Truck batteries are changing just as rapidly as other innovative technology swiftly makes its way throughout the trucking industry, and certain vehicle types are seeing battery-related needs shifting particularly quickly.
According to industry experts who spoke at the American Trucking Association’s 2021 Technology and Maintenance Council Fall Meeting and Transportation Technology Exhibition this month, Class 6 and Class 8 vehicles have been seeing major adjustments in regards to the methods of prolonging their truck battery lifespans.
“There are more loads and accessories today than ever before,” said East Penn Manufacturing’s original equipment sales director, Jeff Muir. “All these loads and accessories require additional power requirements. Those power requirements are being drawn off the batteries.”
In fact, many truck drivers will utilize a large amount of battery power during the rest breaks–especially when they sleep in their cabs. This act, called ‘hoteling,’ allows for the use of television power, laptop power, microwave or crock pot usage, and even the powering of a gaming system.
“Essentially, the drivers and the operators really want all the creature comforts of home, packed into a sleeper cab and [to] be able to use those with a definitive amount of power,” Muir continued. “They don’t want to go in a dark room or have their truck fail to start because they ran out of battery power.”
Because of this, the industry’s mindset regarding truck battery capabilities is changing rapidly, and further research is underway to determine the best methods of boosting these batteries to offer dual functionality for today’s truckers, Muir noted.
“That operator is essentially using all the power that’s in the battery pack and then during their next drive cycle, [so] they have to be able to recoup that power, that energy, and repeat that cycle over and over again,” he said. “That energy recuperation is the biggest opportunity because we don’t want to see the battery packs operate in a partial state of charge.”
Trucks are seeing more and more modern technology and digitalization become implemented within their trucks’ interconnectivity and telematics systems, Muir said–trends that will continue to expand. Still, though, drivers can help to boost their batteries’ functionality and longevity through a variety of tried-and-true technical solutions, according to industry experts.
“How deeply do you discharge the battery over and over again? How [promptly] do you recharge it back?” added East Penn’s senior application engineer, Mike Krajewski. “The main goal is you try to get the longest calendar life by using the best cycle life.”
Cycle and calendar lives are the two main timespans one should consider in regards to their trucking battery, as a cycle life is determined by regular improvements, care, and the ways in which a battery is used.
In addition to these two life cycles, there are four aspects of overall truck battery care that affect its longevity, Krajewski explained.
“[The factors] are care and maintenance, partial state of charge, and temperature,” he said. “These four big components, if you manage them correctly, can greatly increase the life of the battery you see in the truck, or if they’re managed improperly, it can drastically decrease [the battery life].”
Additionally, a battery’s lifespan can be majorly affected by hot temperatures, as well as by failure to maintain a partial charge in a battery or otherwise care for it properly.
“The most common thing that we see out there in the industry today, from a warranty perspective, is batteries that are discharged,’ said East Penn’s field sales support manager for original equipment, John Cathey. “I think, many times, as we think about batteries, we think this battery is empty and it’s going to take too much time to fill, and so [we] will simply just put another battery that’s new in its place.”
Instead of this, drivers and fleet managers should look to the root of the problem, because oftentimes, the battery can be easily restored or it may just need to be recharged. Fleets should always ensure that their trucks’ batteries are free of corrosion, that battery testers are regularly replaced, and that charging equipment is always working at full capacity.
“Now, [the battery] still may fail; you may still have concerns with the battery,” Cathey continued. “But the encouragement here is to try to get the battery fully charged, or at least [at a] 75% stated charge before we’re looking at any type of answers.”