A Guide to Battery Management Systems

Posted on Jan 8, 2016 by Robert Iversrud
If your equipment rolls, floats, lifts, or hauls, it's probably got a battery management system. The need to protect these core functions makes it crucial to understand what these invaluable components do, how they work, and their place in equipment electrical systems. Here's the least you need to know.

What Is A Battery Management System?

Think of a battery management system as a brain, of sorts, for the battery. It regulates battery usage, collects data on how the battery is functioning, and protects the battery from damage, either through overuse or user error. For example, if you accidentally overcharge a battery powered vehicle, the system will open a circuit and prevent damage to the battery.


Why Is It Important?

The battery management system is crucial for both vehicle life and safety. If you talk to an experienced tractor repair foreman or look at old technical manuals for batteries, for example, you'll find that battery explosions used to be relatively commonplace; as battery management systems have improved, they've made this danger a thing of the past.

These systems also ensure you get the most out of your battery by preventing common mistakes like overcharging or completely draining the battery; if you remove too much power from a battery, you'll reduce its overall capacity. As a result, keeping your system tip-top rewards you with longer battery life and fewer battery changes.

It also assists the user by informing them of problems before they happen. The last thing any shop wants is a forklift stalling in the middle of lifting some freight, so a battery management system will include readouts and alerts that let the operator know of potential problems before they happen.

Finally, it keeps the battery operating smoothly. Many batteries are actually a collection of power cells working together in concert. A battery management system ensures that no undue strain is put on any one cell, and if a cell is disabled, it ensures the operator knows what's happening.


What Are The Parts Of A Battery Management System?

At its most basic, a battery management system will include sensors for detecting heat from the battery, and current going to and from the battery; a protection circuit with two switches to prevent overcharging and overuse of the battery; and some form of visual interface so the user can understand what's happening in the system. Think the "Low Battery" light you see on a tractor; that's part of the battery management system.

There can be other elements added to the system, depending on the equipment and user needs. Digital readouts, digital power controllers, additional overload protection, and other parts can be added to the system, although you'll need to check both wires and voltage for your electrical system before installing any upgrades to ensure they'll receive power.


What Maintenance Needs To Be Done On Battery Management Systems?

In general, battery management systems need the same checks you'd run on any other system. The sensors will need to be cleaned, the switches will need to be examined to ensure they function properly, and so on. With digital systems, a check that the software is properly working is usually also advised.

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