Over the last five years, the number and variety of jump starting options has expanded amazingly. Choices have proliferated. Lithium… Ultracapacitor… Lead Acid… the number of options when it comes to the power supply inside the jump starter have never been so numerous. That’s great for purchasers, but it also means there is a lot more to sort out to make sure that you find the right solution for your needs. It also underscores the importance of focusing on your starting and power needs first and foremost, then moving on to secondary features. After all, you’re searching for a jump starter, so it’s best to prioritize the fit to your starting needs.
We’ll start with the grand daddy of jump starter power supplies. The key benefits of lead acid when it comes to jump starting are its ability to deliver high power, its ability to deliver extended cranking durations, ability to perform in cold temperatures, its ability to withstand abuse and its ability to hold its charge for extended periods and still be useful for jump starting. The biggest drawbacks of the lead acid option are weight and size. It is definitely the heaviest of the jump starting options and typically the bulkiest.
When it comes to high demand jump starting, both in terms of frequency and in terms of power requirement, lead acid is a great option. Hard to start vehicles often require multiple starting attempts and extended cranking. The typically deep reserve capacity of the lead acid solution is particularly well suited to such circumstances. While we don’t recommend it, when you really have to lay on your key to get a vehicle started, you’ll be glad you have a quality lead acid solution that will hang in there until the vehicle turns over.
With all that said, not all lead acid solutions are created equal. As is true of most products, the difference between a quality jump starter and a lesser model is significant. And it all comes down to the power within – it is possible to have a bad jump starter with a good battery, but a good jump starter with a poor quality battery does not exist. Jump-N-Carry and Booster PAC jump starter batteries (Clore PROFORMER and ES Series) are designed specifically to address the needs of the jump starting function, delivering exceptional power, extended cranking, numerous jumps per charge, long shelf life between charges and lasting service in the toughest environments.
Lithium jump starters have been around in commercial settings for about five years and have evolved significantly in that time. The key benefits of lithium when it comes to jump starting are its power density, its ability to hold a charge for extended periods, its ability to deliver other functions such as charging of small electronics, and its light weight and compact size. The biggest drawbacks are its lack of abuse tolerance, its reduced performance when temperatures drop and its difficultly with extended cranking (most units incorporate safety features which limit cranking duration and depth of discharge).
When it comes to convenience, it is hard to beat lithium. Its light weight and compact size mean that you can have a relatively powerful jump starter in a comparatively small package. Despite the fact that they are less tolerant of abuse, or perhaps because of it, most lithium units feature an extensive safety package that protects the unit from basic operator errors, such as reverse polarity protection and over voltage shutdown.
Like lead acid units, the level of quality varies greatly among models in the market, but with an added complication. There are many different lithium chemistries, each of which has a different set of properties related to power and performance. For instance, some chemistries are more stable, which is good if the unit is used in an environment where it is pushed to its performance frontier. Some chemistries provide better performance in cold temperatures, while others are very sensitive to cold, rendering them a bad choice if you live in a cold climate.
Jump-N-Carry and Booster PAC lithium models provide a great combination of effective jump starting power, a comprehensive safety package, durable construction and numerous convenience features. Model Nos. ES580 and JNC318 even feature a PreHeat function to improve cold temperature effectiveness, allowing them to be effective in temperatures as low as -30˚C. All models feature USB output to charge small electronics and are packaged in convenient storage cases, making them great for storage in a vehicle or a toolbox.
Ultracapacitor jump starters are a relatively recent development when it comes to portable jump starters. The key benefits of ultracapacitors when it comes to jump starting are massive power to weight ratio, exceptional cold temperature performance, the speed with which they give their power to the jump starting application (more power faster is always better) and their exceptional longevity. The biggest drawbacks of the ultracapacitor option are their lack of reserve capacity and the speed with which they discharge (don’t hold a charge for long) when not in use.
When it comes to high frequency starting and high power starting, ultracapacitor units are a great option. And, ultracapacitors are largely unaffected by the cold, allowing them to deliver essentially the same power at -30˚F as they deliver at 70˚F. Plus, they are typically 50-70% lighter than an equivalent lead acid unit. That’s a major weight savings, particularly when you get into high power units. That said, keeping them charged can be a challenge. They hold their charge typically for 10-15 days vs 4-6 months for lead acid and as much as 12 months for lithium. This makes them more viable for environments where they are used and charged daily.
Jump-N-Carry ultracapacitor models (No. JNC8550 and JNC8800) solve the lack of reserve power and short charge duration by incorporating a small lithium battery in conjunction with the ultracapacitor. The unit can be charged by a disabled battery if it is above approximately 8VDC open circuit voltage. But, in those situations where the disabled battery is below this level (such as when a light is left on), the operator can charge the ultracapacitor using the internal lithium battery. This way, no matter the situation, the starting event can be successfully achieved.
When choosing a jump starter, start with your specific starting requirements and the environment in which the unit will be used. Are your starting 2 vehicles a month, 1-5 vehicles per day or 10-20 vehicles in a shift? What are the sizes of the typical engines you are starting? What is your recharging situation – will you go long periods of use between charging opportunities? How experienced is your team? Do you need other functions or are you looking for a tool specifically for jump starting? Determining the answers to these questions will help identify the option that best addresses your jump starting needs.