The trouble and cost involved in replacing an industrial battery can be immense. So it is recommended that you use a good battery charger for not only continuous performance of the machine but also for the long life of the battery. The evolving needs of machines, in terms of the functionalities, sizes and power capacities they require from chargers, have led to considerable innovations in the field. This has resulted in the development of more powerful, smaller and affordable battery chargers.
By Priyanka Kumari
Among the many concerns regarding one’s machines or motor vehicles is the life and efficiency of the battery. Given the inconvenience and expense incurred in replacement, no one would like the battery to die at critical times. The solution lies in a good battery charger for the efficient maintenance of batteries. A battery charger reduces the worry of changing the battery every time it runs low or dies, as many chargers provide a jumper function, especially in the case of vehicles.
In simple terms, a battery charger puts energy into a secondary cell or rechargeable battery by forcing electric current through it. Heavy-duty industrial battery chargers are generally constant voltage instruments with a built-in current limiting feature and precise voltage regulation for optimal performance.
Industrial battery chargers
An industrial battery charger is used to charge huge battery banks besides providing direct current (DC) output to the load. It converts alternate current (AC) into low voltage AC or low voltage DC. An industrial battery and charger always go together, like a horse and a carriage. Since an industrial battery generally needs a high rate charger, the protocol of charging depends on the type and size of the battery. While many good batteries have a high tolerance overcharging capacity, some cannot withstand the high rate and require the charger to have a voltage sensing or temperature sensing circuit—a microprocessor controller to adjust the charging current and cut-off at the end. These chargers normally have a high efficiency rate and do not need additional maintenance.
A drained battery should be recharged as soon as possible to avoid being damaged, and to improve its performance and longevity. The polarity must be observed while charging; if the battery or battery bank are reverse-connected, it might lead to damage or an explosion. Additionally, it is advisable to check each battery before charging to ensure that it has not been damaged during operation, since such batteries may release harmful gases and acids. They may damage the equipment and injure the people around.
Applications of industrial battery chargers
Some of the common applications include distributed control panel (DSC) systems, golf carts, utility services, pallet jacks, floor care machines, electrical vehicles, co-generation projects and scissor lifts, among others. These chargers are important in key industries like oil and gas, railways, substations, telecommunications and power plants.
Types of industrial battery chargers
Battery chargers fall broadly under two categories —single phase and three phase, with the latter option most commonly used. These chargers are classified based on their application, and the common ones are thermal, power, industrial equipment, uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems, power supply backup, the electronics industry, etc. We will also discuss chargers based on the battery type and configuration.
On the basis of battery type: Under this category, there are four different varieties of chargers.
- High frequency: This is a more efficient way of charging large batteries like those used in electric forklifts. In comparison to a SCR or ferro-resonant type of charger and based on the efficiency of the equipment, this charger can have a standard power saving of 7-15 per cent.
- Silicon controlled rectifiers (SCR): These regulate the charging current by allowing the battery to determine its own charge cycle rate in accordance with its state of discharge. They provide a constant current-constant voltage-constant current (I-E-I) charge, thereby eliminating the possibility of overcharging, even with line voltage variations of +/-10 per cent. This allows the battery to discharge at the proper current, regardless of its age or temperature. This is known to be a cost-effective option with multi-voltage capability for flooded and sealed maintenance-free batteries.
- Ferro-resonant: This is an industry standard for flooded lead acid batteries and is recognised for its reliability, minimal maintenance requirements and modest upfront costs. Its power conversion circuitry maximises battery life with its constantly tapering charge. It is generally automatically regulated by the ‘on charge’ battery voltage. The output current is determined by the state of discharge of the battery, and the battery gets accurately charged based on its depth of discharge.
- SCR/ferro-resonant hybrid: This uses a blend of SCR and ferro-resonant technology to improve efficiency when charging standard flooded and sealed maintenance-free batteries.
- n the basis of battery configuration: In this category too, battery chargers are segmented in four ways.
- Float and boost chargers: In this sub-category, while the float charger (FC) is connected to the load bus directly, the boost is connected to the battery. The FC supplies DC load as a constant voltage, whereas the boost charger (BC) quickly charges a discharged battery at constant current, as needed. The DC contractor is connected between the battery and the load bus. It connects the battery to the load either when the boost charge is completed, on the failure of the float charger or when the AC supply fails. This system is used to guarantee uninterrupted DC power for the connected DC load.
