The total cost of ownership should be the primary concern of fleet managers as they plan battery replacement for the entire fleet.
“That cost should include the direct costs (battery purchase price) and also the opportunity or indirect costs associated with factors such as vehicle downtime and replacement of ancillary items like battery cables and trays,” said John Kim, director of technical marketing for EnerSys, manufacturer of Odyssey batteries.
Kim suggested fleets need better battery maintenance procedures, both in use and in storage, to extend the battery’s service life and ensure the warranty can be enforced.
Technology in batteries is changing so fast. Look at the new AGM-type versus the maintenance-free batteries. They have better charge retention, more reserve capacity, and help fleets meet cranking power requirements plus hotel load usage, he added.
More smart service suggestions include: when refilling a conventional flooded battery, avoid contamination by using only distilled water. Absorbed glass mat, valve-regulated lead acid (AGM-VRLA) batteries are sealed, which eliminates the need to add water or electrolyte.
According to Kim, proper charging is the single most important action in ensuring long life for the battery. If the battery will be stored for a prolonged period, it should be fully charged before placed in storage. Storing an only partially charged battery may cause permanent damage, preventing the battery from recovering to its full capacity, even when charged prior to reinstallation. The deep-discharge recovery capabilities of an AGM-VRLA battery can tolerate storage better than conventional AGM batteries.
Additionally, proper charging (of an Odyssey battery) is the only way to break up internal sulfation and prevent its accumulation in the battery. Chronic undercharging will cause sulfation to reach a point where a normal recharge will not break it down, and the battery eventually will fail.
With thin plate pure lead technology, the unit charges two to three times faster, depending on the charger. Another tip with thin plate: it can be stored outside in the cold, simply take off the negative cable.
A reliable digital voltmeter will measure the battery’s open circuit voltage (OCV) and determine its state of charge (SOC). Wait at least six to eight hours after the battery has been charged before measuring the OCV.
Again, batteries should be fully charged prior to storage. The electrolyte in an acid-filled battery may freeze if the temperature gets low (generally in an unheated environment). Determine the lowest temperature at which the electrolyte will remain fluid; that is the temperature at which the battery can be stored.
Thin-plate, pure-lead (TPPL) AGM-VRLA batteries can be stored for two years, or until the OCV drops to 12 volts, at temperatures of 25 degrees C (77 F) or lower. The lower the temperature, the longer the storage time.
More electronic devices on new trucks can cause parasitic loads when the engine is inactive for a period of time. Parasitic loads will drain the battery to discharge; it simply can’t maintain a high enough voltage. If the battery is discharged to less than 70% of its capacity, it may be unable to turn on the engine.
Connecting the battery to a trickle charger can prevent excessive discharge when the vehicle has been inactive. The amp-hour (Ah) capacity of the battery determines the length of time needed to keep the battery connected to a trickle charger.
Odyssey suggests if fleets follow the correct recovery procedure (on its website) and are still experiencing failure, the battery should be returned to the place of purchase.
Are improvements on the horizon? EnerSys’ Kim said they include different additions to improve cycling, maybe a different plastic for higher strength, and also possible leaded nickel and zinc technologies.
One fleet manager summed it up: “look at the total cost of ownership, not just low cost, and fully understand the vehicle’s load, seek a longer warranty than 12-18 months, and look for national support rather than regional. Proper servicing really goes without sayingit’s a must!”