Laptop batteries leap forward, go green

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It's time to get excited about computer batteries.

Sure, "1,000 recharge cycles" doesn't exactly have the same ring or marketing appeal to it as "2.4 gigahertz dual-core extreme edition processor," but for the majority of mobile computer users, it'll provide a much larger of a payoff down the road.

The Sonata battery from Boston-Power, soon a $20-$30 add-on for Hewlett Packard portables, promises to be greener, safer, faster, and longer-lasting than what's currently available.

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That sure sounds like marketing hype, but the numbers appear to back it up. The Wall Street Journal breaks it down:

Boston Power, based in Westborough, Mass., says its batteries can be recharged to full capacity more than 1,000 times -- three to four times as often as current batteries, which lose their recharging capability after 250 or so charges. The company says that means its batteries won't be replaced as often, reducing the number of batteries in landfills.

That longevity means that HP can afford to stand behind the batteries longer. That $30 upgrade gets buyers three years of warrantied use – if the full charge capacity of the battery (which HP is calling the Enviro Series) in your laptop starts to dip before three years are up, HP will replace it with a new one.

The "safer" part of the pitch comes in the battery's ability to more efficiently monitor its temperature. Sony laptop batteries were the subject of a major recall because of overheating two years ago, and again in October. Boston-Power CEO Christina Lampe-Önnerud explained her company's response to overheating to Wired:

"If the notebook feeds wrong voltage, our cell detects that within four to six minutes and just shuts down at 60 or 70 degrees," she says. "With current technology, batteries will take about 20 minutes to detect the wrong voltage and reach temperatures over 100 degrees centigrade."

The new cells also promise to charge to 80 percent of capacity in 30 minutes, rather than the two-hour recharge time common in other batteries.

Sold? HP will begin to offer the new batteries as an option in new computers early next year, and said that current owners of the company's portables will be able to buy replacement batteries that fit their older machines. In addition, Boston-Power hopes to expand its battery to other computer manufacturers in the coming months.

A more efficient laptop battery is one thing, but what about a more efficient car or truck? In an interview with Xcononomy, Lampe-Önnerud outlined her company's expanded R&D plans, and was excited about the prospects of applying this new battery technology to other areas, including transportation.

Now our company has the opportunity to leverage our experience with the [lithium ion] chemistry and apply it to the emerging market of transportation. That is a market that is still coming, no question. But it will probably be the biggest market in my lifetime. We really need people to come together to think this through from many different disciplines.

For more:
Korean scientist engineers super batteries
Search for a better battery keeps going and going
Battery tech starts catching up to high tech

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