Battery Characteristics and Ratings in PE Power

In power engineering, unfolding the mysteries behind batteries isn’t merely a suggestion – it’s a vital necessity. The Battery Characteristics and Ratings in PE Power are highlighted as essential exam topics by the NCEES® exam guidelines for a straightforward reason: they are the nuts and bolts of electrical and power systems.

In this detailed study guide for battery characteristics and ratings in PE Power, we’ll explore the critical factors determining battery health and life. So, let’s discuss this in more detail.

Battery Characteristics

battery characteristics

Modern batteries are complex electrochemical systems that store and supply electrical energy. Understanding their characteristics at a fundamental level is vital for optimizing their use and designing efficient systems.

This section will explore the fundamentals of Battery Characteristics that you must know before going into further technical details.

Battery Voltage and Current Characteristics

Nominal Battery Voltage

The nominal battery voltage is a standardized value assigned to represent its average voltage during discharge. This value is essential for selecting the correct battery for specific applications. For example, a typical alkaline AA battery has a nominal voltage of 1.5 volts (V).

According to Ohm’s Law (V = IR), where V is voltage, I is current, and R is resistance, the nominal voltage governs how a battery’s voltage drops as it delivers current through a load. It’s the foundational parameter for understanding a battery’s behavior in a circuit.

Peak Battery Voltage

Peak voltage is a battery’s maximum voltage, usually during a short-lived, high-current pulse. This value is typically higher than the nominal voltage and is influenced by the battery’s electrochemical chemistry and internal resistance.

Understanding peak voltage is crucial for applications requiring brief, high-power bursts, such as in some electronic devices and tools.

Discharge Battery Voltage

The discharge battery voltage represents the voltage output as the battery is depleted during usage. This value is not constant; it varies with the state of charge and the load applied to the battery.

Unlike a linear voltage drop, battery discharge curves can exhibit non-linear behavior, affected by factors like internal resistance and electrochemical processes occurring within the battery.

Accurately predicting the discharge voltage is essential for ensuring the uninterrupted operation of battery-powered devices.

Capacity and Battery Energy Density

Ampere-Hour (Ah) Rating

Ampere-hour rating quantifies a battery’s capacity to deliver a specific current over a certain period. For instance, a 2Ah battery can provide a continuous current of 2 amperes for one hour. Calculating the capacity of a battery in ampere-hours (Ah) involves integrating the current over the discharge time. 

This parameter is critical for designing and selecting batteries for applications that require specific energy delivery over time.

Watt-Hour (Wh) Rating

The Watt-hour rating measures the total energy a battery can deliver, taking both voltage (V) and capacity (Ah) into account. It is calculated using the formula Wh = V x Ah. This rating is significant for applications where energy consumption or storage capacity is more relevant than current delivery.

For instance, understanding the watt-hour rating in mobile devices and electric vehicles is vital for predicting the duration a battery can power the device.

Charge and Discharge Characteristics

Battery Charging Efficiency

Battery charging efficiency measures how effectively a battery converts electrical energy into stored chemical energy during charging. It’s typically above 90% but can vary depending on the battery’s chemistry and charging conditions.

During charging, loss occurs due to resistive heating (governed by Joule’s Law: P = I²R) and chemical reactions within the battery. Maintaining high charging efficiency is essential for reducing energy wastage during recharging.

Battery Discharge Efficiency

Battery Discharge efficiency is the ratio of the energy retrieved from a battery during discharge compared to the total energy stored. Discharge efficiencies are generally above 90%, but variations can occur again depending on discharge rate and temperature. 

Losses during discharge are primarily due to internal resistance and voltage drop under load. Understanding battery discharge efficiency is critical for designing systems that make the most of the stored energy in a battery, minimizing waste, and maximizing run-time.

Tesla EV Case – Battery Performance Example

Tesla’s electric vehicles rely on lithium-ion batteries. The company employs advanced battery management systems to optimize charge and discharge characteristics.

