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How to arrange batteries to increase voltage or gain higher capacity? Views [0] Published: 2017-11-24 16:28:34

Batteries achieve the desired operating voltage by connecting several cells in series; each cell adds its voltage potential to derive at the total terminal voltage. Parallel connection attains higher capacity by adding up the total ampere-hour (Ah).

Some packs may consist of a combination of series and parallel connections. Laptop batteries commonly have four 3.6V Li-ion cells in series to achieve a nominal voltage 14.4V and two in parallel to boost the capacity from 2,400mAh to 4,800mAh. Such a configuration is called 4s2p, meaning four cells in series and two in parallel. Insulating foil between the cells prevents the conductive metallic skin from causing an electrical short.

Most battery chemistries lend themselves to series and parallel connection. It is important to use the same battery type with equal voltage and capacity (Ah) and never to mix different makes and sizes. A weaker cell would cause an imbalance. This is especially critical in a series configuration because a battery is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain. An analogy is a chain in which the links represent the cells of a battery connected in series

Series Connection

Portable equipment needing higher voltages use battery packs with two or more cells connected in series.

High voltage batteries keep the conductor size small. Cordless power tools run on 12V and 18V batteries; high-end models use 24V and 36V. Most e-bikes come with 36V Li-ion, some are 48V. The car industry wanted to increase the starter battery from 12V (14V) to 36V, better known as 42V, by placing 18 lead acid cells in series. Logistics of changing the electrical components and arcing problems on mechanical switches derailed the move.

Parallel Connection

If higher currents are needed and larger cells are not available or do not fit the design constraint, one or more cells can be connected in parallel. Most battery chemistries allow parallel configurations with little side effect.

Safety devices in Series and Parallel Connection

Positive Temperature Coefficient Switches (PTC) and Charge Interrupt Devices (CID) protect the battery from overcurrent and excessive pressure. While recommended for safety in a smaller 2- or 3-cell pack with serial and parallel configuration, these protection devices are often being omitted in larger multi-cell batteries, such as those for power tool. The PTC and CID work as expected to switch of the cell on excessive current and internal cell pressure; however the shutdown occurs in cascade format. While some cells may go offline early, the load current causes excess current on the remaining cells. Such overload condition could lead to a thermal runaway before the remaining safety devices activate.

Some cells have built-in PCT and CID; these protection devices can also be added retroactively. The design engineer must be aware than any safety device is subject to failure. In addition, the PTC induces a small internal resistance that reduces the load current.