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Thread: Battery Chargers - Myths and Hype

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    Alps Adventurer GlobalRider's Avatar
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    Battery Chargers - Myths and Hype

    Having worked with batteries and battery chargers during the last five years in the labs where I used to work, I thought I'd post some actual graphs of the charging process of some chargers that I own; the Optimate III and the CTEK MULTI US 3300.

    I've read many reviews not so much for product information, but to see if the people reviewing the product actually had any background or technical ability to do so in the first place.

    Answer: not really and most of them are laughable. For example, I contacted the people on WebBikeWorld about one of their reviews and they got downright upset that I would question them. Little wonder they got defensive since they knew SDA about electronics.

    Then you have the average user who reports the battery charger they are using is great, and they are getting three years out of their batteries, the latter is nothing to write home about. Batteries should last about 10 years or more. Battery life does depend on a few factors though and while parked the important one is not letting them discharge which leads to sulphation if left discharged for any period of time. Sulphation is the number-one killer of batteries with heat and vibration being next. Of course, your vehicle's charging system has to be up to spec as well.

    On the point of the much reported "it recovered my battery", I think the user should define what they meant by "recovered". I have yet to see a battery be recovered from a sulphated state to full spec of the battery. A battery that was drained due to leaving the lights on is not being "recovered" in my books, it is simply being recharged. And in most cases, unless fully discharged many times, that battery suffers little damage.


    Here are the charging characteristics of the CTEK US Multi 3300.

    This is what they claim. Note that they do not list any values.


    And this is what my data acquisition unit measured...


    The charging cycles after the battery has reached full charge were recorded using a data logger over a two-week period. The above is a one-day snap shot.

    Nothing special. Once 12.867V was reached, the battery was placed under charge by the CTEK till 14.34V was reached. This would take 5 minutes for the "already fully charged" YUASA 53030 battery (12V, 30 Ah) at which point the charger would turn off.

    After approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes, battery voltage would reach 12.867V again and the charging process would commence again.

    It does not go into any "float" or "maintenance" mode.


    And this is the charge characteristics of an Optimate III charger...


    Note, the battery being charged was discharged to the 1/2 charged state to start the test.

    Again nothing special.

    In fact, it bulk charges and when it reaches 14.3V, instead of going into absorption mode, a topping up of the battery at constant voltage as the current tappers to near zero, it goes right into a float mode and cycles between 13.4 and 13.7V.


    Having tested many upper end chargers at work, some costing over a grand, I have to roll my eyes to some of the claims and advertizing found in the brochures and on packaging. I would be skeptical of any till I tested them. The only one I found to be near perfect are the Xantrex Truecharge 2, but those are meant for the RV, boating and car crowd.

    Of course, any charger is better than letting the battery discharge and sulphate. The point being made after reading so many trumpet blowing threads about chargers is, the differences between chargers are minimal at the price points we are looking at.

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    Registered User RINTY's Avatar
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    Thanks, Alex.

    Taking a break from your winter projects?
    Rinty

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    Alps Adventurer GlobalRider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RINTY View Post
    Thanks, Alex.

    Taking a break from your winter projects?
    There is always something getting in the way. I have to install a 50A circuit for my new AC/DC IGBT Inverter 250A TIG welder. Plus I am waiting for some Porsche parts to come in.

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    Bluenoser
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    So what happened to the " I saw it on the web, so it must be true" line. What you've posted applies to a heap of stuff, not just batteries.
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    Alps Adventurer GlobalRider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cycleman2 View Post
    So what happened to the " I saw it on the web, so it must be true" line.
    I use those to entertain myself so that I can roll my eyes to some of the evaluations made based on zero testing.


    Quote Originally Posted by cycleman2 View Post
    What you've posted applies to a heap of stuff, not just batteries.
    I know. Why would business worry...who is going to verify their claims? Nobody, chances are.

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    Survivor akbeemer's Avatar
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    Let's use Crest toothpaste as an example. For as long as I can recollect Crest has been advertising a new and improved formula for brighter and whiter teeth. Were that true users of Crest would have teeth that are too bright to behold. I wonder what, if any, significant changes have been made to the formula? Who checks that stuff?
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    Alps Adventurer GlobalRider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by akbeemer View Post
    Who checks that stuff?
    Few, if anyone. But rest assured, there will be lots of forum talk praising the product based on...well, nothing.

    There are these battery state monitors that supposedly give you information on how you battery or charging system is doing. Although I have seen threads discussing these, I haven't found one that is any good which is why I use a plain old digital voltmeter display that tells me exactly what is going on while riding and while parked.

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    Outlander Omega Man's Avatar
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    How about a couple of Simpson 260's
    OM
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    Alps Adventurer GlobalRider's Avatar
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    Here is a good one. Rinty might remember this one.

    On one of the car forums, one of the vendors (what are they doing on forums anyways?) introduced a battery charger that they called the "last battery charger you will ever buy". Haven't I heard that countless times.