They carefully balance power dissipation, charge rates, and temperature control to extend battery life and enhance overall vehicle performance.

Self-Discharge Rate

Self-discharge is the gradual loss of charge that occurs when a battery is not actively in use. This phenomenon arises from internal chemical reactions within the battery.

The self-discharge rate can be described using the exponential decay model: Q(t) = Q₀ * e^(-kt), where Q(t) represents the charge at a given time (t), Q₀ is the initial charge, and k is the rate constant. High-quality batteries are designed to have low self-discharge rates to ensure they remain ready for use when needed.

Temperature and Environmental Considerations

Temperature plays a crucial role in battery performance. The relationship between temperature and battery capacity, efficiency, and longevity follows Arrhenius’ law. According to this law, the rate of chemical reactions within the battery increases exponentially with temperature. 

This leads to reduced capacity and accelerated battery aging at high temperatures. Conversely, extremely low temperatures can slow down the electrochemical reactions, limiting the battery’s ability to deliver power.

Recent Case of iPhone 15 Battery Issues (Acclaimed by Early Users)

In hot climates, users of the iPhone 15 have reported issues related to battery life and occasional overheating. High temperatures accelerate chemical reactions within the battery, leading to increased self-discharge and capacity loss. 

Apple has implemented various thermal management techniques to mitigate these issues. Still, extreme heat remains challenging for mobile devices, especially when it comes to smartphones like Apple, which have more powerful processing chips like A17.

DSLR Cameras at High Altitude

Did you know DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) camera batteries can drain faster at high altitudes? It has a known environmental impact, especially for photography enthusiasts exploring mountainous terrains or capturing breathtaking shots in locations with significantly reduced oxygen levels.

Here’s why this happens:

  • Lower Oxygen Levels – At higher altitudes, there is a decrease in the concentration of oxygen in the air. DSLR batteries use a chemical reaction to generate power, and this reaction relies on the presence of oxygen. The battery’s chemical process becomes less efficient with less oxygen, resulting in a shorter battery life.
  • Temperature Variations – High-altitude environments often experience temperature fluctuations. Batteries are sensitive to temperature, and extreme cold can slow down the chemical reactions within the battery, causing it to discharge more quickly.

Battery Ratings

Batteries are a fundamental component of many electronic devices and systems, providing a portable source of electrical energy. To comprehend battery performance and capacity, it is essential to discuss their underlying principles and metrics.

This section explores the concepts of amp-hour ratings, how they apply to measure a battery’s capacity, and the importance of assessing a battery’s condition under load.

Amp-Hour Rating and Battery Capacity

Batteries facilitate current flow through a circuit by engaging in ionic chemical reactions, and their capacity is fundamentally limited by the number of molecules available to participate in these reactions.

The amp-hour (Ah) unit was introduced to express battery capacity in practical terms. This section breaks down the relationship between coulombs, amperes, and amp-hours:

Coulombs and Amp-Hours

1 amp-hour is equivalent to 3600 coulombs to make quantities more manageable. This relationship stems from the fact that 1 amp represents the flow rate of 1 coulomb of electrons per second.

Why Amp-Hours?

Amp-hours were introduced as a more practical unit to measure battery capacity, as the direct number of electrons involved would result in unwieldy figures. This new unit eases the understanding and calculation of battery capacity.

Capacity Rating (Amp-hours) – Key Parameters and Laws


capacity rating

The C-rate is a pivotal capacity rating that quantifies a battery’s ability to deliver a specific current about its rated capacity. It is expressed as the discharge or charge current in amperes (A) divided by the battery’s rated capacity in ampere-hours (Ah). The formula is straightforward:

Crate= I/Capacity (Ah)


  • The crate represents the C-rate,
  • I stands for the current in amperes,
  • Capacity signifies the rated capacity in ampere-hours.

