Imagine that we go on an impromptu trip for a surprise visit to friends. We got into our vehicle, we quickly went through a service station to fill the fuel tank and check the tire pressure, and we launched confidently down the road.
Halfway through we stop to buy some regional article that we will take as a gift to our friends … and when we want to start the vehicle again, we notice a bitter novelty: we run out of battery and the car won’t start! As if that were not enough, we found that, with the rush of departure, we did not have time to charge our cell phone either.
In a circumstance like this, we must forget then to call the mechanical assistance that our auto insurance provides. We only have the option of having a restrained motorist who agrees to help us, either by pushing our vehicle until it starts, or by lending us his battery so that we can connect it to ours with the cables and clamps that, oh, surprise, we do carry in the trunk.
This situation shows us the importance of having a battery charger at our reach. However, the battery chargers The traditional ones we often see in auto repair shops or car dealerships run on heavy lead-acid batteries and are of a size that makes them unsuitable for transportation in a vehicle. We need, first of all, some small and light emergency kit, that fulfills the same function and at a comparable cost.
The answer lies in the novelty smart and portable battery chargers for vehicles, that we can carry in the glove compartment and that allow us to solve problems in a matter of minutes and without depending on anyone. They work with compact lithium-ion batteries, weigh between 1/2 and 1 kg, are no bigger than a pocket book and have an affordable cost that ranges from 70 to 120 dollars.
In addition to charge / start a battery using cables and clips, many of these units can also be used to charge portable devices, such as cell phones and tablets, so they are very useful even for the home. Others come with a built-in USB port and a flashlight, and some even have connectors for charge certain types of laptops.
In this article we are going to know these smart chargers that, in addition to providing various functions as we have just seen, will mainly ensure that our vehicle’s battery is ready to work when we need it. Which is not small.
Battery charging overview
A vehicle that is used daily can recharge your battery by means of the alternator. However, vehicles not subject to regular use require special safety equipment. load and maintenance to guarantee the operability and useful life of the battery.
We might assume that the answer lies in simply connecting the battery still charger and forget about the matter while we are not using the vehicle. But, in the long run, traditional chargers will end up overloading the battery, which is risky and dangerous, since a overcharged battery it can become unusable and can even overheat or explode.
To this end, it is important that the battery of a vehicle subjected to seasonal use – for example, a car that leaves the garage only occasionally, a motorcycle or a boat that we will not use during the winter, or a tractor reserved only for the planting season – has two types of service: a maintenance and one load.
Let’s see what this is about.
The battery maintenance It consists of supplying you with a small flow of electricity over a long period of time. That amount of electricity is insufficient to fully charge the battery, but it serves to counteract the self-discharge effect, that is, it helps to maintain the charge level who had the battery when it was last used.
On the other hand, it is essential to monitor the activity of the battery to guarantee a load complete, safe and efficient, preventing the possibility of an overload. It is also very convenient to provide some type of desulphation that prolongs the useful life of the battery. In other words, it requires an instrument smart that provides maintenance and load at once.
It is there when a smart battery maintainer / charger comes into play. Technology has designed different types of maintainers / chargers adding different functions to them that make them adaptable for a multiplicity of applications. All models are provided, at least, with the corresponding cables and clamps to connect to the battery. So, let’s get acquainted with the various designs.
1) Basic maintainers / chargers
They are devices with a maximum size of approximately 25 x 10 x 7 cm, operate on household alternating current and have load capacities that vary, for example, between 4-200 Ah for batteries 12V and 14-100 Ah for 24V batteries, with a working ambient temperature range between 0 and 40 ºC.
The following video shows one of the maintainer / charger models.
In general, the charge cycle of these equipment consists of eight stages that are displayed on its indicator light and that progress gradually until the full charge of the device is achieved. battery. This implies that the charger can be connected indefinitely and securely to the battery without the risk of overload. Depending on the manufacturer, these stages can vary, but are commonly the following:
Stages 1 and 2: Analysis and diagnosis
The device checks the initial status of the battery, including voltage, state of charge and general conditions, to determine if the battery stable before charging begins.
Stage 3: Desulfation
Detects if the battery is sulphated and in that case it sends a pulse of current and voltage to remove sulfates from the lead plates and restore capacity.
Stage 4: Initiation
Check if the battery You can accept the charge by starting the process with a gentle charge. This stage prevents the charge from continuing in a faulty battery.
Stage 5: Bulk upload
Charge with the maximum current intensity up to about 80% of the capacity of the battery.
Stage 6: Absorption
Check if the battery can hold the charge; otherwise, it may need to be replaced. If you can hold it, charge with decreasing current intensity to increase to 100% capacity.
Stage 7: Optimization
Use profiles of multilayer load to fully regain capacity. The tension increases to generate in the battery a controlled emission of gas. The emitted gas combines with the acid from the battery and returns energy to it. The charger switch to maintenance if battery indicates that you need more current.
Stage 8: Maintenance
Continuously monitor the battery to determine when to start a maintenance charge. If the voltage of the battery falls below a target threshold, the charger it restarts the maintenance cycle until the voltage reaches its optimum state and then interrupts the charge cycle. Stages 7 and 8 are repeated indefinitely to maintain the battery at full load.
2) Multi-function battery maintainers / chargers / starters
This new model incorporates functionalities so that, as we stated before, not only can we charge a vehicle battery, but also that of cell phones and other portable devices. If we must perform these tasks at night or in poor lighting, it also provides us with an LED flashlight that, depending on the model, can include several types at the same time: constant light, SOS rescue (Morse code) and flashing light. Here we present one of these devices.
As we can see in the video, it is an extremely interesting device that offers us a series of benefits summarized in the following figure:
Generally its size and weight are smaller than the previous ones. They measure approximately 17 x 7 x 3 cm and weigh 400-450 grams. They can also operate in a broader range of ambient temperatures, from -10 to 50ºC. They offer a capacity between 6000 and 10,000 mAh, with an output of 5V (1A), 5V (2.1A) and 12V (200A) and an input of 15V (1A), with a charging mode in CC / CV 15V 1A. The starter functionality allows them to be used in gasoline vehicle engines up to 2.5L.
These devices automatically turn off when charging is complete, take approximately 1 hour to charge a cell phone, 2 to 3 hours to charge a laptop, and can be used about 20 times to start a vehicle before it discharges itself. battery Of the device. So when you need a recharge, every 3 to 6 months depending on usage, you simply plug it into an outlet.
They are also provided with a series of safety features, such as protection against reverse polarity, short circuit, excessive discharge, reverse charge, overheating and overload, all functions that can be indicated on a practical LCD screen.
3) Battery pack chargers
If we have cordless power tools powered by 18V or 36V battery packs (i.e. heavy duty) such as garden machines, we can also make use of chargers for compatible brands that work specifically with these types of battery. Below we present an example and how the pack is inserted.
Is about chargers chemical type capable of charging battery packs in as little as 30 minutes, they come equipped with maintenance and power-saving modes, and feature indicator lights that show the state of charge and temperature sensors that alert if the pack is too hot or cold to charge.
With these teams, as we can see, our needs during an emergency or for the battery maintenance not only will they be widely satisfied, but we can also save money, since our battery it will stay in perfect condition for much longer.