Summer Tips on Battery Maintenance
After a long winter, the snow melts and spring finally arrives. You are ready to use your electric vehicle, but low and behold, the expected joy ride feels sluggish. Following a few weeks of battery maintenance, your ride starts improving. The rise of temperature does help. The summer arrives and with the summer higher temperatures you find yourself with sluggish batteries again.
Only this time batteries do not improve; many worsen as the summer goes on. You try “magic potions,” “sneak oils,” various additives. You do daring things, like adding electrolyte or replacing it and more, in an effort to avoid the pain of replacing your batteries. After all, it has only been three or four years since you took around eight or nine hundred dollars out of your pocket to buy them!
This story is commonplace every summer in many households that own electric vehicles. Below you will find a list of things you can do with your batteries to improve performance and maintain them during the summer. These recommendations are valid for most lead acid base electric vehicles, like golf carts, Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs), RV’s, scooters, boats, trucks, lawnmowers, etc.
Installing The Battery Life Saver™ electronic device (BLS) will effectively eliminate sulfate crystals while preventing the formation of new ones. But without regular maintenance, extending the life of your batteries will only go so far.
What should you do with your batteries during the summer?
The physical inspection is always a first. Your battery terminals should be clean and tight.
Check the solution level every other week or at least once a month. Never let the electrolyte level to go at or below the plate level.
It is better you check the water level after a recharge cycle. Adding distilled water and recharging right after is never a good practice.
You can implement this routine: at the end of the day, once you have finished your errands or your game, recharge your EV. After it is fully charged, disconnect your charger, and then inspect the electrolyte level. Always use your protective gear: goggles, gloves, and a protective robe. A flashlight can be handy to see clearly the electrolyte level. Add only distilled water as needed. Never overflow or water too much as that reduces the concentration of the electrolyte. A diluted electrolyte tends to boils easier when recharging. Let your EV rest for the evening. In the morning, before using it again, do a full recharge cycle.
A consecutive recharge cycle is not only done in this case, but it is recommended to do on a regular basis to eliminate stratification. Stratification simply happens over time on all batteries as the electrolyte is a solution and tends to concentrate at the bottom. Battery chargers get fooled and register batteries as fully recharged when only the most concentrated solution has been recharged. To get more information about stratification and what do to eliminate it see article……”Stratification: The Hidden Battery Killer”
If you use your cart only a few days a week, you should still recharge it every 48 hrs and recharge additionally in the morning before using your cart. If your batteries are kind of sluggish, recharge them every day, even if you do not use them. Batteries discharge rate speeds up greatly in the summer.
Protect your cart from direct exposure to the sun. Store your cart in a shady place.
Around midsummer, again check battery terminals and clean them up as needed. Clean terminals improve electric flow. Good electric flow makes recharging batteries and release of current easier.
If you notice your cart slowing down, as soon as you can, bring your cart back to your recharge station. Get a full recharge done. If you force slowing batteries to run much further, you will speed up sulfate crystal formation and your normal recharge will not eliminate them. Even old batteries will perform better if you recognize the slowing point and do a full recharge without forcing them further.
This brings us to another point. Do not cut corners with the recharge cycle of your cart. Complete the recharge cycle before disconnecting your charger. If you have only driven a few blocks, you still need to recharge your EV. Do not leave or store your EV when it is partially discharged. Too many people have been given the bad advice to only recharge when the EV has been completely discharged. Doing so speeds up battery deterioration.
Heavily sulfated batteries tend to boil while recharging. If you notice boiling in your batteries, disconnect your charger and let them cool down, recharge in stages, disconnecting every time batteries start boiling. If you have a trickle charger, use it to recharge them. Trickle chargers recharge at about 2 Amps. The slow recharge prevents the boiling, although it takes way longer to recharge. A little bit of boiling is not bad but when batteries boil, toxic fumes are released, as the water in the electrolyte gets hydrolyzed (broken apart), releasing hydrogen and sulfur fumes.
Never add new sulfuric acid solution (electrolyte) to your batteries. The sulfuric acid will corrode the already weakened plates and will create holes on the plates (open cells). That is something we cannot remedy.
Never, never, never pour and/or hose the electrolyte out of your batteries. Besides being really bad for the environment and the underground water sources; it is dangerous for you. Adding new sulfuric acid solution will only bring a few days of improved performance, and then your batteries will not hold charge or die, because now you will have one or more batteries with open cells.
- Inspect battery terminals and connections. Clean them up as needed to improve connectivity.
- It is best to inspect electrolyte levels at the end of the day after your batteries have been fully recharged, always using your protective gear. A flashlight is handy to inspect the level of the electrolyte.
- Use only distilled water to refill the electrolyte and never let the electrolyte to be at o below the plates’ level. It should always be above, but never too much, so as not to overflow or water down the electrolyte solution.
- Do not recharge right after watering your batteries. Let them rest in the evening and only recharge in full in the morning before using your electric vehicle.
- Recharge your batteries on a regular basis. Battery discharge speeds up greatly during the summer. Recharge your batteries after use, even if you have only used your cart for a few blocks.
- Store your cart in a shady place. Avoid direct sun exposure. Never store your cart/batteries when they are discharged or partially discharged. A partial discharge will result in stratification and deterioration of your batteries.
- The advice of recharging only after full discharge will result in shortened battery life. Recharge after every use.
- The same way that battery discharge speeds up in the summer, so does the accumulation of sulfate crystals. That is why it so vital to recharge regularly and to have BLS installed permanently.
- If you use your EV only once or a few times a week, you need to recharge it at least once every 48 hrs. If your batteries are already showing signs of deterioration, recharge daily and again in the morning before using your cart.
- Stratification simply happens. It is recommended to do consecutive recharges. After every recharge, disconnect your charger. Let your EV rest for the evening. Chargers can be fooled to register batteries as fully charged when batteries are stratified (the electrolyte concentrates at the bottom of the battery). The charger shuts off automatically but the batteries have not been charged in full. A recharge in the morning will offer a more accurate charging cycle.
- Heavily sulfated batteries will cause the electrolyte to boil, generating harmful fumes. When your batteries are doing that, disconnect the charger and let them cool down. Recharge your batteries in stages to reduce the boiling. If you have a trickle charger, use it to recharge them. That will reduce the boiling, but will take a long time to fully recharge the batteries.
- Never, never, NEVER pour and/or hose the electrolyte out of your batteries, to replace it for new electrolyte. It is bad for you and the environment. Adding new sulfuric acid solution will only bring a few days of improved performance. The new electrolyte will corrode the already weakened plates, creating holes on them (open cells). Very shortly afterwards, your batteries will not being able to hold charge and will die.
By following the earlier mentioned points and installing BLS in your cart, you will greatly extend the life of your batteries and protect your investment. You can find a BLS for every golf cart, NEV and Electric vehicles in the market. The most popular are the BLS-36N, BLS-48N and BLS-72N for models that use 36, 48 and 72 volt respectively. The BLS now comes with an automatic shut off point to protect batteries from too much discharge.