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Battery talk (A place to discuss any and all battery technologies where the discussion may not fit into other topic areas) => Nickel iron => Topic started by: tecnodave on March 09, 2019, 06:50:58 PM

Title: NiFe?..NiCad?
Post by: tecnodave on March 09, 2019, 06:50:58 PM
Hello all,

I just scored these, labels are conflicting!  Help!

The jars are full, electrolyte is clear, no black buildup on plates. Not tested yet.

Removed from 1950's dinner train cars long abondoned, there are more, not exactly the same but very similar looking. Am going back to secure them.

Curious enough to try to recover.


Edit>. The cell connecting straps covers  have the word EDISON moulded into the plastic. Cell jars are clear plastic. Sun shining through battery has a rosy pink hue to the electrolyte. The electrodes are shiny metal so these probably are ni-cad but the yellow labels on the end are glue on, and not well attached?  Tops of batteries had a thin film of old oil with much dirt embedded, very carefully cleaning batteries now. Voltages .700 and .800 so fairly dead. (set of 5 cells). Haven't removed cell strap covers yet, it appears to be separate cells  with terminals bolted together.  Any help/ advice would be greatly appreciated. I have never worked with wet ni-cad cells before
Title: Re: NiFe?..NiCad?
Post by: tecnodave on March 09, 2019, 07:32:21 PM
A few more pic's

Title: Re: NiFe?..NiCad?
Post by: mike90045 on March 09, 2019, 11:11:08 PM
Not sure how to tell the difference.  They both use pretty much the same electrolyte as I recall, I know NiFe can use float oil.
Title: Re: NiFe?..NiCad?
Post by: ClassicCrazy on March 10, 2019, 12:02:22 AM
years ago there was someone around here who used to get the nicads from railroad cars . I think he said you had to change the electrolyte to recondition them - but that was a long time ago.

Title: Re: NiFe?..NiCad?
Post by: tecnodave on March 10, 2019, 12:24:01 AM

I have been reading up on this. The ni cad came first then evolved into ni-fe. The chemistry is the same. What is troubling me is the second photo on the first post. The logo is NiFe but the label clearly states that this is a ni cad. I'm thinking that with a nickle electrode plate and a iron plate ,as in ni fe that one plate would be more darker colored like steel but these plates are rather shiney. I know that the inventor first pantened ni cad then later patented the ni fe process before Edison started experimenting. As far as I've read Edison only made ni fe and not ni cad. I'm not sure that these are Edison cells but the yellow covers over the cell connector straps are embossed "Edison". But in the cases I only see the NiFe logo. The yellow label tells a different story!  I don't know what to think of that.

So when you service yours what do you clean up with.  So far I have not used any cleaning compounds as I have never dealt with potassium hydroxide . I'm using dampened newspaper to remove debris and oil from the cases.

I'm not sure just where these were used but the dinner train has been abandoned for quite a while now. They might have been in the locomotive but that doesn't make sense as locomotives are 600 volt DC for traction and dynamic braking and 72 DC volts for controls and lighting. Cabooses are 12 volts for radio and lights. A freind found them and brought them to me. I will see the train again tomorrow.

Read the Wikipedia article on history of the Ni Fe cells but forgot the real inverters name, Edison just worked on the original design before patenting the Ni Fe battery in America, his forerunner was about 40 years ahead of Edison.

Title: Re: NiFe?..NiCad?
Post by: tecnodave on March 10, 2019, 12:43:12 AM

Yes these are from an old rail car, not sure just which one, my shop is next to the Union Pacific rail yards in Pajaro, across the river from Watsonville.  Santa Cruz county bought the Watsonville/Santa Cruz/Davenport branch line from UP to run a tourist/dinner train. The train was brought in from Davenport Iowa and was never realized. It sits abandoned in the UP rail yards. The operator was fired and run out of town for dumping 250 oil can tank cars on the tracks in Santa Cruz county. We have a new local operator who is doing better. They are going to restore rail service here Yah! We export Redwood locally harvested and trucking it out is a bear!  I hear bad things about Progressive Rail but they have the contract now.

Two stories now that I've heard, these are from the rear end of the locomotive and the dining car. I will visit the train in the morning to see if there are more of these.

It seems the the charge profile is very similar for both types.

Anyone know where to purchase electrolyte solution  KOH,  it's probably a controlled substance here

Title: Re: NiFe?..NiCad?
Post by: bee88man on March 10, 2019, 09:48:32 AM
KOH is cmmon lye...sold for soap making, for one use...
Title: Re: NiFe?..NiCad?
Post by: tecnodave on March 10, 2019, 11:24:19 AM

Thanks for that tidbit of information,  yup chemistry is my weak point, never really studied really.

