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Battery Science - Shocked

Battery Science For The Rest Of Us

Marcus DI Sabella
Apr 1, 2008
Photographer: E. John Thawley III
Htup_0804_01_z+honda_aftermarket_battery_and_relocation+password_jdm_battery_bracket Photo 1/11   |   Battery Science - Shocked

When an exhaust, coilovers, front lip, JDM interior trim or even power provided via ITBs or boost become standard fare, where do we go next? When all's been done and there's seemingly nothing more to do, might we suggest less as the new more? We speak, of course, of introducing weight reduction to your car's repertoire. Such a concept is not new since there's scarcely an aspect of vehicle performance that can't be improved upon by mass reduction. Indeed, a major reason why Hondas are such great cars is its favorable power-to-weight ratios. Removing interior bits and swapping items for lighter equivalents has become standard procedure, but only recently have we seen the compact, lightweight battery go mainstream.

The Basics
The car battery: A necessary evil for enthusiasts of all walks. Every car needs one and, given their size, they're inevitably heavy. Lead is the main ingredient here, which the periodic table tells us is rather heavy. Smaller batteries contain less lead and are therefore lighter but are less capable of discharging electricity. So it becomes important, before choosing a lightweight battery as a means of performance gains, to better understand them and their implications. Are you interested in the pros and cons of lightweight batteries and your Honda? Read on.

2018 Honda Civic
$18,940 Base Model (MSRP) 28/40 MPG Fuel Economy
Htup_0804_02_z+honda_aftermarket_battery_and_relocation+password_jdm_battery_relocation_bracket_kit Photo 2/11   |   The Password:JDM battery relocator mounts an Odyssey PC680MJ low in the engine compartment providing much needed underhood space for this EF chassis Civic.

Batteries are simply energy-storing power units called upon for operating electrical devices. They're made with lead plates that directly contact an electrolytic sulfuric acid solution. Lead-acid batteries use a liquid solution while dry cell, gel cell or absorbed glass mat (AGM) batteries use a liquid suspended within a solid medium. When a battery is connected to a circuit, electrons transfer between the plates, flowing electricity through the circuit to perform work.

Electricity flows based on two properties: voltage and current. Resistance is a property of the circuit, which impedes electrical flow and drops voltage. Voltage, resistance and current can all be mathematically related to one other. If high school physics left any impression you may be familiar with Ohm's law, where current (I) is equal to the amount of voltage (V) divided by the resistance (R) or I=V/R. The relationship makes sense. Relate volts to your engine's torque output and current to the car's speed. If resistance is high (a strong headwind or traveling uphill) a given amount of torque will result in a lower speed. This relationship is the basis for nearly all things electrical.

Resistance And Extreme Temperatures
The starter is the car's main electrical device in terms of power draw. The amount of power the starter requires to initially turn the engine over is related to the engine's size, compression ratio, number of accessories being driven, internal weights and friction. Each factor emits a greater mechanical resistance and that translates into electrical resistance within the starter system. To overcome it, a battery of adequate power potential must be selected. Likewise, in a car that has been modified in such a way that resistance has been reduced a smaller battery can be used.

Htup_0804_03_z+honda_aftermarket_battery_and_relocation+braille_battery_bracket Photo 3/11   |   Braille Auto offers a battery mount specifically for its batteries. Clean, solid mounting is a must when relocating to the rear. Sealed units do not need battery boxes.

It's also significant to understand that the chemical reaction that's taking place inside the battery is temperature sensitive. The energy discharge within creates heat. When subjected to cold temperatures, the battery becomes cold-soaked, inhibiting electron flow inside the electrolytic solution. It also promotes a sulfate barrier forming on the lead plates, which translates to higher internal resistance within the battery. Choosing a battery with low internal resistance is advantageous but a good rule of thumb is to use a battery warmer when you know it's going to get cold. This not only works for OEM batteries but lightweight ones too.

