Lipos don't "top out" at 4.2 volts, the duty of the charger to not go above 4.2 volts per cell. BIG difference. If the charger goes above 4.2 v/c, damage to the cells occurs. Hook up a lipo to a NiMh charger and see what happens. It'll go way past 4.2 per cell.
Even the Orion/Kokam info brochure that's on the Orion website is bragging about a single lipo cell that's being charged at 18 volts is not on fire like the other guys. How did it get to 18 volts if lipos "top out" at 4.2? Heck, the display in that picture is only showing 75 milliamps of current. 0.075 amps. Next to nothing. It is quite impressive that the cell isn't on fire. I'll give 'em that. Good job guys. However, I find it interesting they show a volt/time/temp/current graph of the competitors cell during this test, and not their own. And the graph shows the voltage going up, up and away.....So much for "topping out".
If the companies were "matching" anything other than IR, the companies would brag about it because it would add significant cost to the manufacturing process. And they would tout how superior there were by doing it. Nobody does anything without some sort of return on investment. Nobody.
Taking an IR reading takes seconds and the equipment is "off the shelf", a true "match" like what goes on with the race NiMh batteries we all know and love takes hours and hours and requires specialized/custom equipment. Time is money.
I want to see a white paper on how lipos are "matched" by anything other than IR. I'm more than willing to read it.
See the Eagle Picher on the front of the Kokam brochure? I used to work for that company designing/building batteries for aerospace applications. So now I'm forever cursed with a particulary sensitive BS meter when it comes to batteries.....
Here's a link to the brochure......
I have to disagree that "balancing does the same as matching". Not really, but it sounds good from a marketing standpoint, and it's way cheaper than real matching....... Balancing simply keeps the cells closer to the same state of charge. Remember the 4.2 volts per cell charger requirement? The charger (without balancer) is set for a multiple of 4.2 volts. A 2 cell in series pack would be charged to a max of 8.4 volts. Without a balancer, one cell could be 4.4 volts and the other could be at 4.0 volts. Still adds up to 8.4 so the charger doesn't know anything is wrong, yet one cell would probably be swelled, and the other wouldn't be anywhere near charged.
If the cells were truely and perfectly "matched", there would be no need for balancers because all the cells in the pack would be discharging/charging exactly the same. Maybe the manufacturing processes used today are really good.
And my experience with the small RC airplane Lipo's is that they rarely need balancing (does that really mean they are matched? Not really). If treated properly. I don't hammer the snot out of them like the heli guys and some of the airplane guys do.
And back to the original poster's question...........I'm guessing less than 1 year until we see matched by runtime lipos. We'll see. The equipment should actually be less expensive than with Nickel batteries due to the far simpler charge regime (no delta peak sensing). We'll all see in due time. Should be interesting.
Sorry for hogging so much bandwidth......