Lithium motorcycle batteries are becoming increasingly popular thanks to their small size, lighter weight and non-toxic construction.
Rechargeable lithium batteries in the past have been used for small electronic devices such as mobile phones, laptops and digital cameras.
The incredible advantages of these batteries outweigh those of a standard lead-acid type which are commonly used for motor vehicles. One of the biggest advantages is that a lithium battery takes a long time to go flat. So if like me, one of your main expenses is fitting new batteries to bikes that spend most of the year tucked away, a lightweight lithium battery is for you.
Motorcycle manufacturers are beginning to launch bikes fitted with lithium batteries, especially racing style bikes which benefit from the reduced weight.
If you’re considering swapping out your lead-acid battery for this modern upgrade, this article explains a little more on what you need to know including the pros and cons and a handy jargon buster.
Let’s be honest. We don’t love our motorcycle batteries like we love our engines. A battery is all fine and dandy when it works but the son of a devil when it doesn’t. But let’s show it some appreciation, a motorcycle battery isn’t just there to get the engine started. On a typical motorcycle, it has five different roles to play.
– Starting – Supplying power to crank the engine over.
– Lighting – Delivering power to the lighting system without the engine running.
– Ignition – Supplying the ignition system with power while the engine is cranking.
– Charging – Absorbing any spikes in power and stabilising the bike’s voltage .
– Support – Supporting areas like the bike’s ECU or immobiliser when the engine isn’t running.
Size / Weight comparison
The biggest difference between standard lead-acid batteries and lithium varieties is the size and weight. If you replace your standard motorcycle battery with a lithium alternative, you could save over a quarter of the weight and up to 25% space all while keeping the same level over power output.
Fitting with Foam
Due to their smaller size, a lithium battery might not fit as snug as before. By using some foam stickers, you can attach as many as you need to create the previous dimensions. The foam gives a little room for manoeuvre and prevents vibrations.
Lithium batteries require special lithium battery chargers as they charge differently than standard batteries. Choose a charger that has an automatic cut-off, this way, your battery won’t overheat if you forget to unplug it.
Cut Off Switch
Cut off switches automatically switch off the battery at a certain voltage. This helps preserve the battery’s lifespan, prevent overheating or other accidental damage. You can also fit a manual switch into your wiring loom to disconnect your battery, to prevent drain when you’re not using the bike.
There are countless motorcycle battery brands. It’s hard to pick the best motorcycle battery as it depends on your budget and what you want from your battery. One bit of advice is: avoid the cheap batteries on eBay – they are a false economy.
Listed below are three well-known brands:
Dutch firm makes lithium batteries for multiple applications with a large range of motorbike fitments.
High performance lithium ion motorcycle batteries. Made in Italy, they are the OEM choice for some motorcycle manufacturers.
Japanese manufacturer Shido are one of the leading suppliers of Lithium-based motorcycle batteries.
You’ll find this brand on Amazon, they make a wide range of lithium motorcycle batteries and they get good user ratings.
You may see lithium batteries described as LiFePO4 batteries. This is the chemical name for Lithium (Li) Iron (Fe) Phosphate (PO4) which is essentially the chemical makeup of the cell.
This is a standard rechargeable battery most commonly found in motor vehicles. Vehicles need a high current to power engines which is why these large power-to-weight ratio batteries were originally used.
A measurement of electricity (battery output example, 12V, 24V etc.)
Ampere hour (Ah)
An ampere hour, or amp hour, is the amount of energy charge in a battery that will allow 1 ampere of current to flow over an hour. The higher the Ah, the longer a battery will go before it needs charging.
Stands for Battery Management System and helps prevent a lithium battery from overheating (and melting!).
A lithium motorcycle battery will be approximately 70% the size of your conventional lead-acid battery, which can cause a problem.
Your bike is designed with a battery box to accommodate the standard battery and keep it secure. A lithium battery will rattle around in this battery box and it’s likely that your terminals won’t connect as the wires won’t be long enough.
The best solution is to use a dense foam which you can cut to size in order to easily position your lighter and smaller lithium battery and properly connect it to your bike’s electricals.
Any dense foam will do but we’ve picked this modelling foam which comes in handy sheet size and is easy to cut. Use some double-sided tape and it’ll be a factory-job!
Modelling Foam / See it on Amazon
Can I charge a lithium battery with a regular charger?
No. While it is possible to charge a lithium battery with a lead-acid charger in some circumstances, you have to know what you are doing. A lead-acid charger works in almost the opposite way to a lithium battery charger and if you don’t know what you are doing, you’ll overload your lithium battery, causing cell failure (ie rendering it useless ) and possibly causing a fire.
Far better to buy a proper lithium battery charger.
How long should a lithium motorcycle battery last?
Correctly maintained, a lithium motorcycle battery should give you at least 48 months of use. However if you don’t ever charge it and rarely use the bike, it could be dead within 12 months. If you rarely use the bike and don’t have access to power where the bike is parked – it’s worth removing the battery and giving it a full charge every couple of months. Or even better – get out and ride!
Do I need to charge a new motorcycle battery?
To give your bike’s battery the best start in life, stick it on a motorcycle-specific battery charger when it’s new and top it up until it’s fully-charged. Your bike won’t be able to fully-charge a battery in the way a charger can.
If I disconnect a motorcycle battery will it still go flat?
If it is a lead-acid battery, then yes. As soon as a battery has been commissioned (i.e the acid is in place) it will be discharging. It will, however, discharge less quickly than if connected to a bike, as even with the ignition off, there may be a tiny draw of current from the battery (powering things like the immobiliser).
Why won’t my motorcycle start?
A motorcycle battery is a ‘live’ product, that is to say, once it has been commissioned, it is giving off energy, discharging. So if you don’t keep your battery charged it will eventually get to a stage where it doesn’t have the power to crank the bike.
A lithium-based battery will also go flat if disconnected but it will take a lot longer to lose its power and won’t sulphate, meaning you can charge it up again years later.
My motorbike battery keeps going flat
This can be down to several reasons:
Firstly, your regulator/rectifier could be dead. If you get the bike running, rev the engine. If the lights brighten, your reg/rec is probably OK. If they dim, the reg/rec might be on its way out or dead.
Secondly, your battery terminals might not be on properly. It used to be that you could fit your battery, your lunch and a couple of copies of Razzle under your seat but these days, space is as a premium and batteries are even more fiddly to remove and replace. When we drop a battery bolt or one of those fiddly square nuts, we use this magnetic pick-up tool to save the day. Honestly, it’s a life saver. As fiddly as it is to fix your battery terminals in place, don’t cut corners; if a terminal pops off, it could leave you stranded.
Less common these days but an aftermarket alarm or immobiliser is a prime suspect in the mystery of the flat battery. If you have one fitted, make sure the wires aren’t loose or shorting out anywhere.
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