With the massive explosion in the use of mobile devices like laptops and cellphones over the last decade, lithium-ion batteries have garnered a lot of attention. So it’s easy to forget that old stalwart, the lead-acid battery. This 19th century technology is what starts your car every day, and there’s a good reason for that, as explained in this YouTube video.
The interior of a lead-acid battery, like your car battery, is made up of multiple cells with alternating lead and lead-oxide plates. These are very heavy, dense materials, but they are abundant and highly-conductive. Current flows from the lead-oxide cathode, to the lead anode. Electrons are passed to the lead-oxide plate, and both plates are slowly converted to lead sulfate (from the sulfuric acid).
Multiple cells are needed inside a lead-acid battery to give the unit sufficient power. These batteries are high in power density, and release that power quickly. Perfect for starting a car, but not so much for other uses. Electric cars use lithium-ion batteries because those cells are ideal for “deep discharge.”
Deep discharge is basically just draining a battery over time until is is empty, or nearly empty. If you do that to a lead-acid battery more than a few times, it will stop charging as lead sulfate coats the plates. More modern batteries don’t have that problem, but you lose the quick discharge ability.
A lead-acid battery could be modified to act as a deep cycle, but the plates would have to be thicker, and spaced farther apart. The casing would also have to be more spacious to accommodate the inevitable build-up of lead sulfate. This heavier version of a lead-acid battery would have lower current, and that’s why we use different technologies in different circumstances.
I teach entrepreneurship to about 50 student teams a year from engineering schools at Stanford, Berkeley, and Columbia. For the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps this year I’ll also teach roughly 150 teams led by professors who want to commercialize their inventions. Our extended teaching team includes venture capitalists with decades of experience.
Satellite technology is a modern-day “Wonder of the World.” Consider that currently over 1,000 active satellites orbit the Earth, communicating with ground-based transmitters and receivers for a host of applications, such as delivering scientific measurements, weather information, and television programming, to name a few. Since the launch of Sputnik I in 1957, satellite technology has increasingly connected people together, whether in the same town or on opposite sides of the planet, effectively making the world flat.
Running a household is an expensive business. Energy bills, phone costs and mortgage repayments can all quickly diminish your bank balance. But there are many things you may be spending money on that you needn’t be.
Here are 10 products no one should be paying for:
1. Identity theft insurance
Identity theft has become big news, so there are plenty of firms hoping to cash in with identity theft insurance. For example, pay £90 a year to specialist insurer CPP and it’ll give you an ID health check, unlimited access to your credit report and a fraud expert to help you get any stolen money back.
But you don’t need to pay for this. Under the Consumer Credit Act and the Banking Code, you can claim back money from your bank or credit card provider if you are the victim of identity theft without paying a penny. And you can easily access your credit report for £2 through the major credit agencies (Experian, Equifax and Call Credit).
Saving: £90 a year
2. Extended warranties
Buy an electrical product and most companies will try to push an extended warranty on you. But these policies are costly – typically around 25% of the price of the product. There are also exclusions such as accidental damage to watch out for.
As you are already entitled to a refund if the product is faulty under the Sale of Goods Act 1979, and most products come with a year’s warranty, these policies tend to be a complete waste of money.
Saving: £39 a year
3. Paid-for current accounts
Packaged accounts, which include standard current account facilities and extras such as breakdown cover, cost around £15 a month, but they don’t often save you money. For example, NatWest’s Select Gold Account costs £155 a year for a current account and includes add-ons including mobile phone and travel insurance.
The bank claims the account will save you £713 a year but this is based on mainly unnecessary costs. For instance, you can add your mobile phone to your home contents insurance for a small fee and an annual travel insurance policy costs from £29 with insureandgo.com. When you add up all the individual savings, NatWest’s account costs you £35 more than it saves you.
Lots of firms have started cashing in on the payment protection insurance mis-selling scandal by offering to help victims put in their claims in return for a chunk of their compensation. For example, claims firm Gladstone Brookes deducts 25% of any money you receive in return for processing your claim.
With an average compensation payout of £2,750, according to the Financial Ombudsman Service, that means they are pocketing nearly £700 per claim. But the process is very simple and won’t affect the outcome, so make a claim yourself and save a fortune.
5. CHAPS payments
CHAPS sterling payments allow you to transfer money instantly between banks within the UK for a charge of around £20. However, the Faster Payment system works almost as quickly and is free.
Sandra Quinn, spokesperson for the Payments Council, says: “All payments will be completed within two hours and the benefit of Faster Payments is it works all day everyday, whereas CHAPS is a business-day-only service.”
Saving: £20 per payment
6. Mobile phone insurance
Losing your mobile phone can be annoying and costly. Mobile phone insurance can safeguard against this but it costs £7 a month on average and only tends to pay out if your phone is stolen or damaged.
It may also be completely unnecessary as your phone may be covered under your home insurance policy. If not, you can add an ‘all risks’ option to your policy for around £15 a year to include valuables taken outside of your home.
Saving: £69 a year
7. Premium-rate phone numbers
Premium-rate phone numbers are expensive and can leave you with a huge monthly bill. Some landline providers will waive certain calls to these numbers but if you call them from your mobile, you’ll likely be charged even more.
Calls to ‘09’ numbers are the most costly – prices can rocket to £2.04 per minute and minimum call durations usually apply – and lots of companies charge 35p a minute for calling numbers starting with ‘08’.
The website saynoto0870.com lists alternative local numbers you can use, which will be included in your call allowance. Many company websites also list a separate phone number to be used when calling abroad. These will start with +44 and will only charge you the local telephone rate.
Saving: £2 per call
8. Using your credit card abroad
Most companies will charge you if you fl ex your plastic abroad. The charges vary between providers but a 2.75% commission fee is not unusual. So spend £500 on your Barclaycard while you’re away and you’ll end up handing over around £14 for the privilege. However, some credit cards waive foreign exchange fees, such as the Halifax Clarity Card or the Post Office Platinum Card.
Saving: £14 per trip
9. Debt management plans
The last thing you need when you’re in debt is another bill but some firms charge extortionate amounts to help you sort out your debts. For example, Debt Free Direct charges up to £100 a month to help people create and maintain a debt management plan.
Dentists are currently being examined by the Office of Fair Trading to see if they offer fair service to patients. The main complaint is that NHS dentists are charging customers too much for basic treatment. For example, an examination should cost £17 and include a scale and polish so don’t cough up £35 for a separate hygienist appointment.