Boston-Power Strikes Deal with Hewlett-Packard to Market Longer-Lived, Eco-Friendly Laptop Batteries
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we truly offer differentiation,” says Lampe-Onnerud, who was the subject of an extensive profile in IEEE Spectrum back in March. “This is the first green battery for laptops, and it’s the longest-lasting, fastest-charging battery.”
When Lampe-Onnerud calls her batteries green, by the way, she’s not kidding. By virtually eliminating heavy metals from the manufacturing process, Boston-Power became first U.S. company to win the Nordic Ecolabel. It’s also the first lithium-ion battery maker to receive the Chinese Ecolabel certification.
Today’s announcement is the fruit of a long relationship between Boston-Power and HP. In fact, for Boston-Power’s public coming-out at the Demo ’07 conference in San Diego, Lampe-Onnerud was introduced on stage by John Wozniak, leader of HP’s personal systems group.
“HP was quite a remarkable partner,” Lampe-Onnerud says now. “They took us seriously from the beginning. The first day I came into HP in the summer of 2005, they said, ‘Really? That’s what you want to do? Small companies have never entered into this space, you know.’ and I said, ‘Okay—but if this vision is real, are you interested?’ And they said ‘Of course—show us some data. If it’s real, it’s going to be big.'”
Boston-Power’s big idea wasn’t to start from scratch with a new chemistry for laptop batteries, but simply to refine their design. Conventional lithium-ion battery packs contain six cylindrical cells, arranged in three pairs wired in parallel. In Boston-Power’s Sonata batteries, which are assembled in China and Taiwan, three rectangular cells are packed into the same space, and wired in a series.
Because they use more of the available volume, the Sonata cells have a somewhat greater capacity than traditional lithium-ion battery packs. Moreover, wiring the cells in a series makes the current flow easier to control, lessening the slight imbalances in current that cause flecks of lithium metal to build up on the anodes, or negative electrodes, in parallel-wired cells. These buildups are what lead to reduced energy capacity in conventional batteries. (The same design changes mean that Boston-Power’s batteries recharge faster, reaching 80 percent capacity in just 30 minutes.)
According to a Harris Interactive poll sponsored by Boston-Power, 40 percent of laptop users report that they have replaced their laptop batteries five or more times over the course of three years. “If you’re one of those 40 percent, you are spending almost as much on batteries as you did on the laptop,” says Lampe-Onnerud. “I feel pretty good about the fact that we can offer a battery that is going to work for a long time. I also like the feeling of helping to create good jobs and high-end products that last, that are good for the Earth and good for the end user.”
Lampe-Onnerud says she doesn’t yet know how much HP will charge for the new Enviro batteries. “I suspect there will be a small premium attached,” she says. “But I think consumers will make back enormous amounts of money by not having to replace them.”
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