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Smart power is the intelligent play for fleets

(Photo: Ioxus)

All carriers working to deliver loads on time need to be able to rely on their trucks to start, but that can be a challenge when working with standard batteries, which are only designed to last a few hundred cycles.

Ioxus, a smart power company focused largely on the transportation industry, developed uSTART to address diesel engine starting time and reliability issues. uSTART is an ultracapacitor-based battery support module intended to extend battery life by reducing cycling and maintaining a higher vehicle voltage.

An ultracapacitor, sometimes called a supercapacitor, is a high-capacity capacitor with higher capacitance values and lower voltage limits. They are often seen as something of a middle ground between a standard capacitor and a battery.

Smart power, and products like uSTART, are intended to aid vehicles in maintaining a healthy electrical state.

“Smart power really is looking at the vehicle’s electrical health, so that is what our product does,” Senior Vice President of Marketing and Ioxus Co-founder Chad Hall said. “Our main concern is that we intelligently control the voltage and the power from the energy source unit’s batteries and capacitors to make sure the vehicle has a healthy start.”

Hall said the uSTART product is not just about cranking the engine. It is also about ensuring the starter gets the right amount of power and voltage stays high enough to prevent a brownout. It’s this holistic approach that sets Ioxus apart.

“People have tried to go about it different ways in the past, usually by taking a segmented approach to try to resolve specific things. You might want to do that for a system that requires a certain voltage during a start-up or during operation, but that solves a problem at that location and may cause another problem someplace else,” Hall said. “What we’re trying to do is go around that intelligently, and we’re going to take more of a holistic approach so we aren’t just sticking a band-aid someplace. We’re trying to inject a cure here.”

One of uSTART’s strongest contributions to a vehicle is increased reliability. Capacitors cycle millions of times and recharge quickly, making them stable energy storage media. This brings the advantage of being able to react to changing circumstances at a rapid pace.

“Once we pair that up with smart electronics, that really gives us more of an instantaneous ability to resolve issues. We’re there to try to protect batteries and other things by doing the majority of the work,” Hall said. “If you look at the problems vehicles have on the road, batteries not starting is always in the top five. We really address safety and other issues by attacking the reliability of start. We get you as close as you can get to 100 percent reliability with the current technologies available.”

The uSTART product should eliminate the need for jump starts in most cases, but in the event that the capacitor and the battery is drained, the product has a built-in jump start capability. That means no more risky roadside jump starts, as well as significant time and money savings.

Dale Spencer, uSTART product consultant, saw the need for and effectiveness of the product in his former role as vice president of engineering and maintenance at UPS. Spencer spent a total of 39 years working at UPS in various roles before retiring and taking up his current role at Ioxus.

“There is probably no one more taxing on an electrical system than UPS. We needed to develop something because we were really struggling on the electrical side on our fleets,” Spencer said. “This was mainly because we had gone out and built the best starters we could have. We built the best relays. We had all the best equipment you could get on a vehicle, but because we stayed in a low voltage situation due to stopping and starting so many times each day, we had a lot of problems.”

Spencer said uSTART technology was a game changer for UPS, and he pushes the technology for the entire industry. While uSTART is widely utilized in Class 6 vehicles, it is also available for Class 7 and Class 8 vehicles with up to 12-liter engines.

Ioxus’ uSTART can be installed by OEMs or retrofitted as a drop-in Group 31 battery replacement. There is no special wiring involved, and the product is designed to last the full life of the vehicle.

“You just press the button to initiate the product. Once it’s in run mode, it does everything itself,” Hall said. “Typically, we double the life of the remaining battery and the starter.”

The product is made in the U.S. from start to finish.  

Ashley Coker

Ashley is interested in everything that moves, especially trucks and planes. She covers air cargo, trucking and sponsored content. She studied journalism at Middle Tennessee State University and worked as an editor and reporter at two daily newspapers before joining FreightWaves. Ashley spends her free time at the dog park with her beagle, Ruth, or scouring the internet for last minute flight deals.