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Why Is a Laptop's Battery Dearer Than a Lawnmower's? 427

Posted by timothy
from the laptop-certainly-is-cuddlier dept.
Barence writes "PC Pro's contributing editor Paul Ockendon has bought a new lawnmower powered by lithium-ion batteries — part of a recent flood of such lithium-ion-powered garden and workshop tools which are taking over from NiCd and NiMH thanks to lighter weight, longer life and lack of the pernicious 'memory effect.' This is pretty much the same battery technology used in laptops, mobile phones and MP3 players, so volume manufacture is already established. Yet laptop manufacturers charge more per Watt-hour than lawnmower makers. This blog investigates whether such a seemingly ludicrous situation can be justified."
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Why Is a Laptop's Battery Dearer Than a Lawnmower's?

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  • by Firemouth (1360899) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @11:19AM (#30444402)
    Greed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MozeeToby (1163751)

      I think you mean capitalism (mostly the same thing, but sure). You know, the whole, priced to what the market will bear nonesense that is the fundemental underpinnings of our economy. In this case, the cost of batteries for garden tools is lower because NiCa and other technologies are still viable alternatives, whereas in the laptop segment they are not. In other words, there are more competitors and a higher supply in one market segment than another.

      • Conratulations. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Inominate (412637) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @11:43AM (#30444766)

        You just spent an entire paragraph explaining the short, simple post you replied to.

        The question posed in the story is simple. Why do computer manufacturers screw customers on battery prices? Because they do, because they always have, and most importantly, because they can.

        • Re:Conratulations. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by gander666 (723553) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @12:13PM (#30445250) Homepage
          It is called market segmentation, and in general it is good. Different segments for the same products/technologies have different values for good intrinsic to them.

          As an example, Taylor Hobson makes a fine stylus profiler. It is the standard in industry and precision manufacturing for determining shape and surface quality for parts. They charge (hypothetically) $60k for this instrument when they sell it to a manufacturer of metal precision components.

          However, the exact same instrument, with a couple of new software features is sold into the Optics production market. The price is ~ 2.5X the price of the same tool sold to the industrial market. They get this premium, because the optics production segment has a different value proposition for the measurements it makes.

          Same thing in laptop batteries. Same technology, but the application is different. Squeezing a few extra watt-hours into a smaller space is worth the premium. Also, you use you laptop much more than you use yard implements, so the perceived value of good life and longer cycles between recharging is a higher value.

          It is irrelevant that they use the same technology.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by amorsen (7485)

            It's good for the manufacturer, for sure, but it's certainly not a free market. In a competitive market, large margins are unsustainable because your competitors will undercut you. Of course as soon as you are talking software, the market is by government fiat not competitive.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by gander666 (723553)
              True, but we really don't have a free market, and cases like this happen all the time.

              Not sure about most major laptop makers, but there is a healthy aftermarket for Apple MacBook batteries. Offering more capacity, or lower replacement values.

              In the case of the instrumentation, it is not a trivial task to build a tool that can scan in one axis, and measure with nanometer resolution in Z with a range of up to 5mm, something Taylor Hobson does quite well. The barrier to entry is pretty high.

              In batteries,
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by amorsen (7485)

                The laptop "manufacturers" actually just pay some random company to buy components and assemble them. The cell manufacturers have a much harder job, but surprisingly their margins seem much smaller.

          • Re:Conratulations. (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @12:46PM (#30445838)

            Part of the issue is a lack of government enforced standards since the phillips screwdriver.

            Capitalism works well when vendors can't form monopolies easily. Due to legal changes, it's become increasingly easy to form monopolies.

            Imagine if the form factor and plug type for lithium batteries was legally mandated to be 3"x1"x8" with a standard six wire plug.
            In this case, standard lithium batteries would compete based on cost and charge duration. Given standard batteries, it would be very likely that recycling and reuse programs could develop.

            Another perfect example of this is many car subsystems. You don't need 1200 Alternators and Voltage regulators. You probably need at most a dozen alternators for normal cars and trucks. If these were standardized, the cost would be lower. But we've let car makers take the same basic object and attach different custom fittings to it so it can't be reused and you must pay a premium for it.

      • by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @12:40PM (#30445732)

        I believe the reason is actually another.

