AirSplat’s Airsoft Guide: Airsoft Battery Guide

how to charge a airsoft battery

Airsoft Battery Guide

Introduction

There are different kinds of airsoft batteries as well as their attributes that airsoft players should know about in order to power their airsoft electric guns (AEG). In this article, AirSplat will be sharing some general information regarding different airsoft batteries and their uses.

  • Small Type Batteries are the most common type of airsoft battery used, and come in many shapes and sizes depending on the airsoft gun style. For example, the mini type batteries (candy bar and nun chucks style) go in the forward hand guards of most airsoft M4 rifles, MP5A/SD.
  • Large Type Batteries generally are larger in size and have a 7-cell (last cell perpendicular to 2 rows) or 8 cell configuration, in the shape of a "brick"
  • Stick Batteries go in AK47/74 variants without full stocks and a few SCAR style AEGs
  • Large Type Batteries generally go into AEGs with full stocks as they are hollow and capable of holding such a large battery. Examples are full stock airsoft MP5's, M16's, and AK47's.
Types of Batteries and a Brief Breakdown for Each
  • An electrolyte is defined as a chemical compound that ionizes when molten or dissolved in order to produce an electrically conductive medium. In simple terms, any two solutions that create an electron flow from one to the other.
  • Batteries use a variety of chemical solutions to conduct electricity. Typical battery chemicals include zinc-carbon, which is used in standard alkaline batteries such as AA, C and D dry-cell batteries. The electrodes are zinc and carbon with an acidic paste between them that serves as the electrolyte.
  • Alkaline battery -The most commonly used batteries. Examples are Energizer and Duracell brands. The electrodes are zinc and manganese-oxide with an alkaline electrolyte.
  • Lead-acid batteries - These batteries are often used to power automobiles. Its electrodes contain lead and lead-oxide with a strong acidic electrolyte. These kinds of batteries are rechargeable.
  • Lithium-ion battery - This type of battery is normally found in cell phones and laptop computers since it has a good power-to-weight ratio.
  • Lithium photo battery - Due to its ability to supply good power surges, lithium-iodide, lead-iodide, and the lithium photo batteries are used to power cameras.
  • Metal-chloride battery - This type of battery can be mostly found in electric vehicles.
  • Nickel-metal hydride battery - Also rechargeable, this battery contains the chemicals nickel-hydroxide and cadmium. Its electrolyte contains potassium-hydroxide. This type of battery is quickly replacing nickel-cadmium type since it does not suffer from memory effect as nickel-cadmium does.
  • Zinc-air battery - They have a high density charge and inexpensive to use. This battery is lightweight, although non-rechargeable, and often used in hearing aids and experimental electric vehicles.
  • Zinc-mercury oxide battery - Like zinc-air battery, this battery is also used in hearing aids.
  • Silver-zinc battery - This type of battery is used in aeronautical applications because the power-to-weight ratio is good similar to Lithium-ion battery.

Descriptions of Airsoft Electric Gun (AEG) Batteries

Alkaline battery – Good capacity, but is non-rechargeable.

Although disposable, this battery is the most common type used in small household gadgets such as remote controls or battery-operated toothbrushes. They were popular back in the 1970's, and are substituted in place of the Carbon Zinc and Zinc Chloride batteries.

They are not ideal to use for digital cameras since they do not have good power surges. They still work, but it will run out of energy quickly. Some manufacturers have made alkaline batteries, however, that can work well in high drain devices. They include Duracell Ultra, Energizer Advanced Formula, and Kodak Photolite.

Note that there is not much difference from brand to brand since each battery uses the same chemicals. Comparison tests were done by Consumer Reports between different alkaline brands and showed that the best and worst batteries only differ between 9% - 15%.

In 1996, Congress banned the production of alkaline batteries containing the toxic metal mercury for obvious reasons; one being it is not safe to throw away in the trash bin. Now it is safe to do so with the exceptions of the button batteries, the ones found on wrist watches, although there are special electronic places that takes in those batteries and safely disposes them.

Even though it is not recommendable to recharge alkaline, it is possible, provided that the right rechargeable device is used. If NiMH or NiCad recharger is used, the batteries may explode, especially with the newer high-drain alkalines which are resistant to recharging. Standard alkaline batteries get lesser recharge cycles than the rechargeable ones. It is recommended to keep the battery always charged if it is kept drained too much, it may not be possible to recharge it.

