CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Grid charger for hybrid cars

I find it impossible to believe that in pulling that fuse you could recharge the battery in only a few minutes. I would think it better to just hop in and take a nice country drive for an hour…once a week.
Take a girl out to the submarine races.

Yosemite

@Caddyman you are wrong again. There is no parasitic draw on the battery from being in the car, in fact the bypass relay disconnects the battery from the rest of the car when the key is off. If you knew anything about battery chemistry, you would be knowledgable enough to know that nickel metal hydride is a self discharging battery chemistry and inherent of its nature, voltage drops over time no matter what when not being charged and used.

@Yosemite , first of all the battery meter on the dash is not an accurate representation of energy amp hours contained within the battery. It’s the bcm’s best guess taken from various info, much of which comes from the Hall effect sensor that measures current. It gets even more inaccurate as the battery degrades as the car will periodically “recalibrate” where the meter will drop down and count back up to full again. It’s the bcm’s way it’s trying to recalculate what it thinks the energy in the battery is. When the IMA motor assist calls for xx AMPs of current and the Hall effect sensor sees less energy passing through than its calling for, it usually does this " recal".

Whoever stated that hybrid batteries operate within a “window” of %, that is correct. It’s around 25-75%. The Prius uses an even smaller window and with their superior prismatic cell design, it’s a longer lasting and more reliable battery than Hondas cylindrical cell sticks.

Force charging the battery with the engine revving will try to charge the IMA pack for a short period at about 8 amps however it’s impossible to balance the cells at that current level as for one, the bcm has no programming for such a low current charge needed for that and it will stop the charge well shy of anything near full. The Maxx-Volts charging systems I am using charges at a constant current 300-350mA or about 1/3 of an amp. It also runs the IMA battery cooling fan and exhausts any heat created from the charging process out from the battery pack, keeping it cool and within a safe temperature range. It’s well thought out and just plain works.

@insightful , I’ve been using my programmable charger since '12. The wifi model I bought last year. The LEDs are a visual indicator that lets me know if the charger is on and it prevents me from driving off with the charger plugged into the wall outlet still if I’m not paying attention or am rushing out the door.

1 Like

Well, I haven’t found anything in PrestonH posts that I felt was inaccurate so far…in fact, makes perfect sense to me…

1 Like

I do have a problem with an add-on that claims to do a better job of battery management than the manufacturer has figured out. Does it improve mpgs? Of course it does, pre-charging the battery would do that, but only a little. Hybrid batteries only power the car for a short distance on battery only. 31.9 mpg is EXTREMELY low, reported mpgs are amost all over 40 on the EPA web site. So that Civic had a problem.

A problem? Uh, yeah… Same as the rest of them and that’s the point of this thread as well as the result of an IMA light that comes on in the dash. The IMA system and battery no longer operates like it once used to and the mpgs tank as the car no longer uses electric assist (or as much) so the gasoline engine has to do the work (operating more and at higher rpms due to the nature of the CVT transmission). OBD2 code P1600 or P0A7F out of balance and “deteriorating IMA battery” It also fixes P1443, P1447, P1449. The car also spends more of its time with an IMA motor (generator) load lugging on the engine as it constantly tries to charge the IMA battery and “recal” the “SOC” state of charge on the dash battery meter.

A few things to remind people is that a Honda does not have an all electric mode and it’s always a gasoline engine driven vehicle… so the grid charging is not to “fill up the battery” so that one can drive around on the electricity just added from the charging. That is what a full “PHEV” plug in hybrid electric vehicle does which the Honda civic hybrid certainly is not. The IMA motor and hybrid system “assists” the gasoline motor when needed to make up some of the torque and horsepower difference from having a small displacement and more fuel efficient 1.3 L engine underpowered gasoline engine. The civic without the IMA assist is a complete dog and borderline dangerously underpowered to the point where it would be difficult to merge into traffic. Couple that with a slow lugging CVT transmission and it’s a recipe for disaster without a properly working IMA assist and regen.

