Toughbook Batteries: Replacements, Usage, Calibration - Feedback and Experiences

Discussion in 'Panasonic' started by rcx, Oct 23, 2010.

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  1. rcx

    rcx Notebook Consultant

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    Battery-related threads of one form or another aren't uncommon here on the Toughbook forum. Even if trying to use both NBR and non-NBR search tools, trying to find some specific information can be difficult to find specific information due to the large number of hits battery-related queries seem to return.

    Below is a summary of tips derived from threads and posts here on the Toughbook forum. My first recommendation, though, would be to read the attached PDF from Panasonic, as it definitively addresses some things that were sources of speculation here on the forum.


    Battery Usage Tips from Panasonic
    • PDF (original post by capt.dogfish)
    • Attached to this post is a more comprehensive Battery Tips document that could be found on some CF-18 models

    How to use the battery with minimal deterioration (the PDF posted by capt.dogfish)
    • Usage Recommendations
      • The battery is a consumable and, as such, its performance will gradually deteriorate. This deterioration is accelerated under the following conditions:
        • When the battery is repeatedly charged
        • When the battery is used, charged, or stored in a place with a high temperature
      • To minimize deterioration of the battery and ensure a longer battery life, you must
        • Reduce the number of charges
        • Ensure that the temperature inside the battery does not become too high
    • Charging Recommendations
      • Charge the battery in a temperature range of 50ºF to 86ºF {10ºC to 30ºC}
      • Charge the battery no more than once per day
        • Recharging the battery after every small use raises the total number of battery charges and speeds battery deterioration
        • To lower the total number of battery charges, recharge the battery
          • No more than once per day
          • - or -
          • When the remaining charge drops to 10% or less
      • Charge the battery while the computer is powered off
        • If the computer's power is on, the temperature inside the battery rises due to the effects of heat from the CPU and other components


    Important Battery Tips (excerpts from the attached PDF; for more complete details, please read the attached PDF)
    • Charging the battery
      • Charge the battery until the battery indicator turns green only when it is completely discharged
      • Charge the battery in a temperature range of 50°F to 86°F {10°C to 30°C}
      • Charge the battery while the computer is powered off
      • Use the high temperature mode (only for models with high temperature mode)
        • The high temperature mode is a function that prevents deterioration of the battery in high temperature environments.
        • We recommend setting the high temperature mode function when installing the computer in a car or other location
          where the temperature may rise above the allowable temperature range. To do this, set [Environment] in [Main]
          menu of the Setup Utility to [High Temperature].
        • We also recommend setting the high temperature mode function in the following situations:
          • When using the computer for a long period of time with the AC adaptor connected
          • When long-term battery operation is not required
    • Storing or not using the battery for a month or more
      • Charge or discharge the battery pack until the remaining battery level is between 30% and 40%
      • Remove it from the computer and store it in a cool, dry place with a temperature range of 50°F to 86°F {10°C to 30°C}
      • Using the battery pack efficiently
        • Turn the computer off when not in use
        • Lower the screen brightness
        • Before stepping away from the computer, put the computer in standby or hibernation mode
        • Configure Windows Power Options appropriately
        • Recommend against using applications that require significant CPU resources. A particular mention is made of screen savers, and it is recommended to not use a screensaver program (personally, I use a blank screen in situations where Group Policy or other concerns dictate the use of a password-protected screensaver).
        • Remove peripheral devices when not in use (e.g. USB, PCMCIA, external mouse)
    • Things to keep in mind
      • Use the "Refresh Battery" function to accurately display battery capacity
      • Charging time and discharge time differs depending on the computer’s temperature and power status



    Battery Usage Tips from the Forum
    Below is a list of practices that some members have reported to follow.

