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HP offers novel battery for notebooks

Posted: 15 Dec 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:lithium ion battery  notebook computers  battery life 

Hewlett-Packard will offer as an option for many of its consumer notebook computers a novel lithium ion battery that delivers a faster charge time and a threefold longer life span than existing batteries.

HP will re-brand the Sonata battery from start-up Boston-Power as the HP Enviro and support it with a three-year warranty.

The deal is believed to cover as many as 80 per cent of HP's consumer notebooks. The company is expected to charge a premium of about 20 per cent for the batteries.

It's not clear whether HP will consider offering the batteries as an option for its business notebooks or as a standard component for any of its systems. Currently, production capacity is a gating item for the start-up.

Boston-Power makes 300,000 cells per month in a Hsinchu, Taiwan, factory run by Gold Peak Industries (Holdings) Ltd of Hong Kong. The start-up is also ramping up production in its own factory in Shenzhen, China.

"We are a very small player," said Christina Lampe-Onnerud, chief executive and founder of Boston-Power, noting that the notebook industry ships as many as 100 crore battery cells a year.

"One of our biggest challenges is to grow our manufacturing capability and maintain quality," she said. "We will do the most aggressive expansion we can to our existing facilities."

Boston-Power launched the Sonata in February 2007 when it was first sampling to potential customers such as HP. A press statement from Boston-Power did not indicate expected volumes as a result of the deal.

Existing battery makers are using new cathode materials to deliver stepwise improvements in battery life per charge. Boston-Power's Sonata represents a ground-up redesign using a new cell type to provide faster charges and longer lifecycles.

The Sonata promises to deliver 1,000 charge/discharge cycles without degrading cell performance, about three times the lifetime of current batteries. In addition, it can achieve an 80 per cent charge in as little as 30 minutes without degrading the battery's life. Current batteries typically take as much as an hour to reach an 80 per cent power in a fast-charge cycle that can degrade cell performance by 60 to 80 per cent within 300 charge cycles.

Part of the motivation for HP was to provide a greener option to conventional notebook batteries. "By partnering with Boston-Power, we are able to offer our customers batteries with a longer lifespan and help reduce the amount of technology waste in landfills," said Jonathan Kaye, director of consumer notebooks at HP, in a press statement.

The HP deal is not exclusive, and Boston-Power is pursuing other design wins it hopes to announce next year. It is also working on a version of its technology geared to offer longer battery life on a single charge.

Longer term, the start-up will pursue opportunities in other areas including automotive batteries. Boston-Power opened a lab focused on developing products for large systems.

-Rick Merritt
EE Times

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