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Great Planes Triton

Great Plane’s Electrifly division released the Triton last year just about the time the new lithium polymer batteries hit the market. It has been time tested for over a year now and is still one of the best selling chargers on the market. After reading this review you will understand why.

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Distributed By:Great Planes
Suggested Retail:$129.99

Introduction

Great Plane’s Electrifly division released the Triton last year just about the time the new lithium polymer batteries hit the market. It has been time tested for over a year now and is still one of the best selling chargers on the market. After reading this review you will understand why.

The Triton Charger has the highest number of features for the lowest cost as compared to other chargers of this type. The Triton’s most notable feature is that has the ability to charge four different battery chemistries including Lithium ion polymer and the lead acid batteries we usually use a primary batteries. This charger also is capable of NiMH and NiCd charge/discharge cycling and can memorize the results of up to ten of these cycles. The Triton is more of a battery manager than just a battery charger.

The features of this charger are so abundant that it is easiest to categorize them in their uses and then list the features.

Types of batteries and numbers cells

  • 1-24 NiMH cells
  • 1-24 NiCd cells
  • 1-4 Lithium ion or Lithium ion polymer cells
  • 6v,12v, or 24v lead acid batteries

General features

  • Screen constantly updates capacity, battery voltage, current and elapsed time
  • 10.5v –15v DC input voltage
  • Adjustable current (charge or discharge) in 100mA increments
  • Displays input and output voltages and memorizes peak and average voltages
  • Adjustable sound cues
  • Cooling fan
  • Stores parameters for 10 batteries

Safety features

  • Cool-off time delay between charge cycles
  • Current overload
  • Reverse polarity protection
  • Optional thermal cut off probe (not included)
  • Adjustable maximum charging time cut off
  • Warning messages for improper input voltage, poor connections, unsuitable battery condition and reverse polarity connections

NiMH and NiCd specific features

  • Delta peak with adjustable sensitivity
  • Adjustable fast charge current from 0.1 to 5.0 amps
  • Adjustable discharge current from 0.1 to 3.0 amps
  • 0-250 mAh self adjusting trickle charge (dependent on intitial charge rate)
  • Performs 1-10 cycles for conditioning and evaluation of battery condition
  • NiMH top-off feature fully charges NiMH without over heating

Lithium ion and Lithium ion polymer specific features

  • Constant current / constant voltage charge method (explained in detail later)
  • 0.1 –2.5 amp adjustable charge / discharge current
  • 1 – 4 cells in series (unlimited in parallel)
  • Setting to either 3.6 or 3.7 volts per cell nominal, results in 4.1 or 4.2 volts per cell fully charged.

Lead acid (Pb) specific features

  • Charges 6v, 12v or 24v cells
  • Uses constant current / constant voltage charge method

Now that I have listed the features of this charger I will continue my review by describing the mechanics of the charger, the instruction manual and how a few of the functions are used as I go into detail about how specific batteries are charged. I think that an understanding of how different types of batteries are charged is important to gain the most from all of the features of this charger.

The Triton charger connects to the primary source with large clips and uses banana jacks for the connection to the battery being charged. The triton has a two line LCD that displays data relevant to the menu you are in. There are two push buttons labeled Menu and Battery Type and a dial jog shuttle push button. These easily allow you to access and navigate through the menu structure to change any of the settings needed for your battery requirements. The Menu button allows you to access different sections of the main menu. The Battery Type button allows you to access each of the four battery types, plus the 10 user programmable memories. The jog shuttle dial allows you to dial through each setting in each menu and make changes. The controls on this charger are the easiest to use and find my way around in of any of the highly featured chargers I have used

The instruction manual is not difficult to follow but there is a lot to understand. One thing I have come to realize is that the more features you get in a charger the more complicating it is to learn and to use. The manual does a pretty good job of sorting out the different functions of the charger and describing how to use them. The first page of the manual is quick reference guide for easy access to key information. Five pages of flow charts also help to learn the specifics of the charger. The manual goes into detail on how to charge each type of battery and describes how to use each of the functions. A trouble shooting section is included at the end to aid in any trouble you find yourself in. The full instruction manual can be downloaded from the Electrifly web site here.

