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Lead-Acid Batteries Still Have It

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Your motorcycle’s battery is one important piece of equipment. Without a healthy battery, you’ll be stranded.

Today one battery still reigns: the lead-acid battery. We’ll highlight how lead-acid batteries perform from the coldest to high heat environments.  The durability, survivablty and sustainability of the modern lead-acid battery is superior. Even the weight-obsessed super/hyper cars on the road today still use lead acid batteries—and so should you.061721-Yausa-Batteries-AdobeStock_237265

If It Ain’t Broke…

Standard lead-acid batteries have been around since the mid-1800’s and they’ve stayed relatively unchanged in that time. Lead-acid batteries have a basic construction: a plastic casing with six cells. In each cell, there are plates that are immersed in a solution made of sulfuric acid and water to form what’s called an electrolyte. 

There are two main types of lead-acid batteries – Wet cell (also known as flooded or vented) and sealed. Wet cell batteries have a liquid electrolyte solution inside the battery that mixes with the active material to create a chemical reaction. During the chemical reaction (charging), some hydrogen and oxygen escapes, hence why every motorcyclist knows to keep distilled water on hand for that reason. Sealed batteries are a little different in that the electrolyte solution is permanently suspended within the batteries. For example AGM (absorbent glass mat) batteries include fiberglass separators that act like a sponge to keep the plates in constant contact with the solution. 

061721-Yausa-Batteries-GYZ32HL_R-633x388Advantages of Lead-Acid Batteries

Lead-acid batteries are great because they’re relatively inexpensive to manufacture, can be recycled easily, and they benefit from a long history of reliable service and well-understood technology. 

 

Another advantage of lead-acid batteries is its ability to start in both cold and hot temperatures. Lithium ion batteries don’t start as quickly when in cold temperatures, especially if they’ve been cold-soaked for a few days. They’ll need to be woken up before cranking. Also in some high heat enviornements, lithium ion batteries will just simply shut down, similar to cell phone batteries.

061721-Yausa-Batteries-AdobeStock_428505

How to Keep Your Battery Happy and Healthy

Motorcycle batteries, especially when well-manufactured and engineered, should last at least two years. That period of battery life can likely double when cared for correctly. 

Initialization

Initializing your battery is key to keeping your battery healthy for a longer period of time. The initialization and activation process includes surveying and testing the status of your battery to make sure its functioning properly. Key to this process is using the correct charger. You’ll need a charger that is capable of initializing to a minimum of 12.8 volts.

Storage

We cannot stress enough how important storage is to the life and performance of your motorcycle battery. It really makes all of the difference. 

Every battery has a shelf life set by the manufacturer that guarantees battery operation up to that date. That’s not the say you can’t get more out of your battery past that date. One of the best things you can do for your battery is to learn how to properly store it. 

Temperature plays an important role in storage, charging, and starting. Batteries don’t turn off, they’re always in a state of either discharge or charge. When not in use, batteries will self-discharge and that discharge rate is faster when in hotter temperatures. 

Store your battery ideally at a temperature between 60° F and 80°F when not in use. Be sure it’s not stored at near or below freezing temperatures– keep in mind the water in your battery could freeze which could cause the casing to crack. Yuasa battery charger

Another way to get the most out of your battery’s life is to use a battery maintainer when not in use for long periods of time. Battery maintainers have many benefits including algorithmic charging, auto charging, active desulfation, and battery health detention meters. It’s a must-have for any cycle-head.

As with any piece of equipment you own, the better the brand, the better the results. 

Refer to this helpful winter storage guide from Yuasa Battery.

The Trend Towards Lithium Ion Batteries

Why mess with 150+ years of a good thing?

A recent newcomer in the battery scene, lithium ion batteries have emerged as a contender to the tried and true lead-acid battery standard. Generally speaking, they’re lighter, they don’t contain lead, and they don’t discharge as quickly as lead-acid batteries. 

That’s not to say that lithium ion batteries don’t come with their own set of challenges. 

