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Dead Batteries? You Need an Engine Start Module

Learn how the Skelstart Engine Start Module can save fleets lots of money on maintenance and jump-start avoidance.

Episode 248: Fleets are always trying to manage maintenance costs while leveraging technologies to help them become greener. One problem facing fleets is the cost of dead batteries from being drained overnight by the driver, who then cannot start the truck in the morning. In this episode, we talk about an engine start module that blows the competition out of the water and ensures trucks can start under any condition.

My guest today is Mike Phillips the VP of Sales at C8 Energy. 

Mike Phillips is the VP of Sales at C8 Energy.  In this episode, learn how the Skelstart Engine Start Module can save fleets lots of money on maintenance and jump-start avoidance.

Mike has 30-years of experience in the Heavy-Duty market, with an emphasis on fleets, OEMs, and aftermarket.

Guest Website: C8Energy.com

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Transcript of Episode:

Jamie Irvine:

You are listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine, and this is the show where you get expert advice about heavy-duty parts that keep trucks and trailers on the road longer while lowering costs per mile.

When we are talking to fleets, one of the big topics of conversation, of course is maintenance and reducing downtime. But on the other side of the equation, another very large topic is whether or not a fleet can utilize green technology to be able to make them more efficient and also lower their impact on the environment. And as we’ve recorded episodes with a number of different technology providers, we have heard these kind of overarching themes come up over and over again, both from the supplier standpoint and also from the fleet standpoint.

And today’s episode we’re going to get into this kind of where these two subjects overlap and I’m very excited to have with me Mike Phillips. Now Mike and I have been trying to get an interview booked for a while now and it’s awesome that we finally get him on the show. He is the VP of Sales at C8 Energy and he’s got over 30 years’ experience in the heavy-duty industry. He’s worked at every level with a focus on OEMs as well as aftermarket. So Mike is a guy who I have been looking forward to talking to. So let’s get him on the show. Mike, welcome to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. So glad to have you here.

Mike Phillips:

Thank you Jamie. I’m glad to be part of the show.

Jamie Irvine:

So as I mentioned in the introduction, really when we’re trying to help fleets, one of the big things we’re trying to help them with of course is downtime. There’s also new technology available to them. So just from a trends perspective, you’ve been working in the field a long time, what has been the direction fleets are going in? What are the overarching trends you’re seeing? And then lean on our second segment we’ll really get into the solution that your company offers. So let’s just start from the fleets perspective. What’s their situation and what are their objectives?

Mike Phillips:

Well, from my experience, obviously saving costs and maintenance and downtime are always a key concern for fleets. They’re trying to find better solutions to stay on the road, keep the trucks running. And then as we touched on a little bit in the opening and doing that in a much more economical greener way is the trend of what we’re seeing with a lot of OEMs looking to build hybrid type vehicles, electric vehicles. And so it is a topic that comes up on a regular basis at the fleet level is how can we continue to reduce our carbon footprint and keep these trucks running at the levels that we’re used to while we’re going forward with new technologies.

Jamie Irvine:

And it’s that balancing of the older technology. So you might have a mixed fleet now in the near future where you’ve got a bunch of I.C.E. powered vehicles and then you’ve got some electric powered vehicles and it’s like how do you navigate that moving forward? I think there’s still a fair amount of unanswered questions that a lot of people have about how this is all going to go. And that definitely causes a little bit of sleepless nights I think for some fleet maintenance managers.

Mike Phillips:

Oh, absolutely. And like say this is, we’re still just on the front side of this and just it’s new technologies that are coming out and it’s just educating what’s available and products that are out there to help them achieve these goals.

Jamie Irvine:

Could you give us the origin of your company and then in the second segment we’ll really get into specific products, but I’d like to learn more about C8 Energy. So how did it all get started? What’s the origin story?

Mike Phillips:

Well, we’re actually a startup and my boss and I both have similar experiences from being in the industry for over 30 years together and during Covid actually kind of wanted to get into the band life type of a thing. And the problem was is how do you power your vehicle while you’re out extended periods without running your engines and charging and things to that nature?

So he reached out companies and texted him one evening and we got some response back from a company called Skeleton Technologies and they started talking and they had some technology that would allow him to do exactly what we’re talking about, starting the vehicle with little to no battery life, not having to idle the vehicle to recharge batteries. So in the morning that your extending battery. So that’s how it all started. And here today we partnered with Skeleton Technologies and we’re bringing some new innovative technology to North America.

Jamie Irvine:

And that’s where great ideas come from. You start with a problem and a customer and you kind of work it backwards from there. It’s like how do we provide a solution? Where is there a need? So I’m excited to learn more about the specific product when we get back from our break, we’re going to dive into that. We’ll be right back.

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Parts availability and quality have a big influence on fleets and owner operator’s total cost of operation. If they can’t find a part, it means more downtime. If they install a low quality part and it fails, it means even more costs like tow bills, hotels, meals for the driver and lost revenue. That’s why we recommend Sampa. They manufacture a wide range of advanced parts for commercial vehicles. Their website has an intelligent product search engine and broad coverage of suspension, steering and fifth wheel components. Expect More. Expect Sampa. Visit sampa.com today.