Title: Re: NiFe?..NiCad?
Post by: mike90045 on March 10, 2019, 11:54:36 AM

Thanks for that tidbit of information,  yup chemistry is my weak point, never really studied really.


NO !!
Common lye / drain cleaner is SODIUM hydroxide

 Alkaline battery electrolyte is POTASSIUM hydroxide.  The KoH is much more efficient as electrolyte, than the NaoH

Here's the link to my commissioning my NiFe bank pages.   The reason the electrolyte needs to be changed, is after 10 years, it's poisoned from absorbing Co2 from the atmosphere, hence the float oil to slow that down.

The metal inside will stay shiny, and not rust.   if exposed to air, it will rust and be ruined.  if rinsed with plain water, it will instantly start to rust and be ruined.  Leave the old alkaline electrolyte in it, until you are ready to flush and refill with fresh mix.    The mix, as you mix the KoH flake into distilled water, will heat to nearly boiling.   i use new, plastic 5 gall buckets and covered with saran wrap after mixing.  Don't try to move them, they will burst from the hot electrolyte inside.

Initial prep:    Oct 2011

Jul 2018 refresh electrolyte (My replacement shoulder was working well, and I had a helper, so why wait 2 more years)

The mix I used was:  (can't recall if oz or grams)
Water  8651
KoH  2403
L    168    (Lithium helps retard the Co2 poisoning)

This link has charge information

a fun site   https://www.nickel-iron-battery.com

and here's a mfg's manual with the mix ratios in it

Title: Re: NiFe?..NiCad?
Post by: Westbranch on March 10, 2019, 01:06:31 PM
Dave, I looked into the SAFT  (French co.) that is probably the #1 NiCd maker now, as I have several sets of 100Ah cells
There was a British company called NIFE and it was bought out by SAFT ~ 20 yrs ago iirc.  I suspect they may be from that company.

I will see if I can locate some brochures/instructions I got with the cells.

You can also go to the SAFT site and most of their owners manuals have maintenance but no longer include the mixing instructions for the electrolyte. It is a difficult site as they probably assume they only get industrial and Military visitors...
Title: Re: NiFe?..NiCad?
Post by: tecnodave on March 10, 2019, 01:26:40 PM

Thanks so much for that information, I will need all the help that I can get on this. I'm pretty darn good at FLA batteries but this is new to me.

I have not touched the contents of the cells but am removing years of crust from outer casings, there is a thin film of light oil on the tops of the cases with much dust mixed in.  I will read your procedure before attempting to clean and flush.  I do know not to use mineral water. I keep distilled water on hand for my LA battery sets and I manufacture colloidal silver using distilled water for personal use.

In testing various distilled waters some leave a black oxide on my 4-9  silver electrodes (.9999% purity). used in the colloidal silver manufacturing process. Arrowhead puritas distilled water does not!
This is the only brand that I use

Found this morning:

These are Edison Ni-Cad cells , I googled the model number "Ed-80 battery" and got this:


Article clearly states that Edison did manufacture these Ni-Cad's in four sizes, 80, 120,160, and 240 a.h.

This is not the whole article but a pointer to the original article.

Still searching more info on this, will keep this forum updated on progress


Edit> went chasing that article, found nothing....loops back to start here
Title: Re: NiFe?..NiCad?
Post by: tecnodave on March 26, 2019, 03:09:32 PM

I just researched SAFT and made a discovery there......SAFT America is located in North Carolina.....the tag on these batteries has the address Greenville, North Carolina.....
The mystery deepens...Are these EDISONS or NIFE ?


Edit:  only the plastic cell connecting strap covers have the word "EDISON" on them. Every other marking is NIFE.     The mystery deepens...
Title: Re: NiFe?..NiCad?
Post by: tecnodave on March 26, 2019, 03:52:09 PM

You nailed it right on the head....These are NIFE batteries.....I googled SAFT and found a maintaince pamphlet listing "ED-80" batteries and perfect fit for what I have. The top strap covers could have been changed.  Apparently both Edison and NIFE were competing for the railroad business with the same form factor and model number for their batteries.

I will be recovering these for use.  According to SAFT the date code is stamped into the top of the battery......its there      0490.   Decoded as 04/90 so these batteries are not so old!

Thanks for that pointer to SAFT.   I still find nothing on NIFE battery co.  I have cleaned the outer cases and am searching for sources of KOH and Lioh to prepare solution.

Mike90054,  thanks much, I visited your "battery inverter" posting on Facebook. Yes I can see why you said it's a mig mess to clean and replaces electrolyte.

