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Information on battery capacity

The energy stored in a battery (or its capacity) is expressed in watt-hours (Wh). For historical reasons, the rated
voltage in volts (V) and the charge in ampere-hours (Ah) are sometimes also stated. In this case, the energy stored
in the battery is calculated by multiplying the voltage by the charge.
Unfortunately, there are very few areas of technology where manufacturer's data are as confusing as with battery
capacity. For example, you might think that a battery specified as 12 V and 100 Ah, which therefore stores 1200
Wh of energy in nominal terms, should be able to deliver 100 A of current, or 1200 W of power, for one hour.
However, you would be wrong.
As a result of the internal resistance of the battery, the available capacity falls off with rising current. This effect is
especially dramatic in the case of lead-acid batteries. Here, the discharging time t is not inversely proportional to
the current I but falls off as an exponential function of the current, on the basis of the formula:

The exponential coefficient is referred to as the Peukert constant and is between 1.2 and 1.3 in the case of leadacid batteries (with the exception of coiled pure lead batteries, which have a Peukert constant of about 1.15). In
the case of lithium batteries, the Peukert constant is lower than 1.05.
Most of the capacities quoted for lead-acid batteries are based on very long discharge times (i.e. very low
discharge currents), typically 20 hours (C20 values) or 100 hours (C100 values). In other words, a battery with a
C20 capacity of 100 Ah could deliver 5 A for 20 hours. This current value is much too low for an electrically
powered boat. If the battery is discharged at 100 A, it will be fully discharged after only 25 to 35 minutes
(depending on the battery quality). The rule of thumb for electric boat operators is therefore to take on board at
least twice the battery capacity that would apparently be needed on the basis of the nominal values. The operative
words here are "at least" because the service life of a lead-acid battery falls off dramatically if it is almost fully
discharged. Most of the cycle figures quoted for lead-acid batteries are based on a depth of discharge (DoD) of
only 50 50 %. Deeper discharging dramatically reduces the service life of the battery, expressed in cycle
numbers.
These effects are summarized with the table below, which compare them with a Torqeedo lithium battery. In
order to allow comparisons not limited to a specific battery size, the discharge current is normally referred to the
battery charge. In the case of a 100 Ah battery, a discharge current of 100 A is also referred to as "1C", a current
of 50 A as "0.5C" and a current of 150 A as "1.5C". In the case of a 200 Ah battery, a current of 100 A would be
"0.5C", etc. Here, you need to pay attention: a figure followed by "C" refers to a current while a figure preceded
by a "C" indicates the discharge time to which the capacity refers. A C100 capacity figure of 240 Ah therefore
means that the battery has a capacity of 240 Ah if the discharge time is 100 hours. (On the other hand, 100C
would refer to a discharge current of 24,000 A with the same battery!)
The capacity figures for Torqeedo lithium batteries are quoted at a 1C discharge current and the service life
figures refer to 100 % DoD. The figures clearly show that only about half the nominal capacity of a lead-acid
battery is actually available at a discharge current of 1C; if you want to reach the nominal service life of 500
cycles, only about a quarter of the capacity is available. (Table 1)
To take an example, a Cruise 2.0 at full throttle takes a current of 83 A from a 24 V battery (two 12 V batteries
connected in series). As shown by Table 2, one hour at full throttle would call for a nominal charge of 252 Ah in
the case of lead-acid batteries. A 12 V, 250 Ah lead-acid battery weighs about 80 kg. In our example, a total
battery weight of at least two times 80 kg, or 160 kg would e needed. With a Power 26-104, which has a nominal
voltage of 25.9 V and a charge of 104 A, but weighs only 25 kg, the Cruise 2.0 could even be operated at full
throttle for 1 hour and 20 minutes. The Power 26-104 therefore allows dramatic weight savings in typical
propulsion applications.

