Fixed connection to the vehicle battery? How much power does a GPS tracker really draw?

Understanding the basics:

Why it is important to know how much power my GPS tracker consumes and when it can be harmful to my car battery. I will also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a fixed connection and explain what a possible alternative is.

First of all, it is important to know what type of battery there is and what makes it different. The following is a small list of the best-known battery types that are or were on the market.

Battery types for GPS trackers

Nickel-cadmium(NiCd) --> No longer permitted, used to generate a lot of energy at once (model making)

Nickel metal hydride(NiMH) -->Similar to the above, has replaced NiCd and is used in a similar way

Lithium-ion (Li-Ion) -->The advantage of these batteries is that they are lighter and therefore suitable for mobile use.

Lithium polymer batteries (LiPo) -->Similar to Li-ion, the LiPo can be charged faster and is lighter in weight with the same energy.

Battery types for car batteries

Lead-acid battery --> Inexpensive and reliable for several years. Serve as starter batteries and supply the on-board electronics.

Lead-gel battery -->These batteries are maintenance-free or low-maintenance. This type of battery can be discharged more deeply.

EFB battery (Enhanced Flooded Battery) -->This type of battery is mainly used in simple start-stop systems.

Lithium battery -->The most expensive battery of all, they are often used in sports cars to optimize weight because they are very light and can release a lot of energy.

You can find more information here.

How much power do GPS trackers consume on average?

Our example is based on devices from online tracking. The devices are also permanently connected to the vehicle battery.

Capacity:
Ampere hours(Ah)
Milliampere hours(mAh)
Ah*1000= mAh

The higher the mAh specification, the more power the battery can store.

Rough average of GPS tracker consumption:

Active: 80-120 mAh
Standby mode: 10-20 mAh

Calculation example:

Vehicle battery 70Ah
mAh= Ah*1000
70*1000= 70000

Continuous tracking with a consumption of 120 mAh + 25mAh quiescent current
70000 mAh / 145 mAh = 482.7 runtime --> 20 days

Standby with a consumption of 15mAh + 25mAh quiescent current

70000 mAh / 40 mAh =1750h runtime --> 72.9 days

*The quiescent current that the cars consume when stationary (25 mAh) must be added to the energy.

It should be noted that this information is of course very theoretical. In each application example, the values can be different, one example is winter, where batteries and accumulators are often discharged more quickly due to the cold.

Find out more about the quiescent current here.

Does a fixed connection make sense for me now?

The best way to find out is to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How often do I drive my vehicle during the week?
  • Do I only need the device in this vehicle, or do I also want to use the GPS device in other vehicles from time to time?

If the answers to the questions are anything like this, you don’t need to worry about a fixed connection:

  • I drive the vehicle almost every day, and I also drive longer distances so that the vehicle battery gets a chance to recharge.
  • I only own one vehicle and would like to protect my vehicle against theft.

If the answers are more like this, you should perhaps think about an alternative:

  • My vehicle often stands for a few days/weeks at a time without being moved.
  • I own two vehicles, one of which has a seasonal license plate, so I would like to be able to swap the devices.

What is an alternative to a fixed connection to the vehicle battery?

You can probably already guess what alternative there is to the fixed connection. It is a battery-operated device that is independent of an external power source. These devices do not drain the vehicle battery, which is why they are well suited for long downtimes. This is often the case with classic cars or motorhomes.

Test winner of the cordless appliances:

Salind 11
Our comparison

Advantages and disadvantages of a fixed GPS tracker:

Advantages:

  • Install once and don’t have to worry about anything else
  • Can be easily concealed in the engine compartment, takes time to remove the device (theft)
  • These devices often have additional alarms such as an ignition alarm

Disadvantages:

  • Cannot easily be used between two vehicles
  • The installation location is largely predetermined
  • Discharges the vehicle battery during long downtimes

Conclusion

A permanent connection to the vehicle battery can be very useful. As mentioned above, it has its own advantages but also disadvantages. An active driver who mainly wants to secure his vehicle against theft is best off with a fixed connection to the vehicle battery.

I would like to mention that the following information has been compiled and prepared with the best of intentions. I cannot guarantee its accuracy, this article is merely intended to provide guidance on what to look out for and how to check this.

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