All about Truck Batteries

Battery is one of the most important truck components responsible for engine start-up and reliable operation of all electrical systems that helps the drivers in moving freight and meets their desired destination. Depending upon the environment, the application and the budget, various types of truck batteries are:

Wet cell or flooded batteries: Possibly the most “traditional” type of battery, wet (or “flooded”) batteries most closely resemble the design of the original battery.  These batteries contain a combination of liquid electrolyte. The liquid in these batteries must be carefully measured and maintained in order for the battery to perform properly. The main advantage is that Wet Cell batteries are typically the best choice for backup power applications, utility, and grid energy storage. The fact that these batteries contain free flowing liquid that requires periodic examination and maintenance counts foe its biggest downside. Additionally, the electrolyte solution could evaporate or freeze in the extreme climate, thereby affecting battery life.A further type of flooded batteries called starting batteries provide high starting and minimal cycle service. These batteries are well suited in day cabs, line haul, dump trucks, mixers and loggers.

ABSORBED GLASS MAT (AGM): An AGM (absorbed glass mat) battery contains a special glass mat separator that absorbs the electrolyte solution between the battery plates. This material’s design enables the fiberglass to be saturated with electrolyte and to store the electrolyte in a “dry” or suspended state rather than in free liquid form. As the battery works, electrolyte is transferred from the glass mat to battery plates as required.  The mat contains enough electrolyte for the battery to deliver its full capacity. These batteries are referred to as maintenance free batteries, and do not require watering service. Since there is no free liquid and minimal gassing, AGM batteries can perform better than flooded batteries in applications where maintenance is difficult to perform.  Users should take care when charging this battery as over and under charging can affect their life and performance. AGM batteries perform most reliably when their use is limited to the discharge of no more than 50% of battery capacity.

Michael Moeller, president of Remy Battery Co., noted, “AGM batteries are cost-effective considering the amount of work they perform in any vehicle, especially work trucks. AGM batteries are more durable, perform better, and last longer in rugged and high vibration applications compared to their wet lead-acid counterparts.”

Further two types of AGM batteries are explained by Jeff Barron, Interstate Batteries Lab Manager. The first one is pure lead product that  feature advanced Thin Plate pure lead technology ideally suited to high rate discharge applications where the sole factor is total reliability. These batteries deliver current at very high rate, ensuring the load and allowing the minimum size battery to be installed. Such batteries can typically save 30% of the needed capacity. The other type explained is the battery that uses recycled lead. Lead acid batteries are closed-loop recycled, meaning each part the the old batteries is recycled into a new battery. It is estimated that 98% of all lead acid batteries are recycled. Lead Battery Recycling Process includes the following steps:


  • Lead Battery Breaking and Separation
  • Desulphurization System
  • Lead Smelting
  • Lead Emission Control
  • Lead Refining and Alloying
  • Lead Casting

Barron recommends pure lead products over recycled lead because recycling removes 98-99% of the contaminants and remaining 1% would make a difference in battery life.

A totally new battery concern for work trucks that is gaining popularity is lithium ion batteries. They’re generally much lighter than other types of rechargeable batteries of the same size. The electrodes of a lithium-ion battery are made of lightweight lithium and carbon. Lithium is also a highly reactive element, meaning that a lot of energy can be stored in its atomic bonds. This translates into a very high energy density for lithium-ion batteries. Here is a way to get a perspective on the energy density. A typical lithium-ion battery can store 150 watt-hours of electricity in 1 kilogram of battery. Lithium-ion batteries can handle hundreds of charge/discharge cycles. These batteries are great for vehicles with start/stop systems and regenerative braking while operating in extreme weather and requiring high electrical demands. That is not to say that lithium-ion batteries are flawless. They have a few disadvantages as well such as, they are extremely sensitive to high temperatures. Heat causes lithium-ion battery packs to degrade much faster than they normally would. Besides that if you completely discharge a lithium-ion battery, it is ruined. Lastly, it is an expensive option because it needs an onboard computer to manage the battery.

Other newer battery options developed by John B. Goodenough and his colleague Maria Helena Braga are Nickel-zinc batteries and solid-state battery technology.

Nickel-zinc is a type of rechargeable battery similar to NiMH batteries, but with a higher voltage of 1.6 V. They perform starting, cycling and standby applications and may have the potential to replace lead–acid batteries because of their higher energy-to-mass ratio and higher power-to-mass ratio — as little as 25% of the mass for the same power. Nickel-Zinc batteries are much cheaper option than other batteries. Nickel–zinc is a good alternative for power tools and other applications. A prime disadvantage of such batteries is that their self-discharge rate is increased after completing 30 cycles.

Solid-state batteries are an emerging option for next-generation traction batteries promising low cost, high performance and high safety, Lead-Acid Batteries for Future Automobiles. The solid-state battery is distinguished from conventional Li-ion batteries by the replacement of the liquid or polymer electrolyte with a solid electrolyte. The solid electrolyte enables batteries that are more energy dense and durable and still in research phase.

Hall at Ioxus, a leading developer and manufacturer of ultracapacitors and energy storage products, ONEONTA, N.Y, explained, battery costs can range from $90 to $1,200 depending on the battery selected.

While picking the battery, it is important to read recommended Cold Cramping Amps (CCA) value printed on the battery label. CCA is a rating used in the battery industry to define a battery’s ability to start an engine in cold temperatures. The rating refers to the number of amps a 12-volt battery can deliver at 0°F for 30 seconds while maintaining a voltage of at least 7.2 volts. The higher the CCA rating, the greater the starting power of the battery. Thus, picking the right battery for vehicle is necessary to avoid any massive loss.

East Penn gave power demanding application best selection of  battery to meet the rigorous demands of commercial starting, cycle service, and deep cycle auxiliary power.

Heavy-Duty Trucks: Flooded and AGM battery solutions are designed to deliver first-class, heavy-duty power that covers the needs of large fleet operations to individual owner-operators. “Our power solutions are so reliable; we like to call them “First Class for all Classes”.

Heavy-Duty Equipment: Earthmovers, dump trucks, crawlers, and other hard working heavy-duty equipment need a battery that’s as tough as the jobs these vehicles perform. With maximum reinforcement and power that just won’t quit, these batteries will keep the job site working at full force.

Sleeper cabs. Sleeper cabs run multiple electronic accessories and cabin comforts. Also, parasitic loads and high-temperature battery boxes can affect battery life.

It is extremely important to do regular battery checkups. Factors such as electrnic demand, weather conditions, driving habits, maintenance and more suggest that an average battery life is 3-5 years. Inadequate charging, deep cycling, harsh weather can contribute to battery failing. Therefore following maintenance measure should be taken into consideration:

 Flooded Lead-Acid Battery: Flooded lead-acid batteries require regular maintenance to function properly. Checks every 2-4 weeks to keep the battery bank tuned up is recommended.

Lithium-Ion Battery Maintenance: Fortunately, lithium batteries require little to no maintenance (one of the main appeals when comparing lithium vs. lead-acid batteries). Once they are set up properly, they don’t need any checks aside from the occasional state-of-charge reading to ensure they are holding a charge.

Apart from that cleaning all terminal connections, using charging adapters, checking and confirming hold-downs would also help in good battery life.

Lastly, recycling is also an important factor. “It is important to recycle your batteries with someone you can trust,” said East Penn’s Brady. Return batteries to a core return program that partners with a recycler compliant with state and federal regulations and has environmentally sound facilities.” Recycling old batteries reduces waste, and since up to 99 percent of a lead-acid battery is recyclable, it also reduces the need to use new raw materials and components.