Since the early 1980’s with the introduction of envelope separators and advanced grid plate designs, junk battery studies show that the average age of batteries in non-cycling engine starting applications, in northern climates like Canada, is approximately 59 months (just shy of 5 years) in new vehicles. This number has continued fairly consistent over the past 25 years with some studies showing the average age of ‘old batteries’ as high as 64 months in the same climates. This longer life could be due to the introduction of smaller engine displacements, gear reduction starters and fuel injection systems, all of which decrease the demands placed on engine starting batteries. This trend of increased life however has now come to an end.
With the introduction of start-stop systems in vehicles over the past several years we are seeing a steep decline in battery life in all climates with the average battery age as low as 24 months in these start-stop vehicles. The challenge with this application is the average starting battery is now being asked to perform double duty, not only is it providing engine starting duty but is now being called upon to run the entire vehicle electrical load while the engine is off which means it is no longer a starting battery but also a deep cycle battery.
To remedy this, manufacturers have introduced AGM (Absorbed Glass Material) batteries that are designed to withstand increased cycling requirements. AGM batteries are also maintenance-free which means they eliminate the need for maintaining electrolyte levels in the battery, which is helpful as batteries are often located deep in engine or passenger compartments that are not readily accessible. The other new technology on the market today is the introduction of EFB or Enhanced Flooded Batteries that are designed to provide engine starting functions as well as having the ability to withstand hundreds of cycles like the demands of start-stop systems.
To ensure maximum battery life in these types of applications it is very important that batteries are replaced with the proper type once they have failed. Automotive industry experts are reporting that up to 38% of battery replacements in start-stop vehicles today are being replaced with the incorrect battery type. In many cases consumers are choosing to replace AGM or EFB batteries with traditional standard batteries due to cost, consequently these traditional starting batteries will not stand up in these applications further reducing the life and increasing battery replacement costs over the lifetime of the vehicle. In order to ensure the start-stop vehicles will operate as they were designed, it is imperative that consumers and installers be mindful that these start-stop applications require the replacement battery to be of the same technology as the manufacturer recommends in order for the vehicle to operate as it was designed.