@texaxes First of all, do you have any idea how many revisions and software updates Honda has issued for the battery control management computer? Lots. They didn’t get it perfect and they certainly didn’t get it right… The biggest joke in the industry about their “software update” is that it is not designed for the consumers benefit… You know what the software does for consumers? It lowers the threshold in which Illuminates the IMA light so that they will get less warranty claims on such an expensive replacement part. It’s for the manufacturers benefit… You know what else it does? It programs the battery control module to use less assist, less auto stops which conserves battery use, relies more on gasoline engine, extends the life of the IMA battery through using it less, and in the end, the mpgs are lowered for the owner of the car and the IMA light rarely comes on for the manufacturer.

There was never a claim that Maxx-Volts or anyone else for that matter sells an “add-on” that replaces a battery management computer as that’s not the point of their system. It’s a device that does something that the BCM does not do on its own and allows the Honda’so owner to decide the interval in which to use the charger. It could be once ever few months or as often as every week or two depending on many factors from how often the car is driven to mileage, climate and so on. The system adds a discrete docking port and allows the owner to plug in overnight and trickle charge the IMA battery, balancing each of the 120-132 individual battery cells that make up a civic IMA battery pack.

Again the Honda IMA Hybrid cars are not PHEV’s and the charging system is not designed to be something you do every day. It’s a charger/balancer and a maintenance system designed to extend the life and use of your existing IMA battery. Puts the pack back into operating normally and keeps off IMA lights as the IMA battery operates within a normal acceptable range after charging which keeps the BCM happy so it doesn’t throw IMA codes. This obviously also allows the car to pass smog inspections and allows you to have your registration renewed. It also allows you to keep the original IMA BCM software for maximum IMA assist ans autostops which will keep your mpgs high.

1 Like
"A few things to remind people is that a Honda does not have an all electric mode and it's always a gasoline engine driven vehicle..."

I can drive my Insight a mile or two on a gentle downgrade with battery power only.

I wonder why this guy is dumping his on ebay for $325?:

@insightful- there are some aftermarket hacks available for the insight such as “FAS” forced auto stop (at any speed) which will shut the engine down at faster speeds than the oem ECU controls but for the most part the elec only “gliding” or coasting into a parking spot is nothing like the Prius synergy system with a true electric only mode.

The link you posted from ebay I looked at and its a basic entry level model without programmable controls or wifi like I have on mine and that model is for Honda Insight only. Not for civic or accord hybrids nor 2007+ G2 insight. The units I bought cover all honda hybrids and reverse compatible with G1 Insight 2000-2006.

I have seen pictures of hybrid battery packs with extreme electrical corrosion. How is this maxx-volts charger going to address that?

Here’s something from the website that I found interesting . . .

“How often should I charge my hybrid battery pack? That will depend on a number of factors including the overall condition of the pack, the climate and the mileage of the car, however our customers have used our chargers anywhere from monthly to each morning as a daily maintenance charger, starting the day off on a full and warmed up pack.”

It sounds to me like they’re saying . . . if your battery pack is essentially junk, this charger might jump start it, but you’ll have to keep it on life support. You may be charging it quite often."

That is the skeptic/realist inside me talking.

What about the guys out there that take apart their battery packs, clean the corrosion, and individually charge the cells, or charge them in small batches?

Presumably, they’re saving a lot of money, versus buying a refurbished battery pack

Are they in fact morons, because if they installed maxx-volt, they wouldn’t even need to go to all that trouble of disassembling the battery pack?

“Significant improvements have been obtained with nearly every NiMH Honda Hybrid battery we have tested and reconditioned. What is nice about our charger is that under the worst condition hybrid battery, our programmable MAXX VOLTS charging system has still worked great as a daily maintenance charger set to provide a pre-programmed daily boost to a weathered pack and still give useable life for daily driving for just pennies in electric which more than pays for itself in MPG gains.”

Yup. The company itself even says the charger keeps these junk battery packs on life support. Of course, they worded it a little nicer than I did

"The units I bought cover all honda hybrids..."

It doesn’t look like they make one for my 2010 Insight.

@ insightful- if your Honda is pre 2012 Li-Ion then the chargers I’m using are compatible. If they don’t have your car listed yet, its probably just a matter of having one of them at their facility to take measurements for the wiring harness and docking port.

@db4690 Honda IMA battery packs don’t get that corrosion that the Prius packs do. I’ve never seen it and in my experience, every time I have hear of corrosion on a Hybrid battery, its always been on a Toyota.

