Image Number 8 for United States Patent #5544784.
A vending machine (10) for vending a rechargeable battery pack has a interface unit (12), new battery reservoir (14), battery dispensing unit (16), and a control unit (18). A customer interested in purchasing a new battery insets a payment in the money handling unit (30). A display (32) is provided and prompts the customer for a response. The customer responds by use of an entry pad (3), and the machine dispenses a new battery. Alternatively, if the customer is interested in exchanging a discharged battery for a fully charged one of similar condition, a battery pack received unit (20) is provided with a receiver port (42) for the customer to insert the spent battery. The spent battery is quickly analyzed by a battery test unit (22) and assigned a grade. If the spent battery is in usable condition, it is passed to a battery recharger, and the customer is prompted to choose between a new battery and one of similar grade to that deposited. If a new battery is selected, one is dispensed, as before. If a similar battery is requested, then one is located in the recharged battery reservoir (26), and dispensed. The price charged to the customer is proportional to the difference in grade between the battery deposited and the battery dispensed. If the battery is in an unusable condition, the customer may choose to have it returned, or may choose for the machine to retain the battery in an internal recycle bin so that the battery may be collected for recycling. Additionally, the machine may have a communications relay station mounted on it for short range wireless communications systems.