Talk:Battery and power

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NOTE: Except for #Hand Crank Problems all items have been imported from Talk:Hardware specification. --Xavi 22:01, 18 January 2007 (EST)


FET stands for ...
"Field-Effect Transistor" usually. What's the context? -- Davewa 20:30, 3 November 2008 (UTC)

Hand Crank Problems

I bought a small battery-powered radio with a hand-crank charger to experiment with human-powered devices. It cost me all of £15 at Maplins in the UK. After working with it for a week I have discovered two problems with hand-cranked power. --Memracom 16:34, 21 June 2006 (EDT)

Added to article. Tom Haws 13:17, 5 January 2007 (EST)

Power Requirement

I see that you have settled on a 14 volt power specification. I think that is a mistake. Living in West Africa for many years now I see that people are very comfortable with 12volt power systems. In almost every remote village one can find an enterprizing person who has fitted out a small TV to run on a car battery. Eventhough there are no solar panels or other power systems in thier village, they will use that battery to run thier "cinama" and then strap that car battery on the back of a bicycle and pedel 20km or more to a town that has some power and a battery charger.

Making the power system 14 volts then mismatches your device with a well understood and locally vibrant technology, that is unless your specification is so "loose" that the device will run on 12 volts. - eu

Please specify the 14 volt power with the allowable voltage tolerance. The unloading end voltage of a 6 cell lead-acid battery (which is probably the most widely spread) is at about 11.8 V (say 11.6 Volt including some resistive voltage drop until it reaches the device) so a specification of a 14V (-18%) would be fine for the lower limit. As written above (eu) 12V is the sweet spot of available voltages. It is very important not to miss it, rather consider going for 7 NiMH cells instead of 8 NiMH cells! - ff

Specs have changed since this comment was noted. Actually, we're using 5 NiMH cells; and the machine will take almost anything above that voltage, to 24 volts, + or - for charging - jg

Maximum power: 500 mA (total)

This information given on the hardware specification is most likely uncorrect. A current (Ampere) is not a power (Watt) and a maximum current of 500 mA would lead to a very long time to reach full charge if the laptop is on. Probably the stated 500 mA refer to the maximum output current of the USB ports?

This is a good point. What is the power usage of the XO? Tom Haws 14:44, 5 January 2007 (EST)
Tom, I've set up a Volt Amp Volt test rig with three meters to test solar -> external battery and ext batt -> XO. The VAV rig is 4 screws in a 2x6 block of wood for terminals. Two screws on the left are used for rig input terminals, two on the right as rig output terminals. The negative input and negative output are wired together for a common ground. The first meter is connected across the rig input screws in parallel, and the third meter is connected across the rig output screws in parallel, both to measure voltage(20 volt range). The second meter positive lead is connected to the rig input positive terminal, and it's negative lead is connected to the rig output positive terminal, set to measure amps (200 milliamp range for solar charge test, 10 AMP range for XO draw test.

I am using a Harbor Freight 5 watt solar panel, which was floating up to about 18 volts with no load, then down to around 12 volts, +/- a couple of volts depending on the load on the panel. I have a charge controller between the panel and the test rig, but I didn't see it kick in anytime during the charging test. I was cleaning up my Coleman lightweight Jumpstarter, and decided to use it's 12v 7ah (ampHour) battery as the external battery for the test. I have a full size Compaq keyboard and a Logitech laser trackball hooked onto the XO USB ports, and a 1 gb Kingston SD card in the slot. Only running Journal and Browse on the XO.

Safety note: I got a hot refresher on DC shorted battery terminal welding while switching out the rig... lost a half volt of charge on the ext batt, a meter-lead tip, and an alligator clamp, but no flesh or flash burns... Word-to-the-wise.

First test was charging the ext batt from the solar panel... solar panel hooked to the rig input, ext batt to the rig output. Ext batt started at about 12v and I charged it up to about 13.5v at a max draw of 100-120 milliamps from the solar panel.

After the sun went down, I switched over to the ext batt power test for the XO (losing the above mentioned half volt of charge during the short short) Ext batt moved to the input side of the rig, XO hooked up to the output side of the rig. When I powered up the XO with it's battery in, it was showing about 50 percent charge. The external battery voltage was about 12.90v, and the XO was drawing 1.49 AMPS, with the rig output voltage (XO input) showing 12.62v. After several hours of typing and browsing, not charging all the time, but no other power to the XO, I was showing a 70 percent charge on the XO internal battery, 11.70v on the ext batt, drawing zero.88 amps at 11.47v.

