiCd to NiMH for rechargables, but again, these are incremental improvements. Fuel cells work, but despite the occasional blather out of Detroit and Washington, remain uneconomical for all but the most high-end applications (i.e. space flight).
If you could invent a way to store electrical energy which gave a 2x performance improvement in any of:
Energy per unit volume Energy per unit weight Manufacturing cost Useful lifetime (recharge cycles) Environmental impact
while holding the line on all the other factors, you would become a very rich man in short order.
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"Roy Smith" wrote

Let's see ... just since the 1970s we have gone from batteries that lasted at best three years to batteries that routinely have a five-year warranty. Further, I'd achieved 9+ years on a battery in my small truck ... replaced it only because I had the opportunity (free). Current battery is 7 years old and shows no signs of needing replacement.
The alloys used in the construction of the battery grids has changed both the short and long term lifespan of lead acid batteries. Further, additions to the paste, grid construction, grid alloys, and seperator construction have lead to increased cold-crank and reserve capacities in this same period.
Maintenance free (actually recombinant cells) that capture the gases generated during charging, and convert them back into water have been around about the same time ... when was the last time you checked or added water to your car battery?
Typically put, the lead-acid battery of today has a much higher power to weight ratio than the batteries of 30 years ago, but we tend to forget.
I'd say the lead-acid battery of today is far ahead of even 30 years ago ... let alone when Plante first immersed two lead sheets into a mild acid electrolyte.

and
Again, NiCd cell capacity has quadrupled in the last 30 years ... 500 mA/hr size "AA" cells were the hot ticket back in the 1970s, and today you can get 2400 mA/Hr in the same volume ( an actual 480% improvement). Yes, its an incremental improvement ... I'd tend to call it a magnitude of order improvement.
NiMH cells have about double the energy/lb storage capacity as NiCD cells (you do have to remember here that we're talking about a gelled or wet-paste electrolyte, not a flooded electrolyte NiCD cell). Again, I wouldn't call it an incremental improvement, but again a magnitude of order improvement. Point of fact ... can you remember when cell phones all had Lead-Acid batteries?

Here we are in full agreement, if only because the typical fuel cell requires hydrogen and oxygen supplies, and it isn't practical to store either without specialized storage and cooling. Reformer-equipped fuel cells ARE making inroads ... in fact you can buy a reformer-equipped fuel cell that runs off of methane (or is it butane?) to power your laptop today. It's bigger than the laptop, but given an adequate fuel supply it's an attractive alternative to lugging a generator around.

Already discussed that above.

Already discussed that above.

Lead-acid batteries have come down in price to commodity-level priced items. The early automobile batteries were, in some cases, rented to the auto owner.

Here's another interesting factor ... if you plug your cell phone in every night and recharge it (because it was run down by the end of the day), and the battery lasted 365 cycles ... you'd be replacing the battery every year. Many batteries are now lasting well beyond this ... some consumer batteries are up to 700-800 cycles.
To get really large cycles (say 15,000-20,000 charge/discharge cycles), you need only invest in nickel-hydrogen technology. Not exactly portable, since you need a large pressure vessel for the hydrogen ... these batteries are typically used where changing the batteries is ... uh ... difficult, say in a geosynchronous satellite.

Around 97% of the lead-acid batteries are recycled. The lead-acid battery industry has a very tight loop ... virgin and recycled lead from the smelter goes to the battery plant, batteries go from the plant to the consumer, old batteries go from the consumer to the smelter. Can't get that loop any tighter without eliminating the customer from the loop! NiCD and NiMH are more difficult to recycle, and work continues on that front (because there IS a lot of money in recycling these items). Most batteries escape the recycle loop through ignorance, rather than difficulty in finding an entry port to the recycle stream.

Probably not. The profit margin is paper-thin on commodity items ... if we can make $.01 per battery made here, someone willing to work for less overhead will allow that manufacturer to make a bit more profit. This means the other manufacturer can/will drop prices to the point where on-shore manufacturing goes broke. No ... the money is made by recycling, because EVERYONE needs batteries, and ALL the manufacturers need raw (virgin or recycled) materials to make more.
*****
Perhaps batteries suck ... I think our memory is faulty. I've had rechargable batteries in electronics and in tools for about 30 years now, and I find myself getting upset over the lifespan, until I recalibrate.
Energy efficiency in our equipment that uses batteries is where we need to make a big improvement. Face it ... cell phones of even 10 years ago hogged power ... but all they did was send and receive phone calls. As the technology improved, the actual "telephone" current requirement dropped ... but the marketplace demanded "toys" in addition to their telephone. Current consumption has gone up ... in some cases as fast as battery capacity.
Regards,
Rick
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That's a 2-3x improvement.