Available capacity in % of nominal capacity


Current in C
Lead-acid
Lead-acid
Torqeedo lithium batteries
Peukert correction
Service life correction
500 cycles
800 cycles
0,01
150%
90%
126%
0,05
100%
60%
116%
0,10
84%
50%
112%
0,20
71%
42%
108%
0,30
64%
38%
106%
0,40
59%
36%
105%
0,50
56%
34%
104%
0,60
54%
32%
103%
0,70
52%
31%
102%
0,80
50%
30%
101%
0,90
49%
29%
101%
1,00
47%
28%
100%
1,10
46%
28%
100%
1,20
45%
27%
99%
1,30
44%
27%
99%
1,40
43%
26%
98%
1,50
43%
26%
98%
1,60
42%
25%
98%
1,70
41%
25%
97%
1,80
41%
24%
97%
1,90
40%
24%
97%
2,00
40%
24%
97%
Tabelle 1: Effektive Kapazitt von Blei und Lithium Batterien in Abhngigkeit vom Entladestrom
Gewnschte Fahrzeit in Stunden
0,5
0,6
0,7
0,8
0,9
1,0
1,1
1,2
1,3
1,4
1,5
1,6
1,7
1,8
1,9
2,0
*Entladestrom I = 83A

Notwendige Nominalkapazitt effektiv in Ah*


145
167
189
211
231
252
272
291
311
330
348
367
385
403
42
438

Tabelle 2: Notwendige Nominalkapazitt in Abhngigkeit von der gewnschten Fahrzeit fr Cruise 2.0 Vollgas
(83 A Entladestrom)

Current in C

Available capacity in % of nominal capacity


Lead-acid
Lead-acid

Torqeedo lithium batteries

How to Measure Capacity


The traditional charge/discharge/charge cycle still offers a dependable way to measure battery capacity.
Alternative methods have been tried but none deliver reliable readings. Inaccuracies have led users to adhere to
the proven discharge methods even if the process is time-consuming and removes the battery from service for the
duration of the test.
While portable batteries can be discharged and recharged relatively quickly, a full discharge and recharge on
large lead acid batteries gets quite involved, and service personnel continue to seek faster methods even if the
readings are less accurate. This section explains whats available in new technologies, but first we look at the
discharge method more closely.

Discharge Method
One would assume that capacity measurement with discharge is accurate but this is not always the case,
especially with lead acid batteries. In fact, there are large variations between identical tests, even when using
highly accurate equipment and following established charge and discharge standards, with temperature control
and mandated rest periods. This behavior is not fully understood except to consider that batteries exhibit humanlike qualities. Our IQ levels also vary depending on the time of day and other conditions. Nickel- and lithiumbased chemistries provide more consistent results than lead acid on discharge/charge tests.
To verify the capacity on repeat tests, Cadex checked 91 starter batteries with diverse performance levels and
plotted the results in Figure 1. The horizontal x-axis shows the batteries from weak to strong, and the vertical yaxis reflects capacity. The batteries were prepared in the Cadex laboratories according to SAE J537 standards by
giving them a full charge and a 24-hour rest. The capacity was then measured by applying a regulated 25A
discharge to 10.50V (1.75V/cell) and the results plotted in diamonds (Test 1). The test was repeated under
identical conditions and the resulting capacities added in squares (Test 2). The second reading exhibits
differences in capacity of +/15 percent across the battery population. Other laboratories that test lead acid
batteries experience similar discrepancies.

Figure 1: Capacity fluctuations on two identical charge/discharge tests of 91 starter batteries. The
capacities differ +/15% between Test 1 and Test 2.
Courtesy of Cadex (2005)

