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Offline kalel

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Battery level % indicator principle
« on: October 17, 2017, 07:55:58 PM »
This might be better suited to the beginner section, but I'm wondering about the general principles used for indicating battery level percentages. E.g. 100%, 80%, 50%, 20%... "Please plug in your charger".

I'm not working on a project requiring me to know the details, just curious to have a rough idea on how it is done, and let's assume that some type of lithium batteries are used, as most phones/laptops/etc do these days.

One method might be to use battery voltage and some formula depending on the specific battery used in the device.

Another might be something based on measuring the drawn current (and probably voltage) to get a sense of how much power was used.

There might be various methods I didn't think of.

What method is generally used?
« Last Edit: October 17, 2017, 07:57:29 PM by kalel »
 

Online Jeroen3

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Re: Battery level % indicator principle
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2017, 08:07:14 PM »
Dave has a full video about it. Root cause was the batteriser.


You can measure the voltage under load. Works nice for constant loads. Otherwise you have to take the current into the calculation, and things become complicated.

Or you measure the coulombs. Like all fuel gauge ics do.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2017, 08:13:00 PM by Jeroen3 »
 
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Offline vealmike

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Re: Battery level % indicator principle
« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2017, 08:33:51 PM »
Using Lithium batteries makes it much harder than any other tech.

With other tech, you can make a very good estimate of capacity from open circuit voltage (OCV). You can estimate OCV from terminal voltage if you know the current and the internal resistance.

This works because other battery techs have a fairly steady steep discharge curve, the OCV changes markedly as you discharge the cell.

With lithium cells, this is no longer true. Over the middle 80 to 85% of their capacity the cell voltage is pretty flat, it really doesn't drop enough for you to work out where you are on the capacity curve.

So as you guessed, the basic lithium gauges are coulomb counters. They essentially integrate current over time to count the charge in and out of the cell. Because the voltage really doesn't change much over the majority of the capacity, it isn't necessary to track energy (Volts * Amps
* time). Tracking coulombs (current * time) is adequate for a good approximation of capacity.

By fully discharging and charging the cell these coulomb counters learn the capacity of the attached cells/ packs and Roberto is the Spanish speaking sibling of your parent.

Texas Instruments have some fancier gauges available that are essentially coulomb counters with some fancy bells and whistles added.
 
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Online wilfred

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Re: Battery level % indicator principle
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2017, 08:56:33 PM »
Dave's done a video on that! This one might be of interest. The IC used is a bit long in the tooth even when Dave made the video. EEVblog #204 I haven't watched in ages but I remember it as one of my faves.
 
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Offline NANDBlog

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Re: Battery level % indicator principle
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2017, 09:55:06 PM »
You measure the current*time going in and out, and integrate it. It is simple as that. All other methods are inaccurate. You should reset the counter on the nominal max voltage after charging, eg. 4.2 or 4.3V for Li-ion.
 
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Offline mikerj

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Re: Battery level % indicator principle
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2017, 12:50:36 AM »
Using Lithium batteries makes it much harder than any other tech.

With other tech, you can make a very good estimate of capacity from open circuit voltage (OCV). You can estimate OCV from terminal voltage if you know the current and the internal resistance.

It's the other way around; it's easier to determine SOC from voltage in a lithium ion battery than it is with other chemistries.  Look at e.g. NiMh where the voltage is almost flat for a significant part of the discharge curve.

Several vendors now make gas gauge ICs for lithium batteries that use only voltage and temperature, rather than coulomb counting.
 

Offline Siwastaja

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Re: Battery level % indicator principle
« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2017, 01:06:44 AM »
Coulomb counting is not inherently any more accurate than any other mean, either. It requires good algorithm combined with the user following the expected usage pattern of that algorithm (which sometimes isn't the case), and still cannot properly predict the capacity fade if the battery is never (or seldom) fully discharged (simple voltage based can do that to some degree).

I have seen coulomb counters totally fail and go nuts, but never seen a voltage based estimation more than about 20-30% off.

For simple li-ion gadgets, I often strongly recommend using simple voltage based estimation, unless utmost "best case" accuracy is needed. And if the best case accuracy is needed, then the designer needs to realize that coulomb counting worst case accuracy is, depending on the algorithm, even worse than voltage based, unless a lot of R&D is put in on the system level to improve it through algorithms combining data sources. A nice looking techno demo showing a steadily moving percentage reading like 61.7% looks nice, until you find out that the battery is actually dying out at 10% and all that accuracy was fake; a stateless 5-step approximate bar based on voltage is sometimes better and more reliable, even if it flickers between two bars and one bar when the device consumption fluctuates. At least it gives the user a signal: "if I keep doing this, it will soon die".

NiCd, NiMH, lead acid and some niche sorts of li-ion (typically LFP) require coulomb counting since the voltage curve is too flat.

Cell DC ESR (which is temperature dependant) is the biggest issue of the voltage-based measurements. It can be compensated by measuring current, but then the complexity goes up; it can still be stateless which is a plus compared to a coulomb counter.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2017, 01:14:18 AM by Siwastaja »
 


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