Volts, amps, millimeters - introduction to the world of li-po batteries

2021-05-13

Probably the first thing I would buy for a new airsoft replica is the battery. It seems that the LiPo package will be the most universal choice at the moment. In this article, I will present some basic information about the parameters of such power sources and show you what to look for when buying them.

Basic parameters of batteries

Lithium polymer packets, or popular LiPo, come from the RC model space. Same as the older nickel-cadmium (i.e., NiMH batteries). We will meet them in various remotely controlled models, from cars to flying objects such as airplanes or drones. These types of power supplies are also often used in general electronics. It is not uncommon that a small package of LiPo powers devices such as music players, cameras, or even some mobile phones. Whenever I think about it, I have the impression that in our hobby, which is airsoft, we often only touch the tip of the iceberg, which are the types of lithium packages that can be used to power our replicas. Therefore, I will not have much remorse going for some simplifications in this text, because you could as well write a separate book on this subject, and more importantly, more detailed knowledge is certainly not needed by the average ASG player.

batteries for airsoft replicas

Simplifying the topic, it can be said that LiPo packets will always have nominally some multiple of 3.7V as their voltage. And here is the first parameter, which is sometimes found in online stores or advertising portals. Typically, airsoft packages are usually 2S or 3S which means 2 or 3 packages connected in series. Then their voltage "sums up" and in the case of 2S, we have 2 x 3.7V which gives us 7.4V, and analogously 3S is 3 x 3.7V, that is 11.1V. Where do such values come from? To put it simply, these are the tensions that the replica components (mainly engines) deal with. However, there is no problem if we want to find 4S and larger packages, but they do not apply to airsoft. You can also combine packets in parallel. Then their capacity will "add up". However, I have not seen this solution in replicas yet, so there is no point in focusing on it.

In addition to voltage, the second important parameter of our battery will be its capacity, most often expressed in milliampere-hours (mAh). One milliampere-hour means the packet can "deliver" a milliampere (unit of current) for an hour. However, it is difficult to convert it directly into our hobby, because hardly anyone knows how many milliamperes a replica uses. Therefore, in the further part of the article, I will try to present examples of battery capacity values​. The last parameter worth discussing is the C parameter. On the Internet, it is most often described as "C-rating" or "Current draw". It is a parameter that describes the current efficiency of the packet. The higher the value of this factor, the more electricity can "push" our packet. Both ways, i.e., we can discharge it faster by consuming more current at a time, but we can also charge it with a higher current without exposing it to destruction. I will give an unpopular opinion here, but I believe that the average airsoft player should not bother with this parameter. It is known that the higher the C value of the packet, the better the most commonly used 20 to 40 C packets should be able to handle replicas without any problems. Another thing, if we were dealing with a non-modeling and non-ergonomic battery, for example, one that we took from old electronics. They may have too low C values ​​to power the replica. But on the other hand - why bother with it if the market is so rich in attractive offers?

Shopping frenzy

Li-Po batteries for airsoft replicas

As I mentioned, LiPo packages came to airsoft from the RC world. Therefore, it may seem that a good idea will be to buy a battery from a typical RC brand. This explains the popularity of Turnigy products, which also have an airsoft line but are mainly known as a power source supplier for RC models. However, this airsoft is quite mature now, and we can find brands designed for our application such as Electro River. The advantage of airsoft brands here will be mainly the fact that the packages are designed to fit well in various types of replicas. While the model of a remote-controlled car can accommodate a large battery in the form of a cube, a replica, where only the stock guide is available, does not give much room to spare.

