Battery Best Practices

Was the DC to AC inverter lying around too? Or did you have to purchase that for this use?

yes ours is still going strong after 2 years and an anderson connector soldered to it

How long do you leave the 100amp load on, and what is your voltage criterion for pass/fail?

FRC Team 2949 PWNAGE just finished building a new battery cart. It consists of 12 batteries, 9 charger banks, a BatteryBeak, Spill Kit, 2 DeWalt chargers, extra AndyMark Battery Clips, and a removable lid. Some pictures below show the setup.

The DeWalt chargers and spill kit still needed to be added since these pictures were taken. The DeWalt chargers are mounted on the plate on the top middle of the cart (in-between the chargers). The spill kit goes under the 2 3-Bank chargers. Eventually with some more fundraising done we will switch out the 3 1-Bank chargers for 2 more 3-Bank chargers.

I would be happy to answer any questions about it. I had just uploaded a couple of pictures of it to CD a couple of days ago, but apparently hey still haven’t been approved… anyway let me know what you think.

More pictures can be found at our fb page (Like us!):


  1. All of them (we only have 4)
  2. 2, maybe? (we only have 1 right now)
  3. We plug them into the charger to see it they’re charged (no Beak yet)
  4. Nope
  5. Charge them always. They run out of juice super fast.

Can’t wait to see it.

  1. My team takes all of our batteries from the last 3 years to competitions
  2. My team takes a “battery cart” that has 4 chargers connected to a single wall outlet
  3. My team puts each battery through a cycle of discharges over decreasing loads using the incandescent lightbulbs also on the battery cart. this conditions the battery and can restore some lost capacity. The battery cart is fully automated with an Arduino microcontroller and can condition 2 batteries at once. for electrical schematics and datasheets and eventually source code for the Arduino, search “team 955 battery cart” on google and select the first option.
  4. besides charge them?
  5. don’t store batteries partially discharged for long periods of time.
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Can you provide a link to an authoritative source for a technical discussion of this phenomenon?

I suspect the attempt here is to remove some sulfation on batteries that have sat around for a long (many months) time. Batteries self discharge over time so it is impossible to store partially stored batteries. (see battery sheet on self discharge specifications) However, it is best to charge batteries before storage and keep them in a temperature controlled environment. i.e. Don’t allow them to winter in an unheated garage or to sit in an closed shed during the heat of summer.

I have also known of some people doing this with brand new batteries since SLA batteries reach top performance after a few proper charge discharge cycles. A friend of mine actually holds a world record for an electric vehicle race, and does things like this. The random discharge cycles a new battery might experience are not likely to be ideal in conditioning a new battery if left to chance. I have never tried this though because from what I understand the benefit is modest at best, and doing this to incorrectly can actually increase sulfation and other battery problems. I might try it someday, but right now it has not made it very high up on the priority list.

What we do right now is to never deeply discharge any battery. We try to always get a battery onto the charger immediately after use to avoid sulfation. We also store the batteries in a cool but not cold location and top up the charge regularly (at least monthly, preferably weekly) on any unused batteries. And our newest competition batteries do not get used for driver testing or software development where they can easily be over stressed before anyone notices. Someday we will try to increase our knowledge of and attention to proper battery care. But for now just a few basics seem to have made a significant difference for us.

Hey Al,
Thanks for your informative post about the West Mountain Radio unit. We bought one awhile back and have yet to really understand how best to use the thing. We can’t seem to test a load with more than 7.2 amps and even then the results are hard to interpret (for us).

Would you mind laying out a few steps and settings you use to test it?

Thanks very much in advance.

The 7.2 amps is sufficient. set your cutoff voltage to 7-8 volts, which is the cutoff for most of the battery spec sheets. It will take more than a hour to run the test. After a few minutes the battery voltage should fall a slight amount. This is due to any remaining surface charge and the all of the components reaching a set temperature. After that the voltage should remain relatively constant until the end of the test when the curves start to drop off to the 8 volt limit. The program runs constant amp hour calculations and should match the battery curve very nicely on a good battery. What you are looking for is a drop of 2 volts during any part of the test. This is one of the cells giving up. I have a had a few batteries where one gives up and then a second gives up a little later. The cell loses capacity if the electrolyte is not full in that cell or if one or more plates have broken within the cell. On a rare occasion a battery will start off at 10 volts indicating a cell is shorted. Once the test is complete, save it with a unique ID that you also mark on the battery. That way you can track the same battery from year to year and watch for end of life when the battery no longer can ~18 amp hours. The program also allows you to overlay several curves so you can look at the same battery annual curves or you can compare batteries you want to use for competition. The 7 amp discharge is nowhere near what the robots will pull during a match but remember you are testing to manufacturer spec in this test and that is really the only valid test to determine if the battery meets spec. I also recommend that if you are testing a suspect battery, try moving the cables around and tap on the battery to see if you turn up any intermittent voltage dips. We added an Anderson connector to our CBA II to make it easy and all of our chargers are also so equipped with the APP connectors. We do not use alligator clips and neither should you.
If you search, I put up some curves a long time ago to demonstrate all the possibilities.

Is this the one?

Here’s one from Hugh Meyer:

Yep, but I didn’t want to make it that easy.

I am also a proponent of the West Mountain Radio CBA III. I agree at first, you will not know how to interpret the results, especially since the graphs auto-scale to fill the screen.

The real value of the results shows up when you overlay the test results. Then you see the differences between tests. I test each battery at the beginning of the season and do an overlay of all the batteries. It becomes easy to see which batteries are the strongest and which are getting weak.

The other use is when a battery is suspected of getting weak. Test it again and overlay the results with the test you did at the beginning of the season.

Bad cells and broken internal connections are quickly spotted with the CBA III.

If a team was short on money and can’t afford the Battery Beak and a CBA III, I’d take the CBA III. It’s only shortcoming is it can’t be used quickly in the pits. You must be disciplined enough to test all your batteries ahead of time.

Another recommendation I make is (and I think some of the posters here were alluding to it) is to number your competition batteries and use them in sequence. Don’t fall into the trap of saying “Battery 3 was strong that last match, let’s use it again.” Pretty soon, you have overused battery 3 and it’s your weakest one.

Batteries need to be given time to charge, as well as time to cool after charging. Having more batteries than you need and rotating them in sequence allows them to be used equally and be given the best operating conditions.

A two minute match along with a few minutes of power on before a match should not come anywhere near depleting these batteries. If you run a match, then charge them, they should be able to be charged back to full capacity fairly quickly. You don’t need one charger per battery. A 1-2 or 1-3 ratio should be enough.

I find that the most damaging thing to the batteries is practice and demos. We get playing with the robot and run it for 10-15 minutes until someone notices the battery won’t drive the robot anymore. By then you’ve severely depleted the battery. They only can take so much of that.