Motorcycle Batteries .. AGM, GEL, Wet, Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4)

Discussion in 'The Garage' started by _cy_, Jan 20, 2012.

  1. JoelWisman

    JoelWisman Long timer

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    I could not agree with you more if you were holding a gun to my head.

    A little about my experience, not to toot my own horn, I have plenty of bad traits, ask any of my x girlfriends for corroboration, but to point out areas of experience.

    1 year with independent volvo dealer.

    4 years as a licensed industrial electrician. For the last 2 years, amongst other things I was responsible for $600,000 worth of backup power batteries for an industrial process that had to be shut down gracefully and if not, we were to place a call to the local FD so they could drive quickly in the opposite direction

    2 years as assistant instructor for the industrial electrician feeder school.

    3 years as a tech at a factory volvo dealer rising to lead diagnostic tech in the first year past techs with 30 times my experience.

    4 years with Volvo NA corporate as a technical assistant (read FSE but paid less due to lack of degrees). Front line on many electronic issues and a lot of testifying in law suits over things like "thermal events". Ford acquires Volvo, a few days after rolling an XC while tracking down a stability control firmware bug, i'm reprimanded for not holding the handrail while traversing a half flight of stairs at HQ, my departure was sudden and memorable

    7 years back to inde Volvo dealer as service manager.

    2 years at large BMW motorcycle dealership after move across country, most of which was as shop foreman.

    POWER IS KING!

    I would have to say 9 out of 10 bikes that arrived on a flatbed could be started simply by hooking up an automotive jumper and cranking them over faster.

    The usual culprits were stuck fuel injectors, stuck fuel pumps, shitty old gas, and sensors that were broken leading to sub-optimal fuel mixtures for easy starting.

    Sometimes an injector would have to be tapped with a screwdriver to unstick it. Sometimes a pump would have to be jogged back and fourth to free it, but more startup voltage helped with everything.

    In an adventure bike, my first step to reduce being stuck in BFE would be to install a battery with serious cranking power.


    That said, and especially specific to modern BMW's, I'm not yet sold on lithium chemistry for adventuring.

    One very common event with almost all modern BMW's is for the ZFE (basic module by industry terms) to glitch randomly a couple times a year, not shut down and draw anywhere from 0.2 amps to 2.3 amps till the battery is dead.

    There is no outward sign of this occurrence so customers usually have no idea why their bike started fine the day before and was too dead to light up instruments the next day.

    I know about this because I was in the club. It is an issue I have watched and verified live and which all levels of BMW corporate is aware of but likely not sharing with Excide/Yuasa, their battery vendor.

    So dead flat batteries happen. They happen because someone wires something to the bike and forgets to turn it off. It happens because people leave the key on, and it happens because modern BMW's occasionally glitch and do it all by themselves.

    Stated over and over in this thread and on your web site is that running any battery too low will damage it.

    This is technically true but there are differences of degree.

    I will happily run either my personally owned ETX14 Deka AGM or PC535 Odyssey batteries dead flat, then bolt a piece of copper across the terminals and leave it for 48 hours. At the end of this the resting terminal voltage is going to be mili-volts. I will then break out my solar charger which is the biggest woos of a charger in the world and after a few hours in the sun, the bike will start. After that, hook it to a nice push charger, crank the voltage well into the gassing range and 4 hours later the batteries will still meet published CCA and AH and from past experience last years.

    Is this hard on a lead acid chemistry battery? Yes

    will all brand AGM's do this? NO, Yuasa / Excide sure won't, But Deka, Odyssey, and some others will.

    In my experience all chemistry lithium batteries are instantly bricked when you hit a resting voltage of mili-volts.

    The next thing that is important to me while adventuring is how the battery takes over voltage. R/R's break. I have seen it in the shop many times. Sometimes the customer is even unaware and comes in cause he's blown his headlight bulb 3 times in 3 days. We replace the bulb, fire up the bike, check the charging voltage and see 17.5 volts and rising.

