The following information appeared on the infomad mailing list during a discussion about batteries.
From: j halbrooks
When planning for life after any "event" of size, it is necessary to completely change thinking habits.
Discussion about how long batteries will last if kept at -20 deg. hopefully are only thinkintg of short terms after any event. Consider the energy necessary to maintain cold temperatures. Where will this energy come from? After an event of large size, there WILL BE NO ENERGY AVAILABLE. YOU MUST CHANGE YOUR THINKING TO SURVIVAL WITH' "0" UTILITY INPUT'.
If you need battery power, then learn how to rebuild standard lead acid one as found in autos and trucks. Without fuel for operation, there will likely be a surplus of vehicles free for the taking. Chances are that if the vehicle was running, the battery is still good.
The main cause of failure in vehicle batteries is that there a slagging off of plate material, I believe it is named lead sulphate. It literally piles up in the bottom of the battery until the pile shorts out a pair, or more of plates.
Batteries used to be REBUILT and SURV thinkers should learn battery construction and how to work with battery acid,so they can make their own.
It is a far more valuable skill to be able to rebuild them than to expect an unending supply to be available in cold storage.
Electrical energy can be stored in batteries, but they continue to insist on discharging, both from the drain of use (powere removed from them) or simply by their standing by.
Automotive type lead acid 12 volt batteries would be available for several years after any major "event" by salvage from vehicles. The preoblem is how to restore their charge.
Operating a vehicle engine that normally has a 12 VDC battery system is the easiest, but the load to charge the battery is small compared to the load of mov ing the vehicle, so the engine is greatly oversized to only provide battery charging service.
Better to remove the alternator and to build it into a charging set using a smaller engine.
The normal "Briggs & Stratton" lawnmower engine is a poor choice. They have no durability - as measured in months, hopefully years of service.
An automobile engine will often last 150,000 miles. Chose any average speed you desire, but using 20 mph, this is [ 150,000 / 20] 7500 hours of operation. Divide by 24, for 24 hours per day, to get about 300 days. This says that if you took a new auto engine and ran it all the time for only 300 days, it would be equivalent to driving that engine 150,000, or would consume the useful service life of the engine. NOT EVEN ONE YEAR! How long are you planning for?
If it is one of the recent engines that uses fuel injection, you will not be able to alternati ly fuel the engine. Alternative fuels may have contaminants that will cause injector problems.
So what is a survivalist to do? Get a different kind of engine!
Not as common as auto engines, but available are the slow turning ( on the order of 500 RPM), cast iron engines of one cylinder. They are often called "hit or miss" engines due to one method of speed regulatrion.
Due to their robust construction and slow speeds, they will run many times longer than a regular auto engine. They usually have a manual starting method, a simple water reservoir xcooling system, and a carbureter, often starting on gasoline ( as it is very flammable) then able to change over to kerosene. Kerosene is approximately equal to #1 fuel oil. IT IS NOT #2 heating or diesel fuel oil !
Go to the summer and fall festivals and look around. You will often find some operating and on display. The most common units will be about 1 1/2 hp ( these are larger horses than found in Brigg's engines) about 2' x 2' x 2' in volume. Most have drip lubrication, open crankcases, and magnetos to fire the spark plug. Ask the man who owns one about their long service lives. Also about fairs for just these engines. Note that these engines were generally made prior to WWII. By shopping around you should be able to find a small, servicable engine for a few hundred dollars.
In the US almost all of these engines run on gasoline or start gas/run kero; while in europe small diesel models made after WWII are useds. These engines were commonly used to power generators, washing machines, milk machines, saws etc. before electrical power became available.
Making a battery charging set using one of these small engines better fits long-term survival plans than other engine types. A 1 1/2 hp unit is small to power large ( 3' dia) saw blade, but will run a smaller one of narrow kerf. Using belts, it would be possible to power several items with a single engine. You will likely need to include wood into your SURV plans, and it always needs cutting. Morew on wood later.
Ever interested in adding to my storehouse of knowledge (currently a broomcloset of knowledge), I asked Ok...any idea where to learn to rebuild them? [batteries] The answer:
1) look in the back of Popular Science magazine
2) go to a small battery shop ( there are a few around) and ask to watch, or just s l o w l y walk in and out, visually taking in the scene. Ask the owner a question or two. [Of course this is for your child's science fair project he is thinking of doing] He wants to demonstrate the recycling of batteries by actually taking a car battery apart and rebuilding it. You [ being the older and wiser parent ] have agreed to help as you want to keep your child safe from both electricity and battery acid. Got it? If not, just buy them. You may wind up purchasing a few battery parts, but can gain an education from it. They may lt you watch while they take a battery apartr and put it together. Of course you may want to run your child's- Your child may want to run their battery-- on lemon concentrate ( the Real Lemon green bottle stuff) and water, to avoid stronger acids. It will probably develop a voltage for demo purposes, and the battery guy will be more inclined to show and provide materials to a safe situation. You can later buy the stronger HCl .
There are " deep cycle" batteries made. They are often used in golf carts. The golf course can tell you where they get their batteries. Some of these places used to rebuild them. I have purchased nearly new golf cart batteries at a good price from this source.
3) Get eyewear, rubber gloves, rubber apron, etc, and, ( as Nike says) " just do it". The main precaution is to have plenty of water available to dilute acid.
Take a turkey baster, ear syringe, anti-freeze tester to get some acid from a charged battery. Put an ounce or so into a glass, then put a piesc of nylon cloth into the glass. Note that the acid DISSOLVES NYLON. Keep that in mind regarding your handling of acids and your dress. Some hospitals do not allow a Hydrocloric acid type bowl cleaner to be used on the premises due to this. A phosphoric type is used, which is not as effective. [ for those outside of the hard water areas of Indiand, etc, the local water is " hard" meaning it contains calcium dissolved in it, which builds up on tub, tile, toilrt, sink. As concrete is disolved by HCl ( available in building goods stores for masons) "bowl cleaner" is a more dilute version of the same thing.