Lithium Based Starting Units

A reliable, portable ground power unit (GPU) is an indispensable tool for all small aircraft facility, or for anyone owning a private aircraft. Modern aircraft are designed to require assistance in starting and running electrical systems while the craft is on the ground. This reduces weight and reduces the use of fuel.

Though large, diesel powered generators are used to supply electricity to an aircraft while on the ground, these are large and cumbersome, often having to be towed to the plane. Some of the larger airport facilities have stationary GPUs built into the runway or tarmac areas.

Portable starting units are generally only used to start the aircraft and are not used to charge an aircraft’s internal batteries. Because they are used for more limited purposes, they are lighter and can often be carried to the waiting aircraft. Besides starting the aircraft, they can also be used to test electrical systems.

Older portable starting units are of the lead acid type of battery, the same system used for car batteries. Though the unit is technically portable, the lead acid design makes them heavy. Often a wheeled dolly is necessary for mobility. A lead acid GPU normally takes a longer time to charge.

A GPU that is becoming more popular is designed with lithium batteries. The lithium ion design is made to be lightweight. For a portable GPU starting unit using a lithium battery, such as those supplied by Start Pac may weigh as little as 30 lbs and are light enough to be carried by hand, a small cart or a dolly. They can be nearly half the weight of a lead acid battery pack.

Though light, lithium powered GPU can provide 36 amps of current for more than 30 minutes, or about twice the life of lead acid batteries. Peak amps for starting may be as high as 2400 Amps. This amperage is normally sufficient to start most aircraft turbine engines. Units can produce 24 or 26 volts, depending on the aircraft electrical configuration. Lithium units can normally be charged in 6 hours or less.

A lithium powered portable starting unit is not going to replace the need for diesel powered generators at an aircraft facility. Larger units will still be necessary to run electrical systems while the aircraft is being serviced and to charge aircraft batteries.

Lead acid batteries will also retain their place in the GPU field of tools. But for a quick, reliable start with a lightweight, mobile unit, lithium GPUs are becoming increasingly popular among aircraft owners and ground crews.

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