    Lead acid batteries hate this and will eventually dry out from it. They will even go into thermal runaway if it happens continuously for hours in a row. Thermal runaway in a lead acid battery is characterized by bulged and even cracked battery cases, but thats it that I have ever seen.

    Conversely I have seen lithium iron phosphate auto batteries have "thermal events" from these same levels of over voltage. Did they explode? NO. But they made a lot more flames then I would want under my seat or fuel tank.

    For the two reasons above, I am sold on lithium batteries for commuting and race / sport use, but would want to see a protection circuit for adventuring use.

    I don't need to see a full on BMS, but some sort of protection from under voltage would be desirable and at the very least, a piezo that screams when voltage or temperature gets extreme. Also the under voltage protection should not brick the battery. A nice diode so I can put current in would be desired.

    I love batteries, always have and always will.

    My current main ride is an Aprilia Caponord which is insane in it's CCA requirements versus it's battery box size. On a -8F day I measured an average 236 amp draw for 6 seconds before the bike started. The only reason it did start was my Deka ETX14 managed to outperform it's specs and maintain a terminal voltage of 9.3 volts which was just enough for the ECU to remain conscious.

    I can find no lead / acid battery that will reliably start these bikes when it is super cold AND fit in the ytx14 sized battery box, but I have a lot of reservations about Lithium sans protection circuits and also plenty of reservations about the protection circuit durability and how reliably it will prevent bad things.

    So, with all that stated:

    Antigravity, Thermal events? If the battery sees 22 amps unregulated for a few hours, with your battery are we talking some smoke and vapors? Or time to call my insurance company?

    Under-voltage protection circuits. How far away are we from having one? Need a Beta tester?

    I would like to become a fan of lithium SLI batteries, but I need my concerns rectified first.

    And _CY_ Nice thread and I applaud you and everyone else for venturing into the bleeding edge so that it can become cutting edge. Since you seem to like specifying equipment used for testing and picturing it, I will specify mine :p

    Fluke 289 used for minimum voltage in "peak" mode, so 250 micro second response time. Calibrated 3 months ago.

    Fluke 867B and deltronic 400 amp precision current shunt. The 867B hasn't been calibrated in ages but I check it against the 289 regularly and it is still spot on. The current shunt has never been re-calibrated but shunts don't go out of calibration unless they oxidize, melt, or warp, none of which has happened so it is at the least an order of magnitude more accurate then any inductive probe.

    Fluke 196 scope meter to watch the voltage and current draw graphically just because I like to see things.

    I think I have you beat on test equipment lol

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/joel_wisman/6781640208/" title="My test equipment by joel.wisman, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7047/6781640208_427ed808c3_z.jpg" width="640" height="424" alt="My test equipment"></a>
  2. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    @Joel .. thanks for dropping in .. looks like I'm not the only Fluke junkie :D

    power may be king, but at what temperature? so far I'm getting losses of 50% when battery along with bike is subjected to 15f degrees. then factor in additional current draw when engine/oils are cold. then factor in need to learn a completely different starting procedure, IE necessity of waking up battery before placing starting loads.

    there's definitely an education process to successfully learn how to use li-ion batteries when starting a motorcycle in cold conditions. this goes for even advanced techs too. NO one knows it all... especially when treading brand new territory.

    for cold starts, Amp Hour rating plays a very important role. Waking up li-ion batteries with current flow uses amps pure and simple. for cold starts Lithium iron phosphate battery must contain enough reserve to power warm up phase. then contain enough power to put out 200amps for several discharge cycles.

    a four cell A123 li-ion battery like SCYL 2.3 AH will probably start a car or a Harley Shovelhead (fixin to find out). All li-ion cells are capable of putting out HUGE power for short durations. this is due to very low internal resistance.

    reason for disclosing details of testing gear ... data generated is lab grade using traceable standards. Discharge tests are only an indicator of performance. Real world test like what's being laid out is what counts.

