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Theft-resistant power batteries

12/07/2021 5:03 AM

Does anyone know of rechargeable power batteries that have unique qualities that makes them more resistant to theft? The target would be batteries used in remote sites such as cellular phone and radio towers, substations, remote control rooms, etc., typically in the 48-110V DC, 50-200Ah range. I'm not too interested in fancy tracking systems and the like, or pairing with custom chargers - I remain amazed at the ingenuity of a thief with lots of time and no health & safety protocol to follow! 12V blocks are especially popular due to all the equipment designed for it.

Space is not such a constraint for stationary applications, so maybe some old-fashioned types not in vogue any more, with really low power density, that makes it so heavy or bulky that it is just too difficult to transport? Or non-standard voltages (though I've seen batteries opened up to get to the internal connections to get past that)? Or strange chemistries with some behavior that criminals would not like for general purpose applications?

I'd appreciate responses related to battery technologies, not other ideas on preventing theft. When electrified fences, walls, cameras, safe doors, double-brick building walls, solid reinforced concrete roofs, etc. does not work anymore, I just want a product that other people don't want to bother with.

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#1

Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/07/2021 6:08 AM

I would build the batteries into the structure and place dummy batteries as a diversion tactic...really foul smelling corrosive ingredients with permanent dye in the faux batteries that weigh a ton and break open easily and hold very little charge... haha...

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#5
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Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/07/2021 7:15 AM
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#11
In reply to #5

Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/08/2021 7:40 AM

I'm also looking at wireless power transfer to power smaller items - thanks for the link! But these are standby batteries specifically for when no power is available close by, such as at radio high sites.

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#14
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Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/08/2021 8:04 AM

I was toying with the idea of wireless charging for the batteries, so that no wiring could be traced to batteries....

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#20
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Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/09/2021 2:30 AM

Ahhh, so they're not so easy to find. Good idea!

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#2

Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/07/2021 6:08 AM

The Edison battery comes to my mind.

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#3

Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/07/2021 6:17 AM

It might be worth looking at second hand nuclear sub batteries.

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#4
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Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/07/2021 6:36 AM
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#6

Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/07/2021 7:17 AM

The sodium-sulphur battery springs to mind, particularly as they do not function as batteries below about 300degC and there is a tendency for the contents to explode when wetted with water.

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#12
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Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/08/2021 7:47 AM

Yes, I like this one, sort of forgotten it as we haven't used it previously.

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#7

Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/07/2021 7:37 PM

I like Solar Eagle's idea of making the batteries in unusual shapes. For E-cars the battery could be incorporated into the base pan, if it already isn't. For other uses, the battery could be in the largest part of the item, irregular in shape and difficult to incorporate in other uses. Users want a battery that fits into their project, size being important.

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#25
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Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/09/2021 12:12 PM

that is already underway for electric aircraft.

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#8

Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/07/2021 11:14 PM

Concorde makes Sun-Xtender batteries in 2 volt cells, patented low resistance design that makes energy storage quite efficient. These are especially useful if you need lots of ampere hours, you can put many of these 1215AH to 530AH (24hr) cells in series, and build a good size bank with no parallel batteries. A very maintainable installation where you can easily diagnose and replace one cell in the string. 2 volt cells at 30-60lb per each are not much use for other than material/scrap recovery.

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#22
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Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/09/2021 4:00 AM

About 20 years ago some forklifts used individual single cells instead of batteries.

Each cell was very massive and heavy,not easily moved without a forklift.

Much cheaper to replace a single cell than a whole battery.

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#26
In reply to #22

Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/10/2021 1:35 AM

I'm also leaning towards that, but it must be heavy & bulky! The lead acid ones get stolen too - when you steal a set of 53 cells, you get 8 nice 12V sets + spares! We need chemistries with relatively low scrap value components too. With heavy/bulky stuff, you only need to worry about the links, busbars and cables, and we can move to aluminium for most of that. Not sure if anyone has used Al terminal links - any feedback?

(Off-topic, but we even used ~800mm2 ACSR conductors between the transformers through the wall bushings to the substation internals - no thefts since then.)