        Laptop batteries sold separately are generally sold after the laptop was purchased, or at least after the decision was made to purchase that particular laptop. People don't generally spend the time to price out more than 2 laptops including all options before picking which one they want, they usually look at the base unit price. Therefore the laptop manufacturer has a monopoly (or close to a monopoly, at least, for some things you can get third-party components) on the sale of laptop options like batteries. A monopoly means being able to charge what the item is worth to the buyer, instead of only being able to charge a little more than the productions costs like in a market with perfect competition. The only challenge is to avoid scaring the cheapskate buyers away that you only make a small profit on without lowering the price for everyone, but differential pricing is solving that "problem".

        Options and spare parts are generally examples of market failures.

      • by Jodka (520060) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @01:05PM (#30446186)

        When you ebay stuff, would you prefer the winning bidder be the one who offers the lowest bid? When you shop for groceries do you purchase the lowest quality goods which you can find for the highest price? When you look for job do you seek out employers who sould compensates you at the lowest rate? Do you comparison shop online for the highest prices?

        People who make the opposite of those choices are engaging in, as you describe it, that "priced to what the market will bear nonesense that is the fundemental underpinnings of our economy."

        When you haggle in the market, you being reasonable, it's the other guy who is the greedy bastard. When you try to maximize revenues and minimize costs that is rational self interest. When others do that, it is greed.

        My point is not that you should deliberately make bad choices and act against your own financial self-interest. It is that you are a hypocrite for acting in your own financial interests while criticizing others for doing the same.

    • by fooslacker (961470) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @11:36AM (#30444634)
      Or market economics...turns out a lawnmower purchaser is not willing to pay the same for a battery that a laptop purchaser is or perhaps the lawnmower has cheaper non-lithium competitors it must compete with which drives down it's market price. I guess technically that's greed, charging what you can but without it where would we be?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Firemouth (1360899)

        I guess technically that's greed, charging what you can but without it where would we be?

        Thriving?

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by fooslacker (961470)
          Unlikely, people don't do things for the heck of it.
        • by gandhi_2 (1108023)

          True, look at North Korea or Soviet Russia.

          "Intellectuals" deciding what batteries "should" cost would be much better.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        For the same reason that you people will pay more for the same headphones if the package says "digital ready" or some similar bullshit statement on them..

        Because people are stupid enough to pay more for stuff if they are told it's higher tech.

      • Yes, thank you. I would mod you up but I have already replied to this thread. There is a difference in willingness to pay between a lawnmower purchaser and a laptop purchaser.
    • Not Greed .. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Archangel Michael (180766) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @11:50AM (#30444868) Journal

      More like "Lack of standards"

      There is no "Laptop battery pack", each laptop seams to have is own wattage/voltage combo that is unique to that model / brand.

      The fact is, there should be a "standard" set of standard "sizes" available, like we have for regular batteries (A, AA, AAA, C, D, 9v, etc).

      It isn't "greed" so much as it is the cost of making a large number of short run batteries. When it costs almost as much to get a battery as it does a new laptop, there is something wrong.

      • Re:Not Greed .. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by idontgno (624372) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @12:02PM (#30445088) Journal

        You're describing the effect. "Greed" describes the cause.

        It's against the profit interests of laptop manufacturers to standardize batteries because then they'd have to compete with each other on them. Since these batteries are essentially commodity items, the only competitive variable would be pricing. And no producer likes competing on price.

        • Re:Not Greed .. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by brainboyz (114458) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @12:54PM (#30446000) Homepage

          Actually, I'd bank more on the idea that it's an engineering thing. Think about it, if you design a system that needs specific inputs do you want a battery that is designed to efficiently deliver power at that voltage, or do you want a battery that provides a higher voltage and then you get to waste energy (via heat) to bring it down to the appropriate level? When it comes to laptops, battery life and heat levels are key. Converting voltage levels would make things worse on both counts. Add the fact that each laptop has a slightly different form-factor and you need custom shapes too.