Understanding and Charging the Different Types of Batteries

The Triton charges four different battery types. Different types of batteries have different chemical make-ups that cause them to function differently. In most cases the discharge of these different battery chemistries are very similar except each battery type can only be discharged to a certain number of volts per cell. The lithium batteries in particular will not recover from a discharge of more than 2.5 volts per cell. The method of charge for each of these battery chemistries is also different. The charge methods for Lithium are very different than NiMH or NiCd. Improper charging of lithium cells can not just ruin the cells, it can be VERY dangerous.

NiMH and NiCd Mode

I will start with the two currently most common battery types, NiMH and NiCd, and explain how they are charged. The Triton uses a delta peak method of charging. This method uses a predictable characteristic of these two battery chemistries to determine when the battery is charged. This characteristic is a delta voltage peak that happens when a cell reaches the top of it’s charge. As the battery charges, the voltage of the battery slowly increases. Once the battery becomes almost fully charged, the voltage increase stops and will slowly start to decrease. This is the delta peak. The Triton charger senses this peak and goes from fast charge to trickle charge. (Top-off for NiMH) At this point the rate of the trickle charge is automaticlly set by the Triton’s programming. This is determined by the rate of the initial fast charge rate. The trickle charge rate is different for either NiMH or NiCd. Refer to the tables on page 9 of the manual to see the trickle charge rate for the initial fast charge rate.

There are a number of features that can be used and parameters that can be adjusted for each of these two batteries.

  • The first feature is the Auto Mode. This mode will simply detect and use the best charge method for the battery. The charge and discharge rates are usually low.
  • Charge/discharge or Discharge/charge cycle can be used to condition old batteries or to check the condition of a battery pack. This feature can be set for up to ten cycles and the data will be recorded in the memory for each cycle.
  • Delay time between Charge and Discharge can be changed if your cells tend to get very hot or not hot at all between cycles.
  • Peak Delay at Start is handy because sometimes these types of batteries will false peak at the start of the charge. The time before the delta peak detection is activated can be adjusted. The default time is set for three minutes. This time is variable from 0-60 minutes.
  • Adjustment of current during charge can be done if you decide to do it. Chargers sold before May of 2003 may need to be sent in for an update because of a programming bug that changes the Peak Delay at Start setting when using this feature. Chargers with a green sticker on the bottom are updated. (If you never change the charge current during charge, you will not need the update.)
  • Peak sensitivity / threshold can be adjusted also. One of the difference between the chemistries of NiMH and NiCd is way the voltage delta peaks. The Triton has different delta peak setting for each battery type but the user can also adjust these setting if they choose. Refer to the manual for more about this.

The NiMH mode has two extra features specifically for their type of chemistry.

  • Maximum Charge input is a safety feature where you can set a maximum capacity for a battery in case the delta peak is not detected.
  • Top-off Charge is used to top-off the NiMH. NiMHs often peak before they are fully charged. This feature puts the extra 5% into the pack safely and prevents it from over heating. The top-off charge usually goes to 7% of the fast charge current for twenty minute before it changes to the low trickle charge rate.

Lead Acid (Pb) Battery Mode

Lead acid batteries are probably the easiest and most foolproof batteries of them all. These are normally used as primary batteries, power for glow igniters, fuel pumps and glow engine starters. I use the Triton with a power supply to charge my 7 Ah 12 volt battery for the few glow planes I own. I also use it for the large car battery that I use as a primary battery when indoor flying.

The charge method the Triton uses to charge these types of batteries is a constant current /constant voltage method. The voltage (6, 12 or 24 volts) and the current (0.1-5.0 amps) of the battery is selected by the user. The charger then constantly charges at the current setting until the battery reaches the proper maximum voltage. Then, the charger stops delivering constant current and now starts delivering constant voltage. At this point, the output voltage of the charger and the battery voltage are close to equilibrium and so the battery will only take the remaining amount of current that it need to become fully charged. .In discharge mode the charger discharges to a predetermined voltage for each of the three battery voltages.

Lithium Ion / Lithium Ion Polymer Mode

The Triton charges both the old type lithium and the new lithium ion polymer cells. These new polymer cells, often referred to as LiPo cells, have had an incredible impact on the concept of electric power flight as a whole. This new type of battery chemistry has evolved very quickly and is still evolving. The first LiPo cells were introduced at the end of the summer of 2002. This was right about the time that Great Planes introduced the Triton charger. Great Planes had the foresight to design their charger to be compatible with the new technology LiPo battery in every way. The Triton is still the most advanced charger to include lithium capability anywhere near it’s price range. The only change I would like to see is if they could increase the maximum charge current to above 2.5 amps for large capacity, parallel pack configurations.