Removing the internal battery from the XO, I powered it back up, and it was drawing about zero.66 amps during startup (same voltages as above last), finally dropping back down to about zero.53 amps. When I connected to my linksys wireless, the amps bounced back and forth from .68 to .53, finally settling back to about .53 with no traffic on the browser (i.e. typing this) Final test result, as I type here, is 11.59v on external battery, 0.54 amps at 11.40 volts direct draw with no internal battery in the XO. (got to finish now before my power jack kludge glitches on me and I loose this again...)  :Tinktron 04:21, 19 June 2008 (EDT)

Solar Panel

I found this cheap solar panel here that children could buy as an optional accessory for only $19.99 [1] I think it's power should be sufficient to run one laptop off of and to charge two. Maybe you could even run one laptop and charge another one with the extra power at the same time? 1.8 Watts at 12V. What do you think? (it's a 12V charger so I think it puts out more than 12V of power but that should be ok) usacomputertec 18:13, 03/02/2007 (PST) my web page is[2]

I discovered to my chagrin that nothing short of 5W is any good, and for things to actually work you better aim to 10 W. See XO_Solar for details Yamaplos 12:58, 4 June 2008 (EDT)

Built in Crank Handle

I suggest that you re-visit the idea of a built in crank handle. While the power output of a built in crank is pretty low and the stresses caused on the body of the laptop can be extremely high I have spent time where power is difficult to come by. The built in crank gives users the ability to power when no other power is possible, even if the crank time/use time is as poor as 1/2.

There will be a human-power option, but we've moved it off the laptop itself. I twill be part of the power adaptor. Walter 14:17, 30 July 2006 (EDT)

I would also suggest that you make it possible to connect bare wires to the laptop for power with connectors similar to, but much more rugged, as those on speakers. This gives people the ability to connect to a variety of power sources without cannibalizing the standard power cable. They can use almost anything. You would need to include some kind of reset for when the power fluctuates outside of acceptable ranges.

We've considered something along the lones of banana plugs and may revisit it in Gen. 2. Walter 14:17, 30 July 2006 (EDT)

Power in third world areas is usually very dirty when available. In the industrialized world we have access to reasonably clean power and still have dirty power issues with computers and computerized machines. I think anyone who believes that accessories and power will be available is naive about third world nations. The nicer places that many people go visit may have some intermittent basic services and this gives people a false understanding of the availability of services in third world nations. As another person pointed out, people will bicycle to a place with power rather than fabricate a charging system for a 12V battery out of a bicycle.

We are trying to build as much flexibility into the human-power system as we can so that it can support and foster local innovation. We've also built in extra robustness into the entire power system with the expectation of "dirty" power. Walter 14:17, 30 July 2006 (EDT)

You may want to consider including instructions on how to fabricate things in the flash memory of these laptops. Old style Mother Earth News and Peace Corp style fabrication and instructions.

Excellent idea!! Walter 14:17, 30 July 2006 (EDT)

Awesome project.

Crank as an Input Device, and Vice-Versa

I request that it be possible to use the crank as an input device. I realise with moving the device off the computer this becomes more difficult, but even a simple way for software to read the amount of voltage currently being generated (measured in seconds, not hours) would be useful.

Let me give you an extreme example of where I'm going... A computer powered by a mouse, or a computer powered by a joystick, and also with other more interesting user interfaces. In fast action games this might produce a fair amount of power.

But what I am suggesting now is a much more limited "turn the crank to see next page of ebook" kind of design, where cranking is built in to the application usage model rather than being seen as an added burden. It would also be integrated into gaming, for example foot-pedaling the generator might move your character forwards in a game. This is partly for the purposes of training kids in cranking, and also partly for making the system more immersive and for exploring novel user interface techniques. It also adds a level of physical exercise and interaction into computers that I think is missing, and which might be expected from game players in other countries.

The battery will give us a lot more/better information than most laptop batteries. People have already been thinking of doing games with the information. Also, we have a string pull generator device that should be much more effective than most cranks. Jim Gettys

14V DC or 10V DC? Why up to 25V?

I'm a bit confused here. 8 AA NiMH cells, in series, discharge at 10V DC and would be charged with something like 11.6V. So why 14V DC?

