¹Many people take lead acid to mean liquid filled but, in fact, the term covers AGM, gel, carbon-foam, and liquid filled, which all use fundamentally the same chemistry.
Just over a year ago I wrote a chapter in our Online Book on Electrical Systems For Cruising Boats on the then new Wakespeed WS500 and how excited I was that we cruisers finally had a regulator available that actually knew the state of charge by measuring the actual current (amperage) going into the battery, rather than guessing, like every so-called "smart regulator" has for the last two decades (since the Link 2000R went out of production).
After I wrote that piece the guys at Wakespeed were kind enough to send me a WS500 for evaluation, but since we were selling our McCurdy and Rhodes 56, there was not a lot of point in installing the regulator on her, so it sat in a box in our basement for the last year.
But now I'm in the throes of designing a new DC electrical system, with the WS500 at its core, for our new-to-us J/109, and, as part of that, I wrote to Al, founder and chief designer at Wakespeed, to see what cool things he and Rick, the marketing partner in the operation, have been cooking up over the past year.
Al, who is clearly a guy at the forefront of making this stuff work elegantly, was incredibly generous with his time, answering a bunch of my questions in the form of half-a-dozen emails that, taken together, are a fascinating white paper on the state of battery-charging technology.
Plus, Al is a live-aboard cruiser who understands our needs, not some corporate person interested in milking the last drop of profit out of some so-so gear.
So let's dig into what's happening at Wakespeed and the cool stuff I learned from Al, a lot of it about lithium battery systems:
A Regulator For All Of Us
As I discussed in my last article on the WS500, the best thing about Al's design is that it manages to be:
- Incredibly feature rich in order to support complex lithium-based systems owned by those who want the very latest and coolest.
- Just the thing for a simple lead-acid based system for those who want the damned DC system to work reliably and get the job done in the most efficient way possible but who don't want to worry about all the techie details.
I Just Want To Go Cruising
So for those of you who are charter members of the second group, all you need to do is:
- Read or reread my original chapter on the WS500 to find out why it's by far the best cruiser's alternator controller.
- Buy and install a WS500.
- Install a decent alternator.
- Install good-quality lead acid batteries.
- Set the dip switches on the WS500 for the batteries you selected as documented in the quick start guide.
- Stop reading right here and go cruising with a smug smile on your face.
For the rest of us tech-geeks, keep reading: