Lead-Acid Battery Charging Methods

Passing direct current through the battery in a direction opposite to that of the discharge current may charge a storage battery. Because of the internal resistance (IR) in the battery, the voltage of the external charging source must be greater than the open circuit voltage. For example, the open circuit voltage of a fully charged 12 cell, lead-acid battery is approximately 26.4 volts (12 × 2.2 volts), but approximately 28 volts are required to charge it. This larger voltage is needed for charging because of the voltage drop in the battery caused by the internal resistance. Hence, the charging voltage of a lead-acid battery must equal the open circuit voltage plus the IR drop within the battery (product of the charging current and the internal resistance).

Batteries are charged by either the constant voltage or constant current method. In the constant voltage method (Figure 10-187A), a motor generator set with

a constant, regulated voltage forces the current through the battery. In this method, the current at the start of the process is high but automatically tapers off, reaching a value of approximately 1 ampere when the battery is fully charged. The constant voltage method requires less time and supervision than does the constant current method.

In the constant current method (Figure 10-187B), the current remains almost constant during the entire charging process.

This method requires a longer time to charge a battery fully and, toward the end of the process, presents the danger of overcharging, if care is not exercised.

In the aircraft, the storage battery is charged by direct current from the aircraft generator system. This method of charging is the constant voltage method, since the generator voltage is held constant by use of a voltage regulator.

When a storage battery is being charged, it generates a certain amount of hydrogen and oxygen. Since this is an explosive mixture, it is important to take steps to prevent ignition of the gas mixture. Loosen the vent caps and leave in place. Do not permit open flames, sparks, or other sources of ignition in the vicinity. Before disconnecting or connecting a battery to the charge, always turn off the power by means of a remote switch.

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