What the company is saying is that NiMH battery packs have an optimum temperature they function best at and its about 113*F. The charger gets the pack to optimum temps so that there is no attenuated performance and poor mpg during the first 20 min or so of driving as the IMA motor has to drag on the gasoline motor, charging it and heating up the cells to operating temps.

“What about the guys out there that take apart their battery packs, clean the corrosion, and individually charge the cells, or charge them in small batches?”
-Again, there hasn’t been any cases of Honda’s having any corrosion I have ever seen or heard of.
Individually charging the cells is a dumb idea because it would take weeks or months to charge and cycle 20-22 battery sticks unless you bought 20-22 battery chargers and had unlimited funds and time on your hands. You would only make a shit-ton more work for yourself and be without a car indefinitely while spending much more money for 20+ hobby chargers.

Even if someone enjoyed pain and anguish enough to try it with 1-2 chargers, by the time they did the last battery stick, the first ones they charged weeks ago would be so far off in voltage that the whole pack would be imbalanced again as NiMH is a SELF DISCHARGING battery chemistry. As soon as you take it off the charger, the voltage starts to drop. 20-22 sticks down the line, none of the sticks would read the same voltages.

The Maxx-Volts system charges all 120-132 cells in unison so they are all charged EQUALLY at the same time. Once charging stops, they all self discharge at relatively the same level, keeping the IMA battery BALANCED.

“Are they in fact morons, because if they installed maxx-volt, they wouldn’t even need to go to all that trouble of disassembling the battery pack?”
-They may not be aware of it at first, but the short answer is YES. The maxx-volts install video is less than 30 min and a first time installer would take less than an hour to install the wiring harness for the IMA battery, IMA cooling fan and hidden docking port.

@PrestonnH Okay, thanks for the information. that was quite informative

Here goes . . .

Have you bought a Civic Hybrid with those dreaded fault codes, and the IMA was totally nonfunctional, meaning the car was operating solely on the ICE, and after installing the maxx-volt charger, you were able to revive that battery pack, and keep it going by charging it occasionally, or perhaps frequently?

I mean you, personally, have you bought basket case Civic Hybrids like that, installed the maxx-volt charger, and it allowed them to resume useful service, and they would go into idle stop mode, at the stop light, as was originally intended?

How much less did people pay for such a vehicle, versus one that had a “fresh” refurbished battery pack installed?

The basket case vehicles with the charger installed, as time goes by, have any of them “recovered” sufficiently, so that you had to use the charger less often?

It was only a matter of time before the flush machine was invented for hybrids.

Have you bought a Civic Hybrid with those dreaded fault codes, and the IMA was totally nonfunctional, meaning the car was operating solely on the ICE, and after installing the maxx-volt charger, you were able to revive that battery pack, and keep it going by charging it occasionally, or perhaps frequently?
Uh, yeah and much worse! I bought an '06 on manheim auction via video feed only (simulcast), several hours away. I took a 1 way flight there and the IMA battery was so dead that after limping it to walmart to buy a new 12v battery, it would get me about 40-60 miles before it fully drained it. I had to plan my whole trip back sidelining for walmarts along the way and swap them out for new ones every 40-60mi. The IMA was so dead that the DC-DC converter was disabled by the BCM as the hybrid battery couldn't feed the 12v battery energy to charge it. You have to remember that these cars do not have alternators and they get their power from the IMA hybrid battery stepping the voltage down to 14 V. When they reach a certain threshold, the underwood battery charging gets disabled and then you're fuct.

The Maxx-Volts charger not only revived that IMA battery but as it turned out that civic was a ringer. It had the highest mpg out of all the ones I’d owned before. Probably attributed to original BCM software that may not have been “updated” by the dealer (scam). The dc-dc converter re-enabled and was back to charging 12V battery properly.

I mean you, personally, have you bought basket case Civic Hybrids like that, installed the maxx-volt charger, and it allowed them to resume useful service, and they would go into idle stop mode, at the stop light, as was originally intended?

Yes, all of them. Every single one.

They sell at market value of a solid working hybrid. Technically they are IMA rebalanced/refurbished to an extent at that point.

