RCU Review: Hobbico Accu-cyle Elite Charger


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    Contributed by: Marc Vigod | Published: September 2004 | Views: 136003 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon

    by: Marc Vigod

    HOBBICO ACCU-CYCLE ELITE CHARGER
    Programmable Charger, Discharger and Analyzer


    Includes:

    • Charger Unit
    • AC Adapter Power Supply
    • Instruction Manual
    • One Main/Memory menu sheet flowchart
    • One NiCD, NiMH, and Lithium menu sheet
    • Alligator Clips with banana plug adapters built in
    • One Charge/Discharge chart w/blank memory chart
    • Two Year Warranty
    Street Price: $149.00
    Available from: Local Hobby Retailer
    Online at: Tower Hobbies

    SPECS:
    Input Voltage: 11-14.5VDC
    AC Power Supply: 110VAC 60Hz input, 14.5VDC 2.5A output
    Number of Output Ports: two
    For BOTH Outputs:
    Battery Types:

    • Nickel-Cadmium (NiCd)
    • Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH)
    • Lithium-Polymer (Li-Po)
    • Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion)

    Number Cells: 1-10 NiCd or NiMH (1.2-12.0V),
    1-3 Li-Po or Li-Ion (3.6-11.1 V)

    Fast Charge Current: * 50-2000mA
    Fast Charge Termination:

    • NiCd/MH -"negative deltaV'" peak detection
    • Li-Po's -"constant-current/constant-voltage"
      (4.20V /cell max.)
    • Li-Ion's -"constant-current/constant-voltage"
      (4.l0V /cell max.)

    Peak Detection Sensitivity: 3-15mV per cell adjustable
    Fast Chg Safety Timer: * automatically calculated
    Trickle Charge Current: * 0-200mA
    Peak Detection Delay: 3 minutes
    Discharge Current: 50-2000mA

    Discharge Cutoff Voltage:
    * 0.8-1.2V per cell adjustable for NiCd & NiMH
    3.0V per cell fixed for Li-Ion and Li-Po

    Cycle Count: 1 to 5 (NiCd and NiMH only)
    Cycle Delay- chg/dsch: 10 minutes
    Status Indicators: two tri -color LEDs
    (red/ amber / green)
    Optional Temp. Cutoff: ** 60-130°F (15-54°C)
    Output Connectors: banana jacks
    Battery Memories: ten
    Display Type: 2-line, 16 character LCD
    Case Size: 3.7 x 6.1 x 1.2 in. (94 x 30.5 x 155mm)
    Weight: 13.23 oz. (375g, not including power supply)
    Length: 6.1" (155mm)
    Width: 3.7" (94mm)
    Height: 1.2" (30.5mm)

    What's in the box

    Charger unit closeup

    Power supply takes
    banana plugs

    AC Adapter Specs

    Banana plugs on
    alligator clips!

    No soldering!
    I love this idea!


    INTRODUCTION

    The new Hobbico Accu-Cycle Elite programmable charger is one versatile little piece of equipment. It was designed to charge, discharge and cycle NiCd, NiMH and Lithium based battery packs. It is great for both home or field charging thanks to its clever use of special alligator clips and an included power supply. This charger is progammable and has a memory feature to save your most often used cell configurations (up to 10). You can also set the charge manually and not use a preset if you like.  For this article I ran it through its paces with all types of packs and found it easy to use and it got the job done on all the packs I tested.

    Some notable special features on the Accu-Cycle elite include the "Auto Smart Set" features which calculates and sets charging current, trickle charge current, fast charge safety timer, and discharge cutoff voltage based on the type of battery, its voltage and the capacity entered by the user.

    An optional temperature sensor device is available which will stop charging when the battery reaches a set temperature.

    There is a peak detection delay timer which disables peak detection for the first 3 minutes of charge. This helps prevent early false peaks.

    The touchpad eliminates the need for switches or dials and helps keep dirt or liquids off the electronics.

    There are special safety features which include cool off time delay between cycles, fast charge safety timer, maximum charge voltage per cell, internal heat protection, current overload and the all important reverse polarity protection.

