Reducing costs and battery failures in Commercial Fleets

It is possible to reverse the declining battery life expectancy and increased vehicle fleet maintenance costs related to batteries and battery failures.

To accomplish this, first, we must eliminate or, at a minimum, reduce acid stratification. If you win against acid stratification, you can improve a battery’s active material utilization and prevent premature loss of performance and life. Eliminating acid stratification helps to sustain a battery’s Dynamic Charge Acceptance (DCA). High DCA allows more energy to be stored, alternators to work more efficiently, and batteries to support electrical loads for extended periods of “no-alternator” operation. The better a battery’s DCA, the more efficiently its active materials are utilized and the greater the number of full-capacity cycles and stop-start events it can support.

The following steps can be taken to fix the problems facing batteries in modern fleet vehicles and reduce costs associated with battery failures:

  • Choose batteries with the capacity and technology best suited for the job.
  • Eliminate or reduce acid stratification to save fuel and maintenance-related costs.
  • Install proven technology that helps to maintain and recover battery health.
  • Charge batteries regularly to increase battery life.
  • Avoid prolonged use of “engine-off” electrical loads.

Charge batteries regularly to increase battery life and reduce operating costs. Your team should be checking and recharging batteries at least every 3-weeks—more when opportunities like overnight stops, weekend breaks, or vehicle inspections/repairs present themselves. Instituting a practice of top charging batteries - whenever possible - at least once every three weeks using an external charger will reduce costs associated with premature battery failure and lead to reduced fuel consumption of 1.5% to 3%. 

Always use an external charger with charging output in amps =/>10% of the combined total high reserve capacity or amp hour capacity rating of the batteries in the bank. A 12V battery bank of 4 x 100AH (total 400Ah) or 4 x 180RC (total 720RC) should use an intelligent temperature-compensated 12V charger with a minimum 40-80 Amp output at 12V. If you have inverters in your vehicles to support additional loads, consider installing inverters with internal chargers built in. If possible, your staging/parking areas should install AC outlets where vehicles can access power to operate these external chargers. Your operators should be trained on how and why this is important. A good quality 12V-80A (960-watt) charger can easily be operated using a standard 110V AC wall outlet. Typical 110V outlets are capable of supporting a 1200-watt continuous draw.