# Maximum *charging* voltage for Li-Ion battery

I'm implementing a CC-CV algorithm for charging a li-ion battery. I'm confused what is the maximum allowed charging voltage during CC (constant current) phase.

All application notes and datasheets, I've found state that charging in the CC mode continues until cell voltage reaches 4.2V per cell. In order to maintain constant current the charging voltage has to be increased as the cell voltage rises.

So, when the cell voltage is close to 4.2V the charging voltage must be higher e.g. 4.5V, and this should not cause any damage to the cell. Is my understanding correct?

I'm asking because the power control module in the battery pack I'm trying to charge seems to cut off the circuit when charging voltage is above 4.5V.

Edit: Some clarification after Russell's comment.

The control algorithm I've implemented is basically taken from Atmel's app note - AVR458: Charging Lithium-Ion Batteries with ATAVRBC100. A similar algorithm is described in app note AVR450 - AVR450: Battery Charger for SLA, NiCd, NiMH and Li-Ion Batteries. Both are simple buck regulators with PWM controlled by MCU.

Now let's say that we measure two voltages:

• Vcell -> this is the voltage measured at battery connection when PWM is OFF
• Vchg -> this is the voltage measured at battery connection when PWM is ON

To be clear I've checked the source code implementation of both. During CC charge phase the algorithm periodically checks if the Vcell > Vmax=4.2V. If not then Ichg is regulated, so that it is ~1C. If so, then CV mode starts.

I've asked the question because I see that during charging Vchg is higher than 4.2V, e.g. Vbat=3.9V is and Vchg is 4.3V.

Edit2: ** I went to check the source code of both app notes again. In fact the above is true for source code of app note AVR450.

The impl in app note AVR458 changes to CV when Vchg >= Vmax (4.2). Since this is consistent with all information I've found and with Russell's answer I think that the algorithm in AVR450 is incorrect.

• Do not char your batteries - they will explode. Dec 16, 2013 at 19:42
• As far as the cell is concerned the ONLY voltage that matters is Vcell - call it what you will. This is Vbat1 on sheet2 or Vbat2 on sheet 3 of The cct diagram - here. Their method is explained on page 22 of the app note - here. It is not 100% clear what happens when they turn off PWM to do measurement of Vcell during charging. The buck converter output cap (C12 on one sheet) of about 1000 uF will supply charge voltage and current "for a while".. Dec 17, 2013 at 3:08
• ... and Vcell will depend on how long this while is. Safer may be to take N readings and calculate a true value from them. | Overall - Voltage at battery under charging conditions should not exceed 4.2V and as per my answer, longer to much longer life can be had by reducing this modestly. Dec 17, 2013 at 3:09

So, when the cell voltage is close to 4.2V the charging voltage will must be higher e.g. 4.5V, and this should not cause any damage to the cell. Is my understanding correct?

No. Your understanding is incorrect and your charger is suspect.
And/or your description is not quite complete and unambiguous.
For information on battery matters for most battery chemistries a good starting point is often the excellent site at Battery University.
NB: What I have written below is based both on experience and on input from a wide range of sources, including battery university.

Assume for following discussion a manufacturers spec of

• Maximum current = CCmax (usually 1C for LiIon but may be other for specific cells).
Assume CCmax is 1C for the cell in question for convenience.
Actual spec will be as per datasheet and is temperature dependant and also depends on how many charge/discharge cycles you wish to achieve before the battery turns to mush and/or is reduced to say 70% of original capacity.

• Maximum voltage of Vmax - usually 4.2V or less. Say 4.2V for now.
As for current, the maximum Voltage applied will affect cell longevity (and capacity on a given charge). Charging at a terminal voltage of much above 4.2V will shorten you cell life, may lead to metallic lithium plating out and can lead to the exciting and equipment eating "vent with flame" battery meltdown phenomenon.

• Minimum current of Icv_min when charging at Vmax. This is the minimum that current should be allowed to fall to when charging in CV mode. When in CV mode, charging is terminated when current drops to this level. Icv_min is typically set at somewhere between 25% of Icc (early charge termination) and say 10% of Icc (maybe sometimes even 5% of Icc). The lower Icv_min is set the longer current trickles into the battery at Vmax in CV mode. Setting a low value of Icv_min adds slightly to the energy that can be stored in the battery on a given cyccle AND utterly tears the battery apart inside and shortens it life.

