a website collaboration between Science Service and the Smithsonian Institution

1956 - Clarence P. Bowers (right) refrigerating batteries in upright freezers


CD 2055033 E&MP3.016


March 15, 1956

A new means has been found of keeping wet storage batteries fully charged in retail stocks and adding several years to their service life.

Bowers Battery and Spark Plug Co., Reading, Pa., has come up with the idea of refrigerating batteries in upright freezers. These are already being installed in service stations and garages throughout the country.

Holding the batteries in cold storage, Bowers reports, will save dealers a good deal of trouble in handling and costly service at the time of sale. It will also assure complete customer satisfaction since the process virtually guarantees that every battery sold is fully charged when installed.

Batteries stored in a freezer at below 20ºF have been found to lose only about 10% of their storage capacity over a period of one year. The low temperature minimizes harmful chemical sulfation on the plates and practically halts self-discharge.

On the other hand, loss of capacity at normal temperatures is quite rapid and highly detrimental. At 70º to 80ºF, a battery loses 100% of capacity by self-discharge in less than a year, and can no longer be restored to usable condition. A fully charged 1.260 specific gravity battery, for instance, will self-discharge at the rate of .001 specific gravity per day. This battery would thus discharge to 1.230 specific gravity in 30 days.

After this amount of normal loss, the dealer must either recharge the battery or install it in a partially discharged condition.

Cold storage during the Summer months, Bowers indicated, should especially save dealers a lot of headaches since batteries self-discharge at a much higher-than-average rate when exposed to the hot sun or plus 80ºF heat. Continuous exposure to such temperatures is said to leave a stock battery completely dead in 90 days.

This method of preserving wet storage batteries eliminates the $1.50 to $2.00 extra dry charging cost that is included in the dealer price of every dry charged battery. There is no separate acid to handle, since the electrolyte is already in the wet battery.

Furthermore, a freshly-filled dry charged battery may have less than 75% capacity when installed. It must then depend on the car generator to bring it up to a fully charged state. And sometimes it may never become fully charged if the car is driven a low mileage weekly.

The freezers used in the storage process will hold as many as 14 different size batteries each. As suggested by Bowers, the units should prove particularly useful for storing slow moving batteries or for meeting a sudden quantity demand. For example, the new 12-volt batteries for 1955 and 1956 automobiles are not naturally moving fast. But they must be kept in stock for the time when they are needed.

“By holding batteries in cold storage,” said Clarence P. Bowers, president of the company, “dealers will be able to keep them factory-fresh and fully charged. And, when they are sold, the batteries on an average will last the motorist several years longer than they would ordinarily”.

‘When a customer buys a new battery, he is paying for and is entitled to receive one which is fully charged,” he continued. “Only a fully charged battery can deliver the published and guaranteed performance.”

The Bowers method of refrigerating batteries is being adopted by automotive service stations, garages and repair shops from coast to coast. The freezer units will be suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. 

Original Caption by Science Service
©Bowers Battery and Spark Plug Co.

National Museum of American History


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