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Charging VRLA Batteries

Jan 10, 2016

ensitepower.com CONFIDENTIAL ©2015 EnSite Power, Inc.


What’s So Special About VRLA?
• It’s not just “A battery is a battery is a
battery!”
• VRLA design is “different” than VLA design.
• VRLA is considered as “Starved Electrolyte”
design.
• VRLA, by design, is a recombinant system.
• VRLA is more sensitive to temperature.
• In some cases, very minor design changes can
affect life.

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Difference between Flooded and AGM’s

• Liquid electrolyte • Electrolyte absorbed in glass


• Evolved gases escape to mat
atmosphere • Evolved gases recombine
• Can be topped up with water • Cannot be topped up with
• Cannot be inverted water
• Can be inverted
Definitions
• Nominal Voltage – 2V for a lead-acid cell
• Open Circuit Voltage OCV – Voltage of the
battery while at rest, i.e. no current flow
• Float Voltage – Voltage applied to the
battery by the rectifier or charger
• Polarization (η) – Difference between the
applied voltage and the OCV, this causes
the current to flow – Relationship known as
the Tafel Plot

η = a ± b log(I)

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Polarization vs. Current

Charge

OCV
Polarization


 Battery on-float
Low-rate discharge

 Higher-rate discharge

Discharge
Current
Difference between Flooded and AGM’s

Flooded
• Liquid electrolyte
• Evolved gases escape to
atmosphere
• Separate battery room required with
ventillation system for dispersal of
hydrogen
• Can be topped up with water
• Can only be operated upright
• Spill containment
system is required
Difference between Flooded and AGM’s
AGM’s
• Electrolyte absorbed in
glass mat
• No spill containment
required
• Evolved gases recombine
and stay within the battery
• No need to top up with
water
• Can be operated in any
orientation
Difference between Flooded and AGM’s
Mass Balance - Flooded

PbO2 + Pb + 2H2SO4  2 PbSO4 + 2H2O

Excess
• Flooded LA’s have an excess of electrolyte
• Easier to over discharge the positive electrode
• Higher heat capacity, 30-40% since there is relatively more
liquid…
Difference between Flooded and AGM’s
Mass Balance - AGM
PbO2 + Pb + 2H2SO4  2 PbSO4 + 2H2O

Excess Limited

• VRLA’s are acid starved


• Positive is protected by lack of acid
• Can see alkaline conditions following a deep discharge
which can result in dendritic growth upon recharge
• Can see higher temperatures due to lower heat capacity
Difference between Flooded and AGM’s
Overcharge - Flooded

Positive 2H2O  O2 + 4H+ + 4e-


Negative 4H+ + 4e-  2H2
Total 2H2O  O2+ 2H2

Vented batteries lose water through


electrolysis when overcharged
Difference between Flooded and AGM’s
Overcharge - AGM
Recombination

Positive 2H2O  O2 + 4H+ + 4e-


Negative 2Pb + O2 + 2H2SO4  2PbSO4 + 2H2O + heat
Total Pb + H2SO4  PbSO4 + 2H+ + 2e- + heat

Thanks to the recombination process AGM batteries do not


electrolyze water, however recombination;
• Discharges the negative electrode
• Generates heat
Difference between Flooded and AGM’s
What does all this mean to a standby application?
• The negative electrode is depolarized due to the recombination
process – it is in danger of being discharged, hence purity is far
more critical for AGM’s
• The positive electrode is more anodically polarized in an AGM,
hence more prone to grid corrosion
• Overcharge is converted to heat in an AGM due to the
recombination process
• AGM’s have less electrolyte therefore a lower heat capacity, thus
they require less heat to raise their temperature
• Thermal management is far more critical for AGM’s…
Why Are VRLAs So Finicky?
• VRLAs are actually several distinct designs.
• Gel Cells
• Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM)
• Lead-Calcium
• Pure Lead
• “Fire Fly” (A separate Subject!)
• Each design has it’s own specific charging
regime.
• Not only Float voltage, but recharge voltage, as
well.

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Why Are VRLAs So Finicky? (cont’d)

• Accuracy of the charge voltage is more critical


in VRLA designs.
• Recombination efficiency is directly affected by
charge accuracy.
• Balancing positive and negative plate
polarization, while achieving high
recombination efficiency is walking a razor’s
edge!
• Typical VRLA Float voltage has an acceptable
voltage tolerance of ~ +.01/-.005 V.

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VRLAs Are Several Distinct Designs

• Gel Cells
• Typically require a lower charge voltage.
• If charged at too high a rate, gel cells tend to
form bubbles within the gel electrolyte which
can cause permanent damage.
• Typical recommendation is maximum of 2.3 to
2.35 VPC @ 10% of rated ampacity.
• If charged at these voltage levels, charge voltage
must be reduced to recommended float voltage
as full charge level is reached.

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VRLAs Are Several Distinct Designs

• Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM)


• Typical maximum recommended charge voltage is
2.35 to 2.45 VPC @ 10% of rated ampacity.
• If charged at these voltage levels, charge voltage
must be reduced to recommended float voltage
as full charge level is reached.
• Temperature compensated charging is highly
recommended, based on battery temperature
instead of ambient.

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VRLAs Are Several Distinct Designs

• Pure Lead
• Typical maximum recommended charge
voltage is 2.45 to 2.65 VPC, with some
manufacturers specifying C/5 and higher CC
charge rates.
• Temperature compensated charging is highly
recommended.

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VRLA Caveats

• Manufacturers virtually always recommend


Constant Voltage Charging, as opposed to
Constant Current charging.
• Manufacturers recommend float charging, as
opposed to intermittent charging regimes.
• Temperature and float voltage control are
critical in order to maximize VRLA life.
• Microprocessor controlled chargers can
provide optimum control of charging cycle.

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Additional VRLA Topics
• Charging Parallel Strings
• Battery Monitoring
• Equalize Charging

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