Alternative to Battery Beak device?

My team is trying to pick out which batteries are our worst-performing ones, and we borrowed other teams’ battery beaks. I looked online and the price was surprising, so I found this tool which seems to perform the same job, for a lower price. Any thoughts?

We have one of those,

  1. 125 constant amps is higher than what are batteries are rated for and could lower there life.

  2. It doesn’t do internal resistance which is very useful for finding dead cells

  3. It doesn’t show the battery voltage at a number of different amperages (0,1,18) which gives you a better idea of battery health.

In short buy the battery beak.

Welcome to Chief Delphi!

My team doesn’t use battery beaks, we have our own special way our lead engineer made to load test our batteries. However, here are a couple threads that may help you;

It’s not clear what you mean by “constant amps” in that context, but the battery tester that the OP linked to is designed to apply 125 amps for only 5 seconds. This will not harm an FRC battery; however, it won’t give you as much useful information as other testing methods. See posts 9, 12, & 28 in the thread linked below

  1. It doesn’t do internal resistance which is very useful for finding dead cells

The jury is still out on whether weak cells can hide from a short-duration, low amp, internal resistance test. See posts 25, 26, 29, & 34 in the thread linked below

See post 27 in the thread linked below. For a home-brew solution, see posts 12 an 33 (competent adult supervision required).

Where the Battery Beak shines is for quick-testing batteries at events prior to putting them in the robot.

Look at it this way. Time and time again, our team would have a battery failure or worst yet put in a dead battery in a highly competitive OCCRA competition only to blow the match. Then came the Battery Beak. Since purchasing one, we have never ever had a failure due to a battery nor the performance of a battery going bad.

Now for the dollars and cents.

You pay $5000 for FIRST. If you are in Michigan, you get two districts with 12 qualification matches for a total of 24. 5k divided by 24 is roughly $200. So you are spending $200 to compete in a 2 min 15 sec match. If the battery beak keeps you from blowing a match due to a poor performance or bad battery, isn’t the cost worth it?

We also use a battery beak to help us understand the power usage of our robot in it’s development to make sure we are not draining the bat too fast.

I get that, and agree, however if I find something that can possibly perform the same job for a lesser price, I’m going to lean more towards that.

In general, you get what you pay for. Not just here.

Google “Midtronics battery tester” and see what one of the leading conductance battery testers goes for. They have several models, some with more features than others, and the price varies widely. A Micro 717 model (used by Meredes dealers) goes for $1600, while a simple model like a MBTPBT100 goes for about $110.

Both will tell you essentially whether the battery is good or not, as does the Beak. The beak is optimized for FRC type batteries, and tells you a bit more about the battery’s health.

So to answer your question: Yes, there are slightly less expensive options. They are not necessarily better though. Also examine the kind of result they display; some may be more useful for FRC than others.

If you don’t want the fancy digital read out and are fine with an analog gauge you can get a similar load tester for about 1/2 the price.

Those type of load testers are the best way to see how the battery will respond when put in a robot and you ask it to power 4 CIMS at 100% power.

The problem is that because it does put such a drain on the battery it is not a good choice to use if immediately before a match. It is much better used before you charge up your batteries for the last time before you head to competition.

No they’re not.

As Ether has pointed out above and in the linked post, instrumentation can fool you, choose wisely. If I only had $150 to spend, my money would go for the CBA III tester from West Mountain Radio. If I was going to get $150 this year and the same next, I would buy the Battery Beak and then wait on the CBA.
The CBA does a nearly complete test, is programmable and therefore repeatable, and can overlay tests (either the same battery or different batteries of the same type). It is the only one of the testers discussed that can show a reduced capacity cell. The tests however are done in real time and may take 2 hours to finish a complete test and the battery will require recharging when complete.
The Battery Beak is a quick check of battery health, fits in the pocket or tool kit and will give you a good indication of a change in battery function and it’s approximate state of charge in seconds.
A site I have not linked to before is While there is a lot of info for all types of batteries, be sure you are reading about SLA (Sealed Lead Acid) and in particular AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) which are the types of batteries we currently use. BU is sponsored by CADEX, manufacturers of testers and chargers. You can also buy through that site(link to Amazon), “Batteries in a Portable World - A Handbook on Rechargeable Batteries for Non-Engineers” for $19.95. I don’t have a copy of this book (I have a copy of a predecessor) so if anyone has purchased it let me know what you think.

Al, I think the CBA III tester is no longer made. Looks like we’ll have to spring for the “New and Improved” CBA IV!

You are right, I am at a point where I have to decide whether to retire or upgrade my CBA II to a III or buy the CBA IV. The IV does 150 watts which is a big improvement for use with our batteries. The II requires some rework to operate with Vista 64 or Win 7. Once our XP machines went into mandatory retirement, we haven’t been able to use my analyzer.

Awesome, I’ve been looking for a reason to upgrade the old CBAII, and I can also retire that old XP laptop.

That’s funny, we’re having a similar problem where I work with some of the software I work with. I’m wondering if all technology professionals are facing that dilemma, where corporate IT is forcing people off perfectly good machines because Windows is stopping support of XP.

In windows 7 professional/ultimate/enterprise, you can run a virtual copy of xp via Windows Virtual PC. This will allow you to install older programs meant for xp on the equivalent of an xp machine without having an xp machine.

If you have an XP installation disc laying around, you can do similar with Oracle’s VirtualBox or VMWare’s Player or Workstation.

If any of you guys who are thinking about upgrading would want to get their old CBA’s let me know, would be nice upgrading past my ‘poor man’s battery discharge tester’.

If I get a chance, there is a ham fest tomorrow in Belvidere, Il and West Mountain is scheduled to be there. When I talked to them in the spring, the upgrade was $100 I think and you had to pay freight both ways. I am guessing the USB connection has some limitations that did not affect XP, I didn’t get the impression that running XP in another platform would work. For machines managed by our sponsors, that is not an option at this time.