Rechargeable Alkalines - Good capacity, but limited rechargability

These batteries were supposed to bring the best of both worlds for alkaline because its high capacity combined with its rechargeable nature makes it seem ideal. However, rechargeable alkalines get fewer recharge cycles in comparison to NiMH rechargeable batteries. In fact, the rechargeable alkalines have lower starting capacity than the best NiMHs.

Rechargeable alkalines cannot be used in digital cameras since it is not a high-drain battery, and it also requires a special charger.

However, rechargeable alkalines do give out higher voltage than NiMH. This means that it performs great with devices that take in multiple batteries. For instance, LED flashlights gives out brighter light with the alkalines than with NiMH. With the infrequent use along with high self-discharge of the NiMH, it makes the batteries go dead on their own between periods of use. Examples of rechargeable batteries include Pure Energy and Accucell.

As mentioned with the regular alkaline, DO NOT charge batteries with any regular recharger for they may explode. Always keep the batteries "topped off", meaning the sooner it is recharged, the more recharge cycles and more total power it can give throughout its lifetime.

There are no 9V rechargeable alkalines for two reasons. One reason being that they are made with six 1.5V-cells inside, therefore making it easy to access each cell and reliably recharge them. It is harder to access the cells with the 9V. The other reason is that 9V batteries provides limited benefit in terms of cost savings, for the products that run with them lasts many more months anyway.

NiMH (Nickel-Metal Hydride) - Great capacity, long life recharging, slightly more expensive

The NiMH is a great choice for rechargeable batteries containing high-capacity. These, along with the NiCad, are great choices. The difference, however, is that NiCad has lesser capacity, and has special disposal requirements than NiMH. However, it is cheaper and has a higher charge and discharge rate.

NiMH comes with different capacities. For instance, D-cell may have 2200mAh and 8000mAh capacities. Therefore, always check the label for the capacity since it is always better to get the higher capacity ones.

One possible downside with the NiMHs and NiCads is that they both put out less voltage in comparison to alkalines having 0.3V difference. This means that devices that work with multiple batteries may not work with NiMH or NiCad batteries. Another downside with both batteries is that they quickly self-discharge--so they lose power even if they are not being used. Their shelf life is about 2-3 months so they are not the best choice to use for emergency flashlights or smoke detectors.

A good distinction about the NiMH battery is its discharge path. The voltage and amperage of a NiMH starts high and does a good job of holding this rate for about 75% of its battery use. It then gradually diminishes towards the tail end of its capacity.

In terms of recharging this battery, it is recommended to do so completely after discharging the batteries. With the Ninth Rechargeable Batteries, they are less prone to battery memory. It is good practice to discharge battery fully before recharging it again. NiMH batteries are slightly harder to fully charge. Therefore, using a higher amperage charger or an electronically controlled charger is needed, for instance the delta voltage peak charger. One caution with Nickel Metal Hydrides is to avoid overcharging it with excess amperage. Check with the maximum input amperage for different cells. Remember, NiCad batteries have slightly higher amperage than NiMH. Therefore an 1800 mAh NiCad battery can be charged with 5 amps for 20 minutes, for example, but NiMH, having the same capacity, cannot be charged with the same amp for the same time. It can damage the NiMH battery in doing so.

NiCad (Nickel-Cadmium) - Good capacity, long life recharging, economic rechargeable battery (small NiCad Or large Ni-Cad)

NiCad batteries, as compared to NiMH battery above, are also a great choice for economic rechargeable batteries, although this battery has less capacity than Ninth's. NiCad batteries make up for the discharge and charge rates. NiCad is a better choice for applications requiring high discharge rate and NiCad rechargeables are great choice if the capacity is not a factor.

NiCads have about 25% - 100% less capacity than Ninth's. A NiCad Sub C cell can be 1200 or 1800 mAh while NiMH battery starts at 2400 mAh and goes as high as 3800 mAh. NiCad has higher amps per cell however having 3 units as opposed to NiMH which has 5 units.

Similar to NiMH, when comparing it to alkaline, the downside with both Ninth and NiCads batteries is that the voltage put is lower than those of alkalines. As mentioned above, they differ 0.3V (1.2V as opposed to 1.5V). Therefore, it may not work with appliances that require four or more batteries. It may work with those that require two or less. They normally work however if the device needs more voltage, consider using alkaline.

One advantage of Ni-Cads over Ninth is that it holds its discharge rate as well. NiCads are a great choice since it continues to put out high amperage until almost completely dead. Therefore, they are recommended to use in appliances that

has a strict amperage and voltage level.

