Lead-acid PowersMultitasking Starter-Charger
The Lead-acid battery - portable power at a reasonable price
With the onset of winter, Xantrex Technology Inc. is introducing a “driver’s best friend.” The XPower Powerpack 300 PLUS (see front cover) provides 300 Watts of portable AC power, jump starts a car, truck or boat and even inflates a tire. It also has a built-in fluorescent light and provides electricity to run a cordless phone and other appliances during a power outage in the home.
The unit might be purchased for just these features, but there are additional enhancements to make the device even more valuable. The unit comes with jumper cables, an AC charger that recharges the Powerpack from a standard wall outlet, and a DC charging cable to recharge the Powerpack from the battery of a vehicle. In addition the 300 Plus unit includes a built-in air compressor with nozzle adapters to pump air into tires or small inflatable sports equipment. Using this device, a car tire can be inflated in less than four minutes.
During a power outage, the XPower Powerpack 300 can be brought into the house and power a cordless telephone for up to 40 hours or a laptop computer for six hours. Its built-in fluorescent light will last up to 25 hours.
The multi-task device is an integrated product having a built-in inverter and battery. Therefore, it can be used to run a variety of AC and DC applications and yet jump start a vehicle while having the ability to inflate tires.
Headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, the Company develops, manufacturers and markets advanced power electronic and control products for the Distributed, Mobile, and Programmable Power markets. It is a privately owned company with 650 employees and revenues of US$110 million in 2001.
Shenzhen Sunnyway Battery Tech Co. Ltd.
The Chinese Company is a manufacturer and exporter of various sealed Lead-acid batteries from 2 Volt to 12 Volts. The company was established in 1987 and has an annual sales volume of US$1 million to US$1.9 million. It employees 50 to 59 engineers with a total staff of between 900 - 1,000. The company is proud of their quality and states that they have complied with the ISO 9002 standard and have met the qualifications for both CE and UL approval.
This country is known for manufacturing small Lead-acid batteries for export. As Robert Cullen reported to members of the Battery Council International (BCI) last May, “most ‘under 25 Amp hour’ batteries are no longer manufactured in the U.S.”1
Through its university system, China has educated a high tech group which has the entrepreneurial spirit to build Chinese manufacturing companies at costs unheard of in the western world. Michael E. Marks of Flextronics International, Inc. states that the cost of an engineer in China, including benefits, is $15,000 a year. 2 As Bill Moore stated in his “Beijing Diary” when he visited China in recent months, “ ...there is no question China is a country in rapid transition as it increasingly becomes the product assembler-manufacturer-of-choice in the world.”3
Costs are an important factor in building such a reasonably priced product so Lead-acid was the selected chemistry for the battery. Purchased by Xantrex Technology from Shenzhen Sunnyway Battery Tech Company in China, the selected battery is a sealed, Lead-acid, absorbed-glass mat (AGM) battery. It is a 7.13” x 2.99” x 6.57” (181mm x 76 mm x 167mm) unit and weighs approximately 6.2 kg. The Model, as seen on the front cover, is an SW12220 (12V, 20.0Ah). This battery pack takes approximately forty hours to recharge, using the supplied AC charger. Using the DC charge cable connected to a vehicle with the engine running, charging time will take approximately four hours.
So, what’s the suggested retail price for this emergency device? Xantrex has suggested $129.99. However, for those who feel a $100.00 ceiling is optimum for their budget, a unit can be purchased without the built-in air compressor with nozzle adaptors for US$99.99. And, in an economy such as the U.S. where the median household income was $42,148 in the year 2000,4 the price might be just right.
1 “U.S. Industrial Battery Forecast Report” by Bob Cullen (V.P. Sales & Marketing - Battery Separator Products, Hollingsworth and Vose Company), BCI Convention, 04/17/02
2 “High Tech in China,” Business Week, 10/28/02, p. 82
3 “Beijing Diary” by Bill Moore, EV World, 10/15/02
4 Money Income in the United States: 2000, U.S. Census Bureau, issued 09/01