Now the battery pack is a 6 cell. This will need bare minimum of 12V to charge decently and 12.5V would be better. 10V will not be able to charge the battery.

Is there really a need to accept 25V input? This will complicate the charger as it will need to be a switching regulator rather than a linear regulator or you will have a lot of extra heat.

We're ending up with 5 cells, after all is said and done. It turns out it is always easier to down convert voltage than handle both up and down. And we can go to about 25 volts before incurring any additional cost, so we're doing so. The polarity is also protected, so that you can't damage the machine by plugging it into the voltage source backwards.

What will happen to the unit if 110V or 240V AC power is plugged or shorted directly into its power input? There are many levels on which this could be dealt with, e.g.: A. Machine charges using some of the available energy. B. Machine doesn't charge, but doesn't break. C. Machine breaks but doesn't let out toxic smoke. D. Machine breaks, catches fire, and spews melted plastic and rubber on foolish child. E. When out-of-spec power is supplied, machine screams (audio) for help before breaking ten or twenty seconds later.

While "testing to destruction" those 500 units, you should also try plugging AC power into each of the other ports (USB & audio). Pour kool-aid into the "ears" while AC power is applied to the audio port. Wash the laptop with harsh soap and a scrub brush every week. Swim across a lake while toting a laptop on a strap (while it's got an ebook open and is playing music). Move the laptop close to a fire (close enough to not need a backlight to read it) and see what melts first. Hmm, I wonder if you could generate power from heat, e.g. an attachment that a kid could toss on the woodstove or in a fire that plugs into the power port. Etc. The imaginations of kids are unlimited.

Question: why 25 Volts? If 'by accident' connected to a truck (nominal voltage 24 volts), the OLPC will be slightly overloaded (up to 28 volts approx.). Suggestion: a maximum of 30 volts would be fine. What about a bridge rectifier, this would allow simple chargers (mains transformer, manually/'pedually' operated generator etc.) and would eliminate any revers polarity problems.

The testing is very extensive. I liked particularly when Quanta explained the conventional keyboard test, which was of order "take a cup of coffee, with cream and sugar, and pour it between the g and h keys..."

So above and beyond the "usual" testing of this order that they do for "normal" laptops, we added quite a bit of additional testing: wider temperature ranges, higher falls, and so on.

And yes, it has a bridge rectifier; we were talking about nominal input voltages; people understand that truck batteries, nominally 24 volts, actually provide more, and generators are very spikey indeed.

Battery Type/Voltage

The battery pack should accept AA NmH cells, that can be replaced by the teacher. These can also be purchased at a reasonable price, as opposed to a "battery pack". 10 cells equals 12 volts, as said elsewhere this is a standard that should be adhered to. Allowing a 12v input would not charge the battery properly, but this could be connected to a larger (sealed lead acid) battery. With 2.2 AH cells, and a 12 watt consumption, what is the actual operating life of the battery? If teachers are reading this, this is important to them.

This is a link to a page that talks about an electricity generator that could improve your laptop project

I hope it helps!!!

