Who knew? I long thought the biggest-and quite likely-the last word in batteries during my lifetime was bound to be “maintenance-free.”

Perhaps had I not drifted off so often in chemistry class I'd have had a better sense of the potential impact battery technology can have on the electrical issues now facing truck fleet managers.

Good thing people like those working at Johnson Controls, parent firm of Optima batteries, have a grasp of such powerful stuff. The company recently completed extensive research to provide what it calls ‘a potential solution” for fleet owners now dealing with several key vehicle electrical-related issues.

In a new Optima Batteries white paper, “The Case for Advanced Technology Batteries in Heavy Duty Trucking Applications,” the company argues that it has developed a product — its new Group 31 YellowTop battery — that addresses four specific factors it says are “driving truck owners toward advanced technology” batteries:

  • New anti-idling regulations in the U.S.

  • Increased fleet operating costs

  • New drivers' hour-of-service (HOS) rules

  • Increased “driver comfort “ loads and electrical draw in long-haul trucks

The paper, referencing a FleetOwner August ‘01 special idling report, points out that many states either have anti-idling laws in effect or pending — and many cities and counties are enacting their own local rules, either to thwart noise or ensure clean air.

The authors point out the various anti-idling regs stand “in stark contrast” to federal HOS reform, putting fleets and drivers in a true pickle. Even as idling is being clamped down on, drivers must rest at least 10 hours after driving a maximum of 11 hours.

And during their downtime, drivers typically switch on their trucks to power up heating, cooling, phones, laptops and entertainment devices.

So, as Optima Batteries sees it, more and more of these driver power demands will be met by shifting from the engine to rely more on the electrical system as a power source, placing a premium on battery performance.

There is greater electrical draw not just from driver-comfort “hotel loads” but also from satellite tracking and other communications gear onboard. Optima Batteries says that, according to a Land Line magazine report, a typical highway tractor had a cumulative current draw of 30 amps a decade ago but now is drawing up to 120 amps with demand continuing to rise. Some of that added demand is coming from under the hood, thanks to electronic engines, ABS and other new electrically driven systems.

Optima says its new YellowTop battery was specifically designed to help address today's electrical environment. The paper says there are two key advantages to using these batteries under heavy electrical loads: higher starting voltage for stronger cranking power than “traditional” batteries and deep-cycle capability that allows them to be discharged to a low voltage and charged back up to a maximum voltage

According to Optima, its Group 31 YellowTop battery's SpiralCell technology can deliver these advantages to truck operators:

  • Optimal starting power
  • Up to 15 times the vibration resistance
  • Up to twice the cycle life
  • Lower self-discharge (for longer shelf life)
  • Leak-proof and spill-proof
  • Faster recharging capability

Oh, yeah, there's one more advantage to the new batteries. They're maintenance-free.

To download a PDF version, go to www.stirmarketing.com/whitepaper.