Jamie Irvine:

We’re back from our break and before the break we were learning a little bit about the trends of where fleets are going. They’re trying to manage maintenance costs, they’re trying to figure out how to leverage technology to be greener. And we learned a little bit about the origin story of C8 Energy. Mike, let’s talk specifically about the product. So before the break you mentioned that the kind of problem that you were trying to solve was all centered around batteries charging and reducing emissions, reducing costs. So let’s talk a little bit about the product specifically.

Mike Phillips:

So the product is actually it’s a super capacitor and we use capacitors in everything from computers into all kinds of different technologies. And Skeleton Technologies has developed a capacitor that stores energy and can do it at a higher level and more reliably than anybody else in the marketplace. They have won some awards for taking the graphene, which is the actual material that is inside the capacitor that stores the energy.

They’ve developed a way to curve it and can hold 72% more energy than any other capacitor manufacturer in the world. And they actually won the 2022 European invention of the year and we partnered up with Skeleton Technologies and we are bringing that technology to North America. It’s in a nice compact size. It looks like a group 31 battery, but it’s not a battery it its sole purpose is to store energy and to start the engine and taking the lead acid batteries completely out the equation.

Jamie Irvine:

That’s a big objective. I know when I was selling heavy-duty parts, one of the things about selling those group 31 lead batteries, a lot of times you’re replacing them every single year. And so maybe let’s talk a little bit about the old technology and where the problem is. So obviously replacing batteries on a regular basis has a cost to it, but there’s more to it than that, isn’t there?

Mike Phillips:

Absolutely, Jamie. It’s become a part of, actually, as you mentioned just the annual maintenance cost. I mean it’s not worth trying to recharge batteries or the process to, if you have a bad battery to hook it up, you have to charge it up to see if you can even get warranties. So it’s become just part of a annual maintenance cost. And most fleets that we to it just every year they just replace the batteries without even knowing they’re still reliable or not. But the problem with the lead acid battery is they deteriorate very quickly and they’re not really designed to start the engine. They’re more designed to run hotel loads.

Now they do make starting batteries, but what you lose from that is they’re not designed really for slow discharge and running hotel loads over the road and that sort of thing. Batteries also are very susceptible to temperature. Unlike a super capacitor that we make, engine start modules not affected by any temperature extremes, it can hold its charge for months at a time without being charged. So what SkelStart engine start module can provide is once you fully charge it, it’s going to hold that charge and it’s going to start your truck every time, reliably time after time, no matter what the conditions are or how long it’s set out in extreme temperatures. So that’s where we’re at today.

Jamie Irvine:

So is this something that is kind of retrofitted into the truck? So you buy this from you, where does it go? You mentioned that it kind of looks like a group 31, so where does it get placed in the truck and then how does it get connected to the charging system so that available starting power is always there on demand?

Mike Phillips:

Yeah, that’s definitely a good question. So it’s the exact same size as a group 31 battery and most trucks have a battery bank of say usually four batteries. What you do is you actually replace one of the lead acid batteries with the start. It goes right in place of that, you disconnect all the positive cables from the battery that run direct to the positive side of the starter. You hook those together. So now the batteries are no longer attached to the starter.

So you create a new cable that attaches from the SkelStart direct to the positive side of the starter, and then you hook the other two battery negative and battery positive to the SkelStart battery. So the only thing that is attached now to the starter is the scale start. And so it takes the batteries completely out of the equation for starting.

So it’s not only going to make your batteries last longer cause they are no longer necessary for starting the truck, it can also impact the life of your starter because as we know, high torque starters require certain amperage to turn the engine over and with the SkelStart you’re going to get that required amperage every time. Unlike a lead acid battery that can deteriorate your starters. So we’re increasing the life of the batteries, we’re increasing your starter life and again you could have a completely dead set of batteries and the truck will start cause the SkelStart has the energy stored to start that truck time after time.

Jamie Irvine:

Okay. So you are kind of isolating the starter. The batteries obviously that are still the three batteries left, they’re still relied on to provide energy, I’m assuming for when the truck is pulled over on the side of the road and the driver needs something inside of the cab. How does the day-to-day operation of those other electrical systems get impacted by this change?

Mike Phillips:

Yeah, so that’s exactly right. Lead acid batteries are there to run the radio, charge your cell phone, computers, things like that. And the beauty of they’re not impacted because they have more energy at a slow discharge that can run that sort of power all night long. And as I mentioned, so over the road truck, if he’s sitting at a truck stop, he can run all of his comforts all night.

He won’t have to worry about starting the truck to recharge those batteries so that he can start in the morning because as I mentioned, the SkelStart takes over that. So there’s a very minimal amperage required to start your truck. So as long as there’s enough juice in the battery when you turn it to the on position to turn heat on, the takes over the rest and pretty much the batteries will always have enough juice to at least turn that first initial step on.

Jamie Irvine:

And this doesn’t impact the charging system in any way. So the alternator is still connected when you are driving down the road, you’re still charging up your system. So that’s why you’re always going to have enough energy when you need it.