While lithium ion batteries have a higher energy density than lead-acid batteries, they’re not for every motorcycle. Particularly in bikes built prior to 1980, the charging systems cannot handle the new lithium ion technology. Your charging system needs to be in top-notch condition.

Lithium ion batteries are also more expensive. They can be anywhere from 50 to 200 times more expensive than a sealed lead-acid battery. 

The Bottom Line

Regardless of their flaws, there’s no denying that lithium ion batteries have not only changed the motorcycle battery scene but have changed electronics as a whole. With each passing year, new improvements continue to be made with lithium ion technology and there are no signs of stopping. 

You might be wondering how a 150+ year old battery can compete in this modern climate. The answer is that it sure can! With proper storage, care, and recycling methods, lead-acid batteries will continue to be a leading choice for motorcyclists for many more years to come. 

While lithium ion batteries may be light and nimble, you know you’ve got a good thing going when your bike rolls off the assembly line fitted with a lead-acid battery. You can’t argue with reliability.

Simply put, we know the tech and we know it works. 

For more information about lead-acid batteries, check out Yuasa Battery to find the perfect battery for your ride. https://www.yuasabatteries.com/

The post Lead-Acid Batteries Still Have It appeared first on Motorcycle.com.

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What I find fascinating about this kind of attitude is that the very first mobile phone I ever saw, late 80s was powered by two lead acid batteries and was the size of a pull-along suitcase. Wholly impractical, but paved the way for a brief foray into alkaline and then once phones became truly pocket sized, Lithium. As with everything, new tech is going to be expensive due to set-up costs plus a relatively small market. But as with all tech that will change. As the switchover continues prices will fall. And eventually lead acid will be relegated to older machines for a time, until the tech can deal with them too. Ive been very lucky, the lithium battery in my own bike has been completely reliable and in the almost 3 years of ownership I have seen 3rd party replacements appear 1/4 the price of the OEM... which has forced the price of the OEM down to a degree.  A 1000cc bike with a battery little bigger than a packet of 20 cigarettes - 4" wide, that when standing unused will lose 1% of its charge per month. so not much need for a charger/maintainer. Quite amazing.

Lithium battery tech for motorbikes and other vehicles is based entirely on the tech used in mobile phones, and we dont give that a seconds thought. I never see phone owners wishing we could go back to the good old days of lead acid.. or even Duracell type alkalines in their phones... its all about longer usage times and shorter charge times. More from less and as cheap as possible. Safe obviously as its often kept in a pocket.

Adventure Sports Battery.png

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3 hours ago, Motobiker said:

What I find fascinating about this kind of attitude is that the very first mobile phone I ever saw, late 80s was powered by two lead acid batteries and was the size of a pull-along suitcase. Wholly impractical, but paved the way for a brief foray into alkaline and then once phones became truly pocket sized, Lithium. As with everything, new tech is going to be expensive due to set-up costs plus a relatively small market. But as with all tech that will change. As the switchover continues prices will fall. And eventually lead acid will be relegated to older machines for a time, until the tech can deal with them too. Ive been very lucky, the lithium battery in my own bike has been completely reliable and in the almost 3 years of ownership I have seen 3rd party replacements appear 1/4 the price of the OEM... which has forced the price of the OEM down to a degree.  A 1000cc bike with a battery little bigger than a packet of 20 cigarettes - 4" wide, that when standing unused will lose 1% of its charge per month. so not much need for a charger/maintainer. Quite amazing.

Lithium battery tech for motorbikes and other vehicles is based entirely on the tech used in mobile phones, and we dont give that a seconds thought. I never see phone owners wishing we could go back to the good old days of lead acid.. or even Duracell type alkalines in their phones... its all about longer usage times and shorter charge times. More from less and as cheap as possible. Safe obviously as its often kept in a pocket.

