I recently acquired a ZKE EBC-A05 DC electronic load and battery charger to use in testing lithium ion batteries.
This device has a nice set of features, including:
- 4-wire test interface, to minimize impact of load/charging current on reading battery voltage.
- Constant current or constant power load testing at up to 12v @ 5A.
- Battery charging for Lithium, NiMH and lead acid batteries at up to 3A.
- USB serial connection and windows software for data logging and charge/discharge control
I’ll be updating this page with a review, tests, and teardown of the device as I use the device.
Sourcing the Device
The EBC-A05 is one member of a line of battery testing equipment made by a Chinese company called ZKE that looks like it has been in business since 2006 or so. I think I first learned of them while rooting through some Chinese flashlight and battery forums with the aid of Google and Bing translate. I was intrigued because they seemed to combine a nice feature set at what, I assumed, was a reasonable price, if I could get one without paying a huge markup.
ZKE’s primary storefront is on TaoBao, but while TaoBao has recently started taking foreign credit cards, shipping can still be a challenge. I’ve seen some of their stuff on AliExpress, but AliExpress doesn’t allow orders from Washington State, where I reside, so I decided to source mine from Franky Tong. I found out about Franky through the EEVBlog forum, where he is a trusted member. He sells a selection of multimeters and test equipment and test leads through his 99centhobbies EBay shop, and also helps people source one-off components and equipment at a reasonable markup. For less than $60, and just about two weeks after I made my inquiry, I received a package with my order from Hong Kong. If you are interested in similar assistance, you can email franky (at) 99centHobbies (dot) com.
The EBC-A05 is made to be used with PC software to log data and control multi-step test plans, but all the core charging and discharging functionality is available standalone, through the front-panel interface.
I found the interface relatively intuitive and easy to understand and use, though referring to google-translated version of the chinese documentation helped fill in some gaps.
Holding down the set button causes a blinking cursor to display in the upper-left section of the display responsible for indicating the operating mode. Hitting the inc/dec buttons will cycle forward and backwards through the operating modes. Each operating mode has additional parameters that can be set.
- DSC-CC: Constant current discharge
- DSC-CP: Constant power discharge
In addition to a setting for the discharge current or power, these modes have settings for terminating the test when the voltage drops to a user specified level, and/or exceeds a certain duration.
Standard Charging Modes
- CHG-NiMh/NiCd: NiMH & NiCd charging profiles
- CHG-Pb: Lead-acid charging profile
- CHG-LiPo: Lithium Ion charging profile (4.2v termination)
- CHG-LiFe: LiFePO4 charging profile
The user can specify a charging current, and the number of cells connected in series. The charge termination conditions are calculated based on the chosen chemistry, cells in series, and charging current. A maximum charging duration can also be set.
As an option, the user can choose to perform an automated three-step charge-discharge-charge test. When this option is chosen the user additionally specifics current and termination voltage for a constant-curren discharge test, along with a rest duration between test steps.
Special Charging Modes
- CHG-CV: Constant Voltage / Constant Current charging profile
This mode can be used to charge lithium ion cells to arbitrary termination voltages and termination currents. For example, you could use it to charge cells with a 4.3v or 4.35v termination voltage, and/or 1C fast charging current during the CV phase, while terminating the CC phase at 1/20C.
Charge duration can’t be limited in the mode, but the option to do a three-step test available in the other charging modes is also available here.
Provides 5V @ 2A max for charging USB devices.
The EBC-A05 can be connected to windows PC using an optional USB-TTL serial cable. When the EB Tester software is running on the PC, and the connection is initiated to the device, the front-panel inputs are locked out. The LCD continues to show the operating mode, voltage, current, but indicates the PC connection is active.
The PC software can be used to configure and initiate a single-step test.
Once the test is running, it charts the current and voltage at ~1s intervals, and updates a summary of the current and power consumed during the test.
The software allows export of a graphic, or a datafile.
The software allows automation of multistep testing. I will update this section once I have the opportunity to try some multistep tests.