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24V to 36V Battery Charger Circuit

This 24V to 36V linear battery charger is long overdue. While this is an old cir
cuit technique, it is optimized for charging higher voltage lead-acid battery pa
cks, and could be used on other types of batteries as well. By proper transforme
r selection, it can be optimized for either 24 or 36V. Note that actual float ch
arge voltage requires 2.4V /cell or 28.8 & 43.2V @ full charge respectively.
Battery Charger Circuit Description
Q1 & Q2 make up a power Darlington using the venerable 2N3055 power transistor.
The base of the Darlington is controlled by Q4, the voltage regulator transistori
t compares the feedback voltage coming from the voltage scaling pot with the 6.2
V zener reference connected in the emitter circuit. C3 is a compensation capacit
or that slows down the regulator in order to prevent potential oscillation.
Instead of using a pull-up resistor to turn the Darlington on, Q3 is configured
as a 1mA current source. Working into a current source, Q4 dissipates less power
, increases maximum voltage applied to the Darlington and increases voltage regu
lator gain. High voltage (80V) transistors are required for this application and
the MPSA06 and A56 are suggested.
R5 and Q5 make up the current regulator. When the voltage across R5 exceeds abou
t 0.65V, Q5 turns on and shunts base drive from the power Darlington thus causin
g the output voltage to be reduced. My battery charger circuit ran at 1.1A.
There are two modes of operationvoltage regulation or current regulationthe curren
t regulator (when in operation) takes precedence over the voltage regulator.
Thermal management
I used a puny 5.8C/W heatsink and while it worked on the bench OK, I recommend a
much larger extruded heatsink. I will let you select your own; I did not find an
extrusion at DigiKey that was drilled for the TO3 package, so you may have to d
rill your own heatsink for the 2N3055 transistor. The battery charger circuit ha
s short-circuit protection, but this is momentary at best as the transistor gets
very hot. I accidentally shorted the output and yes, the current remained at 1.
Transformer selection
Key to this project is the transformer selection. I started with an old multi-ta
p Stancor rectifier transformer conservatively rated at 100VA. While this provid
ed the correct DC voltage, I opted to use a smaller 24V transformer that is more
representative of what others may have available. Note that the transformer is
by far the most expensive item if actually purchased. The BOM indicates an accep
table 24V transformer available at DigiKey. DigiKey does not have an affordable
48V transformer.
To use the 24V transformer, a voltage doubler rectifier is required to obtain th
e raw 53V supply. Both types of rectifiers are indicated on the battery charger
Note: to keep the series regulator from having to dissipate an unreasonable amou
nt of power, the raw DC voltage should be about 10V higher than the maximum outp
ut voltage. Drop-out voltage is 4.3Vif the raw voltage ever drops below this leve
l, the output drops out of regulation.
Kuberkoos, who suggested this project, will be using a number of transformer sec
ondaries (and/or partial secondaries) connected in series to obtain the required
voltagethis also is an acceptable technique.
Getting it up and running
There is much destructive power here so it is wise to bring the voltage up gradu
ally via an adjustable DC power supply or Variac powering the transformer primar
y. I am glad I did it this way because I had wiring errors that showed up before
causing smoke.
What to watch for
When charging a low battery, the regulator will remain in current limit and the
voltage will be low until the float charge voltage is reached. At this point, th
e current will start to decrease.