          Now, if you want an awkwardly shaped, warmer than usual, and loud laptop that has a shorter than average battery life for the given energy capacity, by all means don't let me stand in your way protesting against the manufacturers for standardized batteries. I'll deal with swapping out a $200 battery every two years or so or not bother so I can upgrade performance, then donate the old laptop so it can be used as a desktop for someone who can't generally afford a new computer in general (they don't care that it only has 2 hours of battery life instead of the original 5).

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by blackchiney (556583)
        There is a standard set of sizes for Li-Ion batteries. I cracked open my laptop pack and what I saw was 6 cells of slightly larger than AA cells. A little bit of searching and I found a supplier where a pack of 10 cost $50 w/ shipping. There was space in the case for 2 more so I upgraded the pack from 6 to 8 and adjusted the wiring and thermal probes to match.
      • Re:Not Greed .. (Score:4, Informative)

        by cheesybagel (670288) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @01:52PM (#30447136)
        There are standard sizes for rechargeable lithium ion cells. But different laptops use packs with different numbers of cylindrical 18650 lithium-ion cells [buy-laptop-batteries.com].
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by yurtinus (1590157)
        The battery packs for tools are no more standard than those for computers; however, your battery *components* are. Your 3-cell, 4-cell, etc lithium batteries are going to be built around a standard cell. The Latitude that I have for work uses a six cell battery, 11.1 volt, 56wh. Given its dimensions and capacity, I figure it is- 6x 3.7v 18650 cells at 2500mAh (two sets of three in parallel).

        *I* can buy those batteries for roughly $24, figure cost to Dell's supplier being some fraction of that. Dell charg
    • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @11:58AM (#30445004) Homepage

      Noooo....

      Laptop batteries are made to higher standards..

      we cant have laptop batteries bursting in flames or exploding. so we pay more for them to be made better!

    • by Sandbags (964742) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @12:42PM (#30445782) Journal

      No. Laptop batteries are priced higher due to size constraints and weight constraints. Just becaus eit says LiIon does NOT mean that the battery in your laptop and lawnmower are even remotely the same.

      Larger batteries are cheaper to produce.
      Batteries not limited by shape design are cheaper to produce
      Batteries not limited by expensive structural components (lawnmower batteries can be placed in cheap, thick, sturdy casings and noone cares, slim laptop batteries require magnesuim or titanium reinforcement to hold together).

      Arguing why laptop batteries cost more per watt hour is like arguing why Half-A batteries cost more than D-Cells for the same reason. Or why cell phone and camera batters have even larger differences in priceing per watt hour vs laptop batteries.

      Also, every laptop practically has a unique battery, which requires manufacturing, storage, logistics, etc. Lawnmowers are likely using generic cells, like the ones being mass rpoduced for cars and other industrial purposes. A battery is a battery to a lawnmower. They simply cost less. I'd bet half the price or less.

      The fewer of a thing you make, or the more unique it is from other things, the more it costs.

      This is not capitolism, it's logistics, manufacturing, and HARD COSTS.

      STFU, and do some market research before you get on a high horse and spread FUD about things you know nothing about.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anachragnome (1008495)

      Agreed. (no pun intended)

      Dell laptops do not allow a BIOS flash until after a "battery check" is performed, even if the machine is currently plugged in to a transformer/wall outlet. (take the battery out, or have a dead battery, and the BIOS flash will fail)

      There is NO reason to do this except to make sure you have a functioning battery.

      In short, they are forcing the user to buy a new battery if the old one doesn't work, even if the user never intends on unplugging the thing from the wall.

      The worst part? Th

  • Size matters (Score:5, Insightful)

    by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @11:21AM (#30444414) Homepage Journal
    The reason why laptop batteries are more expensive per unit energy than a lawnmower battery is because you're only willing to tolerate a certain physical size for a laptop battery. On a lawnmower, by comparison, an arbitrarily large battery is generally acceptable provided it is not too extraordinarily heavy.
    • Re:Size matters (Score:5, Informative)

      by robkill (259732) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @11:27AM (#30444482)

      This was mentioned in the article, but not as size, but weight. The power to weight ratio is more important. Density of the individual battery cells, and continuous use vs. burst usage also come into play.

      • by sg3000 (87992)

        I imagine there's also some lifespan and related warranty issues.

