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Lithium Batteries: What Are They and Why Do You Need One?

Summer has finally arrived and the sun is out, bringing with it the return of riding season! Which means it's time to strap on your helmet and paint the corners with tire tracks. You're brimming with excitement. You dust off the bike that's just been hanging out in the garage, ram the key into the ignition, turn, and... nothing.

Yep, looks like the battery has died.

And you're going to have to sort that out before any gravel feels your fury.

So what type of battery should you buy? The traditional lead acid type, or do you go for lithium power instead? Aside from the cooler-sounding name, lithium batteries do have a few tricks up their sleeve.

Better Performance

A huge contributor to a motorbike's face-stretching acceleration capabilities is its light weight, which is just one reason we prefer two wheels to four. In this interest, many aftermarket parts are designed to reduce the overall weight of the bike as much as possible.

Enter the lithium battery, which weighs up to four times less than the alternative lead acid battery. That's FOUR times, quite significant if you ask us. Which will directly translate to improved performance.

Now, just a simple change in battery isn't going to take your five-seconds-to-100mph down to two, but every little bit of weight shed helps. So if you're looking for any way to improve the performance of your bike by fitting the lightest parts possible, replacing your current dead battery with a lithium alternative is a smart move.

So just how much weight can be shed? Take the EVX12-12 Battery by Ballistic (a company clearly all about power) that weighs up to 10lbs less than a stock battery, tested by race teams and easy to install for the budding racer. That's quite a significant amount of weight loss, and if you're all about thrills, well, need we say more?

Longevity

Needless to say, when you part with your cash for new parts, you'll want them to last as long as possible. It's the reason we always urge you to choose quality over price when it comes to riding gear, and it can make "expensive" items much better value in the long run.

This is another area where lithium batteries holds a competitive edge over lead acid. It's also worth mentioning that all batteries - yes ALL batteries - lose at least some of their charge every day, even if they're not in use. The lithium battery loses between 3-10% of charge per year if stored. Compare this with lead acid batteries, which lose up to 1% a day!

That's a significant difference. Consider how often you use your bike. Do you adamantly use it daily regardless of the weather threats? Or does it often stand in the garage for weeks or months at a time? If you're more of a seasonal or occasional rider, a lithium battery will still be in good shape when you're ready to start riding again.

(Of course, you can also keep your lead acid battery alive during the hibernation months with a battery tender, which will safely maintain the battery at a full charge without trickling charge damages.)

Are there any downsides?

Every product and its competitors both propose advantages and disadvantages that make them more suitable for different users. So yes, there are a couple of drawbacks to the lithium battery:

Higher price: Now, we've already mentioned the fact that you might expect a lithium battery to last a little longer, especially if it's going to be stored for a while. But then again, batteries charge themselves when your engine's running, and chargers are available should they need to be rebooted after being stored away.

That means the price should be considered. Lithum batteries cost a pretty penny, usually between $160 and $280, while lead acid batteries are much lower priced at $65-$120. But then again, the longer life and improved performance may be well worth it to you.

Warm up time: Depending on where you live and the time of year, the lithium battery does have another drawback: it might need a bit of warming up to function properly in temperatures below freezing. Turning on the light for a few minutes should do the trick, but it could be a nuisance if you're doing it everyday when it's literally freezing out outside! (And seriously, props to you if you ride in freezing temperatures!)

Our recommendations

If you're considering upgrading to a lithium battery, we recommend the following brands that are all leading providers in the market.

Ballistic: Ballistic Batteries is one of the most recognized names in lithium batteries. It uses the latest, state-of-the-art lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) energy storage technology to provide you with a high energy battery in a small compact package. Each battery is assembled by hand in the USA using custom designed cells, cases, and hardware.

Shop for Ballistic batteries here.






EarthX: Earth X, Inc. is an American company founded by an electrical engineer and mechanical engineer who wanted to find a better alternative to the lead acid battery. Their batteries are made up of LiFePO4 with built-in electronics to keep its charge level balanced. The batteries last up to 8 years, are 80% lighter than their lead-acid equivalents, and all come with a 2 year warranty.

Shop for EarthX batteries here





Shorai: Shorai was founded in 2010 in California and since then have become one of the world's top producers of lithium sport batteries in the powersports market. Its sponsors include KTM, Galfer, and Dunlp. Their LFX batteries deliver energy faster, with less weight and wear on the battery per start cycle than any other brand available on the market today. All batteries come with a limited 3 year warranty.

Shop for Shorai batteries here.





Lead-acid alternative: And if you feel like that lead acid battery is still the better option for you, we've got a recommendation for that too!

Yuasa Battery Inc. is the largest American manufacturer and a world leader of batteries for motorcycles and powersport vehicles. Besides their replacement battery business, they are also the preferred original equipment (OE) supplier for many in the market. Yuasa's batteries generate more power, last longer, and require less maintenance and they make batteries for popular sportbike models like the GSX-R750 and ZX10R.

So should I buy a lithium battery?

Honestly, it depends on how you want to use your bike. Raw power and optimized performance required? A lithium battery will do the trick. Prefer a bit of slow cruising on a regular basis? The lead acid battery will likely do just fine. If you're still undecided, and this article has raised some questions, get in touch, and we'll be happy to help out!

Have you swapped out your old battery for a lithium one? What were any improvements and/or issues you experienced? 

By Daniel Relich

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