We had the same naive view when we started. The problem is, with multiple cells, the connection between cells is not reliable. And computers, rather than flashlights, must have absolutely reliable contacts in their batteries. We do hope the battery packs won't be very hard to service in the field, however. On top of this, UL won't certify anything in the separate cell vein, even if it worked. And we want to be able to swap packs quickly, not with a pile of batteries which can be inserted in the wrong direction. It also looks like 2000 cycles is possible on the cells, by care in the charging circuitry. - jg
Your design already supports AA NiMH cells without any change to the design. For years people have been using external battery packs to charge (or extend use time) of PDAs and digital cameras. The OLPC will be no different, especially if someone can rig up a battery pack out of overripe bananas and seawater or something similar. Same goes for charging. Somebody is going to refit electric motors to make DC charging units that you can hook up to your water-buffalo. Your design allows a wide range of power inputs to be safely applied and that gives it maximum flexibility.
I'm not so sure I agree with the FUD on the page about the batteries. ("High charging efficiency", "no environmental concerns", "no safety problems", "removable packs being cheaper") If you're picking NiMH, but not picking a format that can use readily available cells as has been mentioned, I only see one reason to use NiMH over LiIon, and that reason isn't even mentioned at all.
Charging LiIon is easier than charging NiMH. In either case you can't just pump energy into either container at will -- you'll have to throttle them both. But the end-of-charge detection for one chemistry is much easier than the other, as far as I can tell.
And that's not the worst of the problems. If you're going to use typical NiMH cells, you only get 1.2V per cell. You'll have to gang them up in series to get the voltage you want. The worst thing about NiMH packs is the fact that a single cell in the pack can start to get weak and really hurt the pack due to charge/discharge differences. Over the course of charge/discharge cycles, this problem is exacerbated, leading to a self-toasting pack. I don't see that these packs are user-serviceable, so in the end, how can this be better for the environment?
This is assuming you don't put taps in between each of the cells (4 for a 5 cell pack) to make sure imbalances don't happen and don't propagate. How can this be easier or cheaper than, say, a 2 cell lithium ion pack which only needs one tap to track the cells, and has an easier end-of-charge detection mechanism for each cell?
As far as safety is concerned, these are energy storage devices, and they can both blow up. Some people might refer to the recent hubbub with Apple/Dell battery packs, but I think those are somewhat special cases (more social than technical). Bear in mind that lithium ion has been happily powering our camcorders and other electronic devices for a long time without blowing up. Where was the rash of camcorder fires? What about cell phones melting down? On top of that, lithium technology has gotten better, and is still getting better.
And while we are on that subject... why exactly are you designing a new pack to begin with? Why can't you use an already existing format? OK, so you supposedly have reasons to not use single-cell AA's. What's wrong with, say... camcorder battery packs? It's clear that manufacturers already know how to make those quite cheaply, and they have guard circuitry built into them and everything. The chargers are already widespread as well. This one I really don't get.


Battery selection and risks...

I argue that NiMH are actually less safe than Lithium but currently cost less per/Wh and can be used for more charge/discharge cycles.

I realize this is all just talk because the product is likely too far along to be making major changes to it. Even so...

In our experience, lithium is more reliable and produces less service requirements in the field. The company I started sells battery operated LED flashlights with boost circuitry that operate at high drain currents and can use alkaline, NiMH or Lithium cells (the customer can pick). We don't make the battery. The number one reason for warranty service is for battery leakage and corrosive damage of the innards. The failures are highest with alkaline (even adjusted for usage numbers) and second highest with NiMH. I have had lightly used NiMH ooze, burst and very loudly explode while charging in the recommended name brand charger. We recommend our customers use rechargeable Lithium because not only will they get better performance but it saves us money in service.

Although lithium is in the news right now, media perception is different than the real world data. Our tests indicate that regardless of the chemistry, most problems occur with cells when they are used in packs. Series connection is especially risky. Notice how most cell phones now use single cell lithium.

The problem with packs is cell balancing and reduced failure tolerance. The problems increase in a non-linear fashion as the number of cells is increased. Most laptops are power hogs and therefore require a large volume battery made up of multiple standard-sized (16850, etc) cells. Safety can be increased by dedicating battery management electronics for each cell in a multi-cell pack, buts risks are still higher than with a single cell system.

You will likely find that a 5 cell NiMh pack will be more service intensive in the field than a single cell Lithium.

Although boost (step-up) voltage conversion is typically 5-10% less efficient than buck (step-down) conversion, the increased safety of a single cell can be worth the effort.

A Lithium Ion cell is 4.2v open circuit and 3.7v under typical load. Most laptops require various voltages like 5v for the USB interface, 3.3v, etc. Those are all produced by the power management section using standard regulated boost converters. Note the modern PDA phone with USB port, flash memory, color lcd, etc all powered by a single lithium cell.

Compared to NiMh, I argue that lithium are safer, easier to charge, have a lower self discharge, wider temperature range and weigh less. Disadvantages include less cycle life (current cells achieve about 500 cycles compared to 2000 for NiMh but new lithium cells entering production have cycle lifes of over 4000 cycles) and cost. I realize cost/Wh is an especially big ding. You have to weigh it against the real world costs of fielding a system and the repercussions from its use.