    A big feature of this charger is that it can simultaneously charge TWO separate packs at once. The packs can be the same or different. The accu-cycle can handle it no problem.

    Included with the charger are some easy to follow flowchart sheets showing all the screens, how to get to them and an explanation of the functions. This is very helpful to find the screens that you may have forgot how to get to. The instruction manual is well written and clearly explains how to use the unit. It also explains how the charging process for the various types of batteries works for those interested.

    To read the entire manual in PDF format click here


    SOME LIMITS

    The AC Power has a max of 15 watts. It can allow the cycler to deliver a full 2 amps of charge to any single output. Max charge however is limited for each output though when BOTH outputs are charging at high current. The chart below depicts the limits. I tested several of these and found them to be accurate.

    AC Power Supply: Maximum current PER OUTPUT when BOTH outputs are used
    # NiCd/Mh Cells Max Charge Current Max Discharge Current
    1-4 2.0A 2.0A
    5 2.0A 1.65A
    6 1.65A 1.40A
    7 1.40A 1.20A
    8 1.25A 1.00A
    9 1.10A 0.90A
    10 1.00A 0.80A
    # Li-Po/Ion Cells
    1 2.0A 2.0A
    2 2.0A 1.35A
    3 1.35A 0.90A


    Using DC input with at least 5 amps of current while maintaining 12VDC you can deliver the rated 2amps to both outputs at the same time for charging. You can use the banana plugs which are already attached to the chargers cord and plug it into your flight box or use the special alligator clips (did I mention I love these!) and clip onto a 12V battery.

    Using the included AC adapter is easy when at home as it has 2 female banana jacks that the unit plugs right into. Again the limits of what the charger can do when using this power source are noted in the chart above.

    The max power dissipation on the charger is 10 watts regardless of input power. The chart above shows the discharge rates available when both outputs are being used with the various battery combos.

    LET'S LOOK AT THE SCREENS

    To get a good feel for how the unit works I took several pictures of the various screens below with an explanation below the image set for what it shows. Click any image for the full size which shows the screen display clearly.

    Above the screens show what you see as you scroll through the battery types and the memory screen. Navigating through options and menus is simple. The up and down buttons let you adjust values or view data screens while the enter and change buttons let you page through the options and enter them.

    Starting a charge cycle is easy. Simply press the green charge button then press it again and hold it to start the process. The same process is used for the discharge button (red button) and the cycle button (yellow). The cycle button is NOT available for lipo/ion batteries though.

    Without reading the instructions I had no problem navigating my way through the options. Who reads instructions? Well once I got done with the initial charging I did go through them carefully to make sure I did not miss anything. Everyone really should read them especially for the precautions.

    The first image on the left shows the memory slot (#0) and the middle image shows the type type of cell and cell number. You can adjust this from 1-10 cells on Nicd/Mh and 1-3 cells for Lipo/ion pakcs. You can use this unit to fast charge your glo-starter cells along with all your flight packs. The image on the right shows the rated capacity. You can adjust the type of battery, cell count and capacity by clicking the change button (right pointing yellow arrow) then using the up and down buttons to adjust the values. Very simple.

    The above sequence shows a memory slot with the Lipo/ion cell at 7.4 setting (2 cell) and 1050mah capacity. The image on the right shows the peak charge screen where you can adjust the peak charge rate. The range is 50mah up to 2 amps (see chart for limits on output).

    Above to the left you can see the trickle screen. I love the fact that the range for this is 0-200mah. So many chargers these days have a minimum trickle of 50mah or 100mah which, for some packs, is too high. The center image above shows the peak sensitivity setting. This is adjustable and the recommended range for Nicads is 5-15mv and for Nimh it is 2-10mv. The peak sensitivity does NOT apply to the lipo/ion batteries. The image to the right shows the discharge screen. This is adjustable from 50mah to 2amps (see chart for limits). The factory preset is .30amp on this unit.