OK, a 4x improvement.
2, 3, 4x over the span of 30 years is certainly an improvement, but I'm comparing it to digital electronics, where improvements over a similar time span are more like 1000's fold.
I'm typing this on a 2-year old laptop. 3/4 of a gig ram, 40 gig hard drive, 1 GHz processor, 1024 x 768 x 24-bit color display, wireless ethernet, DVD-reader (CD-burner). It cost me about $1800 and weighs under 5 lbs. 30 years ago, some of those specs could be met for millions of dollars, some couldn't be met for any money. The machine that could come closest would fill a room bigger than my house and I couldn't afford the electric bill to keep the lights blinking.
But, you know what sucks about my laptop? The battery. It's probably 25% of the weight of the machine, and can't keep it running more than about a half hour any more.
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apples to oranges
You're comparing a system to a component.
It's like asking why metal alloys haven't improved 1000 times over time.
Nickel Hydride is an improvement, a major improvement so far as consumer usable batteries are concerned, when we find an entirely new way to store energy, batteries will improve again.
You know else sucks about laptops, they're still being made out of plastic that breaks when you drop it. Asking why the case material hasn't improved like the insides have is a better comparison to a battery.
Batteries are bad, no batteries is worse.
John Emmons
wrote:

tank
but
lasted
warranty.
time
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John Emmons wrote:

Actually you can buy laptops that are not plastic, My dell is a metal case and has the dent in the back from a drop to proove it.
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I guess you're not familiar with some of the IBM/Lenevo models - Titanium composite - a long cry from plastic.
Bob
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Roy Smith wrote: [snip]> span are more like 1000's fold.

I have a laptop that is about three years old. Battery is fine. Why is that you say? I usually use it in a house that has electric outlets. I plug the damn thing into to the house current. I guess you use it in places where there is no such thing?     twitch,     jo4hn
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wrote:

Not any more I don't :-(
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jo4hn wrote:

Thats probably the reason. Most laptops made in the last 5 years or so all use Lithium Ion batteries and the MTBF spec is usually 300 full cycles. So if you completely discharged and recharged it once a day you would wear the battery out in a year.
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So how come they don't make a dual-power recharable tools?
...although I'm guessing the answer to this is because a battery is capable of delivering a crapload of power in a short timeframe, which would require a prohibitavely expensive power delivery unit (e.g. massive transformer) for that kind of current draw.
Still, that's an option I'd like to be able to buy, or include instead of the extra battery.
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Tom Watson wrote:

Yes, Tom batteries SUCK. Especially Makita batteries. I've already thrown out a couple year old 18V Makita, and now another is pretty much shot. Those suckers are $70 a copy and I'm not happy with their performance. I have 4 Makitas and like the tools but I get ticked every time I go to use one and it grinds to a halt in a few moments. If anyone knows of a good aftermarket battery for Makita products, don't keep it a secret.
Dave
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<snip>

Yup. My last project, framing a mirror in the bathroom, started simple enough until I went to use my 3 year old Hitachi cordless drill. Since their charger is 'smart' it stops charging after reaching full charge so you can leave it in the charger as long as you want - it won't harm the battery. Problem is - it is so smart, it doesn't check to see that the battery self-discharged on its own while sitting there so it doesn't charge it back up - keeping it in the charger is useless. Two dead batteries.
So, to finish my project I have to use my VERY old 3/8 inch corded drill with the kind of chuck that requires a key - it's also the kind of chuck that sits pretty loose in its bearing - this doesn't have runout - it's more like a marathon. Anyway, it's amazing how quickly one can get used to have a hand tightened chuck and how quickly we forget that the key, which is tie-wrapped to the cord, needs to be removed from the chuck before you pull the switch - that cord got really short in a hurry! Ok, so I'm past that but at every turn I'm either knocking stuff off the counter with the cord or can't reach the damn hole I want to drill 'cause the cord's caught on something or I trip on the cord going to get the spackle to repair the hole I just put in the wall because the drill stopped short and dinged the wall.
I just bought a new cordless drill and chose it almost entirely because the manufacturer promises 'lifetime' replacement of batteries. We'll see. Either their promise is full of holes or they're going to go out of business because...
Batteries Suck.
TWS
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TWS wrote:

What mfgr offers lifetime replacement of batteries? and what's their criteria for replacement? Is there a large fee for shipping/handling?
Dave
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Ridgid just began a 'Limited Lifetime' warranty on their power tools.

It will be interesting to see on batteries. Here is the statement on their limited lifetime warranty description: ===============The Lifetime Service Agreement on RIDGID Hand Held Power Tools, Stationary Power Tools and Pneumatic Tools covers all worn parts in properly maintained tools, including normal wear items such as brushes, chucks, motors, switches, gears and even cordless batteries in your qualifying RIDGIDBrand hand held and stationary power tools; and replacement rings, driver blades and bumpers on RIDGID Brand pneumatic tools for the lifetime of the original owner. =============You can see the whole text at: http://www.ridgid.com/Manuals/RidgidLSA.pdf

I don't know, they don't itemize this in their statement and probably won't tell you until it's time to make a claim. As I said in my original post, I'm skeptical but it sure beats anything else I've seen related to cordless equipment...
TWS
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Check that warranty. Some of those "lifetime warranties" apply to the lifetime of the tool, or in this case, battery. When it dies, the lifetime is up and so is the warranty.

manufacturer promises 'lifetime' replacement of batteries.

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JC Penney lost their shirts on such a deal on car batteries. They didn't even last as long conventional lead-acid batteries.
Bob
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Tom Watson wrote:

My makita 9.6v batteries lasted 8 years. My dell laptop battery still has the full 4 hours after 3 years What are you doing to yours. Years and years ago you needed fully discharge and recharge batteries to prevent the memory effect, but modern batteries you cause more wear buy doing that and I still see a lot of people that still think you have to and wear out their batteries early.
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I use them.
Tom Watson - WoodDorker tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1/ (website)
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