    Initial Usage

    Ongoing Usage
    • Complete discharging - there is some disagreement on this point
      • Charge the battery only when it is completely discharged: "By charging the battery only when it has become completely discharged, you will reduce the number of charges, and thus extend the life of your battery. Do not charge the battery repeatedly before it is discharged." (attached Battery Tips document from Panasonic, page 1)
      • Complete discharges are not desirable (post 1, post 2, post 3)
      • So...? Personally, I lean toward complete discharging, as that is a Panasonic recommendation, but I would be willing to consider alternative evidence.
    • Constant connection to external power with few charge/discharge cycles may actually shorten battery life (post)

    Battery Calibration
    - Best Practices
    - Problem with battery life estimates


    Sources for Replacement Batteries, with Member Reviews
    • Negative reviews
      • Energy+ / Fedco Electronics: Bad experiences reported
      • BatteryRefill.com - Started out with very positive reviews and feedback, but that has since turned sour. They have also been reported to operate under several different names.
    • Favorable reviews
      • Battery Universe (Idaho) - Forum users have posted positive experiences. These are reported to use Sanyo cells.
      • Success has also been reported when buying genuine Panasonic batteries from eBay.


    If you have any additional threads, tips, reviews, etc., please feel free to post them here.


    Happy charging,
    Matthew
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2015
  2. toughasnails

    toughasnails Toughbook Moderator Moderator

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    Very good Matthew, this would be nice to have in the F.A.Q......if only members would read them :D
     
  3. chingon

    chingon Notebook Guru

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    I've used the search function, but I couldn't find anyone who's done it. I'm wondering if the Panasonic's battery is as easy as old ones out new ones in, or if it has the type of protection where it won't allow you to refill (ala ink cartridges). Perhaps maybe even upgrade to yellow tab standards w/higher Ah cells?

    Am I crazy for thinking to change Li-ion cells on a magnesium-clad laptop?

    CF-29 BTW
     
  4. Alex

    Alex Super Moderator

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    Thats best left up to the companies that make it their business
    They don't even do a good job, and the aftermarket china batterys that I have tried using new cells lasted less that one year, and then flashed red and stopped charging

    Buy original batterys for the Toughbook
    New, if possible
     
  5. toughasnails

    toughasnails Toughbook Moderator Moderator

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    Even if you could install new batteries in it you would still need to reprogram the chip in it or it would still flash red. If you watch fleabay you can pickup good used one's for $30.00 (3-4 hours) like many members did this week. :)
     
  6. Woodsman

    Woodsman Newbie

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    Hi, I'm new here so please excuse me if this is in the wrong place.
    I have had my CF-28S3QGBDM for 2 1/2 years, and I'm really happy with it.

    However the battery life does leave a little to be desired. I get about an hour from 100% to 0%, if I disable the "standby on critical battery" alarm, I get another hour before the hardware's battery monitor forces standby. This says to me that the battery "fuel gauge" is well out of calibration
    (It sometimes says 3-4 hours remaining when the battery is full, then quickly collapses to a more realistic value once the battery goes below 50%.) multiple runs of the battery refresh utility have made no difference.

    2 hours is livable with, and IMHO pretty damn good for a battery that could be up to 7 years old, but it would be much easier to treat the battery well if I knew how much was in it.

    Unable to find any local battery pack rebuilders (I'm in the UK), not too great reviews of the places in the US that people on here have tried, and knowing that either a used or aftermarket battery would also be a gamble, I decided to open the pack.

    I did some research, but no one had offered any online postings as to the proper method, so out came my trusty Swiss army knife, to which very little resistance was offered.

    Inside the pack I found, 9 x 18650 cells (wired in a 3 parallel 3 series arrangement), a thermistor, and a small computer:eek: between the two PCB's there are no less than 10 IC's, the "big" square one with about 60 pins and an xtal next to it, I presume to be the CPU, the next biggest close by is probably some memory, and one or more of the others must be the FOAD chip(s) Thanks Mnementh, that was the funniest thing I've heard in ages.

    Not wanting to destroy my only battery, I attempted no further disassembly, I measured the voltages of each parallel group of cells, 4.11V, 4.12V & 4.12V all very close, no evidence of a faulty cell. I then soldered a pair of fine wires to each end of the battery, so that I could measure what it was doing under load, then put it back together with a rubber band, back in the CF, and ran ANOTHER refresh before taking measurements.