My recommendation is to use a common cell phone pack from a reputable manufacturer. A typical pack is rated at 900-1200mAh(3-4Wh). Yes, I realize your current NiMh pack is rated at 22.8Wh. But I assume that most of that capacity is for runtime and to meet the maximum current consumption. You rate the maximum current consumption as 500mA; although I think you were referring to the USB port capability (500mA is the maximum standard output of a USB port). I apologize if I misunderstand. In other literature you refer to the 5W maximum system usage. At 10v, 500mA equals 5W, so I will assume 5w for my estimates, (1.4A at 3.6v). At max power consumption, a single 1Ah pack like in my LG would only last about 30 minutes. But at a more typical consumption, it would last over 2 hours. Just a suggestion; the compartment for the battery pack could include multiple sockets for various pack standards if need be. A 4-way compartment with water resistant door is one idea. Such a system would be smaller than the current pack. It could also be designed so that multiple cells can be connected at (in parallel) to increase run time. Or the child could simply swap out the cell for a spare. I would prefer less swapping if possible since that fatigues the connectors. Reducing the c rate on the cell also increases its cycle life and mAh delivery. This favors a system with 2 cells, switched in one at a time as needed. A standard cell phone pack has a built-in management ic for monitoring temperature, columb usage for the battery guage, etc. You will notice that originally phone models had all types of packs but the trend has been towards a standardization of the pack design using a 3.7v prismatic cell stored behind a compartment door.

I recall that one of the program goals was to have the battery last throughout a typical school day. If average consumption was 1.5Wh per hour, 2, common 1000mAh packs stored internally would last over 4 hours.

Notice how quickly cell phones appear in developing countries. You will probably find that cell phones are already in country before laptops are. This means there is already some sort of infrastructure for the sale and care of these packs.

Misc notes:
- An AA or AAA battery adapter could be designed. The AA alkaline is the most common battery in the world.
- The 24v +- max input and polarity protection could be maintained. The minimum voltage of 10v could also be extended down to 3v if necessary by switching in the internal boost circuit. This would be helpful for tapping 6v scooter(motorcycle) batteries, etc.
- I assume the current system allows for operation with the battery removed and external dc connected. This could be important if the generator continued to work but the battery had failed.
- Using common cell phone batteries would support local companies, street vendors, etc. Introducing a proprietary pack in large numbers may be disruptive.
- In my experience, most mechanical generators (crank, foot, etc) are only good for emergency use. Prolonged use causes them to fail. Gears strip, bearings fail, etc. Hopefully you can field a reliable system. Solar would be nice and reliable for most locations. Like the common 12v amorphous battery maintenance models (1-2W, less than $35) with plug to fit the dc jack on the laptop.

edit- I did a quick search for 10k pricing on a standard 1200mA prismatic Lithium Ion and found them for less than $4 each. Sizes above 2Ah could be had but were less standard. So price may actually be in favor of the lithium. I suspect the fact that these packs are used in cell phones and cell phones are a large market phenomena, pricing per Wh is very competitive compared to proprietary packs.

I recommend resisting the temptation to put the 2 cells in series. That would significantly increase support issues IMO. Especially considering the market and typical user. With each pack having an internal protection ic (standard), the packs could be connected in parallel so that the power management on the main board is simplified. If one cell croaked, its ic would take it offline and send an error up the i2c buss. Again, standard stuff thanks to the cell phone industry. The laptop could continue to operate on the remaining cell with no interruption. A little window could pop and provide a helpful message about what to do with the pack, etc. Compare this to a system with only pack, multiple cells in series (weak links), suddenly failing in class while the poor student tries pressing the power button repeatidly (they have no idea why it failed), etc.

peter, why don't we just leave the current XO setup as is (except for that stupid unique power jack), then locally build whatever external support pack makes sense to the locals based on their local circumstances. If they have 12v car batteries, use them, if AA or AAA, use that, if cell phone batteries, use them. Most of these would need to put two or more in series for charging the XO, but could be charged individually to prevent many battery maintenance problems. This actually works for the good with those trying to charge using 6v or lower charging devices (solar 6v, bike can generator, handheld windups, etc, as they can charge the smaller batteries, then combine them to recharge/run the XO (which is buffered by it's battery and rugged charging system) This also helps build the local economy with manufacturing the external power pack devices. If you want to help with this, build up a test rig with whatever battery and/or power sources you want to use, document the design, then publish the design as a project here in the wiki. OLPC is largely volunteers... be one.  :Tinktron 05:39, 19 June 2008 (EDT)

power generation during walking using suspended load backpack?