Conversely, high temperatures can cause the reverse to occur. When exposed to heat, batteries experience a lower internal resistance than normal. This might sound like a good thing but the result is a self-overcharging battery. A certain amount of internal resistance is needed in order to keep the chemical reaction in check. Otherwise, the lead plates will corrode and cause the battery to swell or expand. It can literally charge itself to death.

Cold Cranking Amps
Cold cranking amps (CCA) is an important figure to refer to when seeking a new battery. The general rule: Batteries should be replaced with ones with similar CCAs. Of course, this doesn't apply when choosing a lightweight battery since, in order to see a weight advantage, the battery will have just a fraction of a stock battery's CCA rating.

Htup_0804_04_z+honda_aftermarket_battery_and_relocation+odyssey_pc680_battery Photo 4/11   |   The Odyssey PC680 is not the most compact or lightest battery available but a solid reputation and an outstanding warranty make it a perennial favorite among enthusiasts.

Look no further than the definition of CCAs to make sense of this. The rating was developed for colder climates. Like we said, batteries and cold weather don't get along so the rating represents the extreme. A battery's capacity is reduced roughly 35 percent when subjected to a temperature of 32 degrees F, for example. At 0 degrees F, capacity drops another 60 percent. It's for this reason the CCA rating was developed-to define a battery's ability to start an engine during cold temperatures.

The CCA rating is the amount of amperage a brand-new, fully charged battery can output at 0 degrees F for a full 30 seconds while maintaining at least 7.2 volts. It goes without saying that the strain a battery undergoes during this test is much worse than what it would otherwise normally be subjected to. In other words, a car may need a certain number of cranking amps to start at 0 degrees F, yet this number is only 60 percent of what the battery's actual rating is at normal temps. As such, when choosing a car battery, consider not just the CCA rating but also the intended climate. Even those living in cold climates tend to store their vehicles during the winter. A lightweight, low CCA battery can be used the rest of the year in cases like these and hooked up to a battery-conditioning device the remainder of the time, but don't always take the CCA rating at face value. Swapping a battery is just as reasonable a winterizing effort as changing to snow tires.

Htup_0804_05_z+honda_aftermarket_battery_and_relocation+braille_b106_lightest_car_battery Photo 5/11   |   The Braille B106 is the lightest automotive use battery we've seen. Its 6-pound, 6-ounce weight belies an impressive 230 CCA capability. Braille's terminals are also the lightest in the industry at 3 ounces per pair.

OEM battery-load testing is conducted at 50 percent CCA, indicating CCA ratings nearly twice that necessary to function properly. This means the standard issue '95 Civic 410 CCA batteries may be safely replaced with 205 CCA versions and start just fine. Practically speaking, any battery rated over 130 CCA will start such examples perfectly well in daily driving situations.

It's almost comical how battery companies manipulate ratings and figures to indicate the type of levels that make people feel safer purchasing them. The reality is, most Hondas exhibit fairly low starting requirements. Properly maintained and/or daily driven performance-oriented Civics, CRXs and Integras can get away with minimal battery power.

Battery Capacities
Sitting batteries drain over time, dropping the voltage available for starting. This capacity is defined by the amount of amperage a battery can dole out over time-its amp/hour (Ah) rating. For example, a 50Ah battery can power a 1-amp device for 50 hours, continuously, without being disconnected or recharged. So, the time it takes for a battery to drain depends on whether or not there's an excessive parasitic draw.

Htup_0804_06_z+honda_aftermarket_battery_and_relocation+sae_standard_battery_terminals_not_jdm Photo 6/11   |   Pay attention to the terminals. Opt for SAE standard size parts for U.S. market cars in order to retain stock battery cables and clamps. JDM batteries have terminals that are smaller and require new clamps.

