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Thread: EarthX and B&C Charging System

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    EarthX and B&C Charging System

    A comment in another thread about EarthX not recommending installing a battery inside the cabin had me do some investigation.
    Last edited by stewartb; 02-04-2019 at 02:35 PM.
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    mvivion's Avatar
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    So, is the overvolt protected battery now approved for use in certificates aircraft?

    Or are they still working on certification?

    MTV
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    Last I heard from Cathy they were still working on it. Right after Oshkosh, she said certification was imminent. About 3 months ago, I emailed and asked if she had an update.. One word response was “no”......
    Mark

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    wireweinie's Avatar
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    Reading Cathy's response to Stewarb's email; Wow! that's some serious faa lawyerese! In the event your reg fails . . . then your over voltage protection fails . . . and then the battery receives over 100 volts . . . and you fail to manually take the alternator offline . . . this CAN produce enough energy to induce a thermal runaway.

    Now, I'm a big proponent of redundant systems, especially with regards to personnel and equipment safety, but how many layers do you need?! The typical charging system on a small aircraft already has redundant safety measures built into it. First off, an ammeter or voltmeter is required so that the system can be visually monitored. The generators and alternators both have breakers that open the output and/or field power circuits if they sense high current flow. And, finally, the regulator power circuit is run through one pole of the typical two pole master switch so that, when the master is shut off while the engine is running, the charging system cannot self excite. Bonus points if you have over/under voltage lights either in your volt/ammeter or connected to your regulator. AND, some manufacturers like Cessna use a stand alone over voltage module inline with the regulator power circuit. Then other manufacturers come along and build voltage protection into the reg itself.

    NO BATTERY will with stand the circumstances described in Cathy's response. At some point the operator has to take control and isolate the problem, it can't just be 'ruled' away. Turn off the charging system when you see and over voltage or excessively high current flow. Or maybe when the light comes on to alert you. Don't keep operating with the above conditions present. Don't override circuit protection systems. At what point do you stop blaming the equipment design and just say 'I should turn it off'?

    I'm still a fan of EarthX and I'm still installing them. I would like to hear about the Birchwood battery incident, however. Stewartb, could you share the details of this? If you want, PM or call me.

    Web
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    www.SkupTech.com mike mcs repair's Avatar
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    not sure of the why, just have a picture of the battery pieces they ripped out with channel locks... with the smoke in cockpit in the background....

    AFTER this happened owner installed a B&C & reg, it was a new to this owner plane/project.... no idea what was installed/brand before...

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    wireweinie's Avatar
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    Did anything else smoke or just the battery? Cables, relays, etc?

    Web
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    www.SkupTech.com mike mcs repair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wireweinie View Post
    Did anything else smoke or just the battery? Cables, relays, etc?

    Web
    don't know... not mine...

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    skywagon8a's Avatar
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    Web, is it possible for a failure in a system to put out 100 volts? Seems like a big number to me.

    and then the EarthX BMS is the recipient of over 100V
    N1PA

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    Is it time to mount batteries in an external pod maybe under the gear cabane?
    You can't get there from here. You have to go over yonder and start from there.

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    cruiser's Avatar
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    http://www.matronics.com/aeroelectri...r_Failures.pdf A generator will self excite. An alternator will, should, not. You need to know your system to know what should happen when you dump the field or master switch during a runaway event.

    Credit to Bob Nuckolls of Aeroelectricdotcom
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    It is time to start carrying around large amounts of a chemical that cannot be extinguished once ignited unless you are prepared to armor it like Boeing.
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    Steve Pierce's Avatar
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    There have been 2 or 3 incidents with Earth X batteries and through all my research there was no over voltage protection on the charging system. From what I have studied I am not concerned with thermal runaway with an OV circuit in the charging system and the safe guards EarthX has integrated into their batteries.
    Steve Pierce

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    Quote Originally Posted by wireweinie View Post
    Reading Cathy's response to Stewarb's email; Wow! that's some serious faa lawyerese! In the event your reg fails . . . then your over voltage protection fails . . . and then the battery receives over 100 volts . . . and you fail to manually take the alternator offline . . . this CAN produce enough energy to induce a thermal runaway.

