Considering what has been occuring with batteries and battery prices since 2006, I thought I might include a little something as to why, and what to expect. This is relevant to quality chargers and battery maintenance, because the replacement cost is going through the roof, and maximum battery life should be a concern to anyone with a marine, RV, solar application, or anything else that uses lead acid batteries as the starting or storage medium. Remember, lead-acid technology includes the sealed battery types - AGM and Gel. They may not have any free acid to spill or leak, but the chemistry is still lead and sulphuric acid electrolyte.

Basically, we have a supply/demand situation. The demand in developing nations for vehicles and other items that use battery technology is increasing, in some cases at a tremendous rate. India comes to mind, and of course China. China is supplying a good portion of the world's lead acid batteries, and has been buying/consuming commodities in general at an ever increasing rate, lead being one of them. There are other uses of lead in growing economies, but our main concern here is the use in lead acid batteries. (Lately, China has been sending some of the lead back to the US in toys and other items....). Lead production has increased a little, but nowhere near the rate of consumption. So, we have increasing competition for a given quantity of a commodity, which drives the price up.

Through 2005 and into the summer of 2006, the price of lead hovered around 50 cents per pound. Around August of 2006, the price started creeping up, then galloping. At first, the battery manufacturers absorbed most of the price increases in the cost of their batteries. Some manufacturers overseas who built batteries under contract for some US battery companies apparently started scimping on quality/quantity of the lead used in their product, as there were batches that came through the distribution system that just wouldn't produce acceptable numbers for voltage, cranking amps, etc., or simply prematurely failed at an unacceptable rate (yes, there is an acceptable rate of failure in manufactured products). The difference between 99% pure lead and 99.9% in battery performance is considerable. You will notice that some of the high performance batteries mention their lead purity in the features of the product, for this reason. Most of the decent battery companies keep an eye on the quality situation a little better now, but there are some imports coming in with low prices and questionable performance numbers.

Back to the price issue. Currently (September 2007), lead is around $1.45 per pound. The price increases from the battery manufacturers have been coming fairly frequently, or for those manufacturers who held off, hoping the commodity price would come back down, the increases have been substantial. Barring a major economic upheaval or turnaround in the developing countries, the demand situation looks to stay about the same. Not to mention our own consumption levels, with multiple vehicles, powersports 'toys' like quads, jetskis, snowmobiles, etc., and even the growing trend to combat higher energy prices with solar systems, wind systems etc. will require more lead consumption for the storage battery packs.

The bottom line is this: maximum battery life is and will be a cost effective pursuit. This involves battery maintenance, like cleaning terminals, checking water levels in flooded cells, and of course, proper charging with intelligent chargers that fully charge a battery at an appropriate amp level, and then either drop into a float mode or shut off and monitor the battery. Avoiding periods where a lead acid battery sits for months without being charged or topped off is important in attaining maximum battery life, as sulphation occurs during these periods, and reduces battery capacity, eventually to zero. It also involves correct battery choice and amp hour capacity in deep cycle applications or solar setups. We can help with battery issues and battery selection. We have sold and tested them for years.

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