    The Save A Battery battery charger claims that it is an "All-In-One Battery Tool can quickly charge a weak battery, then test it using the built in load..."

    That last part caught my attention. Wow, a built in load tester, great! That is pretty nifty in such a small package. So how does it load test a battery? After all, the load would have to be variable, like my large 500A carbon pile load tester.

    So I asked the vendor on the forum. He didn't have a clue. I then asked the manufacturer but they didn't expect a tech question (how dare I question them).

    Finally, I got an answer. It loads the battery a whole whopping 20W. Wow...less than 2 amps. Considering your starter easily draws 50 to 100A, how useless a test is that.

    BTW, there is only one true test of a battery, a load test and a capacity test using a load tester and amp-hour tester, the latter which is time consuming. Those conductance testers that we see listed on many sites does not do a good job of that.

    I just load tested my neighbor's battery across the street yesterday because the car would not start. Battery spec had CCA at 540 A, so I tested the battery at 270 A and watched the voltage quickly drop to about 6V in seconds. That battery was done.

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    Alps Adventurer GlobalRider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Omega Man View Post
    How about a couple of Simpson 260's
    OM
    Can it handle the vibration?

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    I have heard that different types of batteries take different types of chargers, ie; AGM, gel, etc. Is there any truth to that?

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    Quote Originally Posted by smartin108 View Post
    I have heard that different types of batteries take different types of chargers, ie; AGM, gel, etc. Is there any truth to that?
    Absolutely!

    That is why I to battery charger manufacturer claims that it charges all types of batteries. Those chargers do, so what they do is lower the end charge voltage for the battery that takes the lowest voltage such as a GEL and the other types just get undercharged. They are not lying to you; they're just not telling you the truth. Sort of like an adjustable wrench can be used to tighten a nut, but a 6-point socket would do a better job.

    A charger like the Xantrex lets you pick the battery type and actually changes the charge end voltage (absorption phase). This is what their panel looks like...

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    Rocky Bow BMW Riders #197 bogthebasher's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GlobalRider View Post
    Absolutely!

    That is why I to battery charger manufacturer claims that it charges all types of batteries. Those chargers do, so what they do is lower the end charge voltage for the battery that takes the lowest voltage such as a GEL and the other types just get undercharged. They are not lying to you; they're just not telling you the truth. Sort of like an adjustable wrench can be used to tighten a nut, but a 6-point socket would do a better job.

    A charger like the Xantrex lets you pick the battery type and actually changes the charge end voltage (absorption phase). This is what their panel looks like...
    Very good analysis approach. I love reading posts that use facts and data! Boring for some, I know.
    Last edited by bogthebasher; 03-05-2014 at 07:23 PM. Reason: typo
    Ken
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    Quote Originally Posted by bogthebasher View Post
    Very good analysis approach. I love reading posts that use facts and data! Boring for some, I know.
    By the way, we just didn't pick the Xantrex because of claimed specs. We actually ran tests on all aspects of that charger and it is near perfect.

    Unfortunately, it is expensive and requires the remote panel to limit/control the charging rate. The 20A and larger units can do that; the 10A unit will not accept the remote panel and is too high a rate for our batteries.

  15. #15
    A bozo on the bus deilenberger's Avatar
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    Alex,

    Have you looked at the Optimate 4? Just curious. My Optimate 3 went bad when I was on vacation for 6 weeks and I was using it to keep a BMW car battery up. It stopped doing much of anything when I disconnected it from the battery, but not before it boiled the battery almost dry (when an identical replacement battery weighs twice the weight of the one being replaced - it's gotta be a dry battery.) Optimate refused to do anything with the 3 - but lacking a Canbus trigger alternative (except the BMW charger) - I ordered the Optimate 4.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------

    My impressions of the 4 are - it claims to do a lot of things - different modes depending on battery condition, type, charger settings, etc - but it's also the worst documented device I've ever seen with an array of confusing LEDs blinking and flashing - often in patterns not described in the poorly written owners manual.

    Just curious - I did have a battery almost completely discharge on my R1200R when I used the 4 in "CanBus" trigger mode to charge it through the accessory port. Turns out - it does turn on the accessory port and charges the bike, but simply disconnecting it doesn't turn OFF the accessory port, and the accessory port is wired in parallel with the GPS power/signal plug, and a Garmin Zumo 660 in it's cradle - even off - does draw enough to discharge the battery within about a week if the accessory port (and whatever else the ZFE turned on) isn't turned off.

    The trick there - when done charging it via the accessory port - cycle the ignition one time to turn off the port (and GPS connection.)

    Oh - back on topic - that battery did seem to "recover" after an Accumate process (direct connected out of the bike), and I did have it load tested at a local mechanic's shop - it passed the load test fine. Dunno if that was due to the Accumate, or as you said - the battery was simply discharged.
    Don Eilenberger http://www.eilenberger.net
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