Mike Phillips:

Absolutely. That that’s absolutely correct. And it takes such little energy to recharge. It’s a matter of seconds basically that it is back at its full recharge. It only takes nine volts to completely charge the SkelStart. And when you first install this, it comes discharged because we are talking about green technology, no hazardous materials inside the SkelStart. It actually can be recycled just like you would TV monitor or a laptop computer.

So you’ll energize it once it’s all hooked up, there’s three posts on the SkelStart. You have your battery positive and battery negative, and then the starter plus, which runs directly to the starter. So once you energize it in initial install, it takes about 19 minutes for it to come full charge. And there’s an LED indicator that tells you once that’s charged and once that’s charged we’ve actually can start a 16 liter engine multiple times 12 to 15 times before it even needs to be recharged again.

And once you’ve started that truck and it’s actually running the lead acid batteries have already basically recharged that from that one time that it’s used. So it’s a very powerful unit. We can install these and it’ll start engines all the way up to 85 liters. We’ve put these in mining equipment so it’s very versatile and it can start any engine anytime. And I did talk a little bit about extreme temperatures. We’ve actually tested these down to negative 44 degrees and it’ll start the truck in less than one second every time. So it’s an amazing piece of technology that will keep your truck on the road.

Jamie Irvine:

And that was negative 44 Celsius?

Mike Phillips:

Correct. Celsius/fahrenheit at that point are actually the same.

Jamie Irvine:

That’s the joke right, which is it Celsius or Farenheit, when it’s that cold it doesn’t matter.

Mike Phillips:

It doesn’t matter. So as long as the capacitors aren’t affected like a battery is, and if you notice even in your automobile when it’s really cold outside, it has crank and crank to get that engine start. So as long as the oil in the engine is still liquid, it’ll start. So it probably could go even below 40 degrees Celsius, but at a certain point oil starts to solidify and it won’t crank the engine over.

Jamie Irvine:

Right. Okay. That makes sense. And for all of our listeners who have never experienced that it is something else to pull away with your vehicle and it’s so cold, the tires are actually frozen a little bit into the shape that they sat in overnight. So actually when you go down the road, you get a, until the tires warm up, I always tell that story to give people an indication because they almost don’t believe you when you say things like the oil can freeze solid.

But that is the experience of the great white north. Okay. So one of the things I know about lead acid batteries is that the plates inside the battery are susceptible to road vibration and as the plates start to break, the battery loses its ability to store energy and then eventually it just is a dead battery. How is a capacitor different to a battery when it comes to road vibration?

Mike Phillips:

Yeah, so what is inside each capacitor is, as I mentioned, that graphene that is actually applied to an aluminum sheet and then it’s rolled up and stored inside a little canister. It’s no bigger than a 12 ounce pop can. So that’s basically what it is.

So there’s nothing that can rattle loose it. It’s a self-contained energy storage system and it doesn’t degrade either over the lifespan, like you mentioned with lead acid batteries just from vibration and even being charged and discharged, they do lose their ability to hold energy where this capacitor, it’s good for over a million cycles. And so it is pretty much a one-time investment for any fleet and it’ll continue to provide that high cranking amperage every single time without any kind of degradation to the internal components.

Jamie Irvine:

That’s fascinating. Do you have an example of a customer who’s used it and what was the economic impact for the fleet?

Mike Phillips:

So it, it’s relatively new out there. So we have had some fleets utilizing this technology probably for about 12 months now is what they’re looking at. We have it in some mining equipment, several over the road trucks. And what they’re finding, especially like with an electric APU system, they’re just finding that they’re not having to call in for jump starts.

They’re reducing the idle time. So especially with cost diesel right now, they’re saving several hours of idle time to keep the batteries charged up. And something that I want to elaborate on about the APU system, generally there’s another battery bank that runs that electric APU. So with the scale start, you can actually take the isolator out of the equation that goes in between the two battery banks from the starting of the engine to the powering of the creature comforts hotel loads.

And so now you can almost double the amount of batteries. So now you’re going from four batteries to run the APU, turn that into seven batteries so you can have all the power you need, run that system all night long. He gets up in the morning, goes to start the truck, doesn’t worry about what shape the batteries are in cause the SkelStart, starts the truck and then we start the process over, the alternator charges up the rest of the batteries. And so they’re seeing a significant improvement in their fuel economy.

Not to mention what’s the cost for a roadside jumpstart. I mean that can be thousands of dollars right there not replacing the batteries as often. So the maintenance of and the downtime of replacing batteries. So they are seeing some significant return on investments and if it avoids one jumpstart, it has basically paid for itself.

Jamie Irvine:

You’ve been listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. We’ve been with Mike Phillips, VP of Sales at C8 Energy. If you’d like to learn more about this fascinating product, go to see at c like Charlie C8 energy.com. Links will be in the show notes. Mike, thanks for being on The Heavy-Duty Parts Report telling us about this new product. I’m excited to get it in the hands of more of the listeners of the show and getting their feedback on what they think of it. So thanks so much for being on the show.

Mike Phillips:

Thank you for inviting me, Jamie. I really appreciate your time.

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