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#9

Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/08/2021 1:38 AM

Put lead sheathing around the battery compartment, especially on the access door. Affix a nuclear radiation label to the door, along with the legend, "Danger: ionizing radiation. Protective clothing required. Radiation exposure monitor required." Put the same symbols on the batteries, and cover the manufacturer's label with "Plutonium battery - ORNL Pu 48 20"

More seriously, flow batteries require a lot of plumbing and are a mess to move unless the setup is designed for portability, but that's a big advantage in your case. Unfortunately, I don't know of any commercially available product; it's a concept being evaluated for electric vehicles because charging and recharging can be just a matter of changing fluids in tanks.

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#10

Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/08/2021 2:11 AM

The old 2Volt Lead Acid battery in the glass case as was used in telephone installations, big, bulky, holds around 5 gallons of acid each and can be fragile if the thief becomes overexuberant, they fit the bill nicely. There was a bank on an old radio repeater installation I saw in my apprenticeship.

Also the old NICad batteries that were used in power stations of the 50s, the size of a small fridge, 1.2V 1000Ahr, big bulky and easily maintained.

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#13

Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/08/2021 7:58 AM

Thanks for the ideas so far, folks! Whilst I like the idea of submarine batteries, they are too big to fit for a 110V configuration (I know, I know what I asked!).

I like the large AGM batteries proposed - at 40-50kg ea, they are difficult to haul around. but conversely there is a lot of scrap lead in them... The large NiCd batteries are tempting despite the end-of-life hazchem disposal issues - it is going into my pot of things to research further. I love how old tech may become the way to go - irony!

There are commercially available flow batteries from Australia (zinc-bromine from Redflow), and at 240kg ea they are an option, but I know nothing beyond what is on the website. Will have to check if the electrolytes are hazardous in case of spillages, but it is a candidate. Their are a few local installations, will see if any feedback is forthcoming. It requires a few hours off-line every two weeks though, which is a big no-no, maybe a supercapacitor or small battery can bridge that, but now it gets complex.

The one I didn't think of was the unusually shaped battery. If it can be put in a tough enclosure that is bloody difficult to open without damaging the cells (the battery-powered angle grinder is just so versatile ), then a weird shape could just do it, especially if it is heavy too. Maybe with a slippery surface. Mmm.

The sodium-sulphur battery's inherent heat issues may make it a good candidate too. More homework for me.

Another option could be a battery with a non-poisonous/hazardous electrolyte and cheap anode and cathode materials, with a very fragile casing, specifically designed like that, but that will take a while to get.

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#16
In reply to #13

Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/08/2021 12:32 PM

I checked out the Redflow battery; it looks like this is a better idea than I expected!

The flow battery's self-maintenance requirement shouldn't be a problem if you have two batteries and configure the battery management system to ensure they don't ever run that part of the cycle at the same time. This also provides redundancy in case there is a problem with one of the units.

The chemicals are listed as "DG class 8," meaning there is a corrosion hazard. I suggest installing each battery in a polyethylene spill tray for insurance - if nothing else one can be made by cutting down an off-the-shelf tank (tray capacity should be at least 100 l greater than the volume occupied by the battery). The installation manual looks like it has the answers to your questions.

The battery needs a forklift or crane to move; I doubt it will be targeted by casual thieves. The intrinsic value of the elements used isn't high enough to "justify" the effort and hazard of stripping parts for recycling; honest labor would be more profitable for the same amount of effort. End-of-life disposal looks like less of a problem than traditional lead-acid batteries, NiCD, or lithium cells, even though it may be a net expense.

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#15

Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/08/2021 8:12 AM

Gideon, you are in SA. There is nothing they cannot steal or find a way to steal something. They are very intuitive and smart and I seriously doubt that the west can design anything that will stop the theft of solar panels and batteries. A good vicious dog or a lot of snakes is a good preventative measure, as you know. Even in Ethiopia, the solar panels are guarded by a gent who sleeps right next to the panel, and that is along the major roads. GEC tried armoured mini sub stations to prevent electrical theft and they simply created a thermal lance and stole the electric. It's a different world and I am aware of your plight.

