The Charger War

One of the holy grails of flying large electric RC helicopters is faster charging. Modern lithium polymer batteries can handle up to 5C charge rates which means being able to recharge in as little as 12 minutes. The average 700 size helicopter runs 5000mAh packs at 50 volts, or 250 Watt hours. To recharge that in 12 minutes requires a charger and power supply consuming at least 1250 watts not including losses in the system. To put this in perspective a typical microwave is only 1000 watts. It is almost the equivalent of 100 compact flourescent lightbulbs. The average household breaker is 15 amps providing at most 1650 watts before tripping.

The first charger to really hit this peak capacity was the Revolectrix PowerLab 8 capable of charging at 1344 watts. Popularity surged and users started changing over in search of the ultimate charger. In response the market saw the release of the iCharger 4010 Duo¬†capable of up to 2000 watts. It didn’t take long for hobbyists to realize that they would have a bigger problem getting enough power to it than it could handle, but for those that were willing to wire special charging stations into their homes or those charging at the field from large generators this provided a solution to get them closer to instant charging.

It seemed we were at the top of the hill. To get more power was simply going to need more chargers running on individual breakers or power sources. That was until Revolectrix announced their new Dual Power Lab 8 capable of 2688 watts of domination. The best response I saw to this was “Could they have tried any less?” The unit is essentially nothing more than two of the original PL8 chargers in one case. They require separate power supplies to take advantage of max capacity and you will need two separate sources of that power, different breakers in your home or two generators since the typical one has a max continuous capacity of only 1800 watts. This is impractical for all but the most die hard charging fanatics. The pros are questionable for a saving of only about $100 in an approximately $1000 charging set up including power supplies. The savings become negligible once you consider that should you have a problem with your charger, you lose any redundancy that could at least keep you going at half capacity while it is being serviced or replaced.

What will iCharger come out with as a response to this new offering? I’m guessing it will just be the same laughter that consumers are having over this. I’m sure in time there will be bigger chargers on the market, but until we start to see better power supplies on the market they will be of little use to the average user.

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Posted in Electronics, RC Heli

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