Jun 15, 2021

Booster, on-board charger, DC/DC charger: what are the differences?


Booster, on-board charger, DC/DC charger... There are many different devices that can help you to charge domestic battery on your boat or vehicle and the choice can be a real headache. So what are the differences between boosters, on-board chargers and DC/DC chargers? What are the characteristics of each of these devices? When and how to use them? Answers.

Booster, on-board charger, DC/DC charger: definitions

The booster

As its name indicates, a booster is a device used to boost a discharged battery. It is therefore a battery backup that allows to start the engine of a boat or a vehicle whose battery is deeply discharged to operate. The booster then provides the electrical power necessary to start the vehicle. There are two categories of boosters:

- Portable boosters, similar to small suitcases containing a battery
- On-board boosters, permanently installed in boats or vehicles

How does it work? While the portable booster integrates a battery that charges the vehicle's battery, the on-board booster uses the vehicle's main battery or alternator to charge the battery that provides energy to the vehicle's on-board equipment. Thus, a booster always works in DC/DC, in other words in direct current. For the portable booster, the energy is drawn from the built-in battery booster; for the on-board booster, the energy is drawn from the main battery of the boat or vehicle. In both cases, the boosters work from direct current to direct current: a battery is charged from another battery.

The on-board charger

An on-board charger is a device that is permanently installed in the vehicle or boat, unlike a transportable device. In the family of on-board chargers, we find :

- AC/DC chargers. These chargers operate from a 115V or 220V source: the charger is plugged into a dockside outlet when the boat is in port or into an outlet located in a parking area for recreational vehicles
- DC/DC chargers, permanently installed on the vehicle or boat

The DC/DC charger

The DC/DC charger is a sub-category of on-board chargers. Unlike AC/DC chargers that require an external AC power source, DC/DC chargers use the energy from one battery to charge another. DC/DC chargers are then connected between the starter battery and the service battery. They ensure that the auxiliary battery is always fully charged.

As you may have gathered, the terms "DC/DC charger" and "on-board booster" refer to the same device. Only the designation changes!

Read also: Marine battery charger: All you need to know

Booster, on-board charger, DC/DC charger: which use?

In order to understand the difference between booster, on-board charger and DC/DC charger, two notions are important:

- Portable device vs. fixed installation;
- DC/DC, from battery to battery vs AC/DC, from mains to battery.

In fine, this matrix makes it possible to define the functionality of the device as well as its operating mode. Indeed, depending on the situation, we use sometimes a portable device, sometimes a fixed installation, just as we use sometimes a DC/DC charger, sometimes an AC/DC charger. In order to understand this, it is important to keep two points in mind:

- Since the AC/DC charger requires a 220V source, it is used when the boat is docked or the recreational vehicle is at a rest area. It is then used to charge the batteries during the parking phase of the vehicle
- The DC/DC charger is used while the vehicle is moving or the boat is sailing. It uses the energy delivered by the alternator while the vehicle is in motion: the engine drives the alternator and the alternator generates current that supplies and recharges the batteries.

The two devices can be used together
. The first when a 220V source is available, the second when the vehicle is moving and is able to generate its own energy.

Dolphin: a trusted partner for your AC/DC chargers and DC/DC boosters

With its own team of engineers, Dolphin Charger designs a complete range of chargers for boats and recreational vehicles.

The PROLITE AC/DC series of chargers has been specially designed for the marine sector. Ideal for boats with outboard engines, this series offers ultra-compact Bluetooth chargers, fanless, water resistant (IP65) and protected against the ignition of surrounding gases (ISO 8846).

Dolphin has also developed DC/DC boosters, certified Euro6. Designed to cope with the voltage variations of Euro6 and Euro7 alternators, these devices meet the requirements of recreational vehicle and boat manufacturers. At the service of OEMs, Dolphin's teams do everything possible to simplify and secure the installation of the devices. Dolphin's expertise also enables it to offer customized high-end chargers to meet the exact needs of ODMs.

As a fabless company, Dolphin designs, manufactures and distributes a complete range of robust and intelligent power conversion solutions. Have a project? Have a question? Tell us about your needs.

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