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Generic vs. Name Brand How to differentiate Portable Power Solutions by Martyn Sly-Jex I n today’s marketplace, there seems to be a disparity in cost when it comes to batteries. What should the professional consider when purchasing new batteries? There are three key considerations: What value do I place on reliability—is my reputation at stake? Secondly, am I looking for long-term cost efficiency? Finally, how intense is my battery use? All these factors depend on the type of production you are involved in and the nature of your organization. A typical rental house for example, would tick all boxes; as they tend to work batteries extremely hard—a scenario where higher cost is more than justified by long- term cost of ownership and reliable product. Customers should consider the battery design and construction, its capacity and longevity and the kind of customer support the manufacturer offers. While generic batteries are usually significantly cheaper than name-brand ones, they often lack features and technology that will help your production run safely and reliably. In the long run, you may have to purchase many more batteries and chargers. The poor design of generic batteries and chargers means they may malfunction and are unlikely to last as long. How can you tell if a battery from a particular manufacturer is a worthwhile investment? Battery technology is often underestimated, as a recent experience of a well-known manufacturer with “dreams grounded,” attests to. The reality is that you, as the consumer, can’t see what’s inside the battery. Even if you could, most battery cells look very much the same. In fact, manufacturers of cheap generic batteries can purchase them inexpensively in large, uncontrolled lower-quality batches. The result is that some battery brands on sale in the UK, are actually on sale in the Far East for as little as 60 USD. The cells in these batteries are rarely premium, and have not been balanced or matched with one another. How do we know this? Simple, the price for premium cells and matched cell packs are much, much higher. There are batteries on the market in the UK where the cell-tolerance matching is as high as -20% to +10%, which can be disastrous, since as all battery industry insiders know, it’s cell balance, that determines battery performance. In comparison, Anton/Bauer is matching Li-Ion cells to 5 millivolts, or 0.125%—a challenging specification, that leads to a reliable, long-life battery. Repeated tests demonstrate the improved life cycle performance on cell packs using exactly the same premium cells, but differing in balance criteria; we consistently see a two to threefold improvement in cycle life under lab conditions. A further differential is that our cells are made in factories with the highest precision tooling capability available today, in clean room manufacturing environments; again this results in higher costs, but more safety and more reliability. The same choices are made in regards to quality housings, onboard electronics, weld tabs, etc., all of which can enhance or reduce reliability and service life. So how can you tell? Products sold on price alone are unlikely to be high quality. In the end, you need to look at the reputation and track record of the battery supplier. Is there a distinction in the exterior of different batteries, too? The casing of a high-quality battery sets it apart from cheaper batteries using standard plastic housings. One has to understand that a battery cell is actually very delicate; in a production environment batteries are subject to multiple impacts. Without durable casing, when a battery is dropped or thrown in a bag with other equipment, the force of the impact can go through the housing, through the cells forming an electro-chemical weak point, leading on to cell imbalance and failure. At Anton/Bauer, we’ve developed an IMPAC® case design made from high-impact polymer, the same material used in motorcycle helmets, so if a battery is dropped, the impact spreads out over the housing without affecting the cells inside. This attention to detail by a manufacturer should not be overlooked. It is so important that Anton/Bauer has now moved to the next stage, with internal honeycomb housings protecting each individual cell. 60 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 78 JUNE 2013 TV-BAY078JUN13.indd 60 10/06/2013 15:16