We know what you’re thinking: Why are we talking about cold weather? It still is summer, right? Well, yes, but we’re in October now and fall is here.
The autumn leaves are just around the corner, and in many parts of the country, winter weather will be setting in before we know it. Fleets must plan for the long term, so cold-weather option costs for tomorrow should be factored into today’s budget.
One of the main truck driver concerns is their truck not starting in cold temperatures. There are two reasons why starting is a primary concern: oil and batteries.
When temperatures are excessively low, engine oil thickens and batteries lose cranking power. Whether it’s in big trucks, passenger cars, or other vehicles, cold weather is the enemy.
Today we will take a look at how batteries and oil behave in cold weather, and technologies and methods for ensuring your rig starts, no matter what the temperature is outside.
Due to their nature, batteries are particularly susceptible to cold temperatures. Anyone living in the Northeast will tell you, waking up to the freezing cold and a dead battery is no fun.
The main reason for this is that lower temperatures slow the chemical reactions taking place inside the battery. If the temperature is not increased, the battery may reach a point where it cannot deliver enough current to keep up with the demand.
Most truck drivers operating solely on battery systems resort to leaving their truck running during extremely cold weather. Of course, this is terrible for fuel economy. Idling may be a quick solution for the operator, but it gives fits to fleet managers.
Fleet managers are combating cold weather in a myriad of ways. The first, and perhaps least expensive solution, lies in a temperature/voltage-based engine restart system. This setup automatically starts the engine if the block temperature or battery voltage reading reaches too low a level.
While this option saves on cost, it still requires an idle engine. Nighttime restarts also risk waking the truck driver, which cuts into crucial sleep time and might affect alertness later on down the road.
Fortunately, modern technology can provide the tools to we need without having to sacrifice on either end. One of these technologies lies in the ultracapacitor.
Ultracapacitors are devices used for storing electrical energy. They are typically able to hold hundreds of times more electrical energy than standard capacitors and batteries.
Trucks can use ultracapacitors to repeatedly turn the truck on and off, no matter the temperature. Some are designed to start the truck from as low as minus 40 degrees. Compare that to a normal battery, which begins seeing degradation at ten under.
Another improvement on a standard battery lies in the ultracapacitor’s lack of lead or acid. Remember, it’s the chemical reaction within the standard battery that is slowed by the cold. Remove the chemical reaction, and there’s nothing for the freezing temperatures to interrupt.
Engine oil suffers the same problem as batteries. The lower the temperature, the slower the molecules move, no matter the medium. Engine oil becomes much thicker at low temperatures, thus making it harder for the crank to turn over.
Today, the engine block’s friend is a good old-fashioned engine heater. Engine warmers surround the engine in a metal jacket and also helps to heat the aforementioned oil and coolant. Ambient heat cast off by engine heaters might also assist in keeping batteries at a normal temperature.
Engine heaters do require a minimum of space and insulation, although newer models are decreasing in size and complexity by the day.
As the air turns crisp and the fall breezes begin to blow in, make sure you are ready for the cold weather. No matter what technologies you may or may not choose, winter’s road awaits.