Capacity vs. CCA


Starter batteries have two distinct values, CCAand capacity.These two readings are close to each other like lips
and teeth, but the characteristics are uniquely different; one cannot predict the other. [BU-806, Changes in
Capacity and Resistance]
Measuring the internal battery resistance, which relates to CCA on a starter battery, is relatively simple but the
reading provides only a snapshot of the battery at time of measurement. Resistance alone cannot predict the end
of life of a battery. For example, at a CCA of 560A and a capacity of 25 percent, a starter battery will still crank
well but it can surprise the motorist with a sudden failure of not turning the engine (as I have experienced).
The leading health indicator of a battery is capacity,but this estimation is difficult to read. A capacity test by
discharge is not practical with starter batteries; this would cause undue stress and take a day to complete. Most
battery testers do not measure capacity but look at the internal resistance, which is an approximation of CCA.
The term approximationis correct laboratory tests at Cadex and at a German luxury car manufacturer reveal
that the readings are only about 70 percent accurate. A full CCA test is seldom done; one battery can take a week
to measure.
The SAE J537 CCA test mandates to cool a fully charged battery to -18C (0F) for 24 hours, and while at
subfreezing temperature apply a high-current discharge that simulates the cranking of an engine. A 500 CCA
battery would need to supply 500A for 30 seconds and stay above 7.2V (1.2V/cell) to pass. If it fails the test, the
battery has a CCA rating of less than 500A. To find the CCA rating, the test must be repeated several times with
different current settings to find the triggering point when the battery passes through 7.2V line. Between each
test, the battery must be brought to ambient temperature for recharging and cooled again for testing. (For CCA
DIN and IEC norms, please refer to Test Method on this essay.)
To examine the relationship between CCA and capacity, Cadex measured CCA and capacity of 175 starter
batteries at various performance levels. Figure 2 shows the CCA on the vertical y-axis and reserve capacity*
readings on the horizontal x-axis. The batteries are arranged from low to high, and the values are given as a
percentage of the original ratings.
Figure 2: CCA and
reserve capacity (RC)
of 175 aging starter
batteries
The CCA of aging
starter batteries
gravitates above the
diagonal reference
line. (Few batteries
have low CCA and
high capacity.)

Courtesy of Cadex
Test method: The CCA and RC readings were obtained according to SAE J537 standards (BCI). CCA (BCI)
loads a fully charged battery at 18C (0F) for 30s at the CCA-rated current of the battery. The voltage must
stay above 7.2V to pass. CCA DIN and IEC are similar with these differences: DIN discharges for 30s to 9V, and
150s to 6V; IEC discharges for 60s to 8.4V. RC applies a 25A discharge to 1.75V/cell and measures the elapsed
time in minutes.
The table shows noticeable discrepancies between CCA and capacity, and there is little correlation between these
readings. Rather than converging along the diagonal reference line, CCA and RC wander off in both directions
and resemble the stars in a clear sky. A closer look reveals that CCA gravitates above the reference line, leaving

Current in C

Available capacity in % of nominal capacity


Lead-acid
Lead-acid

Torqeedo lithium batteries

the lower right vacant. High CCA with low capacity is common, however, low CCA with high capacity is rare.
In our table, one battery has 90 percent CCA and produces a low 38 percent capacity; another delivers 71 percent
CCA and delivers a whopping 112 percent capacity (these are indicated by the dotted lines).
As discussed earlier, a battery check must include several test points. An analogy can be made with a medical
doctor who examines a patient with several instruments to find the diagnosis. A serious illness could escape the
doctors watchful eyes if only blood pressure or temperature was taken. While medical staff are well trained to
evaluate multiple data points, most battery personnel do not have the knowledge to read a Nyquist plot and other
data on a battery scan. Nor are test devices available that give reliable diagnosis of all battery ills.

* North America marks the reserve capacity (RC) of starter batteries in minutes; RC applies a 25A discharge
to 1.75V/cell and measures the elapsed time in minutes. Europe and other parts of the world use ampere/hours
(Ah). The RC to Ah conversion formula is as follows: RC divided by 2 plus 16.

