Lithium Vs. Lead-Acid Motorcycle Battery. Who is the winner?
Is A Lithium-Iron Motorcycle Battery Worth It?
We’ve covered the subject of batteries more than a couple of times here on MC Garage, but as an integral part of your motorcycle’s electrical system, there is always plenty to talk about. We’ve covered the different types of batteries, how to replace them, and how to take care of them when you’re not riding. But often I get the question, are lithium-based batteries worth their higher cost?
The short answer is yes. They are lighter, have a slower discharge rate, and perform better in cold temperatures. But they are more expensive and could require special chargers depending on the type. So let’s weigh the pluses and minuses.
What Are The Cons Of A Lithium Motorcycle Battery?
First the minuses. Cost is always a consideration for when buying parts for your bike, and the difference between a lithium-based battery and your typical sealed lead-acid battery could be significant. Typically a lithium-ion battery could be anywhere from 50 to 200 percent more expensive than its lead-acid counterpart. But lithium iron phosphate batteries like the ones from Shorai are nearly the same cost. Do factor in that you will need a charger that works with lithium batteries, but any charger that does lithium will also do lead-acid. So maybe it was time for a new charger as well?
What Are The Benefits Of Using A Lithium Motorcycle Battery?
Next the pluses. Weight is always touted as the big reason to switch, and there is no denying that a lighter motorcycle is a better-handling motorcycle. This Shorai is a third of the weight of the stock unit in this KTM 790 Adventure. “So what?” you say, “what’s five pounds?” Well, the higher that weight is carried on the bike, the more you will feel it, especially when changing direction.
And on this KTM, that battery is above the seat, that’s higher than your waist when sitting. With all of the work KTM’s engineers did to lower the center of gravity on the 790 Adventure with a low-slung fuel tank and compact engine, it’s a shame to see an extra 5 pounds sat up so high on the bike. Cutting just a few pounds will make a difference.
Finally, cold-weather performance is superior. That might not be a huge concern for someone with a sportbike or a naked, but adventure bikes can see freezing temps when traveling the planet. At freezing, 32 degrees Fahrenheit and 0 degrees Celsius, a lead-acid will lose 50 percent of its capacity while a lithium iron only loses 10 percent. Just a quick note, lithium-ion batteries need to be woken up when it’s cold. Just press the starter, let the battery sit for 30 seconds and you should have all the cranking power you need.
So there it is, with lighter weight, lower self-discharge, and better cold-weather performance, all at a similar price (changer not included), a lithium-based battery’s pluses far outpace the potential downsides.