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Keeping Up With The Changes

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Today’s automotive battery has undergone an evolution of change since its humble beginnings more than 180 years ago.  But some of the most significant changes have occurred in only the last ten years.

Modern cars demand more powerful batteries to cope with advances such as electronic ignition systems, on-board computers, air conditioning, mobile phones and central locking.  Compared to 30 years ago when the average car produced a typical total load of 275-300 watts, today an average car can produce a total need of 1500-2000 watts, (with all electrical accessories turned on).

This significant increase in demand prompted a dramatic shift in the method of determining battery power.  In the past, a battery’s power was determined by the number of plates per cell which proved to be misleading.  As technology changed and times became more competitive, manufacturers started reducing the size of batteries.  Although the number of plates remained constant, the area of lead, the true determinant of a battery’s power, was reduced.

As a result, Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) ratings are now the internationally recognised industry standard for accurately determining true battery starting power.  The higher the CCA rating, the more powerful the battery producing higher starting voltages to meet the demands placed upon it.

CCA ratings required for powering the average Australian car have also steadily increased from 220-250 CCA in 1960, to 375-400 CCA in 1990.  A battery purchased below the original equipment specification set by the car manufacturer is considered undersized and will result in a shorter battery life, reduced cranking power and increased starter motor power draw.

Another Significant advancement has been the appearance of the maintenance free and low maintenance type battery.  The low maintenance battery was developed using grids of plates manufactured from a combination of lead and alloys.  As a result, it only requires the addition of electrolyte only once per year.  The maintenance free battery does not require the addition of electrolyte for the normal life of the battery due to an even more refined grid construction.
This article is found in the Virtual mechanic CD Rom
You can download it for the price of a latte, but you will learn not to buy a lemon
By Darren Gow-Brown, Melbourne Australia

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