The basket case vehicles with the charger installed, as time goes by, have any of them "recovered" sufficiently, so that you had to use the charger less often?
Usually after about three soak charges, their behavior improves significantly. For rare cases where there may be a cell or cells with high internal resistance, they also sell a discharger that erases "memory" effect the battery has developed from charging and discharging in the same small % window all the time. It improves cell internal resistance as it breaks down internal crystalline dendrites within the cell layers that can be shorting them out. In my testing on my own cars, the battery temperature has run about 20*F cooler and the BCM rarely turns on the IMA cooling fan after I've done that procedure and driven the car in the same manner afterwards. This is a clear sign to me of lower internal resistance as high IR causes the cells to heat up and restrict the flow of current through the battery.

You won’t find that discharger listed on their site as its reserved for experienced charger users that have familiarized themselves with the original charger wiring harness connections when they installed it. It was explained to me that 95-97% of their product users will get their car back to normal operation and make the customer happy with just the charger and that’s held true for my own cars. So there’s no need to market it unless you’re someone specializing in hybrid vehicle repair or a hybrid battery servicing company.

There are very few that would benefit from the extra procedure and tool they have. Since I do so many hybrids I considered servicing batteries commercially, I did buy their discharger and have used it on a 2008 187k mi, and a 2007 w/ 201k mi which both benefitted in lowering the IR of the IMA battery and having it run cooler. The IMA battery meter drops very slowly when using full assist in those cars now and the IMA fan rarely turns on.

I’m sure another reason why they don’t market it publicly so they can qualify who would actually benefit from it and try to only sell it to those they think are responsible enough to use it without electrocuting themselves. I mean, this is one of the reasons why Honda won’t let technicians service the batteries, they can only shut off the breaker switch and pull the whole pack out as a whole and replace. They don’t want the liability of techs shocking themselves to death.

1 Like
"I had to plan my whole trip back sidelining for walmarts along the way and swap them out for new ones every 40-60mi."

LOL; I assume you weren’t claiming free warranty replacements.

@PrestonH Thanks for that information

I actually enjoyed reading that!

I know this is an old thread/topic but I just joined & have an IMA battery issue with my 2006 Honda Insight, As you can guess, the dealers have only 1 solution- replace the IMA battery for $2000. There was so much good info in this thread that I am hoping somene will enlighten me.

@PrestonH: You seem to have a lot of experience with this issue. Any thoughts?

I bought the car from a Honda R & D employee in 2010 with 20k miles on it. In July 2011, with about 28000 miles, the car died on the street-all power gone. Dealer said the IMA battery needed replacing according to dealer. The battery was covered by warranty. In 2015 I noticed the charging indicator gauge wasnt going all the way but dealer said battery was weakened but not enough to replace at that time. Of course, it was past the 3 yr warranty.The IMA light did not come on.

A few days ago, I arrived home after a long business trip, during which I had someone start the car every few days & also drive it short distance since someone said not driving the car would weaken the IMA battery.
The car seems to be running ok- a little shakey but the battery indicator gauge isnt lighting up much & the check engine light stays on. The IMA light is not on.The car has 55,000 miles now.

The car is at the delaers now -hence the desperate tone in my fingers :sweat. The estimate is $2000 for replacement ( they said new ) battery.
So, I have questions. So many questions.
This 2nd battery is only 5 yrs old & 30k miles. Is this unusual? Could the battery have been defective when it was installed? If,as I’ve read here, the dealer installs refurbished batteries, could this be the reason it is dying so soon? How much does the car actually need to be driven to keep the battery healthy & how long can it be parked for? Will a grid charger help? Should I try a grid charger before I replace this battery? I have more business trips coming up, what can I do to save my car? I dont want to sell her but at this point I am feeling like I’m not worthy of a car that has given me up to 71mpg. Do I have to buy a, gasp,:scream: “regular” car? Thank you in advance for your assistance.

No replacement battery from Honda is “new”. Panasonic doesn’t make new cells for the car and hasn’t for many years. All dealer replacements are USED reconditioned jobs made from core returns etc. Yes they fail frequently. No, there’s no recourse at the dealer. Yes you should definitely invest in a charger like the one I use. Insight, out of all the Honda models is the highest probability of recovery of any IMA battery for a Honda hybrid. Hope this helps.