3 Year Batteries

Interesting announcement last week from one of our competitors offering what I think is the industry's first three-year battery. If the battery fails during its three year lifecycle, you are allowed one replacement. (Most standard warranties offer one year battery replacement coverage.) Today this three-year battery is a consumer notebook option, but will likely become available on business notebooks soon. The 1,000 cycle battery from another competitor is a bit of a misnomer. It still only has the standard one-year warranty that everyone else in the industry uses. I've been posing the question that if the company is so confident in its performance, why does it not increase the standard warranty to two or three years? Batteries are consumable items. They wear out. Most customers I've spoken with agree that their batteries lose about 1/3 of their "new" capacity every year they are in use. Thus, a battery that is about three years old does not really hold much electricity compared to its original design capacity. If you read this blog regularly, you know that I mention our battery charging technology from time to time and how we minimize our "drop off" over the lifecycle of a ThinkPad. In my own experience, I use the ThinkPad Power Manager defaults and only lose about 10% capacity per year. There is not really much magic technology inside these multiple year batteries. If you study the specifications carefully, you'll notice that they have diminished capacity compared to a standard notebook battery. They use lower charging voltages. In short, the batteries are under less stress than a typical notebook battery. The manufacturers are trading capacity for longevity. This also explains their short recharge times. The fuel tank is smaller. Our engineers have spoken with our battery suppliers and they have determined that if we were to start limiting our capacities and charging voltages, with a few other minor tweaks, we could likely offer a multiple year battery. The ThinkPad team is studying this technology in our laboratories. It is up to the market to determine whether we bring this technology to market.