        Laptops see a lot of use and the batteries are probably going through nearly continuous discharge/charge cycles. In contrast a lawnmower would be used maybe weekly or power tools that would be used intermittently. There's probably some relationship to the number of times the battery goes through a charging cycle and the additional cost. Note that even if both items have a 1 year warranty, the fact the laptop's battery goes through more frequen

    • by iamhigh (1252742) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @11:33AM (#30444576)
      And let's not forget that one of them sits near your balls, which means I am willing to pay a little extra to make sure it doesn't leak or explode. I imagine insurance, increased product testing and more regulations all add to the price difference as well.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @11:51AM (#30444890)

        If the batteries are next to your balls, I don't think you are using the lawnmower in an approved manner.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by smellsofbikes (890263)

          If the batteries are next to your balls, I don't think you are using the lawnmower in an approved manner.

          Whole different meaning to "whacking off".

          I had a friend who worked in the ER in a fairly redneck-filled state. I asked her about the weirdest accident she'd ever seen and she said they'd brought in her *cousin*, who had actually managed to injure his penis (and leg and hand and other bits) with a lawnmower.

          There was a moment of silence, and then everyone hearing the story said "HOW??!?"

          She said "I think alcohol was involved..." but that was all we ever got.

      • And let's not forget that one of them sits near your balls, which means I am willing to pay a little extra to make sure it doesn't leak or explode. I imagine insurance, increased product testing and more regulations all add to the price difference as well.

        My lead-acid battery powered mower caught fire. Apparently there was a recall that I didn't know about since it was a hand-me-down. Battery terminals can be shorted together through the blade brake if the PCBs flex too much. And the blade brake is just a long piece of somewhat resistive wire intended to be connected to the motor terminals through a DPDT switch when the battery connection was removed, thus stopping the motor faster than if it had to just spin down. The exciting thing is that this could h

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        so you dont buy Dell or sony then.... they comes with exploding as a feature!

    • by gurps_npc (621217)
      I agree. As someone that bought a netbook simply because I wanted something I could carry on and use on an airplane, size (and weight, as mentioned in the article) matters a lot.
    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      Demand matters more. If people are willing to pay more then the company can charge more. It's called free market.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Physics has spoiled me for day-to-day life. I parsed "arbitrarily large battery" as "ludicrously large, but not finite".

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by uradu (10768)

      I would be surprised if that were the case. The chemistry of all these Li-Ion cells is mostly the same, and regardless of the final outside shape of the battery, internally most use standardized cells connected either in parallel or series to achieve the desired current and/or voltage. I bet you that if you took apart that lawnmower battery, inside you'd find the same basic cells as in that laptop battery, just more of them.

      So I would say the lawnmower batteries are mostly cheaper because of some subsidy. L

  • Coming soon (Score:5, Funny)

    by Yvan256 (722131) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @11:22AM (#30444424) Homepage Journal

    Lawnmower-to-laptop battery adapter. Wheel Cart not included.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by OzPeter (195038)

      Lawnmower-to-laptop battery adapter. Wheel Cart not included.

      That was also mentioned in TFA .. along with some ludicrous idea about being able to swap batteries on a laptop when their charge had been depleted. Obviously the author is not an Apple fan-boi

      Hmm .. After that statement I think that I will proclaim "OzPeter's law" as a corollary to Godwin's law:

      "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Apple approaches 1"

  • This blog investigates whether such a seemingly ludicrous situation can be justified.

    I think somebody watched Spaceballs yesterday!

    • Yeah, my best guess is that the lawnmower batteries are being sold at a discount in order to establish the market. As soon as the market is established, the prices for lawnmower batteries will probably slowly increase until they're about on par with laptop batteries.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AlecC (512609)

        I don't think this is likely, because there isn't a lock-in effect with lawnmowers. Having bought a Brand X lawnmower, when you replace it (quite a few years later, hopefully) you will have no need to replace it with another Brand X. The point of initial low prices on things like consoles is to achieve market dominance: games manufacturers make games for the most popular consoles so players buy the consoles which makes them the most popular. The de-factso standard for lawns - flat grass - is in the public d

  • Because any manufacturer is going to charge the most that you are willing to pay. In lawnmowers, there are cheaper alternatives. With laptops, there are not. Pure market based pricing.