    Now, I'm a big proponent of redundant systems, especially with regards to personnel and equipment safety, but how many layers do you need?! The typical charging system on a small aircraft already has redundant safety measures built into it. First off, an ammeter or voltmeter is required so that the system can be visually monitored. The generators and alternators both have breakers that open the output and/or field power circuits if they sense high current flow. And, finally, the regulator power circuit is run through one pole of the typical two pole master switch so that, when the master is shut off while the engine is running, the charging system cannot self excite. Bonus points if you have over/under voltage lights either in your volt/ammeter or connected to your regulator. AND, some manufacturers like Cessna use a stand alone over voltage module inline with the regulator power circuit. Then other manufacturers come along and build voltage protection into the reg itself.

    NO BATTERY will with stand the circumstances described in Cathy's response. At some point the operator has to take control and isolate the problem, it can't just be 'ruled' away. Turn off the charging system when you see and over voltage or excessively high current flow. Or maybe when the light comes on to alert you. Don't keep operating with the above conditions present. Don't override circuit protection systems. At what point do you stop blaming the equipment design and just say 'I should turn it off'?

    I'm still a fan of EarthX and I'm still installing them. I would like to hear about the Birchwood battery incident, however. Stewartb, could you share the details of this? If you want, PM or call me.

    Web
    I interpreted Cathy’s response as pointing out how small the threat is with my installation and that it would an take extraordinary set of circumstances to cause a thermal runaway given the equipment I have. The Birchwood thermal runaway event demonstrates that it can happen but I don’t know anything about that airplane’s charging system or whether the plane had the EarthX trouble light installed in the panel.

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    www.SkupTech.com mike mcs repair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skywagon8a View Post
    Web, is it possible for a failure in a system to put out 100 volts? Seems like a big number to me.

    and then the EarthX BMS is the recipient of over 100V
    An alternator will gladly put out more than that. The output is based on the field voltage... when regulator is functioning that’s less than half buss voltage. But when regulator fails it may put full buss voltage to field. So it just keeps increasing. Other styles of alternators grounds field to excite it, this style can run away because field wire get damaged and hits/rubs threw to a ground...


    Sent from my iPhone using SuperCub.Org mobile app

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    wireweinie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skywagon8a View Post
    Web, is it possible for a failure in a system to put out 100 volts? Seems like a big number to me.

    and then the EarthX BMS is the recipient of over 100V
    I've never rigged one just to measure the voltage, but if it did get that high, I can't imagine the alternator would last for more than e few seconds.

    The regulator would have to be completely bypassed and the RPM of the alternator would have to be as high as possible.

    Web
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    wireweinie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cruiser View Post
    http://www.matronics.com/aeroelectri...r_Failures.pdf A generator will self excite. An alternator will, should, not. You need to know your system to know what should happen when you dump the field or master switch during a runaway event.

    Credit to Bob Nuckolls of Aeroelectricdotcom
    Correct. However, automotive alternators, with internal regulators, will self excite when the regulator fails to a shorted condition. It's ugly when it happens.

    Web
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    wireweinie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mike mcs repair View Post
    An alternator will gladly put out more than that. The output is based on the field voltage... when regulator is functioning that’s less than half buss voltage. But when regulator fails it may put full buss voltage to field. So it just keeps increasing. Other styles of alternators grounds field to excite it, this style can run away because field wire get damaged and hits/rubs threw to a ground...


    Sent from my iPhone using SuperCub.Org mobile app
    Technically it's the current that controls the output. But that's just semantics because higher voltage is needed to increase current flow.

    Current flow through the field coils produces a magnetic field. In an alternator, these coils rotate with the shaft/pulley. This means that the magnetic field moves over the output coils to produce power. The regulator samples the output voltage and controls it by adjusting the current flow through the field. In an alternator there is no max current output limit as the output coils of the alternator begin to interfere with each other when you reach rated max current output. So if you had a thirty amp alternator and tried to get it to put out forty amps, it just won't do it. If you keep increasing the load above it's max, the voltage out will start to drop and no higher current out will take place.

