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Batteries/Consumer 070329

 (March 2007)
Batteries  -  Helping to Cut the Cords at CES (Consumer Electronics Show)
By Shirley Georgi

Wires, adaptors, plugs, cords,  power strips and electrical outlets are still a major part of the 2,700 booths at CES.  But technology is advancing and batteries and new chargers are helping to begin to cut the cord and help consumer electronics experience a greater freedom in the wireless world.  As Shawn Dubravac of CEA (Consumers Electronic Association) noted, “The demand for lower power draws and improved battery life for consumer technology products is unprecedented.” ( “The Struggle for Power” Technologies to Watch, Consumers Electronic Association, 2007)  For wireless the world, the battery is the heart of every portable device.  
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Figures for 2006 are estimates.  (Data is from  “U.S. Consumer Electronics Sales & Forecasts 2002 - 2007,” Consumer Electronics Association, 2007.) +

Consumer awareness of types of batteries and expectations of  battery life are becoming more apparent.  CEA research shows that one in two consumers believes that battery characteristics are more important today than five years ago, and over half  (56%) of the consumers envision  that battery characteristics will be even more important  five years from today.  In CEA’s  Wireless Product Specialist Study Guide for retailers, special attention is given to the vital importance of the battery --  “For wireless phones, Chatters or Power Users who keep their phones on all the time and make frequent calls, the battery may even be the most important feature to consider when they choose a phone.”

Batteries Power a plethora of wireless devices
CEA  places  its wireless devices in a category of  “Anywhere Technologies.” In this category,  the largest group  bringing in the most dollars is  portable communications.  In 2002, this retail market had a value of $10,917 million and  is projected to double  by 2007 to $20,387 million.   Portable communications include: wireless telephones, pagers, family radio service devices and personal digital assistants (PDAs).

The leading device energizing portable communication is  the wireless phone. CEA Research reports that 79% of on-line adults own one.  Unit sales (including wireless telephones and PDAs)   to dealers have increased from  64,990,000 units in 2002 to an estimated 127,454,000 units in 2006, and for 2007, the projection is an additional 3,000,000 to the 2006 total.  

The average price per unit  is  rising, too, since phones are  adding more and more features (inc. PDAs)  and  new media content. One strong driver is on-portal mobile games.  Telephia notes that 74% of all downloaded games are done via the mobile unit (e.g. an enhanced featured  cellphone). Nearly 17.4 million mobile customers downloaded a game last quarter (Oct.  -Dec. 2006).   Such  newly added features are noted in increased prices; the  average wireless telephone sold for $130.00 in 2005 but by 2007 the price  will probably rise to $147.00.  By 2010, CEA Research notes that ‘smartphones’ “will likely be common place.”    (“U.S. Consumer Electronics Sales & Forecasts 2002 - 2007,” Consumer Electronics Association, 2007.)   

Although wireless devices are increasing in  popularity  because of “on-the-go” lifestyle,  one category, digital imaging,  in “Anywhere Technologies” may be  experiencing a decline. Digital imaging includes digital cameras and camcorders.   According to CEA research, sales to dealers reached an estimated $9,494 million in 2006 but are projected to decline to $8,536 million in 2007.  CEA states that  “no longer will competitors be growing the market; instead any revenue growth will come at the expense of another competitor.”  Competition among brands is becoming fierce. (“U.S. Consumer Electronics Sales & Forecasts 2002 - 2007,” Consumer Electronics Association, 2007.)     
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This market has experienced a huge increase.  Total portable entertainment  devices include: MP3 players, portable headset audio, tape and radio/tape players, tape and radio/tape  recorders, CD players and portable CD equipment.    Helping to enhance strong growth in 2007 are  added entertainment features such as digital audio and video playback.   (Data is from “U.S. Consumer Electronics Sales & Forecasts 2002 - 2007,” Consumer Electronics Association, 2007.) +
Batteries Gain Attention at CES