electro river li-po battery

Often, one of the first doubts when buying a LiPo battery is what voltage we will need? I think you can answer this question quite easily by following a simple rule that has yet to disappoint me. For replicas that do not have a MOSFET chip, it is better to invest in a 7.4V battery. In the following part of the article, I will explain why. However, if we have even the simplest system of this type, there is no need to limit ourselves, and it is good to invest in 11.1V right away. Since the voltage issue is already settled, the question about the package format remains. We have several designs to choose from. The simplest so-called cubes are cuboid-shaped batteries. These will be good for us if, for example, we have a full stock with a lot of space inside, or if you hit a small dice that will fit into a replica such as the G36 or L86. Usually, the capacity of 1600 mAh or 1800mAh should fit in such replicas. Their relatives are "sticks", that is also cuboids but in a longer and thinner form. These will work when you need to close the battery in the stock guide. It's best to target the 1100mAh, 1200mAh, or conditionally 1300mAh packages. A special type of batteries in this format are those dedicated to be placed under the cover in AK replicas. They are thinner than standard and therefore fit into this demanding space. We also have split batteries, the so-called "nunchuk". You can say that they are two sticks connected by wires. It is quite a convenient solution if we have, for example, an SF-type stock, and we want to fit the battery into space on both sides of the stock. Here, too, I would aim for packages with a capacity of about 1200mAh. Before buying a LiPo battery, it is good to check its dimensions and compare it with the available space in the replica. A good trick on how easy it is to do was recently suggested by Maniek44. After checking the length of the sides of the package found on the Net, he made a kind of mock-up of such a battery from the cardboard and could carefully check whether it would have any difficulties with placing it in the replica. Simple and extremely effective.

Practical solutions

To paraphrase the classic, it can be said that Li-Po batteries are powerful, but also have a lot of responsibility. In some respects, they are much more flexible than the standard NiMH packages added to replicas but also require a bit more feel for everyday use, in my opinion. When serious about switching to LiPo power supply, it is worth considering the installation of the MOSFET system. For people who have never heard of such a modification, I will tell you briefly that it is a system that instead of transmitting all the voltage through our contact cube, creates a kind of switch from it. This only serves to transfer the signal about closing the circuit while the voltage, etc. The "power" needed to set our engine in motion is transferred without the contact cube. Thanks to this, the cube itself is not exposed to such great forces as without the system, and its life extends. It also minimizes energy losses. In the case of standard batteries or 7.4V Li-Po batteries, you can still use the replica without it because their performance is not as high as in the case of the more powerful 11.1V. Fortunately, more and more replicas already "out of the box" have MOSFET systems, and if ours does not belong to this group, we can consider one of the sets available on the market. A good example here is GATE, which offers a whole range of products. The more advanced ones will be able to program the series length or several other parameters, for example, but this is a topic for a separate article.

safety bag for li-po batteries

The last thing I wanted to mention is the safety of using Li-Po batteries. As I checked with Maniek44, it may seem that damaging the package is difficult, but nothing could be further from the truth. Li-po batteries can be dangerous when damaged. The most noticeable symptom of a potential defect is the swelling of the package, but you also need to pay attention to other mechanical damage such as abrasions in the wires, holes, or bumps. In case you are not sure if the package is still fit for use, it is best to take it to a local separate waste collection point. There it will be properly disposed of. Before this happens, however, it is worth knowing a few basic ways to extend the life of our batteries. The best thing we can do is buy a good microprocessor charger. It is not a small expense, but in my opinion, it is definitely worth the money. Thanks to such a charger, we can set specific battery charging parameters and, for example, charge them with a fairly low intensity, which is healthier for them than fast charging with high current. Microprocessor chargers also have special modes for balancing individual cells in the package and those that charge our battery to the optimal value for long-term storage. I like to use this option myself because I go to airsoft games quite irregularly, and thanks to this my batteries remain viable. Speaking of storing and charging Li-Po batteries, it is worth mentioning the protective bags, the so-called LiPo bags. These are containers made of a special material designed to minimize damage in case the battery fails and ignites spontaneously. This type of battery protector is quite a small expense and I think that it is worth considering to additionally protect our batteries during charging or transport.

Summary 

There is no doubt that Li-Po batteries are noteworthy products. They offer good current efficiency, much better than standard NiMH batteries, and are available in various formats, so we should have no problem finding one that will fit in our replica. When I think about it myself, I say that LiPo is probably the first replica improvement that I make after buying it, because it is difficult to make a mistake here. Replicas, especially those with a MOSFET chip, can easily accept this type of package as their power source. Additionally, by investing once, we have peace of mind for several years, and we can potentially use rechargeable batteries with several replicas, provided that their dimensions match. Especially if we buy them a good-quality charger and security such as LiPo bags. I am aware that this article deals only with some of the topics related to the power supply of our replicas, so I have already planned another part, where I would like to discuss a few other issues. In the meantime, let me know if you are using Li-Po battery replicas and if you are satisfied.

Author:

Boreq

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