    Under normal conditions, when you measure the voltage at the field terminal on the alternator, it will NEVER equal bus voltage, even with power to the reg and the engine not turning. I can't vouch for other brands, but the Motorcraft system on the Cessnas usually read between two and three volts when the engine is running. That's all the voltage needed to produce enough current (amps) to start to recharge the battery and run a few lights.

    Now imagine a scenario where full bus voltage is connected directly to the field terminal. With the engine running this would be 14.2 volts. And as the output voltage starts to rise, this means the voltage measured at the field terminal also rises. This scenario is a true 'runaway' charging system. The total voltage out will also be exacerbated by the speed of the alternator (engine speed). So if you pull back on RPM's the voltage will not rise as fast/far. But that's just temporary in a true runaway.

    Unlike automotive alternator systems, aircraft alternator systems use external power to supply the regulator. This is why power to the regulator power comes from the bus bar, through the field breaker, through one pole of the master switch and THEN to the regulator. This way pulling the field breaker OR placing the master switch off will remove power from the regulator and prevent any further output from the alternator.

    Web
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    mvivion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wireweinie View Post
    Technically it's the current that controls the output. But that's just semantics because higher voltage is needed to increase current flow.

    Current flow through the field coils produces a magnetic field. In an alternator, these coils rotate with the shaft/pulley. This means that the magnetic field moves over the output coils to produce power. The regulator samples the output voltage and controls it by adjusting the current flow through the field. In an alternator there is no max current output limit as the output coils of the alternator begin to interfere with each other when you reach rated max current output. So if you had a thirty amp alternator and tried to get it to put out forty amps, it just won't do it. If you keep increasing the load above it's max, the voltage out will start to drop and no higher current out will take place.

    Under normal conditions, when you measure the voltage at the field terminal on the alternator, it will NEVER equal bus voltage, even with power to the reg and the engine not turning. I can't vouch for other brands, but the Motorcraft system on the Cessnas usually read between two and three volts when the engine is running. That's all the voltage needed to produce enough current (amps) to start to recharge the battery and run a few lights.

    Now imagine a scenario where full bus voltage is connected directly to the field terminal. With the engine running this would be 14.2 volts. And as the output voltage starts to rise, this means the voltage measured at the field terminal also rises. This scenario is a true 'runaway' charging system. The total voltage out will also be exacerbated by the speed of the alternator (engine speed). So if you pull back on RPM's the voltage will not rise as fast/far. But that's just temporary in a true runaway.

    Unlike automotive alternator systems, aircraft alternator systems use external power to supply the regulator. This is why power to the regulator power comes from the bus bar, through the field breaker, through one pole of the master switch and THEN to the regulator. This way pulling the field breaker OR placing the master switch off will remove power from the regulator and prevent any further output from the alternator.

    Web
    Thanks, Web, great explanation!

    MTV
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    www.SkupTech.com mike mcs repair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wireweinie View Post
    I've never rigged one just to measure the voltage, but if it did get that high, I can't imagine the alternator would last for more than e few seconds.

    The regulator would have to be completely bypassed and the RPM of the alternator would have to be as high as possible.

    Web
    look up converting a car alternator to 120 volt for use in wind generators, basically you install permeant magnets to make it run better at slower speeds... my neighbor built one... don't remember all the details..

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    wireweinie's Avatar
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    Wouldn't you use a transformer to step up the voltage?

    Web
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    Quote Originally Posted by N86250 View Post
    Is it time to mount batteries in an external pod maybe under the gear cabane?
    Way ahead of you! I carry one or sometimes two 8 lb. 11.5 AH batteries for my electric mountain bike in a belly pod. I use 230 watts while riding about 17-18 mph, while also lightly pedaling, so one pack, containing 598 watts (52 VDC x 11.5 AH) can theoretically provide about 45 miles of range. But I'm always climbing mountains (up to 10K, after landing at 7,500') so that sucks them down faster. But "using up" two of them will provide an epic most of the day adventure, and that's why I pack them around, (and assume the risk) they transform what I can do AFTER landing, cold beer being just part of that.