For reference, a '92 Civic's expected parasitic draw is roughly 10 mA, or .01 amps. A stock Civic battery is rated at about 40 Ah. This resting Civic would run completely dry in 4,000 hours, or about five and a half months. Compare that with an Odyssey PC545 that is rated at 13 Ah and will die in about 1,300 hours, or almost two months. Keep in mind though that you can forget about starting that Civic once below 10 volts and 12-14 days is just about the maximum any lightweight race battery should remain connected to a non-operating vehicle. The true compromise when opting for the lightweight racing battery is exposed. Sure, the 15 to 20 pound weight savings are nice but allowing lightweight batteries to sit for long periods of time just isn't possible. Notice though that the sitting time is still rather reasonable for a daily driver. In fact, daily drivers can expect lightweight batteries to last anywhere from three to five years, even longer when properly maintained.

Htup_0804_07_z+honda_aftermarket_battery_and_relocation+braille_side_mount_battery Photo 7/11   |   A few batteries offer side-mount terminals, which allow more convenient cable routing in some cases. Look for this feature if space is tight.

The Death Of A Battery
Two factors can contribute to a battery's demise: overcharging and deep discharging. Overcharging occurs when batteries are subjected to excessive heat. Likewise, charging a battery too much or too often will result in similar consequences, only manually. Over-activating a battery's cells can cause its plates to corrode, severely shortening its service life. Generally speaking, temperatures above 100 degrees F should be avoided and compact, sealed batteries should never be charged above 2 amps.

Deep discharging is also bad because with each charge and discharge, material is removed from the inner lead plates. Once the plates shed material holes can develop, reducing the plates' surface area and diminishing electrical production. When left uncharged for long periods of time, the shed lead goes into solution, forming a lead sulfate buildup that collects on the surface of the plate and further inhibits electrical production. The lead sulfate crystals are difficult to break up during charging and can permanently impact a battery's well being. If a battery dies, it should be charged right away.

Recharging And MaintenanceGenerally speaking, once a battery discharges permanent damage may have occurred. If conditions permit, a battery may be recharged back to its full capacity or at least within a reasonable range of it. The process must be done slowly though. Lightweight racing batteries must be charged at a rate of 2 amps or less. Caution must be taken since most of these are sealed types, which means they cannot easily vent their hydrogen gases, resulting in overheating or explosion if charged at high rates. Bulging cases are evidence of overcharging or charging at too high a rate.

Htup_0804_08_z+honda_aftermarket_battery_and_relocation+nrgcell_battery_conditioner_charger Photo 8/11   |   NRGcell's Conditioner allows for indefinite hookup without the concern of overcharging or dying. This is one of many options that can help keep a racing battery alive for a long time.

There are a few methods for charging and maintaining batteries. Most manufacturers offer idiot-proof, reverse-polarity protection in compact packages that are easy to store and use. Braille units, which maintain 12 volts at 2 amps and claim to extend battery life, are just one example. NRGCELL offers a battery conditioner that also doubles as a 1-amp float charger. Battery conditioners cycle the battery in a way that helps break up lead sulfate crystals, helping recover life from a previously dead battery, in addition to adding to and maintaining its charge. When searching for a tender/charger, look for units featuring overcharge protection. Some charger manufacturers offer the convenience of quick-connect terminals making charger/conditioner hookup fast and easy. Also, keep that battery between temperatures of 56 and 100 degrees F whenever possible. The best car battery maintenance is to simply not allow it discharge...so just drive more. No more excuses for that dead battery.

Follow these tips and you can enjoy the benefits of lightweight and compact size to enhance your automotive enjoyment in ways you never thought possible. Or, at the very least, shift some weight around, shed a few pounds and make room for something else underhood.

Htup_0804_00_z+honda_aftermarket_battery_and_relocation+clean_install Photo 11/11   |   Battery Science - Shocked

Battery Relocation The Right Way
Drastically reducing weight is not always practical when it comes to performance gains. Such is the case with batteries; simply tossing them altogether just can't be done. Sure, there're lighter ones but, even better, we can take a lighter one and move it to a more suitable location.