You've probably already rejected this, but I was intrigued to see a scientific american article (Septmber 9, 2005 " Pounding Pavement Generates Electricity When Wearing Novel Backpack ") about a backpack that generated power through a 'suspended load' backpack, converting up/down motion into power - 20kg (a lot I know) loads generated around 7W - i.e. power generated by walking to school (or by asking anyone else to wear it e.g. football game). Worth considering the empowerment of a kid not having to ask anyone else for help with power - I imagine the backpack might cost more than the computer, but here's the link anyway

Power generation, battery, and leg power

Jim, Walter, and group, I am new here. I have followed the OLPC project all along, but have never given any input. I'm a civil engineer with a high interest in humanitarian and spiritual work and energy development. I have a few questions: Tom Haws 15:58, 5 January 2007 (EST)

Leg power

What thought has been given to possibly learning from and imitating the real world successes of the treadle sewing machine (mentioned already) and the pump organ (not mentioned anywhere I could see)? Tom Haws

  • Legs have more strength than hands or arms. Mechanical power input could range from 2 to 40 watts depending on the level of conscious effort. Tom Haws
  • Legs have stamina that exceeds computing demand. Continuous mechanical power of 4 watts can be sustained by a movement of 2 cm at 2 Hz under 50 Newtons (10 lb.) of tension by both legs. Tom Haws
  • Leg power generation doesn't interrupt work (this is why treadle sewing machines and pump organs are successful) Tom Haws

What is the disposition of the OLPC team to date toward treadle/pumping action? Tom Haws

Is the Potenco generator ideally suited for treadle/pumping action, or would another design work better? Tom Haws

Treadle rocker generator

A second idea that is much harder to draw (does that mean it's worse?), but more ergonomic is a piston and pulley treadle. Tom Haws Treadle piston and pulley generator

Is anything along these lines under discussion, or is OLPC much further advanced than this? Tom Haws 16:40, 5 January 2007 (EST)


What thought has been given to the idea of removing the battery from the chassis of the XO? Tom Haws 15:58, 5 January 2007 (EST)

What cost benefit would there be to removing the battery from the XO chassis? Tom Haws

Would it make sense to delegate to purchasers the selection of power source, whether AC/DC transformed grid power, exernally charge battery, or OLPC generator power pack?

The battery capacity is specified to be about 16 watt hours. The best you can charge a battery (with temperature monitoring) is 1C or at 16 watts. The pull generator is specified at 20 watts. Is this an over specification. Is the charging circuitry in the XO capable of charging at 1C ? [Sreeram Dhurjaty]

My unit draws nearly 20W if i charge with a slightly higher voltage, around 13.8v. Voltages higher than that will show current limiting. Mine topped out at 19.8W Co149 19:12, 16 January 2008 (EST)

Power Input Plug

How about a reply to Benjamin Nead's questions about the DC power input plug?

--Eduardo Montez

The size suggested in that article, 5.5mm OD X 2.1mm ID X 9.5mm L, is too big on the inside diameter. I have three connectors that size, and only one works if I jiggle it a bit. Has anyone tried 5.5x1.7mm and, if so, where did you find one? --Co149 13:06, 14 January 2008 (EST)
It is extremely difficult to find a 5.5x1.7mm connector. However 4.75x1.7mm does work - but does sometimes disconnected if you move the laptop around too much. I found one on Farnell. JoshSeal 13:24, 14 January 2008 (EST)
I finally found a 5.5x1.75mm connector as part of a laptop plug set made by Velleman. A distributor in New Jersey, Tequipment, sells the plug set (Model# PLUGSP3) for only USD $3.80. You'll have five extra plugs to add to your parts box for other projects. Ordering from Tequipment was easy and delivery was prompt. I have photos posted on Flickr showing the plug and the slight modification necessary to use it with the Radio Shack 2-pin adaptaplug socket or you can solder directly to the pins on the back of the plug and seal appropriately. --Mike Lee 21:20, 4 June 2008 (EDT)

The AC Adapter and plug shipped for G1G1 XOs is a ADP-17FB A which is partially described here:

I have been using a IBM Thinkpad X20 AC adapter, P/N 02K6657 outputting 16V which fits my XO.