    • Re:The Market (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ephemeriis (315124) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @11:32AM (#30444562)

      Because any manufacturer is going to charge the most that you are willing to pay. In lawnmowers, there are cheaper alternatives. With laptops, there are not. Pure market based pricing.

      While I'm certain that's part of the issue, I think you're missing a more obvious difference - the form-factor.

      A laptop is supposed to be relatively small and portable. Laptop manufacturers will advertise how thick their laptop is, how many pounds it weighs, and how many hours it'll run on a battery. Thus, laptop batteries - while they may be made with the same technology - are as small and dense as possible.

      A lawnmower, on the other hand, has wheels on it. While you'd have a hard time shoving a 1 ton brick around your yard, it probably doesn't make much difference if the thing ways 15 lbs or 25 lbs... It'll still move easily enough. And if you're going to make it self-propelled it'll matter even less. The same thing goes for the size/volume of the thing... It isn't like this thing has to fit into an overhead bin or a backpack. Hell, your cutting deck is already several feet square - the battery probably isn't going to be the biggest thing on it.

      So you've got laptops (and cell phones) where you're trying to build a tiny, dense battery... And lawn mowers where you just need enough juice to run the mower for a couple hours and it really doesn't matter how bulky the thing is.

      And folks are surprised that there's a price difference why?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Andy Dodd (701)

        Yup, I wouldn't be surprised if the lawnmower variants have some chemistry/construction changes such that:
        1) The cells are slightly larger/heavier per Wh despite similar chemistry
        2) The cells are optimized for a somewhat different charge/discharge regime than a laptop

        The above could easily make significant changes to the cost of the batteries.

      • While I'm certain that's part of the issue, I think you're missing a more obvious difference - the form-factor.

        Shape is important also. When you are replacing a laptop battery, the new battery has to fit into the space left by the old one. Typically, this means that it has to be made for your exact model of laptop (or at least your model line, if you're lucky). And don't even get me started about laptop AC adapters.

        Power tool batteries are designed to be interchangeable at least between the same brand of tools, and compact size is sacrificed for it. Sure, the drill could be a little smaller if it had a drill-sha

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MiniMike (234881)
      I just wish some of this technology transfer would work the other way too. I would love to have a laptop powered by a small integrated gasoline/diesel (diesel would probably work better) engine, and would be willing to pay more per hp than for a lawnmower engine. However, I don't want it to also cut grass- the thought of powered spinning blades under my laptop is not appealing.
    • Recently I needed a netbook screen replacement.

      1. Official price from maker, more then the actual price of the netbook.
      2. Price from european screen supplier. 120 euro
      3. Price from american ebay, 30 euro

      I paid a small business that buys stuff in the US for customers and had the screen PLUS a 9 cell battery for 120 euro.

      Morale, laptop makers bleed you dry anyway they can. The batteries are something you can't easily buy from others and the laptop makers try to make you believe that any aftermarket battery will eat

      • Part of the increased cost is the fact that the EU puts the financial burden of disposing of the battery safely on the seller of the product, whereas in the US no such regulations exist. Futhermore there are taxes to contend with(VAT in the EU is a national tax whereas sales tax in the US varies from state to state and is generally not charged on internet orders), labor is cheaper in the US than it is in Europe etc. The EU wants all these nice protections, but don't pretend there aren't any costs involved.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    That's the free market. If people are willing to pay $50 for cell phone batteries then that is what you charge, otherwise you're leaving money on the table.

    Look on amazon, you can get cell phone batteries from reputable companies for far, far less.

    And cell phone accessories is an even bigger scam. I wanted another usb cable for my blackberry. From my cell phone company they would charger $30. BestBuy was similar.

    I bought one on amazon for $0.39. Yes, 39 cents for a genuine usb cable (+2.50 shipping). Charge

    • Re:Price Fixing? (Score:4, Informative)

      by captaindomon (870655) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @11:45AM (#30444796)
      Price Fixing is not at issue here. Price fixing is only when multiple manufacturers decide to raise a price simultaneously, which is illegal because it is bad for competition and the end consumer. Price fixing only works with commodities that are highly fungible http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fungible [wikipedia.org] i.e. gasoline or LCD tvs. With laptop batteries, price fixing isn't necessary because you can't buy a Toshiba battery if you need one for a Dell. Laptop batteries aren't fungible.
  • by happy_place (632005) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @11:28AM (#30444498) Homepage
    I really like the idea of a battery powered lawnmower, as opposed to the electric lawnmower I had as a kid back in the 70s. My parents were foolish enough to think I could use it without running over the cord... boy did I prove them wrong.
  • Heat? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rekoil (168689) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @11:29AM (#30444508)

    It very well might be that heat dissipation requirements deem that laptop batteries be more efficient (read: latest-generation designs, which invariably will cost more per kWh), where lawnmower batteries can get away with models that throw off more waste heat.

