Saturday, October 20, 2012

Battery of Confusion

I hear a lot of people making comments about batteries that tells me they are confused over how batteries fit into their electric airplane power system.  I decided to do this blog entry to try to clear up some of this confusion without adding any more to the subject.

I hope to clear things up by relating an electrical system to an internal combustion system.

In a simplified internal combustion system the gas tank stores energy (in the form of gasoline), a carburetor controls the flow of energy to the motor, and the motor converts the energy into mechanical motion.

In our electric airplane power systems, the battery stores the energy (electricity), a speed controller feeds that energy to the electric motor, and the motor converts the energy into mechanical motion.

The battery as two parameters that it is rated by, the voltage and milliamp hours.  The milliamp hours is a rating of its capacity, just like a gas tank capacity might be rated in gallons.  A higher number of gallons does not make a car go any faster, it only allows the car to run longer.  The same is true for batteries.  A larger milliamp hour rating will not make your plane fly any faster, only run longer.  There is another little mix to this in that the milliamp rating (multiplied with the "C" rating) is related to the flow rate.  This is similar to a gas tank with either a low or high capacity fuel pump and line.  If an internal combustion engine requires more fuel than than the fuel pump and line can supply, its power and performance will suffer.  So too, if an electric motor demands more current (milliamps) than the battery can supply, the battery voltage will drop along with the electric motor power and performance.

The voltage rating is a little different and is more closely related to the octane rating of gas.  If I have a high performance car motor and run regular gas in it, I can only expect so much performance.  The fuel mixture is only capable of creating an explosion of so much to push the pistons down.  Now if I put high octane racing fuel in the tank, I can expect much more performance.  This fuel mixture is capable of a much greater explosion to push the pistons down.  A low voltage battery can only give its rated voltage to the electro-magnets that repel the permanent magnets.  A higher voltage rated battery will allow for a larger repelling force.

Now, keep in mind, just as the internal combustion race motor is built to take greater stresses, if a batteries voltage is increased, the speed controller and electric motor must be built to take on the extra stress.

I hope this analogy will help those out there that have been confused about batteries and their voltage and milliamp ratings.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.  Please feel free to post comments, good or bad, and be sure to come back and check for future posts.

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