These two important points apply:

• The maximum voltage AT the battery (1 cell) under maximum constant current CCmax is Vmax = 4.2V in this case.

• BUT the maximum voltage AT the battery (1 cell) under ANY current is also Vmax.
If the battery will not accept Imax when Vmax is applied then CC mode is no longer appropriate. Charging should be CV (or terminated if Icharge at Vmax is <= Icv_min - see below)

An important point here is where you measure what you call "the charging voltage".
This is properly measured at the cell electrodes as close to the cell internals as possible. In practice anywhere on the (usually) weld-attached tabs should be OK as at the max allowed current the voltage drop across the tabs should be minimal. As long as the voltage at the actual cell is <= Vmax then the voltage at other points in the charger may be > Vmax if the charger design requires it.

Consider: Apply a "true" constant current source to a discharged LiIon cell.
There will be lead resistance external to the cell so the voltage elsewhere to the system may be higher than at the battery terminals. Ignore that for now - comment on this at end.
For a discharged LiIon battery the terminal voltage will be somewhere around 3V and will slowly rise as CC is applied.

After about 40 to 50 minutes of charging a LiIon cell at 1C (= CCmax in this case) from fully discharged the TERMINAL voltage will reach 4.2V. This is where you stop applying CC and apply a CV of Vamx (= 4.2V in this case) at whatever current it takes to keep the voltage at 4.2V (up to a maximum of CCmax.)

The following paragraph may sound a little complex but it is important. It does make sense - read and understand if you care about the answer to the question that you asked.
It is a fallacy to think that you must apply a higher voltage at the cell to get it to accept CCmax when Vcell is at Vmax.
This IS true if the battery is fully charged or is charged above the point in the cycle where Vcell first reaches Vmax when charging at CCmax.
BUT that is because you are then trying then to do something which is outside the proper charging "envelope".
IF a LiIon cell will not accept CCmax when Vmax is applied it should be charged at not above Vmax until Ibattery falls to Icv_min.
If you apply Vmax and Ibattery is below Icv_min then the battery is fully charged and you should remove Vcharge. Leaving a battery connected indefinitely to a voltage source of Vmax when Icharge is less than Icv_min will damage the battery and reduce or greatly reduce its cycle life.

Charging voltage is removed when Icharge falls below Icv_min to prevent potentially irreversible electrochemical reactions and to prevent Lithium metal "plating out".
If Vmax is set at 4.15V then charge capacity is reduced noticeably but cycle life is extended.
If Vmax is set at 4.1V charge capacity is significantly reduced and cycle life is significantly extended.
The loss of capacity per cycle that occurs when Vmax is reduced leads to an overall INCREASE in total lifetime capacity as the extension in life cycles rises faster than the per cycle capacity falls. If you care mainly about highest capacity per charge set Vmax as high as allowed and accept low cycle life.
If you can tolerate say 80% to 90% of max possible capacity per cycle, set Vmax lower and get more overall energy storage before replacement.

The graph below from Battery University article How to Prolong Lithium-based Batteries shows what happens when Vmax is increased above 4.2V.

At the end are 3 tables from the same battery University page which show the effects on cycle life from varying various parameters (depth of discharge, temperature, Vmax)

Internal voltage versus terminal voltage:

There will be internal resistance in the cell so the "real" potential in the cell proper during charging at CC will be less than at the terminals. At CV the internal voltage will approach the external voltage as Icharge "tapers off".
IF you want to play 'fast and loose' with all manufacturers' specs and all advice given you can assume that you can 'allow' for this resistance and guestimate a true internal voltage which is lower than the terminal voltage. May the force be with you and with your battery, and may it live long and prosper - but, it probably won't.

Three excellent tables from Battery University showing how cycle life varies with various parameters.

• Russell, thank you for taking the time to anwser my question.
– bvr
Dec 16, 2013 at 20:21
• @bvr OK. Finished - time to go back to mucking out the basement :-) Dec 16, 2013 at 20:54
• Thank you for all the information. I've updated my question with some clarification. As I understand all of above refers to Vcell not Vchg, right?
– bvr
Dec 16, 2013 at 20:57

Your understanding is correct but your conclusion is wrong because of the misleading "CC" term. If you (the battery manufacturers) declare a "Constant Current" value, then your terminal voltages might need to reach any value higher than the CV value. However, that's not the case and you can't exceed the CV value at any point in the charging process.

The correct definition should have been CL+CV (current limit + constant voltage).