  • Explosions. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @11:29AM (#30444514)

    When you pack a battery into 1/3 the space you would ideally want it in it has a tendency to explode. The price discrepancy is trying to minimize the likelihood of it literally burning you. A mower has a lot more space for heat dissipation. It's also less likely to cause third-degree burns on the off chance it does overheat, since you don't use it on your lap.

  • by Speare (84249) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @11:31AM (#30444544) Homepage Journal
    Some of it is chemistry, and some of it is brand name inflation. Lithium batteries have a range of formulations. The lowest-cost formulations are suitable for low-amperage discharge, while better formulations can be discharged at a much higher current and still maintain a cool temperature and good recharge longevity. Heat is the real enemy here, so cramped cooling-starved long-running applications like laptops also demand better batteries than a weed-whacker that runs occasionally and has a chance of good airflow. In the radio-controlled hobby, there is a huge range of prices for essentially commodity batteries. These are usually Lithium-Polymer, a step above the usual laptop Li-Ion, but the same economics are in play. There are some "well known names" that are sold in all of the domestic R/C retailers. There are some generics sold in Hong Kong that sell for 1/3 to 1/5 the price, and some are even higher quality in longevity testing. Lithium is lithium, so unless there's an amazing return/warranty policy, it's usually not worth the brand name price.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      I disagree. The cheap batteries that you can get from over seas generally don't hold up very well long term(accepting the fact that almost all LiPo batteries are actually made in China). Just go to rcgroups.com and do some searches there for battery discharge graphs. The top of the line LiPo cells so far are ThunderPower G3 40C which have a very impressive discharge graph. They hold the same voltage as they age during load for 80% of the discharge. After 200+ flights the only thing that changes is the
  • It's the main reason they replaced nicads in most applications.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memory_effect [wikipedia.org]

  • Ben says (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kenp2002 (545495) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @11:34AM (#30444612) Homepage Journal

    "The cost of goods is what the market will bear.." It cost that much because people will pay that much. Expectations are such that consumers are willing to pay more for non-essential "gadgets" in relation to "tools". A person will buy a $2000 dollar laptop but wouldn't dream of buying a $2000 push mower (outside of premium or elite marketing).

    Perception of a product influences price. A battery for a laptop is "techie, electronic, computer related" while a battery for you kid's eleectric car is a "consumable, toy, non-essential" and a battery for a lawnmower is "utlility, get-it-done, tool" in perception.

    Those perception influence product pricing. There is no conventional "miniturization" in Lithium batteries per say that you have to pay a higher costs to shrink the battery, it seems more driven by natural market dynamics.

    • Yup. Corporations NEVER try to manipulate the market. Never ever. Never ever.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Trepidity (597)

      Did you forget half of classical economics? Prices are set by an intersection on the supply/demand curve, not by the demand curve alone. And if there is a large profit margin (gap between production cost and market price), it ought to attract more supply, driving down price (the vaunted "invisible hand").

  • by rAiNsT0rm (877553) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @11:36AM (#30444642) Homepage

    Basically the only thing on newer laptops is that there is actual circuitry inside of the battery pack now, but it is all very basic and couldn't cost more than a dollar or two at best. I used to work at Radioshack in college (I know, I know, but I was actually intelligent and truly helpful... not a drone) and I once replaced the cells in my Thinkpad 600 right there on the counter with the Li cells we sold... Everyone was amazed that, that was all that was inside of there. People always seem to think because it has to do with a computer it must be magical and exotic. Basically as long as you know how to properly solder them without killing yourself (the ones with tabs help) it's a 5-10 minute job and cost about $10-15.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sandbags (964742)

