Can anyone recommend a good solution for monitoring and charging multiple batteries on a small mobile robotic platform?
I'm trying to build a simple two-wheeled platform, using an arduino for low-level motor and sensor control and a netbook for high-level control. The arduino is powered over USB, so it can use the netbook's built-in battery monitoring and charging. However, the motors require 12V. There are plenty of shields for controlling powerful motors via an arduino, but I've found nothing for monitoring and charging the necessary separate power supply. I want the netbook to be able to read the additional battery's estimated charge and whether or not the battery is currently being charged. The eventual goal would be to plug the robot into a single power supply, and charge both the netbook's battery and the additional 12V battery (likely lipo) simultaneously.
I've found a few boards like this, but it's unclear how well it could function as a UPS to constantly power a device, while automatically handling charging when an external power supply is attached. It has charging status LEDs, but I'm not sure what monitoring options it provides programmatically. Based on the low price, I would assume it has none.
On the other end of the spectrum are programmable UPS boards, but these are much more expensive and need to be calibrated for the specific battery its attached to.
I've seen some hacks for stepping up a USB's 5V supply to 12V, but I'm assuming the netbook wouldn't be able to provide the need amperage, and even if it could, that setup would likely kill the netbook's battery.
Are there any other options?