Battery

disgusted face

How’s everyone been out there? Hopefully, all are well and still kicking and screaming. I’m still lying low and pretty much operating under the radar, but I’ve been badgered lately to get fingers tapping on the keyboard again.

With winter approaching, and with the thought of storms and power outages energizing my little gray cells, I got to wondering just how long I could power up some essentials in the house using my Chevy Volt sitting in the driveway as a power plant.

Oh yes, it’s totally possible, there are tales from those who have done so on the internet, and there are even kits available.

power tower and elecric carMy Volt has a 17 kW-hr, 300v traction battery along with its DC generator plus a 12v battery for all the other normal loads. This 12v battery is charged by a DC-DC converter between the two batteries, so if I were to hook up an inverter to this battery I could supply 110v AC mains power to my household essentials during a power cut, or maybe power up an outdoor event, or fire up a blender and mini-fridge at a beach romp.

Possible? Yes, but for how long?

dead-batteryWe spend considerable time and effort trying to help boat operators understand how to look after their batteries, but we still hear of way too many premature deaths. So in an effort to get the message across from a different angle, we offer the following advice on how to inflict serious harm and punishment on expensive batteries without really trying.

Simply put, there are three main types of abuse you can employ to kill or maim your batteries:

  • Excessive heat
  • Physical damage (including vibration), and
  • Poor charging routines

The first two I hope to be self explanatory, but the third requires some detailed explanation.

Flooded lead acid batteries, including AGM's, don't like being left for extended periods in a partially charged state. Doing so allows some of the lead sulfate crystals that form naturally on the negative plate during the discharge process to harden to the point where they can't then be dissolved the next time the battery is charged. This is known as sulfation which leads to an increasing loss of useable capacity as more and more crystals harden.

Dave tilting hat with grin

OK, that’s not something you’ll hear every day, but it is very much a possibility, where thermal runaway can destroy Valve Regulated Lead Acid (VLRA) batteries like AGM’s (Absorbed Glass Mat). A Google search of “Thermal Runaway in AGM Batteries” will reveal enough technical papers on the subject to keep even the most techno-savvy occupied for a long while and will save me trying to explain the why’s and wherefore’s here.

The simple fact is that, given the right conditions, an AGM battery can, and will, start a self-perpetuating internal heating process (thermal runaway) which can end in catastrophic failure along with the possibility of fire and explosion, or at the very least leave you with a very sad-looking molten battery case.

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