Information Please

Well, the voting’s done, so the silly season is now over. Time to get back to the serious stuff.

I’ve read AK’s By Ourselves, For Ourselves series with interest, as well as Rivrdog’s Paratus blog, and I’m wondering if either of these fine gentlemen (or perhaps one of RNS’s excellent readers) could answer the following question.

In William C. Heine’s 1970s novel Death Wind (also published as The Last Canadian and The Last American) about a killer virus that wipes out almost everyone in the Americas…

…the lone survivor wanders around the wasted landscape for several years and eventually discovers in a auto repair shop car batteries that are “inactive” — the electrolyte/battery acid is stored separately, and has to be poured into the battery in order to charge it. This is convenient to the plot since it lets the character “create” a freshly charged battery whenever he wants to, so he’s able to drive around the USA instead of having to walk. When I read the novel, I chalked that up as a cute plot device.

But it stuck in my head. Because the electrolyte’s stored separately, there’s no chemical reaction, so the batteries can theoretically sit forever until they’re needed. A couple of “inactive” backup batteries sounds like just the thing to keep in my SHTF locker.

Now, I’m not a “car guy,” but I’ve swapped a few batteries in my time and, at least on the retail shelves, they all come with the electrolyte already inside. Does anybody know if batteries are still sold without electrolyte? Are such things only available to auto mechanics via special distribution channels?

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6 Responses to Information Please

  1. Rivrdog says:

    They are known as “dry charge” batteries, and apparently the large Japanese battery maker Yuasa puts them out, since they have the Material Safety Data Sheets for the electrolyte on the ‘net.

    I would go to Battery Exchange and ask them for the size you know fits your vehicle.

    As to SHTF, there will be plenty of abandoned cars from which to commandeer batteries. The only use I can think of for batteries in an SHTF kit is to have larger storage (RV type) batteries, probably a matched pair, and the cabling to tie them together, and cables to tie them in to your vehicle’s alternator. With a pair of storage batteries in series, you can provide a modest amount of 110 VAC power via an inverter, for charging cellphones, and any gear that you have fitted with rechargeable NiMH batteries. Good to have in your base camp.

    The advantage of inverter power is that you don’t give away your position or capabilities with generator noise. Your car alternator will stuff enough amps back in the batteries for a day’s use with an hour of fast idling.

    In your SHTF kit, keep the batteries charged with a small “motorcycle” size three-stage charger, made by Schauer and costing under $50. If you live in the desert, you might invest in a solar panel. They come in different sizes according to the amps you want, but just to keep the batteries topped up you won’t need a large one.

    Managing an SHTF team, especially a weapons team on either defense or offense, will require the use of radios. I like the FRS-GMRS radios, and I’ve gotten Audiovox, which uses AAA cells and not a proprietary battery-pack like most of the others.

    The NiMH cells last almost 20 hours in standby before needing recharge.

    Same power for my flashlights, which I have either bought or converted to use LED lamps. The batteries can last up to hundreds of hours with LEDs. You learn to get along with less light. I keep a couple of very-high candela spotlights in case I need to see something a long ways out. They recharge off of any 12v plug, and one of them even has a replaceable lead-acid battery for quick changes.

  2. David says:

    Thanks for the info!

    The main reason I’m interested in this sort of thing is that I personally have a history of batteries going dead on me due to sheer inactivity. My SHTF vehicle is also my 4wd “project car.” Considering that it’s up on jackstands from time to time, and when it’s off the jackstands, that I only go 4-wheeling once in a great while, I may go 4-6 months at a time without driving it more than a block or so to the store.

    Now if I planned ahead, I’d just disconnect the battery during periods of inactivity so it didn’t drain, but I don’t do that because, you see, I have the best intentions to drive the vehicle around — I just don’t follow through. Ergo, dead battery.

    It occurred to me that if other readers have a “commute car” for daily use and set the SHTF vehicle aside for emergencies, they might run into the same problem. Nothing worse than turning the key when you have to go somewhere and hearing a bunch of clicks.

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