Calculate how much battery capacity you need


I know, I feel your pain. The marketing department gave you a specification and all it says is maximize run
time, minimize the battery size and cost." But they won't tell you much run time is acceptable, how much size and
weight will the market put up with, what cost is acceptable?
Hey, the reason that they aren't more specific is they are hoping for a miracle and don't want over-specify in case
they don't get the miracle. The miracle you were hoping for was a complete specification, but let's get real here.
Your revenge is to wait 2 weeks and come back with Good news, I fit it in a fountain pen for a BOM of only
$5000 and by trimming the power budget (i.e. eliminating all but one of the features) we got it to run for over 5.5
seconds before recharging.And then sit back and hope for better guidance from marketing!
You already knew that I couldnt help you with your specification, but at least you can use the following design
estimation tools to give the marketing department a matrix of choices.

How much battery do you need to run your device? Here is how you estimate it.

Step 0. A little tutorial on measurements of electronic charge. After all, it is electrons (really ions) that are
stored in the battery. In phreshman fisicks we all learned that the measure of charge is the coulomb and that a
single electron has 1.602e-19 coulombs of charge. One amp flowing in a wire for one second will use one
coulomb of charge, which is 6.24 x 10^18 electrons,.
Q = I*t
where Q is the charge in coulombs, I is the current in amps and t is the time in seconds.
The amount of charge passing through that wire (conducting 1.0 amps) in 60 seconds is 60 coulombs, and in one
hour you would have had said hello and good-bye to 3600 coulombs of charge.
Batteries were evidently developed by engineers who subscribed to the whatevers easiest system of
measurement. They got tired of pulling out their slide rules to divide by 3600 every time they wanted to know

Current in C

Available capacity in % of nominal capacity


Lead-acid
Lead-acid

Torqeedo lithium batteries

how long 24000 coulombs would last them and came up with the unauthorized unit of amp-hours. Later, when
smaller batteries were used they came up with milliamp-hours.
Dont be confused by the hyphen. Amp-hours means amps times hours. Divide by amps and you get hours,
divide by hours and you get amps. So it isnt amps, and it isnt amps per hour, it is amp-hours. And, by the way, I
have even used the term amp-seconds because when you say coulombs everybody goes glassy-eyed on you.
Dont get me wrong, I love amp-hours for units, it is a handy rule of thumb. Amp hours is how much charge is
stored in the battery. Since a battery changes voltage during the discharge, it isnt a perfect measure of how much
energy is stored, for this you would need watt-hours. Multiplying the average or nominal battery voltage times
the battery capacity in amp-hours gives you an estimate of how many watt-hours the battery contains.

E = C*Vavg

Where E is the energy stored in watt-hours, C is the capacity in amp-hours, and Vavg is the average voltage during
discharge. Yes, watt-hours is a measure of energy, just like kilowatt-hours. Multiply by 3600 and you get watt-seconds,
which is also known as Joules.

As long as we are in the prelude, I might also mention that since the charge in a capacitor is Q=CV that a battery
can be rated in farads as well. A 1.5 volt AA alkaline battery that stores 2 amp hours of charge (thats 7200
coulombs) has the equivalent capacitance of 4800 Farads. Of course a battery makes an awfully weird capacitor
because the voltage doesnt drop proportionally to the stored charge, it has a high equivalent resistance, and etc.
Also, I should mention that you don't always get all the amp-hours you expect out of a battery. This is explained
in Part 3 below as the Peukart effect. This is why I called it a rule-of-thumb rather than a theorem. The biggest
errors come when you discharge batteries fast. Some batteries, such as Carbon-Zinc, Alkaline, or Lead Acid
become less efficient when you discharge quickly. A typical sealed lead acid battery will give only half of its
rated capacity when discharged at the C/1 rate compared with the C/20 rate.

The following method assumes that you know how many amps you need for the gadget under power. If
you know the watts go to Step A below.

