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How do I tell if a lithium ion battery is at the end of life?

Leo Tam , Dec 16, 2004; 08:46 p.m.

I'm not sure if the battery in my CoolPix 4300 is dead or if the battery life on that camera is that short(a few pics and the battery indicator comes on) Thanks

Responses

David Lau , Dec 17, 2004; 01:39 a.m.

All rechargable batteries have a definite live span. After recharging a no of times (typically after 200+ times) they can retain only a small portion of the energy comparing to when they are new.

Battery that can only give you a few shots is definitely not normal. It probably is dead - either it has reached the end of its live after many recharging, or it is faulty.

Manufacturers are publicising that lithium ion battery has no memory effect so you can recharge at any time even after it is being used for a short while. Remember even a short recharge adds up to the countdown of the no of times that a battery can be recharged.

Bill Tuthill , Dec 17, 2004; 12:34 p.m.

That is very typical behavior for a LiOn in need of replacement. I'm starting to think NiMH batteries last longer on average. Some LiOn betteries last a long time, while others do not. Maybe this is what battery FAQs mean when they say LiOn is "fragile". Lifespan numbers are usually given > 200, but who knows?

David Jones , Dec 17, 2004; 02:37 p.m.

If your camera battery is new it could be that your battery needs 'bedding in' - Some types of battery like NiCads require several charge-recharge cycles to make use of their full capacity - not sure about lithiums.

Off topic a little but I have read in Canon EOS that Lithium ions batteries like those found in DSLRs of Canon last longer if you do not repeatedly discharge fully and recharge (they have no memory apparently). It is better to recharge when half empty for instance than fully depleted.

joe zammarelli , Dec 17, 2004; 04:28 p.m.

David, I think it's the opposite. Lithiums require the bedding in process. With NiCads it's the memory that kills you. Each charge takes less and less until the battery won't charge any more. Lithiums will take a full charge after partial use. NiCads really need to be totally discharged, but even then they'll build a memory.

Leo, not knowing the particulars here, I'd just go buy another battery. If you still have a problem, it's the camera. Get the camera fixed (warranty?) and you'll have a backup battery. I prefer cameras that take AAs or AAAs and have had good luck with Energizer Lithium E2s, to the tune of 500 shots per pack. More actually, but at 500 I keep a spare set of batteries in my pocket just in case.

Just my dos centavos

joe zammarelli , Dec 17, 2004; 04:35 p.m.

Oops, sorry David. Just reread your post. Was having a senior moment. Lithiums require a number of charge cycles to come up to snuff, NiCads usually only just the one: drain it, charge it and you're good to go. But for maximum life you must totally discharge the beasts every time...like waiting for that little red light on the camera to come on. Oops, too late! Who needs that? Lithiums will take a recharge afer partial use. Keep a set in the charger and swap 'em out each time you use the camera.

But as I said, I use disposables. Not everybody's cup of tea, but it works for me.

Just my dos centavos

Conrad Hoffman , Dec 17, 2004; 05:34 p.m.

You need to read this:

http://www.batteryuniversity.com/index.htm

All the pages. It seems lithium ion batteries have a shelf life and a cycle life. Sounds like yours might be toast.

Also, though this is probably nitpicking, NiCds do not technically have memory. What they do have is a voltage depression problem, that mimics a memory problem. The terminal voltage necessary to extract most of the energy will fall over time. Your device probably won't function at the low voltage necessary to get all the power, so it looks like the battery has lost capacity. You can fix voltage depression if you have some way (some chargers can) to *almost* completely discharge the battery, and charge it at the correct rate. Repeat as needed. IMO, NiCds have few good applications in the modern world. If you need low self discharge, they're good, but environmentally, they're not. NiMH are great if you can live with self discharge and have a charger that correctly senses full charge and monitors temperature. Lithium ion seems not-quite-ready-for-prime-time, but has taken over everything due to power density. With internal "gas gage" ICs, and proper use, they work well, but no doubt we'll see lots of advancements over the next few years. BTW, don't buy lithium ion batteries without a manufacturing date, don't buy brands nobodies ever heard of, and don't drop 'em on a hard surface!

Leo Tam , Dec 17, 2004; 08:31 p.m.

Ahh, how much would a batt pack go for? I had a Dimage S414 that ate NiMhs AAs rather quickly as well

Bill Tuthill , Dec 19, 2004; 05:35 p.m.

Found a Lenmar EN-EL1 for $30 with Froogle. This is why many people prefer to buy digicams that take standard AA NiMH ($2 each). David Jones' answer about "bedding in" is correct for NiMH. I don't know about LiON, which seems like a research program in progress. Rechargable alkaline do prefer shallow charges.

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