Duracell - a CES award winner

Batteries are not often honored at product showcase type of events, but this year  Duracell’s PowerFM package  was selected as a CES Innovations 2007 Honoree for the Audio Accessories category.  Battery-Biz Inc., a manufacturer of third party rechargeable  power products, received the award for the product.    The Duracell’s PowerFM  package includes an FM transmitter, and extended rechargeable battery.  The device is said to provide twice as long play for an iPod without plugging in to recharge.  An on-screen fuel gauge allows the user to see the battery status with the click  of a button.
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Deloitte’s Technology, Media and  Telecommunications Predictions for 2007 include       batteries.  The report notes that Lithium-ion batteries are close to the limits of their capabilities and companies could turn to “power scavenging,”  which could include drawing power from body heat, ambient light, vibrations and movement.   (Source: “Environment ranks at top of Deloitte’s predictions for 2007” by Jack Kapica , Globemedia Publishing Inc., 01/15/07) +
Panasonic - New developments for Nickel-metal hydride

Panasonic unveiled the INFINIUM rechargeable battery at CES.  This Nickel-metal hydride battery can be used right off the shelf, without initial charging.  The battery was created for portable electronics such as digital cameras, MP3 players and toys.  In Pansonic’s tests, the INFINIUM retained up to 80 percent of its power after nearly a half  year of storage at room temperature.  Unlike many Nickel-metal hydride batteries, this battery comes pre-charged and ready-for -use because of its resistance to self-discharge.

Panasonic - A new prototype for Lithium -ion

Matsushita Battery Industrial (MBI)  Co. Ltd.,  known for its Panasonic brand name, also presented its prototype developed for  its 3rd generation of high capacity Lithium-ion batteries at CES.   The new 3rd generation  battery has a capacity of 740 Wh/L which is a 20% gain over MBI’s second generation battery.

1st generation battery -  Most of the Lithium-ion batteries used now in notebook PCs are first generation batteries employing cobalt-type cathodes.  The capacity ranges from 2.0 Ah to 2.6 Ah and 2.4Ah batteries are currently the mainstream in the market.  The  battery’s end of charge is defined at 4.2V and end of discharge is at 3.0V.   

2nd generation battery -  Since April 2006,  Matsushita has shipped 2nd generation batteries employing a nickel-type cathode for high-end products .  Second generation batteries  have a capacity of 2.9 Ah.   For these 2nd generation batteries, end of charge is defined at 4.2 V and end of discharge is at 2.5V.  Both 1st and 2nd generations used carbon-type anodes.  

3rd generation battery - The company developed alloy-type material for its anode to replace conventional carbon-type materials for this battery. This alloy-type  anode is expected to achieve higher capacities than conventional carbon-type anodes.  However, it is commonly known that mass production of alloy -type anode is difficult because the electrode can be  damaged by repeated shrinking and expanding during charge and discharge.  Consequently, the battery cycle life performance decreases.  Matsushita has succeeded in alleviating this electrode expansion and shrinking phenomenon by optimizing the anode composition and adopting new process methods.  The life of the anode can be improved to the same level as that of conventional carbon-type anodes.  As a result, the company could produce prototypes of a third generation  high capacity Lithium-ion battery (740Wh/L) with increased capacity and life performance.  

