Johnson Controls Inc. (JCI) recently announced it is launching a line of Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) batteries in North America to support up-and-coming Start-Stop vehicle technology, as well as the higher electrical loads that are increasingly being required of the battery in newer vehicles with combustion engines.
Johnson Controls has been manufacturing AGM batteries in Europe since 2002, where it produces more than 3 million VARTA Start-Stop Plus AGM batteries annually. In addition, company has started producing AGM batteries for the United States at its facility in St. Joseph’s, MO, and will launch manufacturing later this year at its newly expanded facility near Toledo, OH.
There are several benefits in opting for AGM batteries over conventional batteries, including longer life in demanding applications (such as today’s vehicles with an ever-increasing level of electronic content), as well as being completely spill-proof and maintenance free. The AGM batteries can last up to two times as long as conventional batteries, according to Lisa Franklin, director AGM product and market development.
According to Allen Martin, vice president and general manager, Global Aftermarket for Power Solutions, JCI’s aftermarket customers are continuing to see vehicles that are putting a greater strain and demand on existing batteries because of all the electronics in automobiles today, which presents an opportunity in the marketplace, he says.
In addition, Martin noted that JCI’s need invest in increased capacity in the U.S. also is being driven by increased demand and requests from OEs. This month, JCI is launching its AGM batteries for several future North American platforms.
According to Mike Carr, vice president and general manager North America for Johnson Controls Power Solutions, the company estimates that up to 40 percent of new cars being built the United States by 2016 could be Start-Stop vehicles requiring AGM batteries. As a result, the company is installing approximately 6 million in AGM annual capacity for the U.S. market.
Because some Start-Stop vehicles require special processes to replace and reset the battery and system, Johnson Controls developed its VARTA Start-Stop Service Program (VSSP) in Europe, and plans to bring a similar program to the United States. The VSSP program provides shops with the necessary training, information and equipment to allow technicians to test the battery, examine relevant control modules, delete error codes, reset the memory and read replacement instructions as they go.
“While AGM batteries are designed to easily fit today’s cars, they do have special requirements for installing and resetting when used in Start-Stop vehicle systems. Our VSSP program will help service technicians properly link the batteries with the on-board electronics,” said Martin.
"It’s going to require the shops to do more work, versus the independent person doing it at their house," Martin said. "We don’t see the normal person on the street being able to change these batteries. It’s going to require some technology, some equipment, which is why we’ve also announced our [VSSP] tool. It’s going to be a higher level of service technician involvement and engagement."
AGM batteries are available today to meet European sizes (H6, H7, H8). Group 31 commercial truck batteries will launch in July, with U.S.-focused car and light truck group sizes 24F, 34, 65 and 78 slated for late summer and early fall.