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2001: A Battery Odyssey



2001 A Battery Odyssey

By Mike McEnaney

March 2001

Let's face it, it has become a rather "high-drain" world. That might normally sound like bad news but it's sweet music to battery manufacturers. The higher drain consumer electronic products we are being treated to have the battery business booming.
What's new in 2001? How about rechargeable batteries that hold a charge significantly longer, recharge much faster, batteries that are packaged free with the new "quick" chargers and even batteries that can be converted into different sizes with special attachments. Quite clearly, there's plenty to get "charged" up about.

Recharged Over Rechargeables
According to recent ACNielsen data, rechargeable batteries are the fastest growing segment of the battery category at retail in the United States. Backing that up...the largest retail channel, mass merchants, reported a whopping 30% increase in dollar sales during the past year.
Once again, at the heart of those figures are all those high drain consumer gadgets that are flying off retailer's shelves. Perhaps there is no one device that eats batteries more quickly than digital cameras. Talk about a bummer...how about the "once-in-a-lifetime" shot falls right into your digicam's viewfinder and the battery light is telling you, "I don't think so". An extra set of rechargeables might have saved the day and retailers are hoping many a digital shutterbug feels the same way.
"Consumers require a battery that provides long-lasting power for their digital cameras," began Christine Denning, Panasonic Batteries Marketing Communications Specialist. "Panasonic's new AA-size 1600 mAh nickel-metal hydride batteries, used with our new five-hour Fast Charger, meet the need for higher capacity AA-size batteries that charge in a very short period of time. The number of consumers using rechargeables has grown significantly, due to the recognition that using the rechargeable "system" is a convenient and economical power option, particularly when used with hi-drain digital electronics."
Panasonic has also released their top high-drain Alkaline for Digital family of batteries, designed specifically to meet the demands of all this high-drain madness.
The family of Panasonic Alkaline for Digital batteries features a full range of sizes, including AA, AAA, C, D and 9-volt. The company is quick to add that the AA and AAA feature over 28 patented improvements. "Providing greater power was one of the technological elements we addressed," Denning added.
Panasonic is also presenting the Photo/Electronic for Digital line, which was developed in response to consumers' demands for greater battery power for their digital cameras. Panasonic's lithium batteries are specifically designed for the latest digital camera models from all the leading camera manufacturers.
Harding Energy has come to market with their line of Quest nickel metal hydride (NiMH) rechargeable batteries and they have made a big splash. Now the company is promising that folks who use the new rechargeables won't have to wait too long for their batteries to charge with the introduction of the Q2 Charger. The Q2 Charger, which will charge up to four AA or AAA Quest NiMH batteries within one to three hours, is two to four times faster than previous charger models. "The Q2 Charger is ideal for people who don't want to wait eight hours or longer to recharge batteries" says Steve Morgan, Director of Sales & Marketing, Harding Energy, Inc. "It allows those with high-demand, high-drain portable products such as digital cameras, CD players and personal digital assistants (PDAs), to quickly recharge and reuse their batteries when they need them, giving the products more power, more consistently and more economically".

More specifically, they like to talk about the "energy needs" of digital cameras and the fact they have the situation well in hand. Varta has developed a powerful photo cell which, as they say, "stands the big strain of digital technique".
Varta Photo Alkaline, a special battery, and the rechargeable Varta Photo Accu are especially made for applications with a high consumption of electricity - in particular for digital photography and its demands on mobile power supply.
Varta offers the appropriate charger for "heavy users" as well: the Photo Accu Charger.
GE/Sanyo continues to offer one of the broadest rechargeable lines in the industry today. The companies lineup features standard N-N-CDs plus high-capacity Ni-CDs and Ni-MH types for the higher performance categories. They have added an interesting wrinkle to the battery market this year with the introduction of a Ni-MH program that offers a ConvertAcell packaged with their AA batteries.
"This program allows consumers to buy our AA batteries and have the ability to convert them to applications requiring a C or a D battery," explained Mary Koral, Sanyo's Marketing Communications Administrator. This slick little ConvertAcell concept will also be offered in their Ni-Cd product assortment.
As for the rechargeable business, Koral claimed, "People are getting used to purchasing rechargeables. The high drain products in today's market have really changed the consumer's mind in this area".

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