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Archive for January 9th, 2015

Pilot InstaBoost: Battery Capacity

The cardboard package liner claims the lithium-ion battery inside our Larval Engineer’s shiny new InstaBoost jump starter is good for 10.8 A·h and and the minuscule inscription on the case truncates it to 10 A·h. Given what I’ve seen for other batteries, either value would be true when measured under the most favorable conditions, but these curves still came as a bit of a surprise (clicky for more dots):

Pilot Instaboost

Pilot Instaboost

The three short, abruptly dropping curves come from the main terminals, with the battery clamps attached to similar clamps (with a glitch when they shifted position) plugged into my CBA II/IV battery tester, showing that the InstaBoost shuts off after a few minutes, regardless of load. That makes good sense: don’t connect a lithium battery to a lead-acid battery for more than a few minutes!

The two longer curves come from the 12 V jack on the side and show that it will run until the battery goes flat. Evidently, the internal battery protection circuit cuts out at less than the 10 V minimum I used for these tests.

I didn’t bother testing the USB charging outlet, as I assume it would produce 5 V at 1 A for slightly less than twice as long.

Under the most favorable conditions I could come up with, the actual battery capacity of 3.5 A·h is a third of what it should be. I’d expect that from the usual eBay supplier, not Lowe’s.

Given the cheapnified clamps, perhaps Pilot deliberately gutted the battery capacity to save a few bucks. After all, the customers will never notice. Will they?

Except…

Another customer took his apart and found three 3.6 A·h “high output” (whatever that means) lithium cells in series. In that configuration, the individual cell capacity does not add and the pack should produce about 3.6 A·h. Those curves show it produces slightly less than that when discharged to 10 V, which means the thing works exactly like you’d expect. Indeed, it’s better than a typical second-tier product and much better than typical eBay crap.

The most charitable explanation would be that somebody screwed up, multiplied the number of cells by their individual capacity, put that number in the specs, and everyone downstream ran with it. If the cells were in parallel, then the total capacity in ampere·hours would equal the sum of the cell capacity.

If you change the specs to match the as-built hardware, then, apart from those cheapnified clamps, it’s working just fine…

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