Today I’d like to take a moment and have a chat with you about Battery Maintenance. With most of us having a sealed battery in our rides, the only thing we need to address is charging your battery. Sure we want to make sure all of our connections are clean and tight, but our focus is on keeping that battery alive. The crew at K and G cycles (www.kandgcycles.com) wants you to understand the products available to you to keep your battery alive. So sit back, relax, and prepare to learn a thing or two about batteries and charging them.
By definition, an electric battery is a device consisting of one or more electrochemical cells that convert stored chemical energy into electrical energy. Each one consists of a negative electrode (anode) that holds charged ions, a positive electrode (cathode) that holds discharged ions, an electrolyte that allows ions to move from anode to cathode during discharge (and return during recharge) and terminals that allow current to flow out of the battery to perform work. Your battery is able to store and supply energy because of an interaction between the plates, the heart of your battery, and the acid. Death to your battery is the result of a series of problems caused by sulfation build up. Lead sulfates on the internal plates enlarge and build up to the point where they create a physical barrier. Before long the build up can become so dense that your battery will no longer accept or release energy. This can be prolonged with the assistance of a Battery Tender or Charger.
A tender is a low-current charger that will maintain battery charge (without overcharging) while vehicle is in extended storage. Tender style chargers are designed to fully charge and maintain a wide range of styles of lead acid batteries in ways that avoid the potential damaging effects that can be caused by most trickle chargers. With as many manufacturers out there making tenders, there seems to be a common thread among them. Here are some common features amongst the masses.
- Fully Automatic: At the end of the regular cycle, the charger automatically switches it’s output voltage to a safer storage level or what is called a float level. This allows the tender to still maintain a fully charged battery with a less damaging current. This also eliminates the need to constantly check the conditions of the battery.
- Full power output at low AC line conditions: Designed to deliver full output power even with AC input line voltage as low as 90VAC. Excluding chargers that have an output current of 2 amps or less.
- Current draw is minimal to none from the batteries: With AC power disconnected, most chargers draw zero current from the battery. Some of the high power models draw lees than 1 milliamp from the battery.
- Lightweight and Compact Construction: No matter what the power level, most tenders remain small and easily portable.
- Visual Indicator of charge rates: Almost all tenders have some combination of colored lights to indicate the progress of charging.
A charger is a little different animal. It is a charging device used to put energy into a secondary cell or rechargeable battery by forcing an electric current through it. They also require the charger to carefully monitor battery parameters such as terminal voltage and temperature to prevent overcharging and damage to the cells. So they can be a little trickier to operate.
- A simple charger works by supplying a constant DC or pulsed DC power source to a battery being charged. The simple charger does not alter its output based on time or the charge on the battery. This simplicity means that a simple charger is inexpensive, but there is a tradeoff in quality. Typically, a simple charger takes longer to charge a battery to prevent severe over-charging. Even so, a battery left on a simple charger for too long will be weakened or destroyed due to over-charging. These chargers can supply either a constant voltage or a constant current to the battery.
- Simple AC-powered chargers have much higher ripple current and ripple voltage than other kinds of battery supplies. When the ripple current is within the battery-manufacturer-recommended level, the ripple voltage will also be well within the recommended level. The maximum ripple current for a typical 12 V 100 Ah VRLA battery is 5 amps. As long as the ripple current is not excessive (more than 3 to 4 times the manufacturer-recommended level), the expected life of a ripple-charged VRLA battery is within 3% of the life of a constant DC-charged battery.
When it comes to battery maintenance, there is a lot to consider. Your choices will vary depending what battery you have, how involved you want to be, and where your ride will be while receiving the electrical boost. Contact the crew at K and G Cycles (www.kandgcycles.com) and see how easy it is to maintain your battery when you aren’t riding it. It could be the difference of replacing it every year or every 5 or more.