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We think that a battery should enable a running session of around two hours to be reasonable and our experience in demonstrating the system at exhibitions is that a full charge lasts at least the whole day. We will, of course, be aiming to introduce new technologies as they become available that extend this. A small shunting engine running slowly up and down the layout from time to time has totally different power requirements to an express loco with ten coaches running around a circuit of track at full speed and would make less demands on the same battery. For that reason, we have different battery options to suit different requirements.
We estimate a charging time of around 4 hours for a discharged battery, and that a battery can be recharged around 500 times from discharged to fully recharged. In practice, though, you don't need to wait until the battery is discharged before recharging it. The lithium ion/polymer battery does not have the 'memory effect' of earlier technologies, so it is quite acceptable to recharge a part-discharged battery. Also, these types of batteries have what is known as a 'slow discharge' meaning that they will retain their charge for long periods between use. Our research suggest that a fully charged battery stored without being in the circuit (i.e. switched off) at room temperature will have about 80 per cent of its charge remaining after one month. Much will depend on the way the battery is stored (temperature, humidity etc).
Yes, one of the chief merits of Protocab is its flexibility in being able to be used alongside other systems. The system is effectively independent from other systems, under certain conditions. These conditions are that although with a fully Protocab fitted layout you would not need to insulate your loco wheels, you would still need to retain this insulation where you are operating Protocab on an existing layout still controlled by power through the rails.
A notable feature of how Protocab is delivered to customers is that there is a real split between the hardware shipping, which happens as a one off activity, and the software shipping which can if you choose be done on a continuous basis by receiving updates “over the air”, that is through a connection to the Internet. There is great flexibility in this model. Should you choose to you (you do not need to if you don't want to as the product ships ready to be used) can get updates to the functionality of your 0201 for free, rather than needing to upgrade your entire system. The software will be continuously enhanced by our team and improve your product. We have developed the 9801 Management App for Windows to communicate with the controller and LCU and update the over the air. Over the Air updates are downloadable from our customer support website https://updates.protocab.com, where there is a registration facility for Club Protocab members.
One of the key benefits of Protocab is that it is not necessary to convert all of your locomotive fleet at once. Protocab works alongside any existing control system that you may have (though you might want to remove the pickups from your locomotive as these are no longer needed by the Protocab system).
The Protocab Pilot Series is ideal for 4mm scales (e.g. P4, 00, H0), and the components will fit happily in a 4mm steam locomotive's tender, and will even fit (at a bit of a squeeze it has to be said!) in some larger 4mm tank engines. The larger of the two batteries available in the Pilot Series will fit (usually at a bit of an angle) in a 4mm steam loco tender. For tank engines, probably the smaller battery would fit the bill better. We always say, if you can fit the larger battery, that's the best option as you get larger capacity and more power, however the smaller battery is more than functional and itself gives a couple of hours of running on a full charge.
At present Protocab would be difficult to fit into 2mm/ft scale locomotive mainly due to battery size. We recognise there is much demand for battery power + wireless control in smaller scales but we have concluded that 2 and 3mm/ft scales can only be addressed universally when the battery technologies that we know are coming down the line are commercially available.
The ability to drive 7mm locos depends on the stall current of their motors. The current locomotive control unit and battery have been designed to handle stall currents up to 500milliAmps and for some small 7mm locos with high quality motors, this will be perfectly adequate. However, we are currently developing the next series of components which, apart from ones to fit in smaller 4mm locos, will extend to larger motors with stall currents of initially 1.5A and 2.5A. However, we are aware that many of the larger 7mm locos have stall currents exceeding this, so the development after next will concentrate on the much larger currents. We are aiming to have the next series available in 2017, and we will then start work on the larger current components.
Protocab is ideal for garden layouts! With no electricity in the track, the usual drawback of garden railway operation - needing to spend time cleaning the rail - is a thing of the past! Some modellers have said that they will be retaining their DC system but using a Protocab-fitted locomotive at the beginning of a running session to clean the rails. We have run a Protocab loco at over 40 metres from the 0201 Direct Controller and, of course, if you wish, you can walk around the garden with the controller, following the train. We found it quite difficult even to see the loco at 40 metres! Protocab is not showerproof, so should only be used in dry conditions. Also, you should be careful when running in direct sunlight on a very hot day (typically warmer than 25 degrees celsius) that the battery is not able to overheat. However, the Protocab system is developed to detect internal temperature inside the locomotive and to switch off the current when a certain level (40oC) is reached. The more advanced controllers connected to a Concentrator will alert the operator when this has taken place. For more advanced layouts with several operators controlling several locos at once, we are developing a battery operated Concentrator. This will mean that the only mains electricity will be the charging socket to recharge the locos' batteries.