Lithium-Ion Batteries in 2021: Worth Your Money?
High-quality lithium batteries offer quite a lot of benefits to motorcycle owners. They're lightweight, powerful, and durable. However, they also cost more. In this article, our partners from YourMotoBro.com will help you figure out if there's a reason to shell out for a motorcycle lithium battery in 2021.
Many of the early lithium batteries for motorcycles were made without any protective circuits. That's why their lifespan rarely exceeded 3 years, and they couldn't beat conventional lead-acid batteries in the civil motorcycling sector.
Most modern LiFePO4 units are equipped with BMS (Battery Management Systems). These modules don't affect the weight of the battery but control the level of charge in each cell of the battery in order to keep them from over and undercharging. Due to this improvement, new lithium batteries usually last 5-6 years and can even make it up to 10 years.
The failure rate of such batteries is much lower than the lead-acid batteries show. While almost 22% of conventional units fail within the first 2 years of active exploitation, lithium batteries stop working so early only in 2% of cases.
Charge Time & Self-Discharge Rate
Lead acid is sluggish, which makes it impossible to apply any fast-charge technologies with such batteries. LiFePO4, on the contrary, supports quick charging and can be fully recharged within 1-2 hours with an external charger. It takes only 5 minutes to restore the power consumed by the starter to launch the engine. Lead-acid units need from 10 to 16 hours to get full again.
Independently from the manufacturer, lead-acid batteries have high discharge rates. If you are an occasional rider, you have to maintain them in good condition by using a smart battery charger. The problem with that is the need to buy this charger for nearly the same price as your battery.
Of course, LiFePO4 units are more expensive than conventional batteries. At the same time, they don't require any additional electronics if the BMS or an equal system with a different name is integrated. The discharge rate is so low that you can keep the battery without a charger for up to 6 months, and it will still have enough power to start your bike.
Getting a lithium battery is still a bit challenging as many manufacturers stick to ineffective technologies, such as physical cell separation and direct charging. Such power units are exposed to overheating at excessive voltages, cell destruction in case of a short circuit, and uneven charging that leads to early ‘death.' The risk of purchasing such a mess remains quite high, but there are enough high-quality alternatives by reliable brands as well. Look for models with fuses that can protect the battery from short circuits as the initial structure of LiFePO4 has very low resistance and may burn down and even damage the vehicle.
Finally, The Cost
While the initial price for lead-acid and lithium units is lower in favor of the first, the final cost of having one of these is not that obvious. Buying a conventional unit, you should consider the 22% probability that your battery dies within the first 2 years and the need to buy an expensive charger for maintenance. Both things cost time and money that you won't necessarily lose, but the high probability isn't nice either.
Taking a high-quality LiFePO4 with a BMS, you pay more for the unit itself, but there's no need to buy a special charger, and the failure rate is extremely low. Recharging takes very low time, so the chances you get late to work one day are also low. This means that the final cost will be equal or even lower as failures are less probable. There are no hidden costs.