- Float-cum-boost chargers (FCBC): In this system, both float and boost charging is possible at the same time by using a single converter. In float mode, the charger connects directly to the load bus along with floating to meet the DC load at a constant voltage. In boost mode, the battery gets charged at the constant current rate. The load is connected through a controlled dropper so that the boost voltage does not affect it. It is known to be a low-cost charger for low voltage ranges.
- Float and float-cum-boost chargers (FC and FCBC): In both these cases, two converters each are used for FCs and FCBCs. The float supplies the connected DC load and trickle charges the floating battery bank to keep it in a fully charged state, so that it can be used to supply load during power failures or any other issue. FCBCs quickly charge the battery if it is discharged; they also restore its full capacity in a short time to supply the load if the float charger fails.
- Dual float-cum-boost chargers (dual FCBCs): With two similar float-cum-boost chargers, it connects with the battery and load circuit by using a mode selector switch. While one feeds the load in float mode, the second boost charges the battery in boost mode. In case the battery needs boost charging, then the charger in the boost mode performs its function and when terminated, the charger changes to float mode automatically.
Tips on choosing the right battery charger
Recent innovations have made rechargeable industrial batteries both cost and energy efficient. Let’s look at the various charging options along with the key tips to choose the right charger.
- Determine the battery type: It is important to note that while some chargers may work for multiple types of batteries, others may be specific to a particular type. Some of the main types of batteries commonly used are flooded, gel, AGM (absorbent glass mat), VRLA and maintenance-free.
- Type of battery and compatible chargers: A high frequency charger can be used to charge all lead acid batteries. The SCR and SCR/ferro-resonant type of charger is suitable for standard flooded and sealed maintenance-free batteries. Ferro-resonant chargers are usually used for flooded lead acid batteries.
- Charging time: This is a critical component while choosing the charger and depends on the size of the battery (the amps it holds). The size determines the time taken to get completely charged using a specific charger. A charger with a lower amp rating will lengthen the charging time. Such chargers are generally less expensive.
Key market dynamics
Due to the continuously changing needs of end user devices—like better functionality, efficiency, size and a higher power capacity—chargers are evolving to become more powerful, smaller and affordable. Additionally, newer safe-charging mechanisms that help to prevent overcharging and that protect the battery during charging are driving the growth of the market. Innovation in charging technology, increasing demand for battery-powered devices and the rising need for high-end power management systems will further boost the market’s growth.
In the coming days, India is expected to see a substantial increase in market size due to considerable growth in demand for battery supported systems that help in regulating power frequency and energy storage. Rapid growth in the manufacturing sector, including in electronics and automotive, will further add to the market size. Opportunities also exist in the off-grid and micro grid renewable energy systems domain, which will see sizeable growth.
A few of the latest battery chargers in the market
|Product: Fury X-3, Manufacturer: Exide Technologies|
|This new line of chargers for industrial fleet applications has an advanced 24V, 36V and 48V multi-voltage modular design. The chargers use the silicon carbide metal oxide semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET) power technology for fast charging to reduce infrastructure costs, service downtime and the carbon footprint.
Contact details: www.exide.com
|Product: BC-1000 industrial float battery charger Manufacturer: Eagle Eye Power Solutions|
|This stationary charger is transformer based and can be used in utility, switchgear and other industrial environments. It is designed with remote DC voltage sensing and battery temperature sensors.
Contact details: www.eepowersolutions.com
|Product: BC-2200 modular float battery charger and power supply Manufacturer: Eagle Eye Power Solutions|
|Based on a modular and redundant platform design, it uses industrial switch mode technology and can be used for a range of battery types including vented lead-acid (VLA), valve regulated lead-acid (VRLA), and nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd). The hot swappable charger comes with Web based software, which can be accessed from any PC, tablet or smartphone.
Contact details: www.eepowersolutions.com
|Product: BC-2500 modular float battery charger and power supply Manufacturer: Eagle Eye Power Solutions|
|In this charger, all parameters are measured in real-time with Ethernet communication and can be accessed from any computer or mobile device. All records can be downloaded to CSV, JSON, XML, TXT, SQL and Excel files.
Contact details: www.eepowersolutions.com
|Product: Float-cum-boost charger, Manufacturer: Enertech UPS Pvt Ltd|
|Equipped with both float and boost mode, this charger also comes in Phase 1 and Phase 3 variants. This ensures that the charger supplies DC load automatically. Manufactured as per ISO standards, it provides protection against overload, short-circuit and overcharge.
Contact details: www.enertechups.com