The charging method and use of lithium batteries is different than any of the other types. There are a few things to understand about lithium batteries and how charge/discharge rates are determined that I want to take the time to explain before I discuss how the Triton charger works in lithium mode.

First I want to be sure everyone understands what C means. C is the number of amps that a specific battery will deliver for exactly one hour. The mAh rating comes directly from the C of a specific battery or cell. For example a cell in a 1200 mAh battery has a C rating of 1200mA. If one were to charge this cell, from a complete discharge, at 1200 mAh (the same as 1.2 Ah) it would take 1 hour to charge. If one drew 1.2 amps from this cell it would take 1 hour to completely discharge it. So, if one drew twice that current, 2.4 amps, the time to discharge the cell would be cut in half. It would be 1/2 an hour. Discharging at 2 times the C rating is 2-C. If one discharges the cell at 3-C it would discharge in 1/3 of an hour or 20 minutes. 4-C would take 15 minute and so on.

Charging a cell works the same way. The C rating is read the same whether you are charging or discharging a cell. Just for reference, trickle charging is commonly done at 1/10-C. A 1200 mAh cell would charge at 120 mAh for 10 hours.

Okay, now that we all know what C ratings are, let’s discuss lithium batteries. Lithium batteries are different from NiMH and NiCd in their nominal voltage. Where NiMH and NiCd have a nominal voltage of 1.2 volts per cell, lithium cells have a nominal voltage of 3.6 volts per cell. The voltage of a typical lithium cell will range from 4.2 voltages at maximum charge down to to 2.5 volts at maximum discharge. It is CRITICAL that these voltage specifications are not exceeded. Battery packs built from lithium cells have voltages that follow 3.6 volt increments. The Triton is capable of charging four of the cells in series and an unlimited number in parallel.

The original lithium cells were not capable of delivering a very high current. The first LiPo cells were capable of delivering 3-C (3 times their capacity). Because these new cells were so light the packs were often built with the cells not only in series but they were put in parallel too. This not only doubled the capacity of a battery pack but it allowed the pack to deliver double the current. This configuration is commonly seen labeled as XSYP or 3S2P ect…. where X is the number of cells in series and Y is the number of cells in parallel. A 3S2P pack built from 1020mAh cell would have a nominal voltage of 10.8 volts and a capacity of 2,040mAh. The newer light weight LiPo technology is now delivering cells that are capable of delivering currents of up to 20-C!

This revolutionary new technology has brought electric flight to a new level, but not without cost. Many modelers over the past year have learned the hard way to respect the unique chemistry of the LiPo battery. History of these cells has shown us that they will catch on fire if they are charged incorrectly. Charging these cells correctly is not difficult but it takes full attention. I cannot stress enough the importance of double and then triple checking your charge settings. Accidentlly charging at too high of a voltage WILL cause the cells to catch on fire. I always charge my lithium cells in a Pyrex™ container and NEVER charge them unattended. I also NEVER charge in my vehicle. Yes, at first glance this type of battery can appear to be a dangerous choice, but with proper education about how to handle and store these cells, the performance and duration of future electric flights will be unmatched.

Electrifly has taken all of mechanical safety precautions available in designing the lithium mode of their Triton charger. The charger can charge up to 4 cells in series at a rate of 0.1 amps up to 2.5 amps. Lithium cells do not peak! The charge method the Triton uses is Constant current / Constant voltage, delivering constant current until the battery reaches a specified voltage (~ 4.1-4.2 volts per cell) and then a constant voltage charge until the cell voltage is in equilibrium with the charger output voltage. During this constant voltage charge the current is determined by the difference in voltage between the charger and the battery. As the voltage difference gets closer to equilibrium, the current naturally drops. When the current reaches a value lower than 0.1 amp, the charger stops charging. The Triton will discharge the lithium cell to 3.0 volts per cells.