If they can do the Zuma Shopping spree and get away with it, your and any batteries are a doddle for them. Good luck.

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#17

Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/08/2021 3:10 PM

I don't know of anyone making this (yet), but I'm thinking of the "dye pack" type of system used in the banks, where the thieves get a surprise dye explosion when they get away with cash. Make a battery with some sort of neutralizing chemical / acid pack inside the battery case that is communicating with the charger using a coded periodic "ping" system. When someone steals the battery, a few minutes later the packet doesn't get it's ping and the chemical is released, dissolving something in the battery to make it useless to the thief.

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#18

Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/08/2021 3:30 PM

put a radioactive sign on the outside of the building and on the "nuclear cells".

then post a few signs at the local scratch off corner store discussing the danger of these and to not purchase if someone tries to sell them.

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#19

Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/08/2021 5:12 PM

Get a sign on every batt "CURSED BY TIKOLOSHE' and his recent photo and forget about it. S.M.

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#21

Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/09/2021 3:55 AM

How about a mission impossible case that will explosively self destruct after a few seconds outside of an invisible barrier surrounding the site? No repeat offenders!

More effective than the revolving door criminal system.

Now,seriously,how about a Low Jack tracking device incorporated into the battery?

There is nothing absolutely theft proof.The military has some things that are close.

Some cargo containers are welded shut after secure classified computers are housed in them,and they are on a military base with armed guard security,in a cave in an underwater mountain,under 3 miles of glacial ice,only accessible by submarine..Still,someone could steal them.

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#23

Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/09/2021 4:23 AM

I share your grief. Backup power sources for transmitter towers. The fences, door locks and everything else couldn't stop one of our own adventurous maintenance staff who simply used their key to open the enclosure, the building, shutdown the electricals and then take solar panels, inverter/converter and the batteries and then with aid of his mates create damage to make it look like vandals. They targeted three sites in one weekend. One set each!

He was fortunately unaware that another department had remote "wildlife" cameras viewing one site for environmental reasons. He was even using his "on call" crane equipped truck. The irony was that he was "on call" for when the equipment alarmed, he claimed the overtime shift and even assisted the police to record the damage at the sites.

Needless to say, he is no longer working with us.

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#24
In reply to #23

Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/09/2021 8:54 AM

Probably now working for the government.Birds of a feather...

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#27

Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/10/2021 1:38 AM

Put up a bunch of fake cameras, with camera signs as well. A psychological deterrent should sort 95% of people. For the other 5% who are persistent, place hidden motion detecting game cameras on site & slightly further afield. Depends on access, if there’s one track in and its far enough from site that lugging a 15kg battery all the way out is hard, then in most cases I’d assume people will park as close as possible, whilst staying out of view of site cameras. So a game camera will get a licence plate. Failing that, I do like the radioactive plutonium signage option. And failing that, maybe a motion detected audible alarm set at 120dB (depending on site location).

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#28

Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/10/2021 3:45 AM

...a very heavy, awkward shaped battery with an internal tracking - activated on removal to alert the surveillance forces - giving time to be found and caught...?

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#29

Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/11/2021 9:37 AM

Put a sign next to the batteries:

"One or more of these batteries is not a battery.It is an explosive and it will explode when disconnected or moved 50 feet from it's location.You figure out which one."

That may work on some amateur thieves or dope heads...or not.

A watermelon farmer put up a similar sign to stop thievery of his melons from the field at night: "One of these melons is poisoned,you figure out which one.

The next day,a sign appeared next to his sign: "Now two are poisoned.You figure out which two."

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#30

Re: Theft-resistant power batteries

12/12/2021 10:26 PM

I have considered burying them underground in a simple concrete vault or weighted lockbox, cost and complexity can be scaled to meet the expected threat (like including a dummy battery box above ground, already vandalized and empty).

Making it more trouble than it's worth (or just plain tricking) is the best deterrent.

If you can integrate the batteries directly into the structure that is also a possible option.

Concrete batteries are being developed but they are still in the early stages.

Substations are quite an expensive and critical asset and security monitoring is probably still the best way.

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