A front engine, front-wheel-drive Honda has a distinct handicap when it comes to performance. FWD is bad enough but its front-heavy awkwardness is the icing on the cake. Removing heavy items like batteries from the engine bay and placing them out back can provide greater balance and handling. As always there are considerations to take into account before taking wrench to hand. Two main considerations must be given credence before battery relocation can be planned: first, how to route the power cables and second, addressing hydrogen fumes.

Opt for heavy gauge wire (two-gauge is most common) when running cables to minimize resistance between the battery and starter. This will make the smaller/less CCA battery more feasible without causing excess resistance or prevent starting. Route the positive cable from the battery to the starter/fuse box, being careful to avoid other wiring so as to reduce electromagnetic interference. The ground should be short and mounted directly to the chassis.

Batteries emit hydrogen gas as part of their electrolytic process. Recall the Hindenburg and that hydrogen is an extremely combustible gas. We want to avoid that. Without a proper, sealed battery box, relocating the battery inside the car can be a hazardous modification. Luckily, typical batteries that enthusiasts opt for are sealed units, meaning acid and gas can't escape. NRGCELL, Odyssey and Braille batteries are all sealed units providing worry-free performance without the box.

Proper mounting is just as important. Inadequacy here is a leading cause for tech inspection failures. When factory-mounting hardware won't work, look to Password:JDM for battery brackets. Such brackets are designed specifically for use with Odyssey PC680 and NRGCELL slim batteries, providing a direct bolt-in solution for the DA, EF, even the BB6 Prelude. Braille also offers specific battery brackets for its most popular models.

BRAND WEIGHT L/W/H USE CCA
(MODEL) (LBS) (INCHES)
BAKER 12 7.1/3.0/6.6 DAILY DRIVER 230
PB17 SUMMER
BRAILLE 6.4 5.8/3.{{{4/4}}}.1 FULL RACE 210
B106
BRAILLE 15 6.8/3.4/6.1 DAILY DRIVER 425
B2015 ALL SEASON
BRAILLE 6 5.8/3.4/4.2 FULL RACE 210
B106 CF SHOW
BUDDY CLUB 16 3.0/7.0/6.6 DAILY DRIVER 440
RSB-25 SUMMER
ODYSSEY 12.6 7.0/3.4/5.2 DAILY DRIVER 185
PC545MJ ALL SEASON
ODYSSEY 15.4 7.3/3.1/6.7 DAILY DRIVER 220
PC680MJ ALL SEASON
NRGCELL 9.7 6.0/3.4/5.1 DAILY DRIVER 180
NANO SUMMER
NRGCELL 14.5 6.9/3.0/7.1 DAILY DRIVER 480
SLIM ALL SEASON
SPOON 13.5 3.0/7.0/6.6 DAILY DRIVER NA
SUMMER

Continued...

BRAND TERMINALS SIDE MOUNT WARRANTY MSRP
(MODEL) INCLUDED TERMINALS
BAKER NO YES NA ${{{90}}}.00
PB17
BRAILLE YES YES 2 YEAR $139.99
B106 PRORATED
BRAILLE YES YES 2 YEAR $159.99
B2015 PRORATED
BRAILLE YES YES 1 YEAR $219.99
B106 CF
BUDDY CLUB YES NO NA $140.00
RSB-25
ODYSSEY NO NO 4 YEAR $193.93
PC545MJ
ODYSSEY NO NO 4 YEAR $177.99
PC680MJ
NRGCELL NO YES 5 YEAR $155.00
NANO CONDITIONAL
NRGCELL NO NO 5 YEAR $175.00
SLIM CONDITIONAL
SPOON YES NO NA $315.00

Sources

Password:JDM
Pico Rivera, CA 90660
888-795-3601
http://www.passwordjdm.com
Braille
941-312-5047
http://www.braillebattery.com
By Marcus DI Sabella
3 Articles

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