It is important to note that the Triton has two voltage settings for each cell count. Lithium-ION cells almost always have a nominal rating of 3.6 volts per cell. Lithium-POLYMERS, however, almost always have a nominal voltage rating of 3.7 volts per cell. As such, if the voltage setting of the battery is based on 3.6V per cell, Triton understands this to be a lithium-ION cell and will automatically set the maximum charge voltage to be very close to 4.10V per cell. However, if the voltage setting of the battery is based on 3.7V per cell, Triton understands this to be a lithium-POLYMER cell and will automatically set the maximum charge voltage to be higher than 4.10V per cell, but slightly lower than 4.20V per cell (for safety). So, keeping in mind how voltage sensitive lithium batteries are, charging a lithium-polymer cell at lithium-ion voltage wouldn't be dangerous (slight undercharge), but charging a lithium-ion at a lithium-polymer voltage would be a slight overcharge. Being as this is a difference of only a tenth of a volt per cell for the lithium polymers and lithium cells have been known to come out of balance, (cells in a pack have slightly different voltages), I recommend using the lithium ION setting (3.6 volts/cell)for both chemistries. This would ensure the greatest safety.

Personal comments and recommendations

I was very impressed with features on this charger. It does everything I could want a charger to do. One neat feature that I like is it’s 10 battery memory. This can be used for quick setting your most frequently used batteries. Another is the optional thermal probe. This will shut down the charger if the temperature you select is exceeded. I recommend using this when charging LiPo cells. What a great safety feature! One warning I have, applies to all chargers in general. If you use Deans connectors, you will have two exposed leads on the charger. Be careful not to short them! This may ruin the charger.

Conclusion

In my opinion the battery charger is the central piece of an electric modelers flight box. It is the tool that you will use the most and rely on the most. I personally have three chargers I use all the time and a few on my bench I use once in a while. The choice you make when buying a charger should be well thought out. I recommend getting the best charger you can afford. The price on the Triton is not the lowest but the versatility cannot be beat. I can’t think of a better choice for an ALL-IN-ONE charger than the Triton. I highly recommend the Electrifly Triton if you a looking for a mid priced charger. I am sure you will be happy with your choice and the ease of use.

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Nov 12, 2003, 11:24 AM
Registered User
Which should I get? Schulze isl6-330d or the Triton?
Need help on this...
Nov 12, 2003, 12:50 PM
Motor Maniac
A few comments in this article require some clarification on the author's part. The first is regarding the nominal voltage setting for LiIon/LiPoly charging. He recommends setting this voltage at 3.6V for safety reasons, but offers no explanation why the lower setting is safer. It is my understanding that the two voltages are there for the differences in LiIon and LiPoly battery technology: 3.6V for LiIon, 3.7V for LiPoly. Please correct me if I am wrong.

The second comment I have a question about is the one about using Deans Ultra connectors and the potential for shorting the prongs of the connector (not the leads as the article says). Yes, if you don't have a battery attached the prongs of the connector are exposed and can be shorted to each other, but the chargers I am familiar with don't drive a voltage onto the charging leads unless in a charging mode, which requires a battery pack to be connected to the output leads. When the battery is connected the Deans connector is no longer exposed to the possibility of shorting. Can this charger really be damaged by shorting the output leads if the charger is not in a charging mode?
Nov 12, 2003, 03:21 PM
Frequent flyer
Quote:
an this charger really be damaged by shorting the output leads if the charger is not in a charging mode?
I accidently had mine shorted overnight, not in charge mode. Runs great and never seemed to notice it even.

Also, the lithium-ion/poly voltage question... His suggestions apply to multicell packs only. if you use the higher voltage, both your cells must be in balance, otherwise one is going to be forced higher and probably flame out while doing it. with that said, the majority of people using li-poly's do charge to full capacity, NOT the lower voltage setting.
Nov 12, 2003, 03:30 PM
Closet Extrovert
Jim Poor's Avatar
The only thing I can think of as far as the shorting thing:.....


The charger must send some current through the leads to do the battery test. Is it enough to harm anything? Dunno.

I love my Triton.
Nov 12, 2003, 03:31 PM
CLUB GITMO
Sunspot's Avatar

Charger


This is a great charger..I have the super nova as it fills my needs at this time. My buddies have them and the like them very much.