    These packs are assembled by a stateside company I trust, using quality Panasonic cells, and with a quality battery management system riding herd over it all. It just seemed like a good idea, and they are also out of the way down there. I have a system rigged up to charge them in flight, at a very low 1.75 amp rate, using a solid state 12 VDC to 58 VDC converter I had custom made. The pack's nominal voltage is 52. The Rotax 912 "lighting coil" (I think that's what it's called, it has no external alternator anyway) only produces about 17 amps, and I have no idea what type of fail safe setup it has to not produce over voltage, so before anyone says I'm crazy for doing it this way, you may be right! But it's worked fine for 2 years now, my second EarthX (been using them for 5 years, recently the aviation specific one, the first one is in my ATV now) resides on the cabin floor between the rudder pedals, surprisingly unused real estate. So, I guess I trust the tech involved in these batteries more then some. I worry more about the gas in the wings, when I worry at all.

    FWIW: I got to drive a brand new AWD performance model of the Tesla the other day (0-60=2.9 seconds!) and it's owner, who put over 200K on his first one, and is a real advocate for the car, when I asked about the fleet hours concerning runaway battery issues after crashes, he responded with :"Tesla's have LESS fires then ICE cars, is what the stats are showing". His words, not mine.
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    If you are really worried about failure/meltdown but want the battery. Mount the battery in the cabin with a simple quick release hold down strap, run the neg and pos cables to a single quick release plug. If it has a runaway meltdown, unplug, release from holder, throw from plane. You may start the next big wildfire but a blazing aircraft would start it also.
    DENNY

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    Wish I could that with the fuel tanks also!

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    Why not add a temp probe to the battery if that's a concern? Just another gauge or caution light to monitor.

    https://earthxbatteries.com/shop/5mm...ount-indicator

    Gary
    Last edited by BC12D-4-85; 02-03-2019 at 03:26 PM.

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    cubflier's Avatar
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    I have attached the schematic of the B&C regulator commonly used in cubs for anyone that might find it useful. A look at the relationship of the three labels on top that show what happens in an over voltage event and drives home the importance of the 5amp breaker between the bus terminal and the bus.

    A failure mode of the B&C that I have seen starts the OV event when the output transistor fails shorted. Of course it's quickly followed by the the OV system in the B&C then shorting pin 6 (your bus) to ground. Without the 5amp breaker doing it's job worlds collide. You can test a the B&C for this type of fault by doing a continuity test between pin 4 and 6 if you are in a situation where the breaker trips.

    As an anecdote - A friend of mine was kind enough to loan me a B&C with a shorted output transistor that he thought was good. Oddly at idle it did not blow the 5amp breaker or have a runaway voltage event but any addition of rpm caused the breaker to pop. The photo on the bottom is the defective transistor.

    Jerry

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    If it looks smooth...it might be

    If it looks rough...it is!!
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    Quote Originally Posted by BC12D-4-85 View Post
    Why not add a temp probe to the battery if that's a concern? Just another gauge or caution light to monitor.

    https://earthxbatteries.com/shop/5mm...ount-indicator

    Gary
    The new earthx batteries are already wired for this light. I had to look up what the extra wire coming out of mine was when I got a new one last fall.

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    This thread made me go out to the hangar yesterday and wire up the warning light circuit that came with my new EarthX (new last spring anyway), as I had never gotten around to it earlier. Not that I felt any increased risk from it, more of "why not, it's right there, and I have a little LED light and the wire." And it's always fun spending quality time laying on the floorboards under the panel, it gets the crimps out of my back! Having the skis on makes this even more "fun".
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    Steve Pierce's Avatar
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    So here is a case of an overcharge accident.
    https://www.atsb.gov.au/publications...n/ab-2018-124/
    Steve Pierce

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    Does Deltran use the same protective circuits as Earth X?