NiCad batteries should be stored only when fully discharged. The battery memory is always an issue, especially with NiCad batteries. Remember to always fully discharge the batteries before recharging it again. This is one way to condition the battery since conditioned batteries have higher capacities

There are charging devices that automatically discharges a battery before charging it again. This is called "conditioning" and good chargers have this feature. NiCads put out a fairly consistent 1.2V for the length of their charge. As soon as the charge is spent, the voltage drops rapidly. The voltage would be around 1.0 to 1.1V.

Do not overcharge NiCads. Most new chargers turns off when the battery is done, however older models may not have this, therefore overcharging the battery. Doing so may decrease the capacity of the NiCad battery, or may even ruin it completely. It does not hurt the battery to overcharge it 10% to 20% over its maximum, but it is good to purchase a charger that has an auto-off feature. Ask the manufacturer if it does not say so in the manual.

Let the NiCads cool off before recharging. Warm batteries have slower amperage absorption. Good rechargers have the auto-off feature that stops charging when it senses slower amperage absorption. Warm batteries needs to be cooled off first before charging them.

There is a theory with NiCad batteries in terms of memory effect. If the battery is recharged before it is fully spent, it will remember that capacity at which it is recharged, therefore yielding in reduced capacity of the battery, although most sources say that this only happens if the battery is 'repeatedly' charged before it is fully spent. Doing this once in a while should not make any difference. This theory can also be reversed by fully draining the battery first before recharging it, increasing its capacity. Most manufacturers claim that their newer NiCads are less susceptible to memory effects and that their newer models of rechargers prevent memory effects. However, this has yet been put to scrutiny.

Lithium Ion (The Rechargeable Lithium Battery) - Great Capacity, very expensive, combustible

The Lithium batteries have lots of power, although expensive and flammable. There are 2 types of lithium batteries. One of them is the non-rechargeable, quarter-sized, wider AA batteries. The other is the rechargeable kind, used in mobile phones that are referred to as lithium ion. For the reader's purposes, the lithium battery will be referred to instead of lithium ion.

These batteries are meant for high-drain devices such as portable CD players, digital cameras, motorized toys, and cell phones. Although expensive, they are more efficient than standard batteries when using high-drain products that were just mentioned. They are also useful with low-drain products such as remote controls or smoke alarm device and would last longer.

AA Lithium batteries are not to be confused with Lithium-Ion battery packs. The Lithium-Ions are rechargeable especially during attached to the device using them such as camcorders or cell phones. It can also be recharged with special devices made for it.

Lithium Polymer / Nano (The Rechargeable Lithium Battery) - Great Capacity, very expensive, less combustible

Lithium-ion polymer batteries, also called Polymer Lithium Ion, or more commonly lithium polymer batteries (abbreviated Li-poly, Li-Pol, LiPo, LIP, PLI or LiP) are rechargeable batteries which are an evolved form from lithium-ion batteries. Unlike lithium-ion cylindrical or prismatic cells (which have a rigid metal case), polymer cells have a flexible, foil-type (polymer laminate) case, but they still contain organic solvent.

Without a metal battery cell casing, the battery can be lighter and specifically shaped to fit any device it will power. Because of the denser packaging without intercell spacing between cylindrical cells and the lack of metal casing, the energy density of Li-poly batteries is over 20% higher than that of a classical Li-ion battery, and store more energy than Nickel-Cadmium (NiCd) and Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries.

Overcharging a Li-poly battery will result in explosion and/or fire. During discharge, the load has to be removed as soon as the voltage drops below approximately 3.0 V per cell (used in a series combination), or else the battery will no longer accept a full charge and may experience problems holding voltage under load.

Li-poly and Airsoft Guns

Li-poly may be the best power solution for airsoft electric guns (AEGs). These batteries do not harm AEGs as long as the right battery pack is used. Battery packs that are commonly used are 7.4V and 11.1V. The 7.4V pack is usually used on stock AEGs, and the 11.1V is used for more tuned or upgraded setups. Many customers have been using Li-Poly batteries on all of their AEGs, stock and upgraded ones, for years. Some have used it on TMs and the ACMs, without significant wear and tear differences than that when using high quality airsoft batteries, 8.4V and 9.6V Sub-C battery packs. Because the Li-poly’s is very light, and are available at different shapes, it can fit on almost any AEG. In fact, it can fit inside the stock’s tube on M4/M16’s.