    overcharge and under-discharge protection circuits have been around for quite sometime. ALL portable devices containing multiple li-ion cells should contain protection circuits. Laptops were the power user for li-ion cells for quite sometime. a power management system was mandatory. even then fires/explosions started hitting the news. Sony and Apple both had their share of devices with li-ion cells go into thermal runaway... resulting in fires/explosions. naturally they were among the first to made the switch to lithium iron phosphate. too much liability not to.

    in it's simplest form, protected lithium cobalt cylindrical cells have been around for 5+ years. I was part of the original group buy by JS Burley on Candlepower forums for the world's first protected cell. He mortgaged his house to pay for initial tooling, then Chinese companies took resulting technology and ran with it. JS Burley got nothing .. his investment spawned an entirely new category of consumer li-ion cells.

    here's a 18650 lithium cobalt protected cell ... over and under charge protection with an estimated 10% self discharge per month
    [​IMG]

    if you will note during first phase of testing ... balance/over discharge circuits was used on the 20 AH battery. they were later removed due to circuit boards/shunts scrubbing off 10% of charge. most bare li-ion cells will have about 1% self discharge per month. add protection circuits and that no longer is true. depending on circuits. there could be 10% per month self charge due to protection circuits.

    here's a pic of balance/over charge protection circuits in action. red led light when shunting off excess current.
    [​IMG]
    ----------------

    had a brain fart and didn't leave G/S outside last night. lately spring like weather, first cold that actually arrived... 27f for a low. overslept, wheeled G/S outside at 6:45am .. waited until 8:15am .. had to start tests, temp raising fast.

    33f degree, 13.51v resting voltage... 10 seconds lights & heated grip on... choke off ... first crank 124amp for 5 seconds. engine spins over fast. would have easily started if choke was set.

    two more 5-6 second cranks nets 164amp draws. starter cranking engine over strong. battery drops to 12.59v after first sets of cranking

    battery is allowed 3-4 minutes rest ... voltage raise to 13.18v .. battery case temp raises to 39f
    choke is turned on, motor cranks strong and fires right up. amp spiked up too quick to get a good read. about 155amp for a fraction second.

    after motor runs for about a minute ... turned off and cranked again... current draw drops to 68amp, motor starts quickly.... cold start tests are over for now. Forecast is 30f tonight. will leave G/S outside. above test is estimated to be equal to 40f degree starts. since bike didn't have time to fully get down to 33f internally.

    ----------

    9am .. 44f .. battery has recovered to 13.26 or 80% capacity remains ... amp draw spikes to 118am, then goes down to 98amp. engine cranks over strong and fires right up.

    at 13.26v recovered resting voltage... this means first sets of crank cycles used about 20% of Shorai 18AH capacity. Very impressive performance from Shorai so far... but we still have not done a valid cold start test yet.

    [​IMG]

    battery drops to 12.59v after first sets of cranking

    [​IMG]

    battery raises to 13.18 after 3-4 minutes rest, batt temp is now 39f

    [​IMG]

    9am .. 44f .. battery has recovered to 13.26 or 80% capacity remains ... amp draw spikes to 118am, then goes down to 98amp. engine cranks over strong and fires right up

    [​IMG]
  3. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    here's an interesting video worth watching... How to make Lithium Polymer Batteries

    <iframe src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/MqywKcJ0J2M" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" width="420"></iframe>
  4. Anorak

    Anorak Woolf Barnato

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    _cy_
    With your apparent focus on precision and accuracy, would you try to get the chemistry right? I'm pretty sure there is no "lithium iron cobalt cell". Lithium-cobalt is what is generically called lithium-ion. Is that what you mean? It appears that the lithium cobalt chemistry is what was causing the laptop fires but it was due to contaminates in the cathode.

  5. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    ooppss... thanks for catching that... corrected... that's what I get for posting half asleep..
    switching to LiFePO4 ... been avoiding using to due to all the different chemistry connected to li-ion batteries

    here's a few of the different chemistry within li-ion batteries. to complicate thing further, all are constantly evolving. then add private labels like A123 Nanophosphate lithium ion batteries .... arrrggghhhh

    1. lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery, also called LFP battery
    2. lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (LiNiMnCoO2)
    3. lithium manganese dioxide (LiMn2O4)
    4. Lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2)

    ---------------------
    48f degree by 8:15am .. left G/S out all night. the 30f low never materialized
    Shorai LFX21 AH (pb eq) has more than proven it's ability to start and operate R80G/S in temperatures to 40f degrees.

    many more batteries to test with several more on the way. next up is Shorai 36 AH (pb eq)
    besides additional reserve capacity and increased starting amps. 36 AH (pb eq) provides more headroom during charging.