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    There is a reason why Boeing redesigned their lithium battery box to be made out of a solid billet of stainless steel machined to be 2 inches thick on all sides. That reason resides in that Tasmanian cow pasture.

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    BS, spread at the speed of light. It gets really old.
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    Yes, kinda like insults, that some folks offer way more than their fair share of.
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    Eddie, front and center! We need a chemical engineers take, here.

    There are several types of batteries that use lithium and (something else). EarthX batteries are NOT lithium-ion construction. They are lithium-iron phosphate. Different chemicals in the mixture means different reactions to charge rate and heat. Also like to point out the human error in most of these 'smoke/fire' incidents. The article pointed out by Mr. Pierce states that the owner had completely discharged this battery ('flattened' it). Since that depletion the battery has failed to consistently hold a charge. He admits that on the flight in which the fire occurred, he left the jump pack connected for the flight. AND he ignored charge/voltage warnings and continued to fly. All part of the cascade of events.

    Another point to consider if imagining the EarthX in the above situation, is that EarthX has their BMI circuit which shuts off the battery when the voltage drops to a set level. This would have protected the battery from a complete discharge and any damage that would result from it.

    Web
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    skywagon8a's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wireweinie View Post
    EarthX batteries are NOT lithium-ion construction. They are lithium-iron phosphate. Different chemicals in the mixture means different reactions to charge rate and heat.
    Web
    lithium-ion or lithium-iRon It is so easy to confuse since there is only one letter difference in the spelling. Especially since most folks just call them all lithium batteries. Perhaps when we are looking to buy a lithium battery we should first ask ourselves if the battery is "Strong like Iron?".
    N1PA
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    Quote Originally Posted by wireweinie View Post
    Eddie, front and center! We need a chemical engineers take, here.

    Web
    "Put out my hand and touched the face of God!"
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    I'll link it again. Listen and learn about Lithium Ion batteries from the expert. A little knowlege can't hurt.

    https://video.eaa.org/detail/video/5...ries-explainedhttps://video.eaa.org/detail/video/5...ries-explained
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    Something I have observed and been guilty of myself is installing the B&C in a place that limits accessibility to the connection terminals and the adjustment port. I finally went through the pain of rectifying mine. It's a good thing to keep in mind if you are going to use EarthX or similar battery. Another consideration is the under used terminal number 2 on the B&C regulator. It is used to test the over voltage system. A momentary jump between terminals 6 and 2 sets it off and lets you know if the 5 amp breaker is working. I have tested the unit on the bench by running the voltage past 16.2 but never used terminal 2 while the regulator was installed. B&C recommends this test at annual as I recall.

    Jerry
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    Thanks for that reference, Jerry. That's good information for this discussion.

    Here's the installation test instruction from the manual. As an EarthX user I think I'll add step B to my condition inspection list.


    Test the installation as follows —
    A. Low-voltage indication: turn the battery master switch ON, and observe the incandescent warning light. Depending on the condition of the battery, this light may or may not flash. If it does not begin flashing, turn on the landing light or the nav lights to lower the battery voltage sufficiently to make the warning light start to flash (typically between 12.5 and 13 volts; or 25 and 26 volts on 28v models).
    B. Over-voltage protection: with the battery master switch ON, turn the alternator field switch ON. Touch a jumper wire momentarily between terminal #2 and terminal #6; this should cause the 5A field breaker to open (thus confirming the function of the over- voltage protection circuit). Failure of the field breaker to open is cause for investigation.
    C. System charging: start the engine according to normal procedure. With the engine running and the battery master switch ON, turn the alternator field switch ON. An increase in bus voltage to 14 to 14.4 volts (or 28 to 28.8 volts) should be observed, depending on the electrical load, engine RPM, and type of alternator (refer to the supporting documents for the alternator to determine the RPM at which measurable output may be expected). The low-voltage warning light should no longer flash.
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