Adventure Sports Battery.png

My issue with lithium batteries is when people fit them to bikes that were not designed to use them, yes they work when everything on the bike works 100% but when things are not quite right with the bike is when the problems start. I recently read about someone who had fitted a  Lithium battery to a 2017 Africa Twin which didn't come fitted with one from new. He said he was riding along and the bike just died not a single light on the dash and he had to get it recovered. When looking into the problem he found the battery had gone into safe mode and was unrecoverable so a new battery was needed, once fitted he then found his bike wasn't charging the battery because his reg/rec had failed and in his mind that was why the battery failed but in reality it was the other way around the reg/rec had failed because his battery had switched off while the engine was running. Lithium batteries are fantastic when used on what their designed for but i wont be changing the lead acid for lithium on any of my bikes. my 2016 Africa Twin is still on the original battery and when that fails which could be any day now i will be replacing it with the same one.

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I have replaced my 2015/2016 GS's battery a few weeks ago with a lithium battery, same size but weights a fraction of the original. What sold me on it was the promise of better than original battery life and better starting too. I never had an issue with the original but then again my bike hasn't slept in freezing temperatures, and I was more than happy to have the same fitted, but there you go.

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I have a nanogel battery, which is just a gel lead acid with "nano" written on it because it is cool.

  • Haha 1
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10 minutes ago, Buckster said:

I have a nanogel battery, which is just a gel lead acid with "nano" written on it because it is cool.

Gay

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5 hours ago, Six30 said:

Gay

Nano means small so it is only a little gay.

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The aftermath of putting a lithium battery in an old school bike, and the old school regulator rejecting it. 

http://teamyikes.com/851/EarthX.mov

This is near the end of the ordeal. Trust me, the smoke was a LOT worse earlier in the show. And the smell. Oh my god...

 

PS. The bike now has a mosfet regulator, and another lithium battery. What can I say, I'm stubborn. 

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3 minutes ago, DesmoDog said:

The aftermath of putting a lithium battery in an old school bike, and the old school regulator rejecting it. 

http://teamyikes.com/851/EarthX.mov

This is near the end of the ordeal. Trust me, the smoke was a LOT worse earlier in the show. And the smell. Oh my god...

 

PS. The bike now has a mosfet regulator, and another lithium battery. What can I say, I'm stubborn. 

Link doesn't work!

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3 minutes ago, XTreme said:

My firewall must be shutting it down.

The movie was authored on a Mac so it may just not be a valid extension for your player.

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9 hours ago, XTreme said:

Link doesn't work!

It's a .mov file. Quicktime plays it. Try right click and download. Or I can sum it up for ya'll;

 

IMG_9754.JPG

 

Or here it is in mp4 format

http://teamyikes.com/851/ChinaSyndrome.mp4

Early on in the process you could see arcing inside the case, after the case split open of course. The good news is, these batteries are usually Lithium IRON as opposed to Lithium ION, which means they don't have the same tendancy to burst into actual flames when they fail. I didn't know the difference at the time so watching it progress was oh so wonderfully suspenseful as I waited for the flames. I was pretty sure it was going to burn down on the side of the road, but it didn't. 

So here's what happened as I understand it. The regulator failed, and the voltage to the battery reached somewhere around 60 (according to the manufacturer, that's what it'd take to overpower the built in protection, which they have since increased). When the voltage gets too high in a lithium battery, it starts to plate it's internals. Eventually it shorts itself out internally and then it's China Syndrome time. There's not a damn thing you can do until all the smoke leakes out. In my case the bike stalled, then started again, then died for good. Stopped on the side of the road, removed the seat to get to the tool kit, and noticed a small wisp of smoke. What the??? Small wisp became massive amounts accompanied by a horrible stench. A seriously nasty chemical smell that stuck to everything even after the event. Peaking under the fairing (while holding my breath) I saw arcing inside the case. 

After replacing the regulator and battery, I ended up having to replace the ECU, a bulb or two, and a relay. There is some sort of device in the ECU that is supposed to protect against over voltage. The component unsoldered itself and was rattling around in the ECU's case.

Old school Ducati regulators suck. Don't run a lithium battery without a MOSFET regulator. Just don't do it. 

PS: The tool kit included with a 1991 Ducati 851 is missing one tool that is required to remove the fairing. You've been warned. That fastener was omitted when the faring was reinstalled by the way. 

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