    G/S is equipped with a 400 watt high performance charging system by Motorrad Elektrik. 400watts/13.8v = 29 amps then subtract motorcycle's overhead (5amp) which is about 10 amps total with lights (55watt)

    with higher output voltage regulator... measuring 22.5 amp to battery at 3k rpm with lights on.
    to keep our LiFePO4 battery healthy Shorai recommends not to charge over 3C. which is figured on actual AH. So we should not subject Shorai 36 AH (pb eq) over 36amp charge load. a Shorai LFX21 AH (pb eq) max charge rate is 21 amps.

    A123 26650 spec sheet recommends 4C fast charge rate to 80% DOD.

    translated... if AH capacity of your li-ion battery is not large enough... your motorcycle charging system may charge your battery at too high amp rate.

    R80G/S voltage regulator changed out to higher output 14.5v Motorrad Elektrik

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
  6. Anorak

    Anorak Woolf Barnato

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    The "nanophosphate" isn't a private label, it's A123's proprietary chemistry, what allows the repeated 30C discharge rate until at the discharge voltage without damage.
  7. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    of course it is.. nanophosphate is A123's private label for their particular flavor of LiFePO4 chemistry

    ------------
    just got back from a 30 mile bike ride with Shorai 36 AH (pb eq) battery installed. pretty uneventful .. all the starts were strong in 65f degree spring like weather.
  8. Tweaker

    Tweaker ...

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    Cy, I appreciate the the topic but looking at the 8 pages for the first time, it seems you are not achieving anything close to the accuracy you desire. None of it means much if you haven't compared the batteries all at the same temperatures. Then there are all the other variables, 20 minutes outside, 45 minutes outside, all night outside. I don't see you getting the accuracy you want unless you can regulate the temps.

    Anyway, starter batteries are relatively cheap. Do I want to spend $100 on a lead acid or $220 on an equivalent LiFePO4? That a minor decision. What I really want to know is the best battery value for an electric powered bike, which has different requirements and is a much larger investment. Shorai does not return questions about this. I probably already know the answer but their form factor is attractive.
  9. herrhelmet

    herrhelmet A Serious Man

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    Cy has approached a variety of Manufacturers and is still receiving test units.... so I'm sure he plans to do the type of "apples to apples" test, ...but just too early in his process. I spoke to him on the phone and he is the real deal. That's why he's getting the toys to play with. I questioned him at first too.

    As for starting batteries, you're dead wrong. The idea is to save weight and increase reliability which the LiFePO4 achieves for the serious rider. It's a new application, so real world testing is important. Doesn't apply if you don't care about that. Electric bikes aren't the topic here. These are "race batteries"... hopefully the bucket of acid and lead you ride with will go away sooner than later.
  10. Anorak

    Anorak Woolf Barnato

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    Private label is when Safeway sells a house brand detergent that is made by a contractor. The "nano-phosphate" cathode is what makes the A123 superior to and different from the other LiFePo batteries. The A123 cell can take a lot of punishment. A123 says 100C pulse discharges and repeated complete discharge without damage. So, while it may be LiFePo, it is very different from the prismatic LiFePo batteries like Shorai etc.
  11. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    gotta disagree, some very meaningful information has already come out of data measured. every step has been carefully documented to show how data is collected. proving Very ACCURATE measurements are being taken.

    unfortunately don't have access to a motorcycle sized walkin freezer. besides what I'm really interested in is real life feedback. this means measuring resting voltage, temp, amp draw, recovery voltage, how fast engine is cranking over, etc. carefully tracking interaction with R80G/S charging system and effect of additional loads like heated gear, lights, etc.

    temperature has a dramatic effect on LiFePO4. what I want to know is... will this battery start my bike up when it's say 15f degree outside?

