Friday 7 August 2020

Odyssey TPPL tech cuts battery failures for fire service

Upgrading to Odyssey batteries with Thin Plate Pure Lead (TPPL) technology from EnerSys has reportedly provided critical benefits to fire engines operating out of a North West England Fire Service site and workshop.

Emergency service vehicles like fire engines make heavy demands on their batteries when attending callouts.  While ensuring that the vehicles start under all conditions, the batteries must support auxiliary services – from powering the blue lights to charging all personal equipment, including radios, torches and breathing apparatus.

The fire service investigated whether manufacturer EnerSys could provide a better solution with TPPL battery technology when their existing batteries began to fail regularly. Each fire engine utilised four 850 Cold Cranking Amps (CCA), 142 Ampere Hour (Ah) capacity batteries, wired in series-parallel, with two being used for starting, and two employed to power the auxiliary load on a call.

However, problems arose because all four batteries – which had to be of the same type as they shared a single charging circuit – were starter rather than cyclic products. Yet auxiliary batteries often became deeply discharged, and, in extreme cases, entirely drained of energy, during callouts.

The starter batteries then had to take over the auxiliary load, so they needed recharging from the vehicle’s engine to ensure a reliable restart.

The automatic deep discharge prevention cut-off was often overridden by the callout’s senior officer. The problem was often exacerbated when the batteries were not recharged by a shoreline charger back at the depot as intended.

Accordingly, many conventional automotive batteries were failing after just three months’ in service, often with a voltage of 8V, well below 100 per cent discharged. All four batteries were always exchanged simultaneously, even if the starter batteries could still crank the engine.

The solution delivered by EnerSys to the fire service’s request for help comprised four dual purpose deep-cycle Odyssey 31-PC2150S TPPL batteries, wired in series-parallel like their predecessors. These were installed into a Technical Rescue Unit (TRU), which experienced the most arduous operating conditions and, accordingly, suffered regular battery failures. The batteries were rated at 1150 CCA, 100 Ah capacity.

Although considerably lower than the 142 Ah claimed for the original units, the new batteries’ deep discharge capabilities provided more than enough capacity for the application.

Since installation, the batteries ran for three years within the vehicle, without problem, even though sometimes subjected to a 50 or 75 per cent – or occasionally even over 100 per cent – depth of discharge.

This high reliability level surprised the TRU team, reports EnerSys, especially considering the vehicle’s lengthy callouts. Such treatment can potentially irreparably damage conventional batteries, the firm adds – but the Odyssey batteries with TPPL technology recovered easily to full capacity with their next charge.

The TPPL technology’s fast charging capability also meant that the batteries could often be recharged by the vehicle engine during transit, limiting the need to plug into the depot’s shoreline chargers.

The fire service additionally utilised EnerSys’ battery monitoring service to further optimise performance.

“Odyssey batteries were designed for fire engines and other emergency service vehicles that need power for auxiliary equipment as well as engine cranking – and this project has plainly demonstrated their suitability for their target application,” said Dr Thomas Verghese, technical manager at EnerSys.

“The fire service shares this opinion, as they now regularly order further batteries with TPPL technology for various applications, including eight more Odyssey 31-PC2150S batteries for two other arduous-role vehicles. We are also supplying smaller batteries for their portable lighting and pumps.”

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