Step 1. Back of the envelope


If the current drawn is x amps, the time is T hours then the capacity C in amp-hours is
C = xT
For example, if your pump is drawing 120 mA and you want it to run for 24 hours
C = 0.12 Amps * 24 hours = 2.88 amp hours

Step 2. Cycle life considerations


It isnt good to run a battery all the way down to zero during each charge cycle. For example, if you want to use a
lead acid battery for many cycles you shouldnt run it past 80% of its charge, leaving 20% left in the battery.
This not only extends the number of cycles you get, but lets the battery degrade by 20% before you start getting
less run time than the design calls for
C = C/0.8

Current in C

Available capacity in % of nominal capacity


Lead-acid
Lead-acid

Torqeedo lithium batteries

For the example above


C = 2.88 AH / 0.8 = 3.6 AH

Step 3: Rate of discharge considerations


Some battery chemistries give much fewer amp hours if you discharge them fast. This is called the Peukart
effect. This is a big effect in alkaline, carbon zinc, zinc-air and lead acid batteries. For example if you draw at 1C
on a lead acid battery you will only get half of the capacity that you would have if you had drawn at 0.05C. It is a
small effect in NiCad, Lithium Ion, Lithium Polymer, and NiMH batteries.
For lead acid batteries the rated capacity (i.e. the number of AH stamped on the side of the battery) is typically
given for a 20 hour discharge rate. If you are discharging at a slow rate you will get the rated number of amphours out of them. However, at high discharge rates the capacity falls steeply. A rule of thumb is that for a 1 hour
discharge rate (i.e. drawing 10 amps from a 10 amp hour battery, or 1C) you will only get half of the rated
capacity (or 5 amp-hours from a 10 amp-hour battery). Charts that detail this effect for different discharge rate
can be used for greater accuracy. For example the data sheets listed in http://www.powerstream.com/BB.htm
For example, if your portable guitar amplifier is drawing a steady 20 amps and you want it to last 1 hour you
would start out with Step 1:
C=20 amps * 1 hour = 20 AH
Then proceed to Step 2
C = 20 AH / 0.8 = 25 AH
Then take the high rate into account
C=25 /.5 = 50 AH
Thus you would need a 50 amp hour sealed lead acid battery to run the amplifier for 1 hour at 20 amps average
draw.

Step 4. What if you dont have a constant load? The obvious thing to do is the thing to do. Figure out an average
power drawn. Consider a repetitive cycle where each cycle is 1 hour. It consists of 20 amps for 1 second
followed by 0.1 amps for the rest of the hour. The average current would be calculated as follows.
20*1/3600 + 0.1(3599)/3600 = 0.1044 amps average current.
(3600 is the number of seconds in an hour).

In other words, figure out how many amps is drawn on average and use steps 1 and 2. Step 3 is very difficult to
predict in the case where you have small periods of high current. The news is good, a steady draw of 1C will
lower the capacity much more than short 1C pulses followed by a rest period. So if the average current drawn is
about a 20 hour rate, then you will get closer to the capacity predicted by a 20 hour rate, even though you are
drawing it in high current pulses. Actual test data is hard to come by without doing the test yourself.

Current in C

Available capacity in % of nominal capacity


Lead-acid
Lead-acid

Torqeedo lithium batteries

If you know the watts instead of amps, follow the following procedure
Step A: Convert watts to amps
Actually, watts is the fundamental unit of power and watt-hours is the energy stored. The key is to use the watts
you know to calculate the amps at the battery voltage .
For example, say you want to run a 250 watt 110VAC light bulb from an inverter for 5 hours.
Watt-hours = watts * hours = 250 watts * 5 hours = 1250 watt hours
Account for the efficiency of the inverter, say 85%
Watt-hours = watts * hours / efficiency = 1250 / 0.85 = 1470 watt-hours
Since watts = amps * volts divide the watt hours by the voltage of the battery to get amp-hours of battery storage
Amp-hours (at 12 volts) = watt-hours / 12 volts = 1470 / 12 = 122.5 amp-hours.
If you are using a different voltage battery the amp-hours will change by dividing it by the battery voltage you
are using.
Now go back to Steps 2-4 above to refine your calculation.