    Neduro successfully used a LifePO4 battery on his Dakar bike. Can LiFePO4 be used successfully on an adventure bike?

    resting voltage reveals charge state, are we trying to start this bike with an almost dead battery? did that short ride with heated gear prevent battery from being charged back up. is your charging system not charging your LiFePO4 battery full even after a multi-hour ride with only lights on? Are you charging your battery with too many amps? what's the correct AH size battery for my bike?

    these are but some of the questions that's come out of so far...

    don't get me wrong these motorcycle LiFePO4 tests would not be complete without load tests. if you peek into capabilities of Progressive RC, Cellpro Powerlab 8 ... been burning a few brain cycles figuring out FMA's Charge Control Software to configure the PL8.

    Maximum regenerative discharge:
    1344W / 40A ... this means I'll be able to track discharge at up to 40 amps. then generate resulting hard data in graph format.

    here's a screen shot of FMA Charge Control Software
    http://www.revolectrix.com/CCS_Tour.htm

    [​IMG]
  12. Anorak

    Anorak Woolf Barnato

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    I bet the battery would fit in the freezer.
  13. Sasquatch2112

    Sasquatch2112 scatology expert

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    Cy, keep up the good work. Your data is helping us all understand the properties of these "new" batteries. All of us old farts that grew up with Lead acid undersatand them pretty well. The new Li combinations not so much.

    Please keep up with how the bike performs with the new voltage regulator. Before this thread ends hopefully somebody with a CANBUS with drop in a new regulator and see how it performs with the higher voltage.

    Keep it up.

    :lurk
  14. Anorak

    Anorak Woolf Barnato

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    Modern alternators charge at around 14.4 volts which works fine with LiFePo. Also, good luck finding an adjustable regulator for one.

    So far as the airhead charging system, it's already marginal. Increasing the output with an adjustable regulator makes more head which will shorten the life of the marginal alternator rotor and rectifier.
  15. Tweaker

    Tweaker ...

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    Good idea, but the problem, something I was ineloquently alluding to, is that there are plenty of other variables. The one most on my mind now, since I have been having problems starting an oiled electric compressor when cold using a generator, is the state of the engine. A truly cold engine is much harder to crank, but the tests so far have all been inconsistent. Sometimes the bike is outside all night, sometimes some minutes, another day the mixture was changed and always at different temps. My compressor for example has completely different starting characteristics after about 15 minutes in the sun.
    There are some other things but as one of the battery guys already diplomatically said, every bike and every condition is different and what with all the conditions that these tests have been run, there is no way to compare the batteries side-by-side and that has already been ruled out. You might as well wire them all up parallel and see how many miles the starter will take you. If you're going to be anal, do it right.

    And it needs to be pointed out, that the XZDF333 48f Shorai battery that starts Cy's 30 year old GS using 10-40wt at 15.575f after running a vest for 38 minutes may or may not start my Yamaha 660 at 25f for example. Readers need to know this if they were to rely on these tests for their own adventure.

    That is all.
  16. Anorak

    Anorak Woolf Barnato

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    I'm not sure what to make of the tests either. There is accurate and expensive equipment used but to what end?

    If you're looking for LiFePo batteries for an electric motorcycle, check out this company, http://www.alliancerenewableenergy.com/. He imports Thundersky prismatic cells. Oddly, all the Chinese prismatic cells use the same case style differing only in color.

