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Useful Tips

"When Good Batteries Go Bad" - Intro



We have all heard the story many times. She was hardly used, she was never abused, I never drove her to those “questionable” neighborhoods, ….I thought I did everything right to make sure she was going to be with me for a long time. And then, unexpectedly, she quit on me. Sure, maybe I neglected her occasionally, but now she refuses to go anywhere with me. Now when I try to give her a little extra energy she will have nothing to do with it. She just sits there looking at me with disgust. What did I do wrong?

And that’s a common tale of an electric vehicle with a neglected battery pack. Your vehicle’s batteries need the same kind of attention you would show your gas powered vehicle with fresh fuel every 300 miles. They crave the energy you give them when you plug them in to charge, the fresh life you give them when you water them, and the feeling of freedom you release you give them when you clean them. Indeed perhaps our batteries would give us more life; if only in return we would pamper them and treat them as well as we might even spoil our pets.

Many times electric vehicles suffer with bad reputations due to manufacturing or design flaws, but more often the ill feelings garnered towards these vehicles is due to poor maintenance and care. Specifically, I would like to focus on the pitfalls of battery neglect, highlighting the etiology (causes) and potential symptoms. Well cared for batteries can provide years of good service and make our transportation seemingly carefree while being both environmentally friendly and economical. Neglected batteries in our electric vehicles on the other hand will most assuredly provide times of frustration, aggravation, increased step counts on our fancy pedometers, and what should have been avoidable increased expenses. 

To begin with, we are going to need to understand how a flooded lead acid (FLA) battery is designed and constructed so that we are able to visualize the potential breakdown which may be caused by neglect. Since there are already many excellent internet and library resources available to access and follow the numerous battery industry trade secrets, I will do my best to paraphrase and use non-engineering language explanations.

The standard deep cycle battery differs from your automotive battery in a critical way: the deep cycle is designed for extended periods of duty with current draw happening over time, then recover during another extended period of time connected to a charging source. The automotive battery on the other hand is designed to deliver the “flash in the pan” type of current, then recover quickly while the battery is being recharged during the drive on the rest of the journey.

As I close this entry for now, remember the three main issues be aware of with your battery pack:

  1. Keep it charged - A low battery will sulfate earlier and decrease the ability to conduct energy.
  2. Keep it watered – Batteries need water to conduct between the plates. 
  3. Keep it clean – If corrosion is allowed to gather on top of the batteries, it can destroy the wiring, and potentially cause parasitic draws or short circuits.

More information on keeping your batteries charged next time!

Copyright © 2018 EV Technical Services, LLC - All Rights Reserved.

"When Good Batteries Go Bad" - Charging


Because I live in Wisconsin, I know that when it gets cold out I am supposed to keep my truck’s fuel tank at least half-full. This will help prevent moisture (the unwanted type) from accumulating in my fuel tank, traveling through the fuel line and freezing, which also helps prevent me from sitting on the side of the road with no heat. I usually keep up with this “rule of thumb” during the winter, but even in the summer we have a rule….keep you fuel tank at least half full. Why? Because today’s automotive fuel pump is located inside the fuel tank. The pump is a precision instrument with electronics, which by their very nature can generate heat. The fuel in the tank actually helps to keep these electronics cooler during the summer. If you typically like to run your fuel tank near empty, over a period of time the fuel pump will be more likely to fail, and again leave you sitting on the side of the road, but with no air conditioning.

That is a long story that seemingly has nothing to do with a deep cycle battery, except for the concept,…keep your vehicle topped up and it will be ready to go and not leave you stranded. 

The easiest way to prolong your golf cart battery life is to keep them charged. Today’s deep cycle batteries are not like the batteries in your old calculator or other device…FLA batteries do not develop a “memory” and need not be fully discharged before recharging. Keeping as fully charged as possible with opportunity charging when feasible will save you stress and money.

The photo above shows how the new on board smart battery chargers keep charging data for retrieval and review in the event of battery life concerns. This data is often used by battery manufacturers while processing battery warranty claims, and it can be very telling. In the example shown, the customer complained that the two year old vehicle batteries were no longer holding much of a charge and must be defective. However, a quick look at the data tells a story….

The unit is about two years old, which would be approximately 700 days; Charger has been plugged into AC only 288 times; Of those 288, only 121 were full complete cycles.  The 165 AC Fail Cycles were most likely opportunity charging, or times when the operator needed the vehicle now, rather than waiting for the full charge.

This customer now has to spend over $1000 on new batteries because the failure is not a defect, but neglect.  To avoid this, please keep your batteries charged, and they will reward you with great performance. 

But before charging, please observe safety first:

Visually inspect batteries. Are they clean, water covering plates, caps on tight, cables secure?

Are you using the correct charger? Are you using the OEM on board, correct voltage, etc…?

Is there good ventilation in the charging area? Hydrogen gas can build up during the charge process.

If all appears correct and in good condition, charge that pack!

More information on keeping your batteries watered next time.

Copyright © 2018 EV Technical Services, LLC - All Rights Reserved.