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I have read online many slightly different methods for charging flooded lead acid (FLA) batteries. My real situation is this: I have six 6V FLA batteries wired in series in a 36V golf cart. They are all of medium age and medium health. The cart can make 18 holes ok but then seems to get sluggish. However, a normal charge using a 36V 21A (max) charger takes 4 to 8 hours to complete the entire charge cycle. I want to be able to fast charge the battery bank in 1 hour while I take a break for lunch, enough to play another 18 holes. What I am wondering is suppose after the first 18 holes the batteries are at a 30% state of charge (SoC) (70% discharged). I read online that as long as the charge voltage remains less than 2.4V per cell, a FLA battery can take any large amount of current but once that critical charge voltage is exceeded, the charge current MUST be slowed significantly. This is somewhat analogous to filling the gas tank on a lawn mower. When the tank is almost empty, you can begin to fill it quickly since it will accept it. However, as the tank becomes closer to full, you have to pour the gas in progressively slower as it may splash out otherwise.

So here is what I am proposing and I am asking here if it will work. After the first 18 holes, I put the batteries on a 3 rapid chargers (12V each), each capable of 55A. The six 6V batteries are rated at about 200Ah each but since they are medium age and medium health, I would say they have no more than about 150Ah of actual capacity so 55A is a little more than 1/3rd of the actual capacity.

Potential problems I have read about doing this are that FLA batteries have chemistry that takes time for the charge to spread. Therefore, there may be an excessively high charge in the electrolyte near the battery terminals but not yet uniformly distributed throughout the battery. This may "trick" the charger into wrongly thinking the battery is in a higher SoC than it really is in and as a result, wrongly shorten the charge cycle. If there was an effective (and safe) way to agitate the electrolyte during the rapid charge cycle, that might help, but I am not sure how to do this. Perhaps I could just shake the golf cart every 15 minutes or so to help?

So assuming the 3 chargers can each put 55A into the batteries for 1 hour, it seems that should be enough for maybe 9 more holes, possibly 18 more. I will be able to get a great price on three 12V 55A chargers soon so it is much cheaper for me to do this rapid charge method than to just purchase higher capacity batteries. It is also more fun.

One thing I have to be careful of is each 12V 55A charger will draw about 1000 watts so I can only use 1 per outlet here which means I will have to run 2 "beefy" extension cords from 2 other outlets not on the same 120V 15A breaker so some additional precautions will have to be taken. 3000 watts total of charge power is a little scary.

So will this method work or is charging at about C/3 (where C is the capacity of the battery in Ah at the 20 hour drain rate) risky for used FLA batteries in medium health? Remember I am not trying to rapid charge back to 100%, just speed thru the bulk charge phase in 1 hour is my goal. What I am thinking is if I had healthy new batteries, they would likely accept this fast charge method, but because my batteries are used and of medium health, the charger may sense this and quickly reduce the current from 55A to something the battery can better manage such as 40A or even less, thus somewhat defeating the purpose of the fast chargers. I do know the batteries I have WILL accept the full 21A charge from the 36V charger as the ammeter on it sweeps up to 21A and the charger sucks about 900 watts out of the wall (I measured it), so the batteries are still in a decent state of health.

Also I should mention that I don't need to do this rapid charge often. It is only when I want to play a LOT of golf in the same day and don't want to wait 2 hours to get 40Ah of charge back into the battery bank.

Also, just for fun, since the 12V 55A charger is on wheels, I could tow it to the nearby golf course I play on (only 1/4 mile away) and lock it up there. Before taking my 1 hour lunchbreak/rest in the clubhouse, I could quickly rewire the 36V bank in series/parallel for 12V and just apply the 55A to all, using the courtesy outlets there. That is better than nothing. If after the 27th hole it gets sluggish again, I can take a 2nd 1 hour break and repeat the charge. AN even easier way would be to charge each 12V pair for 20 minutes during my break. That would require no rewiring of the 36V bank so after the 1 hour I just disconnect the charger and play more golf.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think it is OK to charge a 200 Ah battery at 55 A with a multi-stage charger that respects voltage limits. I would not hesitate to do it. You kind of glossed over an important point, though. Are you planning to put the chargers in series? Or are you going to disconnect the batteries (into pairs) while charging? It may not be safe to have the chargers in series. They may very well have the negative battery terminal connected to earth ground on the AC side. If you do not see the problem, try drawing it out. If you still don't see it, tag me and I will draw a picture. \$\endgroup\$ – mkeith Sep 18 '16 at 3:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, post links to model of battery and charger so we can look up more info. \$\endgroup\$ – mkeith Sep 18 '16 at 3:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have charged a 36V bank of six 6V batteries many times without disconnecting them just by placing three 12V chargers on each pair of batteries. There doesn't seem to be any problem doing this as each charger only sees 12V of the 36V total. So no I am not putting any chargers in series but I am also NOT disconnecting the 36V bank. The 12V 55A capable chargers are Schumacher SE-1555A and the golf cart batteries are Powertron P2000. amazon.com/Schumacher-SE-1555A-Automatic-Wheeled-Battery/dp/…. No link for the P2000 batteries sorry but you can search for them online. \$\endgroup\$ – David Sep 18 '16 at 3:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Cool. Hopefully it will be OK, then. In a sense they are in series. As far as voltages go they are. So obviously, the negative terminal is not connected to earth ground on the chargers you have. \$\endgroup\$ – mkeith Sep 18 '16 at 4:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mkeith - I don't yet have the 55A chargers but the ones I have are the same brand (Schumacher) so I am assuming they will have similar behavior. It is a great convenience to be able to keep the 36V bank wired in series as the three 12V chargers work their magic. I can even monitor the entire bank voltage if I want such as up to about 45V while charging. The only way to know for sure if this will work is to try it and monitor it closely (check input wattage, check battery for excessive boiling of electrolye...). I think if I monitor and stop after 2.4V per cell I should be fine. \$\endgroup\$ – David Sep 18 '16 at 4:18
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Trojan application note about lead acid batteries suggest only 13% of the capacity. That is 26A for 200AH batteries. I tried once charging my UPS Batteries at home at higher rating that 13% with a UPS that has a programmable charging curve (so current is high only at first stage-constant current). I found that the batteries released more heat and gassed more when exceeding the recommended charging voltage. I guess the battery temperature should be monitored especially when taking into consideration that the internal resistance of the batteries will increase as the battery is used.

