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Charging

Author: Source: Datetime: 2016-07-15 09:22:15

It's important to use a LiPo compatible charger for LiPos. As I said in the Introduction, LiPo batteries require specialized care. They charge using a system called CC/CV charging. It stands for Constant Current / Constant Voltage. Basically, the charger will keep the current, or charge rate, constant until the battery reaches its peak voltage (4.2v per cell in a battery pack). Then it will maintain that voltage, while reducing the current. On the other hand, NiMH and NiCd batteries charge best using a pulse charging method. Charging a LiPo battery in this way can have damaging effects, so it's important to have a LiPo-compatible charger.


The second reason that you need a LiPo-compatible charger is balancing. Balancing is a term we use to describe the act of equalizing the voltage of each cell in a battery pack. We balance LiPo batteries to ensure each cell discharges the same amount. This helps with the performance of the battery. It is also crucial for safety reasons - but I'll get to that in the section on discharging.

While there are stand-alone balancers on the market, I recommend purchasing a charger with built-in balancing capabilities, using a balance board like the one pictured to the right. This simplifies the process of balancing, and requires one less thing to be purchased. And with the price of chargers with built-in balancers coming down to very reasonable levels, I can't think of a reason you would not want to simplify your charging set up. We'll talk more about chargers in the next section.


Most LiPo batteries come with a connector called a JST-XH connector on the balance tap. One of the big problems with this connector is it's lack of surface area; namely, one's inability to get a good grip on the connector. This makes it hard to unplug from a balance board, and a user usually just ends up pulling on the wires. This can break the connector, and potentially short out the battery. A unique product, called Balance Protector Clips (or AB Clips) is a great way to solve this problem. They clip around the balance connector, and give a user more space to grab on to the it. They are usually inexpensive, and a great way to prevent balance connector fatigue. To the left, you can see a balance connector with and without the Balance Protector Clips.

Most LiPo batteries need to be charged rather slowly, compared to NiMH or NiCd batteries. While we would routinely charge a 3000mAh NiMH battery at four or five amps, a LiPo battery of the same capacity should be charged at no more than three amps. Just as the C Rating of a battery determines what the safe continuous discharge of the battery is, there is a C Rating for charging as well. For the vast majority of LiPos, the Charge Rate is 1C. The equation works the same way as the previous discharge rating, where 1000mAh = 1A. So, for a 3000mAh battery, we would want to charge at 3A, for a 5000mAh LiPo, we should set the charger at 5A, and for a 4500mAh pack, 4.5A is the correct charge rate.

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