Today’s enlightenment comes courtesy of an old ElectriFly Triton battery charger unearthed from the dusty equipment shelf. This particular charger was purchased years ago to feed an interest in electric remote-control aircraft. At the time, the RC aircraft field was in a period of transition. The lowest-cost aircraft came with NiCad batteries, the mainstream used NiMH batteries, and the premium segments started adopting lithium-ion chemistries. To work in this world, the charger is designed to be used out at a remote control air park, hence it was designed to run on a 12 volt lead-acid battery instead of an AC outlet that might not be at the airfield.
Born into this confusion, the Triton charger was a jack of all trades. It knows how to properly charge all of the above types of batteries. It even has the capability to do a charge/discharge cycle to measure capacity. The latest models appears to have picked up even more features, but this old one is already on hand and can tell us interesting things.
Triton was first used to quantify behavior of an old 12Ah lead-acid battery dug up for solar panel investigation. It had discharged down to 6V while in storage and its voltage curve did not behave as expected. The good new is that even degraded, Triton deemed it within acceptable behavior range for a lead-acid battery. The bad news: Triton discharge test added up to only about 3.5Ah of usable capacity remaining out of the original 12Ah. There might be interesting projects where a degraded lead-acid battery can be useful, but it’s equally likely to end up in battery recycle.
After the old lead-acid battery was examined, the Triton was employed for the NiCad battery cells pulled out of the recent Dustbuster project. These cells suffered from chronic overcharging and exhibited depressed voltage levels when trying to deliver the current demanded by the Dustbuster motor. This condition might possibly be cured by individually charging and discharging the cell multiple cycles according to NiCad best practices, but that didn’t seem worth the expense of buying a NiCad charger/discharger. Fortunately, with the rediscovery of the Triton, we now have one. We’ll see if these NiCad cells can be recovered to a point to be useful for future projects, or if they should just go into battery recycle.