-- Culseg

Here is a kludge that should get most adaptors working, at least for charging, if not reliable enough for running the XO with battery missing. Take a plug that fits the outside diameter ok, but is too large at the inside diameter to easily engage the pin. (Preferably one you don't want to use for anything else any more) Make a very small coil spring (3-5 turns should be enough) out of copper wire strand. I used a strand from stranded 12-14 gauge automobile wire, wrapped around a straight pin/needle. The inside diameter of the spring is not important, but you want to use thick enough wire so it will spring a little but not deform too much. The spring should just barely fit into the PLUG hole, with a little pressure. Push the spring all the way into the bottom of the plug. When you put the plug into the XO's jack, the END of the pin should engage the spring, and the inner diameter conductor. I've been using it to recharge my XO from a solar charged 12v 7ah sealed cell, and used it for a while even posting on the wiki here with the internal battery of the XO removed. The connection is still a little shakey, it did dump me a couple of times during the test, but stood up to more abuse that any other non-original plug I've tried. Putting the spring into the plug should eliminate the likelihood of the spring falling out into the jack and such loose copper shorting material landing in the innards of my XO. As per elsewhere here, you attempt this and any other suggested mods at your OWN risk, your milage and smoke production may vary.  :Tinktron 06:05, 19 June 2008 (EDT)

XO DC Samples Available

A cool dude named Josh was recently working on various power solutions for the XO. In doing so, he had many samples of connectors sent to him to determine what was required. The result is that he had lots of 'Sample Connector 01' and lots of 'Sample Connector 02' that he didn’t need anymore. These connectors fit the laptop perfectly, but don’t have a plastic housing to go around them. He used some heat shrinkable sleeving and a moulded DC power lead so then he could use a more standard connector to attach to his power equipment.

However, since he lived in the UK, and most of the people that wanted them were in the US, he would end up spending a lot time and money sending connectors internationally. One day, another cool dude named Jason asked for one of the sample connectors. Josh sent Jason *all* the samples, and asked Jason to hand out the samples for those that wanted them in the future.

If you would like some of these connectors email User:Jamerriam. Jamerriam Updated August 13, 2009

Alternatively 1.7mm x 4.75mm DC connectors which offer a neater solution can be found at Digikey or Farnell.

Also try CP-2199-ND from digikey ( They fit well and have an attached power cord too --Arjs 00:38, 5 February 2008 (EST)

Sample Connector 01
Sample Connector 02
Example of what you can make
Connector available from Digikey or Farnell

Wind Belt

This seems to be an interesting type of small-scale wind-based power generator:

The fabric vibrates in the wind, and a magnet, attached to the fabric, creates electricity at one end of the device. He says that, in a 10 mph wind, the generator is up to 30 times more efficient than the best rotary turbines.

ABostrom 19:01, 13 October 2007 (EDT)

If you only need tiny power like tens of milliwatts, then efficiency is not very important. Below 14mph windspeeds many turbines won't even rotate. But you will need hundreds or thousands of wind belts to power an OLPC. For some applications like clocks or LEDs, low power is an advantage. But if you need moderate power, then it isn't ! -- 18:28, 25 November 2007 (EST)

shopping for a solar panel

I am shopping for a solar charger for XO-1 with Fe battery. Most solar panels output wither 6 volts or 12 volts, and they have a wide range of current.

go for the 12 volt one
Brunton makes a fine 12v unit that folds up into a small pouch. About $300. Co149 19:07, 16 January 2008 (EST)

I am reading conflicting information about power sources for operating and re-charging the laptop by the external power socket. I think it would help if there were answers to some basic questions.

- Minimum Voltage to Operate What is the minimum voltage needed into the power socket in order to run the unit (regardless of current)?

I've gone down to 11 volts, which will run the laptop but not charge the battery Co149 19:07, 16 January 2008 (EST)

- Minimum Voltage to Charge Fe batteries What is the minimum voltage needed into the power plug in order to charge the battery (regardless of current or time of charging) if the unit is not operating? Can batteries be charged on a lower voltage then needed for operation?

- Does P=IV ? I read an estimate that the unit uses about 3 watts to operate. Does that mean a 6 volt input will need to provide 500 mA and a 12 volt input 250 mAmps?

6 volts won't do it. At 12 volts, my unit pulls about 500 mA (if the battery is charging). Increasing voltage results in increased current draw. 12.5 volts causes the unit to draw about 1A. Max draw is 1.5 A at 13.8 v, about 20W. I have been experimenting with a 12V panel (in Seattle, yet...). I was getting about 2W into the battery (when the sun hit it, anyway). The unit was on, but the screen had timed out. Co149 19:07, 16 January 2008 (EST)

- Use of current for operating and charging. If the unit is operating and the batteries are low and there is external power and there is 3 watts of input, will the unit operate but not charge?

something like that. Operation takes priority. If you have a low voltage coming in, the battery will supplement it (the charge lamp will come on, even though the battery is discharging (it's just discharging more slowly)).Co149 19:07, 16 January 2008 (EST)

If there is more then 3 watts of power, the unit will operate and charge?

