Battery Testing Equipment

Over time I have used various testing methods that involved various types of equipment. At this point I have matured my processes to used a select few pieces of hardware that are consistent and reliable. I know there may be better commercial products out there, but I like these because I can talk to the their makers and they are open source.

Here is a breakdown of what I used for my current testing:

USB Cables:
Early on in the testing I found that these little buggers are not all created equal. I found that just like the batteries themselves, the good ones can be crap and the cheap ones can be good. What I mean here is that some cables would max out at a 0.5A (500mA) current even if both the source power supply and receiving devices were capable of more. There is actually a reason for this after all, the USB 1.1 and 2.0 standards cite the current needed for a standard data device max at 0.5A (500mA). Therefore all USB cables were first tested to ensure they would fully support a minimum of 2.1A (2100mA).

USBTester 2.0

Fried Circuits USB Tester 2.0 Bundle with OLED Display

USB Tester
Fried Circuits makes a USB Tester device is designed specifically to display the Amperage, Voltage, and Wattage that is being pulled through a USB cable. I started using thisto be able more accurately read the Amp/Volt/Watt details and by design of the USB Tester itself is perfect for this. It is designed with pins allowing you to easily validate the numbers with a Digital Multi-meter (DMM) to ensure the Tester is working and accurate. I never once had an issue with accuracy and i have done comparisons against a DMM roughly a dozen times. The problem I found after starting to use this was since my original tests were using a cell phone as the “load”, the USB Tester showed me the wide range of current drawn by a cell phone battery during its charge cycle (LiPo charging details in this contexts are out of the scope of this page). This meant that since it varied so much I could not log this data properly and get a true total for each test. This is what sent me after a Constant current load generator. I search around for ways to build a device and there are a few guides to do similiar things but then i found the device i needed and the details on that are next.

More Info on the USB Tester can be found at: Fried Circuits

 

Arachnid Labs Re:Load 2

Re:Load 2 Constant Load Device

Adjustable constant-current load generator

The final key piece of equipment needed for consistent testing is a device that can apply a very specific amount of load to the device being tested. For this i turned to Arachnid Labs which has the Re:Load 2 device that serves this purpose. What this device does, is allow me to turn a dial and create a load from 1mA up to ~3000mA and put it on the battery. I will run that load from the moment I plug it in to the moment the battery turns off. the USB tester sites between the Re:Load and the batter to allow me to regularly check and monitor the load on the battery and make any adjustments needed. Occasionally the voltage on the battery will shift slightly causing the actual load being pulled to change. While it doesn’t happen often the USB Tester lets me check for this and either correct for it, or invalidate the test so it can be re-tested again at a later date. I have a couple of the Re:Load devices 2 that are rated for 3A and 1 that is rated for up to 6A. The larger heat sink is needed to dissipate the additional heat. When testing batteries you never need more than the 3 Amp unit as most batteries will flake out above 2.5A anyways.

More info on the Re:Load2 can be found here: Arachnid Labs

La Crosse BC1000

La Crosse Technology BC1000 Alpha Power Battery Charger

Standard Battery Tester/Charger
In order to test out standard AA and AAA cell I choose to go with one of the leading consumer units available today which is the La Crosse BC1000 Alpha Power Battery Charger. I wont go into all of the details of this device but it works extremely well for the the testing we needed to do on standard battery cells. This charger works with both  NiMH and NiCd rechargeable batteries but is limited to the AA & AAA sizes. The good news is that this tester does everything that needed and is much simpler to manage than the what i would normally go through with testing of the larger LiPo batteries.

More info on the La Crosse BC1000 can be found here: BC1000

Disclaimer
I have talked with Nick from Arachnid Labs a bit about his product and the work done here and have provided him info to helpfully help him with his future versions. Please check out his website and follow his info as he has some cool new stuff in the works.

Additionally i have also worked closely with Will from Fried Circuits on the USB Tester, testing of software and hardware and provided input on future versions. In fact Will is part of the team here and has helped with this website and may be doing guest articles. Regardless him and I will be working closely on this site and his products. I would also recoemend Following Wills work at his blog, he also has a lot going on, new products int he works and a fairly active blog on many different topics.

In closing, I have not received any free products or compensation in exchange for promoste either Fried Circuits or Arachnid Labs products. I chose to used them because they were Open Source and best suited the testing needs.

– Rob
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