Cell Balancing and Prolonging Battery Life

Cell balancing is defined as the application of differential currents to individual cells (or combinations of cells) in a series string. Normally, of course, cells in a series string receive identical currents. A battery pack requires additional components and circuitry to achieve cell balancing.

Battery pack cells are balanced when all the cells in the battery pack meet two conditions:
  1. If all cells have the same voltage capacity, then they are balanced when they have the same State of Charge (SOC.) The Open Circuit Voltage (OCV) is a good measure of the SOC. In an out of balance pack, all cells can be differentially charged to full capacity (balanced), and then they will cycle normally without any additional adjustments. This is mostly a one time fix.
  2. If the cells have different capacities, they are also considered balanced when the SOC is the same. But, since SOC is a relative measure, the absolute amount of capacity for each cell is different. To keep the cells with different capacities at the same SOC, cell balancing must provide differential amounts of current to cells in the series string during both charge and discharge on every cycle.

Carbon Zinc & Zinc Chloride - Low end battery, low capacity, economic battery

These batteries are almost never properly labeled. This is how they are distinguished because they do not have the "carbon zinc" or "zinc chloride" labels. Instead, they are labeled with something like "Heavy Duty" or "General Purpose" which is a misnomer for its performance. They were the battery of choice in the 70's, but hey are not good for continuous use and are most susceptible to leaking.

The manufacturing of alkaline slowly put these batteries almost out of use. Alkaline used to be more expensive than Carbon Zinc and Zinc Chloride batteries, but through time their price difference slowly decreased, putting the C-Z and Z-C batteries in near extinction.

The Good Points of Rechargeable Batteries

Nickel-Metal-Hydride (NiMH) / Nickel-Cadmium (NiCad)

There are a couple of options when it comes to rechargeable batteries. As mentioned above, Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) and Nickel-Cadmium (NiCad) are good ones to use, and will be briefly discussed in this portion of the article.

Comparing both rechargeables, NiCads have higher discharge and charge rate although NiMH has higher capacity and suffers less from memory effect. At AirSplat, we carry the highest capacity NiMH for maximum performance as well as longest durability. From users who want to automate charging to users who like to manually condition batteries, we offer chargers that are suitable for both. Although great as all-around batteries, it does have its limitations. They have a high self-discharge rate meaning that when they are not being used, they still continually lose power. Therefore, they are not ideal to use for devices such as emergency flashlights or smoke detectors.

Lithium-Ion / Lithium Polymer Rechargeable Batteries

As mentioned above, these rechargeable batteries are truly powerful compared to any other ones mentioned in this article. They suffer no memory effect, and they have the best energy-to-weight ratio than any other batteries used with electronic devices such as automatic electric airsoft guns (AEGs).

As mentioned, rechargeable batteries still lose power even if they are not use, but with Lithium-Ion rechargeables, their loss of charge is slower.

The Bad Sides of the Rechargeables

General comparisons between NICaD, Ni-MH, and LiPo batteries

NiCad: Lower battery capacity, high discharge/charge rate, inexpensive

NiMH: Lower discharge/charge rate, expensive

Rechargeable Alkaline: Fewer recharge cycles, small capacity

Lithium: Very expensive, toxic, very hot, flammable

NiCads are considered first generation rechargeables. Depending on purposes, they have been replaced by NiMH's, which lasts longer and do not suffer from the memory effect.

Rechargeable Alkaline (Pure Energy, AccuCell) cannot be recharged nearly as many times as real rechargeable batteries (like NiMH & NiCad). They also cannot be used in high-drain devices like digital cameras, and their capacity drops every time they are charged. They are good to substitute for NiMH to use for devices that need high-voltage since rechargeable alkaline does put out more voltage than NiMH.

Lithium batteries are the most powerful batteries, although pricey. They are not rechargeable as opposed to Lithium-Ion batteries, and they are highly toxic so it is not advisable to throw them away without proper disposal. They need to be taken to community's hazardous waste. On the good side however, they are great for devices that use 9V size since they last a long time. For instance, it takes 10 years to use in smoke detectors. Although, with AAA, AA, C, and D batteries, a better bet is NiMH.

"Heavy Duty", "General Purpose", etc. These are Carbon Zinc & Zinc Chloride batteries. They're small, and Carbon Zincs are most susceptible to leaking. "Heavy duty" is a big misnomer; these are really "puny duty".

More Details About Batteries

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