    The image above on the left shows the discharge cutoff voltage which is based on the battery type and voltage values entered. You can adjust this from .8-1.2v per cell for Nicd/mh. The cutoff voltage for Lipo/ion is NOT adjustable and is factory set to 3v per cell. Note top right the green light indicates output one on the left is the one charging. To change outputs when setting the programmer you simply hit the "Output Select" button. The center image shows the number of cycles (more on this later). On the right it shows the charge in process just having begun. The display will toggle between this screen and the one below to the left.

    The image on the left again shows the charging process in action. In this shot I am charging a 4.8V Nimh pack 1650mah capacity. The charge rate and voltage are shown here. The image above in the center shows two (2) packs being charged simultaneously. One is the Nimh pack and the other a 2 cell lipo pack. Now that is versatile! On the right you can see the lipo pack was detected to have a full charge in it.

    When you first start the charge process the charger checks the battery connections. This is shown in the picture above to the left. In the center it shows the charge rate and voltage on the Duralite Plus 7.4V Li-Ion pack. The image on the right above shows the type of battery, voltage and capacity I entered into memory slot #8 for the Duralite Plus pack. You can see the green LED's show both outputs are charging in the center shot above.

    You can see the Duralite Plus pack is fully charged in the image above to the left. The center screen shows the total capacity put into the pack and voltage. In this case it was zero as I used a fully charged pack to see what the charger would do. It detected it as being fully charged and stopped charging as it should. The picture on the right shows the battery temp sensor screen. This unit can take two sensors to detect temperature (one for each output).

    Once charging is complete the info screens will tell you the peak voltage and how much capacity was pumped into the pack. It will also show you how long the charge took. You can change the number of cycles using the up and down buttons. This option is not applicable to the lipo/ion batteries. You can recall cycle data for 5 full cycles on the display.

    Above you can see some of the ending screens at the completion of the charge cycle on the 4.8V Nimh pack. The "Ave" will show a value as the average voltage during a discharge cycle. When coming off a charge cycle it shows the peak voltage reached as seen above to the right.


    FINAL THOUGHTS

    The Hobbico Accu-Cycle Elite Pro Series charger is a versatile charger that can serve you well at the field and at home. With the included AC power supply you can tend to your charging needs at home anytime. While at the field you simply plug in the banana jacks or use the clever alligator clips which house banana plug connectors and your ready to charge anywhere.

    The dual outputs of this unit are fantastic. All my other chargers I own have been limited to a single output or on the ones with two outputs I was limited to cells and type of battery. With the Accu-Cycle Elite I can configure Nicd, Nimh or Lipo/ion packs on either output and charge 2 packs at once. For me this is a bug plus.

    It should be noted that the Elite is designed primarily for R/C radio transmitter and receiver batteries. For that reason, it was not designed to handle more than 2 amps of current or 10 cells (3 with lipo/ion). Transmitter and receiver packs do not need more power than this charger can handle. The Lipo capability is useful for modelers who are now using them to power their radio equipment.

    Although you can charge some electric flight batteries with this unit, some of the larger packs with 4+ lipo or 11+ Nicd/Mh are beyond the capability of this charger (again not an issue for radio system battery packs which is the primary application for this charger). If you need to charge more than 3 cells for lipo packs or more than 10 cells for Nicd/Mh or if you require higher charge rates then 2.0 amps you should look at something like the all purpose Triton charger. Also if for some reason you require a higher discharge rate than this unit can handle you may want to look at the Triton or other units. Refer to the chart for the charge and discharge rates when using two outputs. For charging just about any transmitter, receiver pack, glow plug battery and some e-flight packs the Accu-Cycle Elite fits the bill!

    With the combination of features, safety, versatility and ease of use I give the Accu-Cycle Elite a thumbs up.




    Hobbico, Inc.

    P.O. Box 9021
    Champaign, IL 61826-9021
    www.hobbico.com
    buy it Online at: Tower Hobbies

    Comments on RCU Review: Hobbico Accu-cyle Elite Charger

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    The comments, observations and conclusions made in this review are solely with respect to the particular item the editor reviewed and may not apply generally to similar products by the manufacturer. We cannot be responsible for any manufacturer defects in workmanship or other deficiencies in products like the one featured in the review.

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