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Battery Tech


This page is a work in progress.  As time allows, we will update it with science and supporting data.  For now, please accept our apologies for vagueness and generalization.


The Best


Aviation Consumer recently compared the two leading brands of certified aircraft batteries.  There is a clear winner.


Battery Types


Wet Cell (flooded), Gel Cell, and Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) are various versions of the lead acid battery. 


Wet Cell batteries come in 2 styles; serviceable, and maintenance free. Both are filled with electrolyte with serviceable types allowing the addition water to and the ability to check the specific gravity of the electrolyte with a hydrometer. 


Gel Cell batteries are completely sealed and feature electrolyte that is suspended with a silica additive that causes it to set up or stiffen. Gel Batteries are best used in VERY DEEP cycle, low-amperage applications.  Gel Cell batteries were among the first completely sealed battery designs to find their way into typically experimental aircraft applications.  They gained particular popularity in experimental aerobatic aircraft they can be installed in any configuration (or operated in any attitude).  Gel Cell batteries store very well and do not tend to sulfate or degrade as easily or as easily as wet cell. There is little chance of corrosion when using these batteries; they are among the safest lead acid batteries one can use. However, because of the chemistry of the electrolyte gel cell batteries are typically not capable of delivering large volumes of current in short bursts of time.  Quite the contrary, they are designed for deep cycle operations such as wheel chairs that must delivery small volumes of current over very long periods of time.


AGM or, Absorbed Glass Matt, construction allows the electrolyte to be suspended in close proximity to the lead plates material. Also, due to the stiffness provided by the glass matt material, AGM batteries such as the Odyssey often utilize a greater number of thinner lead plates than other types of batteries while still offering a reliable, long-lasting performance.  The result is a battery that can deliver very large amounts of current over very quick periods of time.. Popular usage includes high performance engine starting, power sports, deep cycle, solar and storage battery. 


Today, AGM batteries have all but replaced Gel Cell technology in experimental aircraft applications largely due to, you guessed it, the advent of the lightweight, high-performance starters.  


Never pair a Gel Cell with a High-Performance starter


This statement is specific to true "Gel Cell" composition batteries.  These are the types typically found in wheelchairs and the likes.


This statement does NOT regard newer, sealed lead-acid batteries typically of the " recombinant gas or AGM varieties.


While often attractive to the home builder due to their characteristic lightweight, small size, high amp-hour ratings and spillproof design, gel electrolyte does not move electrons quickly enough to provide the large volumes of inrush current some high-torque, lightweight, high-performance starters require for proper performance.  For example, a permanent magnet starter such as Sky-Tec's LS or PM starters require in inrush current in excess of 300 amps in many cases.  Gel cell batteries are often incapable of delivering such "quick hits" of current.  Conversely, today's Concorde RG and Odyssey AGM batteries do a rather fabulous job delivering the required energy to the starter for maximum performance.


Sky-Tec customers tout which batteries are the best


In speaking with thousands of Sky-Tec customers through the years, it has become obvious the best battery for use with Sky-Tec starters appears to be Concorde RG XC batteries (recombinant gas, extra cranking) and Odyssey-type AGM batteries manufactured by Hawker Energy (PC-680, PC-925, etc.).  We base this largely on the very limited number of issues experienced with these batteries in combination with Sky-Tec's high-performance, lightweight LS and PM starters.


Sky-Tec NL model Lycoming and C-model Continental starters do not demand nearly as much inrush and initial cranking current and as such appear to work well with most types and brands of batteries.


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