October 21, 2013
By Thomas A. Horne
Mid-Continent Instrument Co., long known for its inverters, standby instruments, and standby battery packs, announced Oct. 21 that its True Blue Power division now offers two new, advanced-technology lithium-ion batteries.
The TB 44 battery is intended for twin turbine aircraft and packs 44 ampere-hours of power. Mid-Continent said the battery is able to perform seven engine starts in seven minutes—without overheating or failing. Traditional lead-acid or nickel-cadmium batteries are typically capable of only three starts in 10 minutes, the company said, adding that at 52 pounds, the TB 44 has three times the energy density and 40 percent of the weight of traditional batteries. Recharge times for a fully depleted battery are listed as 15 minutes. Mid-Continent said that the TB 44 is expected to be standard equipment on soon-to-be-announced production aircraft.
The TB 17 battery is a 15.6-pound, 17 ampere-hour unit that’s designed for lighter turbine aircraft as well as those with reciprocating engines. Its performance is similar to that of the TB 44, but its fully depleted recharge rate is 30 minutes.
Both batteries have overcharge, over-discharge, over-current, short circuit, over- and under temperature, and charge current protection. Internal cell heaters allow the batteries to operate at temperatures down to -40 degrees Celsius/-40 degrees Fahrenheit; the upper operating limit is 70 degrees Celsius/158 degrees Fahrenheit. The batteries have six-year useful lives, two-year limited warranties, and two-year maintenance intervals. They use A123 Systems’ Nanophosphate lithium-ion chemistry, a more stable form of power generation that produces less energetic reactions in the rare event of battery overvoltage or overtemperature, said Rick Slater, True Blue Power division manager. That feature was amply demonstrated in test footage of a nail-penetration test of a True Blue Power lithium battery and a conventional lithium-ion battery. The latter instantly erupted in sparks and smoke, but the True Blue’s response was much more attenuated.
Both batteries will be available to original equipment manufacturers in the fourth quarter of 2013. For more information, visit the True Blue Power division website.
In a related development, True Blue said it would be hosting a series of educational seminars called Lithium Batteries 101 to discuss the design, safety, and usage of lithium-ion batteries. The seminars are set to begin in January 2014 at an NBAA Business Aviation Regional Forum in Boca Raton, Fla. Twelve additional seminars around the United States and in Canada, Australia, and Panama are also scheduled.
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Tom Horne has worked at AOPA since the early 1970s. He began flying in 1975 and has an airline transport pilot and flight instructor certificates. He’s flown everything from ultralights to Gulfstreams and ferried numerous piston airplanes across the Atlantic.
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