LEAD VS. LITHIUM BATTERIES
Technology never stops evolving. Battery technology doesn’t stop becoming, as humanity’s power needs never stop growing. So we always need bigger batteries with better charge capacities, which is no different in cars. Usually, these improvements come from more efficient chemical reactions inside the battery.
Lead and Lithium batteries are the two most common types of batteries you’ll find in vehicles today. We will go over some of their respective characteristics and why you sometimes want a lead battery but other times you might wish for a lithium one.
LEAD BATTERY SPECS
Did you know? Lead-acid batteries were the first rechargeable battery invented in 1859 by French physicist Gaston Plante. These are the same types of batteries most people use in their cars. Lead acid is cheap and practical, the magic formula for mass adoption. Their discharge efficiency isn’t excellent, but they work well in cars since vehicle engines also use alternators that recharge the battery when driven. Thus, there’s little risk of depleting a lead car battery while it’s in use (until it’s old, at least), but a high risk of consuming them while the vehicle power is on, yet the engine is not. Anyone who’s killed their engine while blasting music for a public gathering has probably learned this fact the hard way…
LITHIUM BATTERY SPECS
Lithium is a newer battery technology, especially popular in electric cars like Tesla Cyborg trucks or that box-mobile. It’s more expensive and a little more dangerous under specific applications since they’re harder to extinguish in a fire. Still, their capacity under use isn’t diminished as quickly as lead-acid. This means they tend to last longer and offer higher price-performance ratios if one can afford the initial cost. Lithium is especially practical in vehicles with many electronic components with variable discharge rates, as they do not drain lithium as quickly as they drain lead.
DIFFERENCES IN SPECIFICATIONS
Here is a helpful chart that compares Lithium’s most essential performance specifications against SLA (sealed lead acid) batteries. Power-Sonic, one of the leading manufacturers in the US, made this chart.
Power-Sonic states on its blog that “the most notable difference between lithium iron phosphate and lead acid is that the lithium battery capacity is independent of the discharge rate.” What this means is that with lithium, how much energy the battery stores remains the same regardless of how much energy is being drawn from it. By contrast, if you use a lead battery at a high discharge rate (high power draw), the capacity will decrease faster, and you’ll run out of juice quicker.
If it helps, think of lead and lithium as two people exercising. Both intend to work out for an hour. If the information works lightly, I will make it the whole hour. But if the lead works out extra hard, it won’t make it the entire hour. Lithium, on the other hand, will last the whole hour whether it’s working hard or not. It’s a crude comparison but hopefully makes a little sense. If not, feel free to read the C-rates page from Battery University.
What does this mean for trucks and cars? It means you can rely on the lithium battery for longer; your battery is less likely to die suddenly. Also, it’ll probably last longer as far as the warranty is concerned.
WHICH CAR BATTERY IS RIGHT FOR ME
For most applications, a standard SLA lead battery is more than enough. There’s good reason this tech has been in use for decades.
While lithium is more expensive, generally, it’s more than worth the cost due to its extended reliability. For newer cars, we urge customers to invest in lithium batteries, but in almost all cases, lead batteries are more than enough for the job. For what it’s worth, though, a new lead battery and a new lithium battery- with no manufacturing defects- are equivalent under normal usage conditions. You have to be running careful tests even to see the difference. Most people don’t need to worry about the difference too much.
Need battery repair service? Is your battery dying randomly? Just want to replace your battery without getting your hands dirty? Give Tedious Repairs a call, and we’ll be happy to handle all your battery service needs!
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Buddy started his auto career journey at Butte College and started his own auto repair company in 2007. Since then he has worked on countless cars, diagnosing, repairing, and replacing worn, faulty, and broken parts.
After a few years, he moved to a bigger shop to accommodate his growth and to better serve the Chico, CA community. It’s a family-owned & operated business.
Outside of work Buddy enjoys spending time with his family and playing softball is one of his many passions.