STORY AND PICS BY DAMIEN ASHENHURST
As motorcycles become more advanced electronically, rest assured their evolving robot brains will one day connect to Skynet and take over the world in a violent subjugation of humanity…
No, no…I promised myself I wouldn’t go down this path. This is a feature about lithium-ion and lead batteries, which I have to admit sounds a lot less exciting but hopefully informative.
Let’s now refocus.
Modern motorcycles do a lot more thinking and make a lot more decisions on-the-fly than previous generations did. From EFI to ABS, traction control, adaptive cruise control and 6-axis UMUs, our bikes are getting smarter and safer which is advantageous because I am getting dumber and more likely to hurt myself.
With this kind of computational power, a reliable and robust energy source is needed to feed it. And the two batteries we have to choose from are the good ol’ sealed led acid (SLA) battery and the somewhat new Lithium Ion.
Which one is the best for your adventure bike? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
WEIGHT AND SIZE
One of the most significant advantages of a lithium battery is its weight and size. Lithium batteries are much smaller and lighter than lead-acid batteries, which means they can fit easily in tight spaces and reduce the overall weight of the motorcycle. This can be a huge advantage for adventure bikes, where every gram counts. Additionally, lithium batteries have a high energy density, which means they can store more power in a smaller size, like a Mexican wrestler.
Lithium batteries are more efficient than lead-acid batteries. They have a higher charge acceptance rate, which means they can charge faster and hold a charge longer than lead-acid batteries.
Lithium batteries can last up to four times longer than lead-acid batteries, which means they need to be replaced less frequently. They also have a longer shelf life, which means they can sit on a shelf for extended periods without losing their charge.
PERFORMANCE IN EXTREME TEMPERATURES
Lithium batteries are more tolerant of extreme temperatures than lead-acid batteries. They can operate at much lower and higher temperatures without losing performance or damaging the battery. This makes them ideal for riders who frequently ride in extreme conditions, such as hot or cold climates.
Lithium batteries have a low self-discharge rate, which means they can hold their charge for longer periods without being used.
This is ideal for riders who don’t use their motorcycles frequently and want a battery that won’t lose its charge while sitting idle.
One of the biggest advantages of SLA batteries is their cost. They are significantly cheaper than lithium batteries, making them a popular choice for budget-conscious riders. Additionally, lead-acid batteries have been around for a long time and are well understood, which means that they are widely available and can be found at most dealerships or auto parts stores.
SLA batteries are known for their durability. They are designed to withstand the rough and tumble environment of the adventure ride, with a sturdy case that can handle vibrations and impacts. In contrast, lithium batteries are more physically fragile and can be damaged.
SLA batteries are easy to maintain. They require little more than periodic checks to ensure that the electrolyte levels are correct and that the terminals are clean. In contrast, lithium batteries require much less maintenance, but they do require a specialized charging system that can be more expensive than the standard charger used for lead-acid batteries.
Finally, lead-acid batteries are generally considered to be safer than lithium batteries. While lithium batteries have a higher energy density, they are also more prone to thermal runaway, which sounds like an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie but is why you always want to buy the best quality lithium-ion battery you can. That is, not off AliExpress for $35 plus a free set of sunglasses.
In conclusion, lithium-ion batteries offer many advantages over SLA batteries. They are lightweight, compact, efficient, long-lasting, and perform better in extreme temperatures.
While they may be more expensive initially, the long-term benefits make them a smart investment for serious riders who demand the best performance from their motorcycles.
However, while lithium-ion batteries are certainly an attractive option for some riders, lead-acid batteries still have a lot going for them.
They are durable, reliable, easy to maintain, and most importantly, affordable. For those on a tight budget, or for those who simply prefer the tried and true, lead-acid batteries remain a solid choice.