    Here's a Yamaha R1 electric conversion using Thundersky.
  17. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    it sure would... but what about rest of engine? an engine say 65f degree takes about 70 amps or so to start. that same engine at 15f takes 185amp+. then as it's been pointed out several times. LiFePO4 requires learning a special procedure for cold weather starts.

    folks all this is brand new territory ... my objectives are to track data accurately. then drill into areas of concern. like cold weather starts. when I started this my objective was to test LiFePO4 against AGM, Gel and wet PB. but it became apparent very quickly ... where the attention needed to be was on the li-ion side.

    so that's what I've been doing... drilling in LiFePO4's weakness and advantages. please note my needs to find out if li-ion battery is ready for an adventure bike are probably very different than someone wanting to fit an ultra light weight battery in a race bike. folks routinely spend $$$ to shave off a few ozs. here's a way to shave of several pounds.

    my methodology is simple ... carefully and accurately track all the metrics that matter. then as problems shows itself. use the data to determine why/if problems are happening. if need be drill in to find a solution.

    if I can use LiFePO4 battery in an adventure bike successfully. then it's pretty safe to say li-ion is ready for prime time.

    this picture shows the HUGE weight/size difference between a 14lb BMW Gel battery vs a SCYL 2.3AH with 4x A123 cells at 12oz. ..... now I would not consider using a 2.3AH battery in an adventure bike. but saving 13lb+ in a race bike is substantial!!

    come to think of it... this little powerhouse SYCL battery would make an excellent backup battery for an adventure bike without a kickstarter.

    [​IMG]

    --------------------

    one would think that's the case... but real life says otherwise. read back a few posts for specific details on resting voltage after a 106 mile bike ride with only light on. then heated gear for last 20 minutes.

    airheads charge at 13.8v to 14.2v ... with all different watts to a max of 280watts for stock alternators. mine has been upgraded to Motorrad Elektrik 400watt Omega.

    Bosch mechanical voltage regulators can be adjusted for higher volt output. Since Motorrad Elektrik had a high output 14.5v regulator on the shelf. went that route instead of adjusting a mechanical one. adjusting voltage regulators is old hat for airheads.

    since switching to higher voltage regulator.... output has gone up to 22.5amp to battery at 3k rpm...with lights and heated grip on (about 14amp load with overhead). vs 19.5 amp before upgrade to higher regulator. note resting voltage was 13.21 or about 70% charged condition. that's why battery was taking such high amps from alternator. in this charging scenario AH size of battery does matter. Shorai is rated at 3C, A123 cells are rated at 4C.

    as it's been pointed out... modern bikes typically are equipped with higher output alternators. say 450 watts at 14.4v. those bikes probably will not have the same charging issues as an old airhead.

    one thing is for sure... odds of successfully using a LiFePO4 battery in a motorcycle goes way up... if one learns proper charging and cold starting procedures.

    [​IMG]
  18. Anorak

    Anorak Woolf Barnato

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    Do you have the numbers for a lead acid battery tested in the same conditions? A control. I finally realized what is missing from this.
  19. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    thanks for noticing that very important piece of info is missing. in fact thanks for catching typo/inaccuracies in these posts. very much appreciated.

    no it's not been forgotten, just that since these tests started. there has been very few cold days below 40f degrees. yes the control battery is the 14lb 19AH BMW factory Gel already shown several times. Yes baseline measurements will be taken. but priority is taking measurements with LiFePO4 first.

    forecast for the next week is warm spring like weather.... been riding G/S the last few days with Shorai 36 AH (pb eq) installed. doubling starting amps has noticeably improved cranking speeds at 40f degree vs Shorai LFX21 AH (pb eq). When engine is at operating temps not much difference in cranking speeds.

    can't wait to try out Shorai 36 AH (pb eq) with 540 starting amp in cold conditions.

    Shorai 36 AH, 60f , 13.62v resting .. 118amp draw ... engine spins over strong
    [​IMG]

    after 4 cranking cycles 5 seconds 110-120 amps @ 60f degree ... 13.26v recovery volts after 3-4 minutes and raising.
    [​IMG]

    1:47pm about 3 hours later .. resting voltage recovers to 13.32v or slightly over 90% charge
    [​IMG]
  20. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    prepping SYCL 2.3AH battery for service

    13.27 resting voltage as received... this means battery is 80% charged as shipped. Li-ion batteries store better when not fully charged.
    [​IMG]

    here SYCL 2.3 AH pack is being precision charged at 2C rate by Progressive RC, Cellpro Powerlab 8

    [​IMG]