Understanding the C-rate is essential for determining how quickly a battery can be safely charged or discharged. It plays a pivotal role in applications requiring rapid energy transfer, such as electric vehicles and high-power tools.

Peukert’s Law

Peukert’s Law is a mathematical model to predict a battery’s capacity at different discharge rates. It accounts for the non-linear relationship between discharge rate and capacity. The formula is:

I= C/(t)^k


  • I is the current in amperes,
  • C is the battery’s capacity in ampere hours,
  • t is the time in hours, and k is the Peukert exponent specific to the battery’s chemistry.

Peukert’s Law estimates a battery’s adequate capacity under various discharge rates. This information aids in designing systems and selecting batteries that meet specific runtime requirements.

Applying Amp-Hours to Measure Battery Capacity

This section will highlight some critical aspects concerning how amp-hours relate to a battery’s capacity to supply current over time:

  • Ideal vs. Real Batteries: While an ideal battery’s capacity is linearly related to its continuous current supply over time, actual batteries exhibit deviations from this ideal behavior. Factors like internal resistance and chemical changes affect real-world performance.
  • Specified Current and Time: Amp-hour capacity is typically specified at a given current or time, or it might assume an 8-hour timespan if no specific criteria are provided.
  • Amp-Hour Derating Factors: Some manufacturers provide derating factors, indicating reductions in total capacity under different conditions, such as varying currents or temperature.

Amp-Hour Capacities of Common Batteries

Below are the approximate amp-hour capacities of commonly used batteries:

  • Typical Automotive Battery: 70 amp-hours at a 3.5 A (secondary cell) current.
  • D-Size Carbon-Zinc Battery: 4.5 amp-hours at 100 mA (primary cell).
  • 9-Volt Carbon-Zinc Battery: 400 milliamp-hours at 8 mA (primary cell).

Voltage Rating

Voltage rating denotes the nominal voltage of a battery, indicating the standard voltage it is expected to maintain during discharge. Different battery types have distinct nominal voltages.

Common examples include 1.2V for nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) rechargeable batteries, 1.5V for alkaline batteries, and 3.7V for lithium-ion batteries.

Evaluating Battery Condition with and Without Load

The health and condition of a battery can change as it discharges, which has implications for the accuracy of voltage measurements. Below are some key checkpoints about how to assess a battery’s condition under load and without load:

  • Internal Changes during Discharge: As a battery discharges, its internal resistance increases, and its open-circuit cell voltage decreases. These changes can be deceptive when assessing the battery’s condition.
  • Importance of Load Testing: Voltage measurements under load, while the battery supplies a significant current, provide a more accurate assessment of its condition. This approach is vital for revealing a battery’s true state.
  • Voltmeter Checks: Voltmeter checks without load can be informative but may not provide a complete picture. A battery reading lower than its nominal voltage indicates a discharged state.
  • Load Resistance: When placing a battery under load, ensure the resistance is rated to handle the expected power dissipation, particularly for large batteries like automotive lead-acid batteries.

Battery Cycle Life Rating

Battery cycle life rating informs us about the number of charge-discharge cycles a battery can undergo before its capacity significantly degrades. It is a crucial parameter for rechargeable batteries. For instance, a lithium-ion battery might have a battery cycle life rating of 500 cycles. 

It can be charged and discharged 500 times before its capacity drops to a specified percentage of its original capacity. Factors like depth of discharge, charge voltage, and temperature influence the cycle life.

Temperature Rating

Temperature rating specifies the safe operating temperature range for a battery. Batteries perform optimally within specific temperature limits, and operating them outside these bounds can impact their capacity and lifespan. 

For example, a lithium-ion battery may have an operating temperature range of -20°C to 60°C. Operating it in temperatures below or above this range may result in reduced performance, capacity loss, or even safety hazards.

Safety Ratings

Overcharge Protection:

Overcharge protection is a critical safety feature to prevent a battery from being charged beyond its safe voltage limits. Overcharging can lead to thermal runaway and potential battery failure. Battery management systems (BMS) often incorporate overcharge protection circuitry to ensure safe charging.