I once emailed crown batteries company and they say that it's actually OK to charge at very high current as long as the maximum charging voltage is not voilated with no side effecta. So that contradicted with what trojan recommended. Trojan said that it will shorten the battery life.

I suggest you try and charge the battery while monitoring the temperature and making sure you're not boiling your batteries while charging.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It seems to me that if I just put a voltmeter across one 12V subbank and manually stop the charge when the charging voltage hits 14.4V (or after 1 hour whichever comes first), I should be ok. I also think it would be beneficial to shake the cart every 15 minutes or so to help move the fluid around in the battery. Perhaps even charging with the vent caps removed will help. I could even blow a fan across the batteries with the caps removed to also help cool the electrolyte. Some of this stuff is experimental. I will just have to try this idea and observe what happens. \$\endgroup\$ – David Sep 18 '16 at 13:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Dont ever remove the caps as they prevent the acid from exiting the battery when the battery gas or boil. Fan will absolutely help to cool the battrries so it's a good idea \$\endgroup\$ – Latchup Sep 18 '16 at 13:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also I wish someone made battery vent caps that were much taller, so when slamming the batteries with high charge current, if they start to bubble "violently", the caps would be tall enough to not allow the electrolyte to splash out , yet they would let some heat escape. I suppose I could make something like this myself by drilling out some old spare caps and adding the vertical tubes (a few inches long). Not sure what the ideal length would be but it should be long enough not to let the electrolyte splash out but an effective length to promote cooling. Someone should make and sell these. \$\endgroup\$ – David Sep 18 '16 at 13:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ I could just bring a small fan with me to the golf course and while charging, blow the fan across the batteries using the same power outlet as the charger is on. I will also check using my Kill-A-Watt meter, if the charger is actually drawing full power from the outlet (about 1000 watts). I've noticed that some outlets don't provide as much power as others. Perhaps longer wiring and more voltage drop under heavy load. Some chargers are more sensitive to low input voltage than others. \$\endgroup\$ – David Sep 18 '16 at 13:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, F.Y.I., one of the 6 batteries is a "standout" as it is significantly newer than the other 5. I was thinking while rapid charging all 6, I could put a 12V fan in parallel with this best battery, hopefully to better balance the charge. If that doesn't work then I may just remove that "standout" battery and replace it with one more "on par" (pun intended) with the other 5. I already have this other battery but it needs a battery post replaced first before I can put it into service. \$\endgroup\$ – David Sep 18 '16 at 13:56
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The weakest cells need to be recharged 1st then stopped.

Series cells fail due to weak link theory Overcharging it will reduce life and weakest cell determines overall capacity. So a balanced charger is essential.*

Matched cells ?

If you realize that flooded lead acid batteries are in every car made of 6 perfectly matched series cells. If they all aged at the same slow rate, they would all fail together, but this never happens.

It is always one or two cells due to the runaway factor that causes weaker cells to age faster when overcharged which amplifies the difference. From my past research, I recall cells are matched in attributes to <1% from quality sources and >2% is defective when new. This is for 6 and 12 cell batteries made in one batch, not the tolerance between batteries made in different batches.

The exact same analogy exists with putting parallel LEDs in tandem and running at highest current. From the same batch it runs fine, but from batch to batch, you can get thermal runaway at max current. The more LEDs in parallel, the lower the tolerance to mismatch for current hogging. THe same theory applies to series cells in charging batteries. The weakest cell gets over/under-charged first.

Max current?

Consider that cars can consume over 500A for 20 seconds in extreme cold weather with high engine friction and that may or may not start the car at -30 ~ -40'C (more Amps with V-8's).

Also your alternator matched to your engine size may be capable of fast charging from 60 t0 120A without any current limiting and only using Vbat sensing which is ideally 14.2V for desuplhating the battery without excessive electrolyte evaporation.

So when optimizing golf cart charger process ( or any motive power charger) due to a wide variance of aged cells in a series you must consider a charge balancer design.

[example]1

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REferences

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