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In DC electricity, a single source of that energy is known as a cell.

When we join cells together in series, parallel or series parallel, we then have a battery of cells, or just simply a battery.

When deciding to join single cells in series or in parallel, we consider what we are trying to achieve:

  • If we want to increase the available capacity of a cell, we add in more positive and negative plates in parallel with each other into the cell.
    Two 12 volt batteries connected together in parallel to give an overall 12 volts, but also adding the capacity of one battery to the otherOne example of this arrangement would be where we are trying to start a vehicle with a flat battery by 'jump starting' the vehicle. What we do here is that we get a vehicle with a charged battery and connect the two vehicle batteries together in parallel (positive to positive, negative to negative). By doing this, we don't change the overall voltage of either vehicle, we are simply adding the capacity of the 'good' battery to that of the 'flat' battery, and using the additional capacity to start the second engine.
    Another example of this arrangement
    is where we want to increase the capacity of a 12V lead/acid battery. Instead of having just one positive and one negative plate, we commonly put 10 or more negative and positive plates in parallel with each other into the cell. This has no effect on the cell voltage, but does significantly increase cell capacity.
  • If we want to increase the available voltage, we join cells in series. The overall capacity of each cell joined in series remains the same.
    Six individual two volt cells arranged in series with each other to give an overall 12 voltsAn example of this series arrangement would be in a 6-cell lead/acid battery. Each individual cell has a nominal voltage of 2V, and when they are joined together in series, these 6 cells in the battery give an overall nominal voltage of 12V.
    Another example of this series arrangement would be connecting four 6 volt batteries together in series, giving us an overall voltage of 24 volts.

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