Is it time to move to AGM batteries?

Is it time to move to AGM batteries?

Is it time to move to AGM batteries for heavy duty applications? Ecobat Battery thinks it is and offers an in-depth explanation.

Despite the fact that the series production of AGM (absorbent glass matt) batteries began for original equipment (OE) fitment for truck manufacturers in Europe back in 2019, 80% of the UK replacement battery market is still made up of traditional SLI (starter/lights/ignition) batteries, which is a very different picture to Europe, where the market is more reflective of the shift towards AGM.

Profit motive

This UK anomaly is all the more peculiar in light of the introduction of AdBlue (diesel exhaust fluid) systems with Euro 5/6 engines, when most commercial vehicle (CV) manufacturers chose to relocate the position of the battery trays to the rear of the chassis, where vibrations are greater and which can contribute towards early battery failure. So, in addition to the fact that AGM batteries are now the OE standard, is the fact that SLI batteries are particularly vulnerable to vibration, both factors that make SLI replacements completely unsuitable for these applications. This situation therefore provides both the CV wholesalers that distribute replacement parts, and the workshops/fleet operators who install them, with opportunities.

As AGM batteries are more expensive than their SLI cousins, they naturally provide a greater profit potential to distributors, but they also benefit workshops and operators because they are not only the correct OE quality replacements, they are considerably more cost effective when factors such as the total cost of ownership (TCO) and potential vehicle breakdowns are taken into account as well.

Is it time to move to AGM batteries?

It is widely accepted that the greatest loss to an operator is to have a vehicle stranded by the side of the road, because the considerable reputational damage is magnified by potential late delivery charges and the obvious recovery costs, and fitting SLI batteries as replacements will only increase these risks. To further reduce these risks, Ecobat Battery has long championed the principle of upgrading the specified OE battery when it needs replacing, and with options such as the ODYSSEY AGM, VARTA ProMotive AGM and Exide Endurance+PRO GEL, there’s plenty of suitable choices.

For the most energy demanding continental requirements, the ODYSSEY AGM reduces the risk of a call out to what might only be a flat battery by 60% and safeguards the ability for starting, compared to a conventional SLI battery. These batteries also overcome the electrolyte and vibration issues of SLI batteries by incorporating AGM separators, meaning the acid is fully absorbed, so it cannot sink, and as the plates all sit on a rubber base and are top welded together with hot rubber melt, they have vibration resistance built in. Allied with an inherent fast-charging capability even from 80% of discharge, with this option, battery related breakdowns become a very rare occurrence and as they deliver twice the power and three times the life of SLI batteries, they are typically lasting for four years plus, which significantly reduces the TCO.

Is it time to move to AGM batteries?

For similarly high demand situations, the efficient technology incorporated into the VARTA ProMotive AGM provides the solution for trucks with a heavy reliance on numerous power consuming functions, including parking cooler/heaters, without wearing out and causing downtime. It has been developed in collaboration with the leading CV manufacturers to support innovations that will be standard equipment in the future.

Gel batteries differ from other battery types because instead of being in liquid form, the electrolyte is fixed in a gel, which leads to unmatchable cyclic (charge/discharge/charge) life. Furthermore, as Exide Technologies is the inventor of gel technology, its Endurance+PRO GEL battery is not only highly robust, but offers the best in class deep cycle properties that allow an unmatched safe depth of discharge of 90%.

Charging advice

Largely due to the requirement for operators to adhere to environmental legislation, the electrical demands put on batteries are further stretched by initiatives such as ultra low emissions zones, which often require vehicles to operate without their engine running, meaning the battery is the sole source of power. As a result, over time, the battery’s state of charge can suffer as the vehicle’s charging system is rarely in a position to fully recharge the batteries.

There is however a solution to this situation, which is also a best practice principle that will further contribute to the vehicle’s overall reliability, increase the lifespan of its batteries and further reduce the TCO, and that is to actively charge the batteries when the vehicle is not in service.

Although Ecobat Battery is fully committed to this practice, it is also keen to highlight a practical matter that must be taken onboard, and that’s the charge voltage required by these various battery types. While SLI, as well as gel, batteries require between 13.8 and 14.4V, it must be noted that AGM batteries require a charge voltage of between 14.6 to 14.8. This may not sound like a big difference, but if AGM batteries don’t get this higher voltage when they are in a discharged state, they won’t get charged properly, which could reduce their service life.

Naturally, Ecobat Battery has the ideal solution for this issue, and this comes in the form of the Victron IP65 blue smart charger, which is capable of charging all battery types for both 12 and 24-volt systems and will allow fleet operators to keep the batteries in their vehicles in the best possible condition and reduce the likelihood of battery related breakdowns.

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