What is the estimate of power consumed when charging?

I have had charging from about 4 to 20W, depending on supply voltage Co149 19:07, 16 January 2008 (EST)

- Must the battery pack be installed to operate? Can the XO-1 be operated (wihtout harm) by external power (assuming sufficient volatge and current) if the battery pack is removed?

People do this all the time.

Input Voltage/Current readings

Here's a table of power input readings I made recently using a variable DC power supply. Current was measured with an inline digital multimeter, voltage was measured with a second multimeter across the power supply terminals. Wattage is the calculated product of these numbers. The unit was running with the backlight fully on, but wasn't otherwise busy with calculations.

Note that these numbers differ than the numbers given in the battery readings in /sys/class/power. Those latter numbers refer only to the battery subsystem while these are measured using an external instrument. The unit didn't start drawing any current at all until I had increased the input to 10.9 volts.

Power graph
10.5 .000 0.00
11.0 .400 4.40
11.5 .500 5.75
11.66 .556 6.48 *
12.0 .843 10.12
12.12 1.05 12.73
12.25 1.13 13.84
12.5 1.30 16.25
12.75 1.46 18.62
13.0 1.49 19.37
13.5 1.43 19.31
13.8 1.40 19.32
14.0 1.38 19.32
  • * - point at which input power holds the battery steady. Below this point, the battery drains to compensate, above this point the battery charges.

Co149 12:41, 18 January 2008 (EST)

So I will not fry it?

I'm finding an adapter for the XO green one (different power plug) but in the meantime could I charge it using a HP F1454A adapter with output of 19V 3.16A? I saw notes above mentioning up to 25V but not being electrically wizened I'm not sure if the amperage also matters. The last thing I want to do to my new XO is to fry it! --Stalfur

As long as the current rating of your adapter is greater than the current requirement of what you are powering, you're good. At 19 volts, I expect the XO will draw 1 amp, perhaps a small fraction more. So, I think your adapter will work as long as the center pole is positive. The XO is built tough because no one knows what horrible environment one might land in.
NOTE - If anyone blows up their XO, I don't want to hear about it. My liability is limited to the amount you paid for my advice. Keep your receipt.
Co149 17:04, 18 January 2008 (EST)

Does this still hold true for other power sources, such as solar panels? Is it possible that spikes in output from a panel (perhaps just over the "maximum draw" of 1.5 Amps) could burn it out? I've heard that amperage in AC adapters should be rated equal to or over that of the powered device, but perhaps that's just true of those. Other sources like solar, sound like they'll be providing whatever the conditions support. I've just bought a couple of panels that will power 20W together, but that's still give-or-take, and I'd hate to fry it because the panels provided a bit too much on an optimal day. --jaffa225

I didn't really answer my own question, so if anyone has any answers feel free to still offer them, but just to be sure, I put in a 1.5 Amp inline fuse. I figured polarity wouldn't matter, but I put it on the negative panel output wire because that seems to make more sense for safety. Again, feel free to correct me, but I think I'll be fine now. Sadly, I wasn't able to fully test it today, with such dreary weather, but even with an output of about 250 mA, with the XO turned off, the charging light came on! I don't think it was great for it, though, and I didn't leave it "charging," because it made a (very) slight squealing sound when plugged in. --jaffa225 01:39, 29 September 2008 (UTC)
I think I have most of my questions answered now. If anyone is curious, feel free to read my user page: --jaffa225 07:15, 3 November 2008 (UTC)


I just received the unit! I'm thrilled! How long should it take to charge up the battery? I left it on over night and it's not fully charged yet. Is this normal? I'd appreciate any comment on this. Thankyou.

Overnight should do a full charge. Seeing 96-97% charged is common, anecdotal evidence is that readings might have some false positives. Letting the system fully drain and recharge may calibrate readings better. Consider opening a support ticket at help at


Is there anywhere where I can read how many hours one can work an XO on 1 full battery charge?

Thy --SvenAERTS 20:02, 26 April 2013 (UTC)