The first-ever rechargeable battery, the lead acid battery was invented by a French physicist in 1859, and, to date, no better battery has been invented for its incredibly large power-to-weight ratio.
The lead acid battery is great for its ability to provide a strong and high power surge to motor vehicles for their starter motors.
They are also inexpensive compared to newer technologies, so even if they are not being used for their surge current, they are preferable to more expensive and perhaps more energy-efficient and energy-dense batteries.
Still, they have their downsides.
Downsides to Lead Acid Batteries
High Energy Density
The amount of useable energy compared to stored energy in a lead acid battery is minimal compared to other batteries. With lead acid, you can really only use 30% to 50% of its energy before you must worry about quickly draining the battery and cutting its lifespan short.
Furthermore, as part of Peukert’s Law, the faster you use the energy in a lead acid battery, the less energy you can get out of it, making this battery an overall energy waste and loss at the same time.
Finally, as the battery drains, the voltage also drops and electronics may begin to fail even if you still have 35% of your battery life.
Limited Cycle Life
In most cases you will find yourself having to replace the battery every five years, even if you are careful not to overly drain the battery.
If you do drain your battery, it can take a really long time to recharge it. The final 20% of the battery power can take up to 80% of the total time it takes to charge. If you plan to charge overnight, this is not a big deal. But if you’re in a hurry, this issue can be a real problem.
Inefficient Energy Use
If you are trying to squeeze every ounce of energy you’ve got out of your battery, you will be disappointed here as these batteries waste 15% of your total energy. For every 100 amps of power, you only store 85 amp-hours.
These lead-acid batteries can release noxious acidic gas while they are charging if not placed right. They must be stored upright to avoid battery acid spills as well. Conversely, AGM batteries do not have these same issues.
Big and Bulky
Lead-acid batteries are big and bulky, and thus take up a ton of space as opposed to more efficient, more modern batteries that are more space-efficient.
Maintenance of Lead Acid Batteries
To keep your lead acid battery well maintained and get at least its minimum life expectancy, you must top it off periodically with distilled water.
This chore can be a trying one if your battery is difficult to access, which makes it yet another downside to lead acid batteries.
In the end, lead-acid batteries have both pros and cons and must be maintained if you hope to maximize their positive potential. Like with most things in life, it is a tradeoff, and it is up to the individual to decide if this particular tradeoff is worth it.
Are you ready to transition out of using lead acid batteries? Ready for a different kind of power solution that is adaptable and powerful? Understand the differences between lead-acid and lithium-ion to decide which is the best option for you.