Article first appeared in June 2015
I am a huge Baofeng UV-5R handheld radio fan! Yes, it is a Ham Radio, but it is also much, much more and I love the little radio. It is a dynamo! The radio is a great size, packed full of features, reliable, and more than anything else EXTREMELY affordable. You can read more about my review of the Baofeng UV-5R radio here < UV-5RA review >. This post is dedicated to the Hypario AA battery tray for the Baofeng UV-5A radio.
The very first thing I noticed about the battery case was IT DOESN’T FIT ! Yup, the battery case didn’t fit the radio. And the improper fit prevented the battery case from “clicking” into place correctly on the radio. But I had read the reviews and dealt with other Baofeng radio after-market equipment before. I knew what to do.
I got out my diamond files and my pocket knife and proceeded to whittle down the offending plastic. It doesn’t take long to remove a sufficient amount of the plastic that is prevent the proper seating of the battery tray. I suggest you just work at it slowly, taking a little plastic at a time and testing for the “click” often.
Next issue that I noticed was no seal around the two pieces of the battery tray itself. So this battery case is NOT waterproof. I would expect the tray to be moderately water (rain) resistant at best. And from what I can tell, there really isn’t a good way to improve its water resistance. Well, there might be one way…using silicone seal around the whole thing where the two pieces come together. But then the functionality of the unit would drop significantly when it came time to swap-out batteries.
The next step was to test the AA battery fit in the battery tray. I am a big believer in Duracell batteries and not that long ago I bought a bunch of Duracell Quantums that were on sale. So I fetched 6 and they went right in and fit snugly.
The picture of the battery tray with the batteries installed appears to the right. Do you notice anything wrong? Well, you might think the batteries are running the wrong way vs. facing the alternate opposite direction. But, that is not what I am referring to. Look again, and think “operational.” There are six Duracell Quantum AA 1.5vDC batteries in the battery tray to power the Baofeng UV-5RA radio. A radio that runs on 7.4vDC power. You there yet?
Six 1.5vDC batteries delivers 9volts of power. Yup! That is about 22% more voltage than the original Li-ion battery that comes with the radio. Fortunately, the radio didn’t start smoking when I turned it on. The radio’s battery charge indicator did show a full charge. Go figure!
So the problem is over-voltage to the radio which I confirmed with my multimeter. There are three primary options to overcome this problem. First option, if the grid is down, is to make a “fake” battery that simply passes the current through or around the battery to the other in-line battery without adding any additional voltage. For instance, a wooden or plastic dowel rod cut to size with a wire that makes contact with the battery tray on one end and the battery on the other end. That reduces the number of 1.5v batteries to five batteries providing 7.5 volts, which the UV-5R can run on just fine.
However, I think that option is a bit clunky and could pose other problems in the field but if the grid is down you can make this option. Now, a more commercial option a “dummy battery” that you can buy. I like the UltraCell AA Size Dummy Battery. You just slip one of those into the battery tray in place of a regular alkaline AA battery and you now are only using 5 1.5 vDC AA batteries for 7.5 vDC. Your Baofeng UV-5RA will operate for 3 -4 days of light use with good quality batteries, to 1 – 2 days with heavy use or poor quality batteries.
I think Option #3 is a very viable option and gives a depth of operational capability…use standard rechargeable AA batteries. Rechargeable batteries have a DC voltage rating of 1.2 – 1.31 vDC. So six of the rechargeable batteries in theory provides 7.2 – 7.86 vDC to your radio. And yes, you are losing approximately .2 – .3volts per battery but I don’t see it being an actual noticeable difference while in the field. But using rechargeable batteries vs. alkaline batteries can result in shorter use time. All things being equal, alkaline batteries will last longer.
I did test the charging cradle that came with the radio. It charges at 8.37 volts when hooked up to the 110vAC wall outlet. The charger cradle information states that its output is 8.4 volts. The .03 difference is absolutely nothing to worry about. The radio can be left on and used while in the cradle and charging. So I am making an educated guess that the upper end of the vDC range is about 8.4 – 8.5 vDC. But I can’t find any actual technical documentation on that.
But DO NOT USE the charging base with a cigarette car adapter powering the charging cradle. Well, you can if you know for a fact that the cigarette car adapter is only outputting 10 vDC maximum. The charging cradle will burnout and maybe burn up with the direct voltage from your vehicle which is 12 – 14 vDC. The vehicle voltage needs to be stepped down to 10 vDC before it goes into the charging cradle. I have ordered an adapter that should work, but I will test it and put a review up when it comes it.
I like, and primarily use, Duracell and Tenergy rechargeable batteries. Nickel–metal hydride rechargeable batteries are made specifically to work with electronic devices. AA batteries are rated in mAh (milli Amp hours), which is a rating of how long the battery will provide power at a certain draw/drain level. Don’t worry about the actual details of how long a UV-5RA radio will last between a 1500 mAh battery and a 2800 mAh battery. Just know that the 2800 mAh battery will last considerably longer. So the higher the mAh rating your rechargeable battery has the longer your radio will stay operating.
I would suggest a minimum rating of 1500 mAh on your rechargeable batteries. My AA Tenergy batteries carry a 2600 mAh rating and have a great price point.
Don’t forget “redundancy” when it comes to rechargeable batteries. “Two is one, one is none, three is a good start.” is a standard rule in my preparedness efforts. To keep my batteries charged I have:
- Multiple AC wall charges with sensor and conditioner capabilities to prevent over-charging. I use these for normal daily non-grid-down operations.
- I have two large-quantity AC chargers to “bulk” recharge a number of batteries at one time.
- I have two SolarAid SolPad7 solar battery chargers.
- I also have two GoalZero battery charger packs that can hook up to my GoalZero Boulder 30 solar panels.
- And yes, I have the Honda EU2000i generator to run the AC chargers as well, if an when that might be needed.
Go ahead laugh…I know you want to. But I think that having rechargeable batteries without a way to recharge them is a little silly. And my OCD demands that I have multiple ways to power the chargers…as well as multiple different chargers. OK, so I am snickering a little bit too right about now. But if I am going to preach preparedness and share that information with you, then I better be practicing what I am preaching.
Now, there is also a warning with this battery tray…DON’T USE THE RADIO’s CHARGING CRADLE! The UV-5RA comes with a charging cradle. But that unit is to be used only with the battery that is supplied with the radio. That unit is not intended to be used to charge rechargeable batteries in a AA battery tray/case like the one in this review. You need to recharge the batteries with chargers that are specifically designed to charge NiMH rechargeable batteries.
Bottom line – Buy this product!
Just remember that you will have to whittle a little bit of plastic to make it fit correctly. But you will be very happy with the added capabilities to use different batteries in your radio. Batteries that can be recharged in a more standard way than the original BL-5 batteries that come with the radio. The BL-5 battery that comes with the radio is not a standard battery that would be easily recharged via solar. And in a situation where standard utility electric power may not be available, it is good to have solar options. Yes, “standard” options that match your other power requirements. Namely, AA and AAA batteries.
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