Over-Discharge Protection

Over-discharge protection safeguards a battery from being discharged to a voltage level that could cause permanent damage. It prevents the battery from becoming over-discharged, leading to capacity loss or rendering it unusable.

Short Circuit Protection

Short circuit protection is a crucial safety feature that prevents a battery from discharging too rapidly, generating excess heat, and posing a fire hazard. This protection is typically achieved through built-in circuitry or external protective devices.

Evaluating Battery Condition for Battery Safety Ratings

Understanding battery safety ratings is paramount when it comes to ensuring the safety and reliability of batteries in various power industry applications. Here are some key checkpoints and practices for evaluating battery conditions concerning battery safety ratings:

Overcharge Protection

  • Check for overcharge protection circuitry or battery management systems (BMS).
  • Ensure the charging equipment meets the battery’s voltage limits to prevent overcharging.
  • Regularly inspect and test the overcharge protection features to confirm their functionality.

Over-Discharge Protection

  • Confirm that the battery incorporates over-discharge protection to prevent excessive discharge.
  • Set discharge cutoff thresholds in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Regularly monitor the battery’s state of charge to prevent over-discharge, which can damage the battery.

Short Circuit Protection

  • Verify that the battery system includes short circuit protection measures.
  • Use appropriately rated fuses or protective devices in the battery circuit to prevent short circuits.
  • Conduct periodic inspections and tests of the short circuit protection mechanisms.

Temperature-Related Safety

  • Monitor the battery’s operating temperature to stay within the specified safe range.
  • Implement temperature sensors and control systems to prevent overheating or exposure to extreme cold.
  • Be vigilant in extreme conditions; temperature-related safety is especially critical for battery performance.

Implications of Ensuring Battery Safety Ratings

  • Solar and wind power systems often rely on batteries for energy storage in the renewable energy sector. Battery safety ratings ensure the protection of these systems during charge and discharge cycles.
  • Electric vehicles (EVs) rely on robust safety mechanisms to prevent overcharging, over-discharge, and short circuits, ensuring the vehicle’s and passengers’ safety.
  • Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) systems in data centers and critical infrastructure employ safety-rated backup batteries to safeguard against power interruptions and system failures.

Real vs. Advertised Battery Capacity and Rating

real vs advertised capacity and rating

Actual versus advertised battery capacity and ratings are technical details that matter because they affect how a battery performs in the real world. Advertised ratings are often idealized, but real-world usage can be different. Checking the real numbers is essential for several reasons:

  • Performance Accuracy – Knowing the actual capacity and ratings helps you understand how a battery works under different conditions so you can be sure it does what you need.
  • Safety – Real numbers keep you from overloading a battery, which can lead to overheating or even dangerous situations, especially in applications with high power needs.
  • Battery Cycle Life – Understanding real battery cycle life helps you manage how long a rechargeable battery will last so you know how many times you can use it.
  • Energy Efficiency – Real ratings help you save energy and use power systems more efficiently, so you can make smart choices when picking a battery.
  • Compatibility – Real numbers ensure your battery works well with your devices, preventing problems and damage to your equipment.

In a nutshell, confirming actual capacity and ratings is a must-do. It helps you make relevant choices, stay safe, and get the best performance from your battery-powered stuff.


Understanding battery characteristics and ratings in PE Power is essential for efficiently utilizing batteries in various applications. Though an approximation, amp-hour ratings offer a practical means of gauging a battery’s energy capacity.

If you’re gearing up for the PE Power exam preparation, look no further than Study For FE, your go-to resource for comprehensive exam preparation materials. Explore our free PE Power practice exam to test your knowledge for hands-on practice.


Licensed Professional Engineer in Texas (PE), Florida (PE) and Ontario (P. Eng) with consulting experience in design, commissioning and plant engineering for clients in Energy, Mining and Infrastructure.