    Before I type those results, the safe limits (ROUGHLY) for a 3.7V Li-ion cell are;
    Max 4.2V (or 4.4V for higher capacity, but with reduced life)
    Min 2.4V loaded 2.8ishV no load (difference varies with internal resistance, ie size, condition, temp etc....... as well as the size of the load)

    Here is what I got (in brackets is 1/3V ie Voltage per cell)

    Charging ended @ 12.4V (4.13V) I then unplugged the AC power.
    0% indicated @ 11.39V (3.80V) still above quoted voltage:confused:
    Forced standby @ 9.33V (3.11V) This is still under load.
    Now in standby @10.3V (3.43V) Hardly any load.
    After 10 min @11.08V (3.69V) they recovered a little.

    The results I concluded from this is that my battery is worn but certainly not knackered, and that the indicated battery level is so far out it is hardly worth having. Also that the TB's charge / discharge regime is geared far more towards longevity of the cells than run time per charge.

    Compared to the very flat discharge curves of a Ni-Cd or Ni-mh cell, Li-ion's have a large Voltage range, this is why almost everything designed for Li-ion's has a DC-DC converter, even a torch.

    I downloaded a neat little program called batterycare, BatteryCare - Proper laptop battery usage guide but unfortunately the CF does not seem to support the Voltage and current monitoring needed to make it work fully, and the HDD and CPU temperature readings it gives are updated so infrequently that a guess is usually far more accurate, has anyone had any better results? or indeed found anything else that works better?

    Sorry for all that, and If there is anyone still awake after reading it, I'd like to ask a couple of questions.

    Firstly, when I got the CF it had win 2k on it, I seem to remember being able to refresh the battery from within windows, now I have xp on it I can only seem to do it via the bios utility, which is a pain as I cannot use the computer while it wastes it's own battery:( Am I missing something obvious?, do I need a battery refresh program? I have a manuals and drivers cd from the bay of fleas, might there be something on there and if so what should I look for?

    Secondly, has anyone managed, or even tried to hack this battery programming malarkey yet? there are only 5 pins on the little plug on the side of the battery, and IIRC most makes have something similar.
    someone somewhere must have done it, I refuse to believe that any manufacturer would sell their specialist programming tools to these battery rebuilding companies, or that they would need separate devices to program each make of battery.

    Thanks for the great resource:cool:
    And a happy new year to ya'll ;)
    Regards

    Peter
     
  7. capt.dogfish

    capt.dogfish The Curmudgeon

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    A few have tried, no one here has had any notable success to report.
    CAP
     
  8. mnementh

    mnementh Crusty Ol' TinkerDwagon

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    Almost all laptop batteries (Well, laptops designed to work with Windows) talk to the computer via the i2c bus. This is the same data bus that controls various non-OS related systems, like temperature monitoring and fan speed controls.

    This bus uses standardized protocols and can be programmed to like any other data bus; however, the APIs for each manufacturer's battery are proprietary. This is where you need special software like Smart Battery Workshop. It is free to try, but to be able to write with it, you need to pay; and in many cases, you need an EEPROM burner.

    That cost is why most of us have not pursued this further; none of us wish to spend several hundred dollars JUST RESEARCHING how to save $50 or less (the usual approximate cost difference between new cells and a new battery) by rebuilding the packs and trying to reset them.

    mnem
    Rebuilt.
     
  9. rcx

    rcx Notebook Consultant

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    Previously, the first post in this thread was primarily a list of links to other threads, but I have updated this first post in an effort to encapsulate and summarize the battery recommendations and tips from two different Panasonic documents plus the threads on this forum to (hopefully) provide an easier-to-use point of reference.

    I hope I have captured everything correctly, but if any modifications need to be made, just post back or PM.


    Thank you!
     
  10. RuggedSolutions

    RuggedSolutions Notebook Consultant

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    This is just what I was looking for as to info on batteries.

    I have sent out tons of batteries and had them refilled with new cells but
    the result is terrible. I have found it better to buy even a generic battery
    as they work better then the re-celled units. For the customers willing to pay for the original I buy from Heartland.

    But it also come down to how the battery is used. I have customers that buy a new battery but the laptop sits on a power source for a year or so and then when they want to use the battery it's capacity is less then half it should be. This is due to the constant charging/disscharging. It's best to remove the battery when it's full and store it until needed I think. I have batteries in my hardware that are more then 4 years old and they still hold a good charge.
     
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