The battery on my motorcycle is hidden behind a cover and because it has never caused me any trouble I tend to forget about it. I like to think I am pro-active so I am researching motorcycle batteries in this article to find out the following:
What type of batteries are available and what is the latest technology?
What is the difference between AGM, Gel, Lithium Ion and LiFePO4?
How and why should a battery maintainer be used?
Type of Batteries Used in Motorcycles
Wet Lead Acid
There is more then one type of battery being used in motorcycles today. The oldest, the wet lead acid type that requires checking and filling to maintain it, may still be in use in some applications but it has made way for newand better technology for some time now.
The next type is called a Gel Cell (also lead acid) that has a thickener added to the liquid to make it a gel and is a sealed battery. They need to be charged with a trickle charger rather then a quick charger.
The most commonly used battery is called AGM or Absorbed Glass Mat. This is also a sealed lead acid battery and it is maintenance free (meaning you never have to worry about checking water levels). Being sealed you can also install it in any position, on it’s side or end and it isn’t vented. The acid is absorbed into glass mat separators which are sandwiched between the lead plates, so they will not leak and corrode and damage other surfaces on the bike. There is also little chance of hydrogen gas explosion. They have more CCA (cold crank amps) then wet batteries. AGM batteries are more heat and vibration resistant and therefore reduce failures in motorcycles. They have a longer shelf life, so it can sit for extended periods of time without constant monitoring. They discharge at a rate of about 2-3% per month.
Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) Cells
In my research I also discovered something called a Ballistic Performance Components Battery that is using a new technology that is very interesting. It uses Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) cells. They are reported to be low cost, non-toxic, and lightweight. You can read more by clicking on the above link or by clicking here for their FAQ page.
They are up to 80% smaller then a stock battery and up to 10 lbs lighter. They are also completely dry and can be mounted in any position. They are NON-TOXIC and recyclable. No special charger is required and only looses 10% of its charge in one year of non-use.
If you want to upgrade to lithium ion you can check out this link but they are expensive. This new battery replaces the existing lead/acid battery, and is based on lithium-ion technology. I like that these weigh less, up to 80%. They recharge within 5 minutes of starting the engine. They take up less space using about 1/3 the space of the older batteries. The service life is longer, more then 5 years.
Numbers that Identify a Battery
The numbers begin with 6 or 12N for conventional batteries. Factory sealed batteries start with YTZ – CT – GT – CTZ – GTZ – and YT. The first set of numbers represents the voltage and the first set of letters identify the manufacturer.
Battery Tender and BatteryMINDer are two brand names for products that are used to maintain your battery and keep it properly charged while being stored or idle. They may look like a trickle charger but they are much different. Battery maintainers use solid state circuitry to monitor the battery state of charge and keep it at the optimum level. At the end of the regular charger cycle, the battery maintainer will automatically switch its output voltage to a safe, storage level that eliminates the need to constantly check on the conditions of the battery. So, you can leave it connected to the battery for weeks or months without over charging and damaging it.
If the battery is allowed to discharge, a condition known as sulphation occurs when crystals of sulfuric acid form on the battery’s storage plates. In time as they build up they create a barrier to proper charging and discharging. The battery becomes less reliable as a result and will take longer to charge and will produce less cranking amps and running time. The heat within the battery increases as well and accelerates the breakdown of active storage plate material. A battery that would normally last 5 plus years may need to be replaced within a year or two if this occurs. All this can be avoided by using a battery maintainer.