Title: Re: NiFe?..NiCad?
Post by: Westbranch on March 26, 2019, 05:50:41 PM
One trick I got from the SAFT outlet in Alberta (at that time?) was to BOOST the cells and really get them mixed up (boiling) was to get a constant current charge at ~40 Amps .., as I only had a 30A  12V one he said to split each set of 10  (12V)  into 2 parallel 6V and do a 5 step charge observation...  should be in the maintenance Manual.....  1, 2, 3, 4, 4.5  and 5 HR.
Let me know and I will did through my old CPU for it...
Title: Re: NiFe?..NiCad?
Post by: tecnodave on March 27, 2019, 01:02:39 PM

These batteries are pretty dead at .7 volts and .8 volts for the 5 cell group. From what I gathered so far the best next step is to drain the electrolyte, and install new electrolyte. I have read every post on this here and at NAWS forum, BB at NAWS pointed me to a discussion at solarpaneltalk forum and I got very good info over there. It seems that one of the persons at Iron Edison has expereince with these and has original documentation on these and NIFE battery company.

The electrolyte is clear with no float oil on top. In some of the NIFE documentation there is mention of float oil use in certain lines of NIFE Ni-Cad batteries. It seems that NIFE bought the Ni-Cad production and patent rights from EDISON battery to eliminate completion and open new lines of manufacture of these cells. NIFE then manufactured Ni-Cad batteries for EDISON battery company. That explains why both names appear on these batteries.  After Edison sold the patent rights of the Ni-Cad battery to NIFE battery company they continued production of the Ni-Fe battery until they sold the company to Exide.

Thanks for all the help

Title: Re: NiFe?..NiCad?
Post by: jmd2020 on April 03, 2019, 02:09:12 PM

I can tell you that these are NICKEL CADMIUM cells. Our company BeUtilityfree reconditioned thousands of the cells about 20 years ago.

What of course is confusing to most people is that they have NIFE written on the cell case, so people think they have a nickel iron cell and they do not. NIFE of course stands for Nickel Irion, Ni = nickel Fe = Iron. These cells where make by SAFT in the USA specifically for the railroad companies. We still have many customers using our old reconditioned cell after 20 or more years. When we reconditioned all those cells we had about an average of 80% good cells per 10 cells tested. The bad  cells we sent to a recycling place. My guess is that you will get 8 out of 10 cells to be good. Maybe you will do better, who knows! We stopped selling these cells mainly because Cadnium became a poisonous material according to the EPA and therefore have to be recycled in expensive cadmium recycling facilities. Nicke iron cells have no hazidious or poison materials in the cells

We sell both liquid and powder form of electrolyte. Contact us if you would like a quote.

John D
BeUtilityFree, Inc.
Title: Re: NiFe?..NiCad?
Post by: tecnodave on April 03, 2019, 06:23:39 PM
John D,

Larry has told me to contact you for the electrolyte. I'm still preparing to do the flush and new electrolyte. Trickle charging them now with a small 55 watt solar panel. I take it real slow and easy with a battery that has been sitting. The train cars where these were are being converted to stationary diners and all the electrical systems are being stripped.  They were in use 5 years ago as a Christmas dinner train.  I have not opened all the electrical cabinets yet but there are possibly 6-8 more of them. I have 4 now. I do know about the toxicity of cadmium.
I am very much an environmentalist and will dispose of them responsibly if need be. I would rather use them off grid. I will have a total quantity soon.

Thanks for the offer to help with these, we will be communicating on this soon.

Title: Re: NiFe?..NiCad?
Post by: Westbranch on April 03, 2019, 08:09:49 PM
Dave in my reading it stated that for storage, it is best to store them discharged.   0.7 / 0.8V is above 50%.... not so bad....
Title: Re: NiFe?..NiCad?
Post by: tecnodave on April 04, 2019, 11:21:53 PM

I haven't pried the cell connecting straps off yet. The voltage readings are for the 5 cell battery. I'm just tickling them to see if they respond. They were in service until 4-5 years ago when our spur line operator flaked out and dumped hundreds of propane tank cars on the main line to Santa Cruz, effectively shutting down rail service. The county which owns the rail right of way ran them out of town. The old dinner train sits in the rail yards waiting for the new owner to refrib the passenger cars into mini diners. These will be used at stationary locations so the old electrics need to be stripped out and modern wiring installed.
Title: Re: NiFe?..NiCad?
Post by: Westbranch on April 04, 2019, 11:55:00 PM
Got you Dave.  Will poke around the olld  HD for those old emails... somewhere...???