Does anyone know where I can get a 12v soldering iron.
I am too much of a rookie to start a thread, so by chance someone in the know can point me...
Thanks,
Spot
Nov 12, 2003, 05:30 PM
Registered User
I have the Triton which works well, but it doesn't seem capable of doing the first conditioning charge at C/10 for packs of less than 1000mA cells.

There doesn't seem to be any way of manually using the trickle charge. The lowest I can manually set the charge rate is 100mA, this seems a fundamental ommission for a higher priced charger, or am I missing something?

Cheers
Mike
Nov 12, 2003, 10:56 PM
Registered User
RCOrlando's Avatar
I just got one of these chargers. Haven't chrged anything yet, but the triton gives me an incorrect voltage error when i use the 12v power supply i have been using with my pinnacle charger. This charger only seems to work on my car battery. What's the deal. If that is the case i'm going to find this thing a pain. especially to keep it safe from setting my car on fire. anyone else have this issue?
Last edited by RCOrlando; Nov 12, 2003 at 11:11 PM.
Nov 13, 2003, 12:11 AM
Frequent flyer
what is the actual voltage coming off the power supply? I've noticed on mine that it is fairly picky about anything less than 12 volts.
Nov 13, 2003, 12:15 AM
Registered User
RCOrlando's Avatar
exactlt 15v dc. think maybe it's too high? charger states input voltage 10.5 - 15v dc. wierd.
Nov 13, 2003, 01:07 AM
Dax
Dax
There is no spoon
Dax's Avatar
I was using this charger ALL DAY at the LHS when I was tuning/flying my GWS Dragonfly on 2s2p LiPo packs. And it is just amasing. I am currently using a $7 surplus cellphone charger to charge the packs but this charger is a real nice piece of work. I want one!
Nov 13, 2003, 08:01 AM
Registered User
Mike A,

According to Dave Thacker at Radical RC http://radicalrc.secure-mall.com/sho...t=86548&cat=1& there is no (fast) charger that is capable of slow charging (or formatting/first cycle) all battieies at C/10. Even my Orbit will only charge at 50mA which is not good for NiMh batteries under 500 mAh rating. For my 370 mAh rated NiMh batteries I use the Hobbico Multi Charger at 25mA and use a timer that turns off after 20 hours. My MRC Superbrain goes into a trickle charge for one hour at 100mA after completing the peak detection charging of my NiMh batteries. This is only good for batteries rated for 1000mAh or higher. Smaller batteries should not be trickle charged at higher than C/10 or they will have a low life expectancy. Now I only use my MRC for charging transmitter batteries only.

Ed
Last edited by no stick; Nov 13, 2003 at 08:04 AM.
Nov 13, 2003, 08:22 AM
Registered User
No Stick,

That's interesting, I wonder why the manufacturers feel there's no need to offer a programmable trickle charge, after all, every pack is new at some stage and some like to do a C/10 charge periodically. I use my multiplex charger to do the trickle charges but still think a charger shouldn't be called 'fully featured' if it doesn't offer such a basic facility

My Triton is also fussy about power supply, it works fine in my car but not in my wife's, giving an 'incorrect input voltage error'. Both are 12 Volt systems in good order and run the multiplex with no issues. I tend to use the multiplex in the car and run the Triton in the garage from a $10 dollar computer PSU which works well even at 5 amp charge rate.

Regards
Mike
Nov 13, 2003, 08:51 AM
Registered User
RCOrlando's Avatar
the computer power supply is 12v? that may be a good idea. I'm wondering if i should return the triton charger. seems like there is definitely a problem if it doesn't work consistently off a 12v power supply
Nov 13, 2003, 09:50 AM
Equinsu Ocha
Lightnin's Avatar
LOVE MY TRITON!!!!!........you'll hafto pry it from my cold, dead hands. :-) lol. If you go through all the menus and learn everything about this charger they will do just about anything!!

RCOrlando,
Both myself and a friend use Tritons on computer power supplies I modified. They work great no problem. I can tell you the Triton is very picky about the strength of the connection. The Triton wants a solid contact. For example: I can plug in my Triton in my Bronco (I put on a cig. lighter adapter) and charge about anything under 3A without a second thought. However if I do not cram the adapter into the plug as far as it will go I get input voltage error's over 3A. But, if I remember to push it all the way in no problems.


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