Lead Acid Chargers
Last Reviewed: Mon, 27/Mar/2017
Types of chargers
The type of charger you choose must be compatible with the battery chemistry. Sealed Lead Acid and Gel batteries use the same type of charger. The charge process is essentially done in three stages:
1) Fast Charge - at the beginning of the charge cycle, the charger delivers its maximum current. Higher current removes sulfation from the battery plates. Sulfation is the solid yellow-brown material you can see sticking to the lead plates. It blocks the chemical reaction between the electrolyte and the plate, which reduces the battery's capacity. Too much current will boil the electrolyte, so be sure to choose a charger that produces current within the manufacturer's rating for the battery. Generally, the higher the battery's capacity, the more current it can handle.
2) Constant current or constant voltage - depending on the type of charger, a lower amount of voltage or current is supplied as the battery reaches its rated voltage. The lower amount of power assures that the electrolyte is not boiled and continues until the battery is fully charged.
3) Float or trickle - a small amount of current is supplied to keep the battery at full capacity.
So-called intelligent chargers can be left on indefinitely. All chargers sold by ElectricRider can be left connected indefinitely. However, it's a good idea to disconnect the charger from the battery pack and the AC power outlet when the batteries have reached capacity because electricity is still used for the float cycle and there is no reason to waste the power. Some chargers will very slowly discharge a battery if removed from AC power and not disconnected from the battery pack, so always disconnect from the pack when disconnecting from AC.
Chemistries besides lead acid
Other batteries such as NiMH, Lithium Ion, and LiFePO4 require a different charging profile than lead acid. Always choose a charger specifically made for the battery pack you are using. Use of the wrong charger can destroy the battery, the charger, and even cause a fire. Lithium-based battery packs have a circuit board called a Battery Management System, and the charger must be compatible not only with the battery chemistry, but also with the BMS.