Batteries at Champs: Solutions?

We’ve all seen it by now, over years shipping has been an issue. For those who don’t know, teams who ship their supplies can’t ship batteries, because of the hazards of putting high-energy devices in an unmonitored truck. FIRST has given teams that travel to America two batteries, but that’s not a solution. It means that you need to charge at a high current in order to have a battery for your next match. Most teams that bring their own trailers bring anywhere from 2-20 batteries to be prepared for the rigors of the competition.

I have a proposed solution, which I alluded to on another thread, albeit without much critical thinking. The idea is pretty simple, AndyMark or maybe even FIRST should get hundreds of batteries. AM lists two 17Ah batteries for $90, and I don’t know their profit margin. I’ve seen batteries go for $15 on Alibaba, so I don’t think pricing is an issue. Once AndyMark has these batteries, start a “rental” service. Sure, allow teams to buy batteries outright. However, oversea teams won’t be buying, since they can’t take them home. Just rent out batteries for $15, and people would be so happy. In fact, if this would be a long term thing, even rent out last year’s batteries for $5 or something. People would be very gracious to do this, and it would be a huge gesture to all teams from oversea.

Feel free to critique this idea or pose your own. I just wanted to throw this out there since there is nothing fair about it. Most foreign teams have a very small chance to be competitive, even with a good robot/DT. Something should be done about it. Even if it doesn’t happen this year, I don’t see how it’s possible to compete with two batteries.

I’d also like to hear from foreign teams about how they manage. I know that Orbit (1690) from Israel was the first pick by the #1 seed on Tesla, and made it to Einstein Finals. How do they manage? If your team struggles with it, I would love to hear your plans. While plenty of teams are willing to lend their extra batteries, it is quite difficult for teams to count on others to succeed.

While results vary, the whole structure of FRC involves counting on others to succeed. No matter how good an individual robot, you need your alliance members in order to win a match.

Back to batteries… it’s an interesting idea. How do you deal with batteries that die during a competition (dropped on the floor, fall out of a robot and get mangled on the field, etc)? How do you deal with specific setups on individual robots (like the orientation and length of the wires, or the choice of the Anderson connector the team wants to use)? Do the batteries go through some sort of performance validation every time they get handed off to a team, to ensure there aren’t lurking problems (like a high internal resistance, or internal damage that reduces the usable life of the battery during a match)?

I definitely don’t want to rain on your parade here. But these are questions that would need to be thought through and answered before any such “rental” program could really get off the ground. No one wants to show up to an event planning to rent all their batteries, only to find they don’t work as expected on their robot!

Over the last years BumbleB 3339 from Israel got help from other teams, but when getting to einstien, the teams that lend us batteries wanted them back because they had to pack.

Actually we can ship the batteries back to Israel and from Israel to the US but we chose not not to ship batteries because of their weight. We will have to pay for overweight in the shipment from Israel because it goes in a plane.
This year we bought some batteries from andymark with ship to my pit service and we are going to ship them back to Israel because the shipment is in a ship and we won’t pay for overweight.

Last year our crate was full (robot and tool, without batteries) and weighted 985 pounds. We payed 82$ for every 100 pounds over the first 400 pounds.

To sum it up, international teams can ship their batteries (under certain conditions stated in the manual and US laws) and pay for the over weight, or to buy batteries in the US and ship them back or to rely of the good will of american teams but with the growth in representation of international teams it won’t be easy.

Interesting idea, but at least for US teams there is no issue with shipping batteries; just follow the instructions provided by FIRST.

Order new batteries and ship them to the hotel?

Not a large scale solution, but I was thinking of checking in with Houston teams that aren’t attending Champs to see if they would loan batteries. I wouldn’t trust every Houston team to have high-quality batteries, but many of them should. 5892 is pretty sharp but not attending, for instance.

I’d like to see some teams (or possibly AM) start buying lightly used batteries back from teams that need to order new ones. Then they can keep the batteries for themselves to use next season.

5892 is going, they got in on the waitlist, they are in newton.

Spectrum is buying new batteries and will be loaning out a lot of the old ones. We’ve been contacted by several teams already.

Any international teams that are buying batteries and don’t want to ship them back, we will take them and make sure they get to rookie/young teams next year.