      Yea, look at the battery design of the newer LiPo battery packs, like those used in the Macbook. Each cell has a chip attahced that monitors output, heat, and charge state, and the charging cuircuit in the battery intelligently detects which cells charge/discharge faster than others in order to gain max charge performance as well as a better balanced output load and use closer to 100% of the energy on a flatter discharge curve. This prevents components on the motherboard (which get hot) from having to do

  • You're not going to pay top dorrah for a generic Made In China battery for a lawnmower or power tool, but you'll gladly pay a premium for higher quality electrons from a Japanese labeled battery in your iThinkBook. It's still Made In China, of course, but as long as you don't look too closely at it, you won't feel ripped off.
  • by Kagato (116051) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @11:39AM (#30444690)

    You can get cheap lithium-ion batteries for laptops. Third party knock off brands usually sent straight China. They don't work as well and in some cases can even cause damage. If laptop batteries were easy to make the third party market wouldn't be full of bad batteries.

  • Let's not forget that laptop batteries probably have higher quality requirements for smooth power delivery, low heat emission during use, etc when compared to lawn mower batteries.

    • ... Not to mention the fact that I can't remember the last time I used a battery powered lawnmower on my lap - a place of great concern to me... leaving aside the fact that the whirring blades might not bode well for my lap, I can also say that I would not like a battery to spontaneously combust while using a laptop lawnmower.
  • Does this mean that I can charge my lawnmower with my laptop charger? Or, better yet, will my laptop charge in a fraction of the time if I use my lawnmower charger on it?

    I realize that the above is ludicrous, but does Joe Sixpack? How many exploding laptops will we see from some eco-green lawnmower lover trying to implement the above?
  • Come on, folks. We all need to learn some basic business concepts. This question, in a different form, comes up every few days. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willingness_to_pay [wikipedia.org] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demand_curve [wikipedia.org]
  • It's because you can pull-start a lawnmower, so you don't really need a battery. As soon as we have Briggs & Stratton powered laptops, the batteries will be dirt cheap.
  • ... the same bottle of beer is almost an order of magnitude cheaper at your local beverage mart than at an upscale night club. How can that be?

  • Really? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CopaceticOpus (965603) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @11:58AM (#30445012)

    Of all the ridiculously priced items out there, why did he pick these batteries? Batteries for laptops need to be smaller, lighter, and more careful about heat dissipation than those in a lawnmower. The 66% premium sounds about right, just like the premium one has to pay for the rest of a laptop compared to a big old desktop PC.

    If he wants to rant about prices, how about laptop accessories? I wanted to buy a second wall charger for my laptop, but they were charging $75 for it. What about the price of any cable or charger sold at chain stores? Radio Shack, who used to sell packs of resistors to me for 50 cents, wanted me to pay $25 for a USB cable. It's as if they want me to buy everything online [monoprice.com].

    And I won't even start on text messages and other cell phone baloney. Ranting about that could be a full time job.

  • What are the profit margins on lawnmowers and lawnmower accessories? Gross margins on laptops are around 10%. Compare that to things like clothes, furniture, and food which might be 100% or 1000%. Often times electronics retailers profit only from the accessories like batteries.

  • It's the power density not the watt hours that make the price difference. In other words it's the watt/hours per kg that matters. Laptop batteries are not as dense (heavy) as power tool batteries, their power density is higher (more watt/hours per kg) than power tool batteries.

  • There is (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your POV) no such thing as a standard laptop battery i.e. one size fits many. Therefore you don't get the same economies of scale that may occur if there were, say, only 3-4 different laptop battery sizes, with multiple manufacturers cashing after the market.

    I suspect the same thing goes on with power tool batteries but I bet if you cracked open a few designed for different tool brands they'd have many the same components between them, similar to how la
  • by Snap E Tom (128447) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @12:10PM (#30445210)

    The guy from Sony answered it: size, weight, and output differences. Would someone actually critique that instead of talking about markets, price settings, and conspiracy theories?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Tim C (15259)

      Click to page 2? Some people barely even read the summary here!

Receiving a million dollars tax free will make you feel better than being flat broke and having a stomach ache. -- Dolph Sharp, "I'm O.K., You're Not So Hot"

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