The end of charge  is 4.2 V, the same as for the current Lithium-ion batteries; however, the end of discharge is 2.0 V.  This characteristic expands its Voltage window allowing for larger battery capacities than previous generations. (See chart on 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation battery development.)
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The 3rd generation prototype is under development and commercialization time has not yet been decided. Chart is courtesy of Matshushita. +
Sanyo - the eneloop battery
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 In November 2005, Sanyo first introduced  its rechargeable Nickel-metal hydride eneloop battery, which can be used immediately after purchase.   This was an important advancement  for Nickel-metal hydride technology because the ‘standard’ Nickel hydride battery cannot be used unless it is charged after purchase; thus for consumers,  it lagged behind dry cell batteries in convenience of use.  The improved self-discharge characteristics of the eneloop increases its user-friendless and enhances the usage of rechargeable batteries.        (Photo is courtesy of Sanyo.) +
Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd. chose to highlight is ‘eneloop’ batteries at CES.  This  rechargeable  battery can be  used like a dry cell battery - “immediately after purchase.”  There is no need to recharge the eneloop  when one purchases it.   This product’s main feature  is that it possesses  great improvements in self-discharge properties; even after six months, the eneloop retains 90 % of its charge.  It  retains its energy  via a superlattice alloy.  An experiment performed on Sanyo’s  digital camera shows that by using ‘eneloop’ a person can take 4.4 more pictures than by using a dry cell battery.   Sanyo notes that the eneloop batteries  last three times longer than Alkaline batteries in a device such as a digital camera. Sanyo provides  data in its news release on the eneloop; see photos and graphs.
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Sanyo’s eneloop not only has exceptional  self-discharge properties but it also inhibits voltage reduction even after a long period of being out of use. (Graph  is courtesy of Sanyo.) +
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Sanyo’s eneloop is economically more efficient than  ‘one time use’ dry cell batteries.   By recharging the eneloop, it can be used 1000 times over .  Even under low temperature conditions  (00 C) when it is difficult for dry cells to produce power, this battery displays good power characteristics.  (Graph is courtesy of Sanyo.) +
Extending battery life

Attendees and vendors at the Consumers Electronics Show are interested in the ‘here and now’ technology to extend battery life.  Historically, batteries have had  energy density increases slowly so there has been a big margin between the needs and desires for  portable power and what is actually available.  As noted by Shawn Dubravac of CEA, “it has taken 10 years for  the energy capacity of a Lithium-ion cell to double from 280 Watt hours per liter (Whr/l)  in 1985 to 580 Whr/l in 2005.”  Therefore, other devices and means are being provided to  fulfill the need.

CEA has chosen to recognize some of the companies offering creative solitons  for enhanced battery power with CES innovations 2007 Award honors for specific products in portable power.  Some of the honorees were:
•  Charge 2 Go Power Station by Scott Henderson, Inc.  This device  utilizes  two AA batteries to charge a broad range of mobile consumer electronics.  This unit is compatible with most Smart phones, MP3 players, gaming devices , cell phones and other portable electronics.  Battery recognition software adapts the Power Station operation for performance with Alkaline, rechargeable or Lithium AA battery inputs.  The software constantly monitors and adopts to the load requirements, allowing the Power Station to be the only charging device needed to power  a specific device (e.g. cell phone or Bluetooth headset).
• ECOSOL Power Stick by ECOSOL Solar Technologies, Inc. plugs into a USB port on a computer to charge up a device.  With the power stick, adapters and chargers  are not needed, and if traveling overseas, a converter is not needed.
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The ECOSOL P-1 Power Stick can be used for recharge with all portable devices.  (Photo is courtesy of CES and ECOSOL Star Technologies, Inc.) +
• Eclipse Solar Gear Hybrid Notebook Case by Innovus Designs, Inc.  offers an integrated solar charging solution, auxiliary battery and a thermal cooling solution for the notebook computer.  It is the first  solar computer case with  capabilities for charging  the computer.  The onboard charging inverter and battery can not  only charge the laptop but also other devices such as cell phones and MP3 players.

While unique chargers are  getting attention, fuel cells have not been forgotten. Medis Technology has been  an exhibitor at CES for the past few years.  Its Power Pak works like a typical recharger but when the fuel is spent, the Pak can be discarded.

Although this fuel-cell battery recharging device will initially get consumers acquainted with the fuel cells, the ultimate goal  is to develop fuel cells (i.e.,  direct methanol fuel cell  - DMFC technology) so that they can replace some of the power demands currently provided by Lithium-ion batteries.  Almost all large battery companies, Sony, Sanyo, LG Chem, NEC, Pansonic and BYD have research programs to make this power source a reality.  

CES 2008

So next year at CES  it will be exciting to see what improvements have been made in powering portable and wireless  products. It could be advanced batteries, fuel cell devices and/or thin-film solar technology.  Tune in next January  to see  the future trends in portable power.      
(March 2005)