Lead Acid vs Lithium Ion
Lead Acid vs Lithium Ion

Lead Acid vs Lithium Ion

In the battery market, various energy supply alternatives of different performances are easily adapted to other tasks. In terms of rechargeable batteries, it is expected to hear about two types: lead acid batteries. And lithium batteries, but what is the difference between lithium and lead batteries?

Both batteries have a similar operating structure. However, there is a difference between lithium and lead batteries. This post will discuss the difference between lithium and lead batteries and their different application scenarios. 

The main difference between lithium and lead batteries is their physical and chemical properties, making them different in performance and operation. 

Another difference between lithium and lead batteries is that the latter require regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance and usually have a shorter lifespan than lithium batteries.

Although lead batteries can be recycled (making them less expensive), they produce toxic emissions, making them less sustainable. Lithium batteries, on the other hand, have a higher initial investment than lead-acid batteries.

Lithium batteries do not generate toxic gas emissions, allowing them to adapt more towards sustainable and environmentally friendly approaches.

Comparison of lead acid batteries vs lithium batteries

The following table allows us to establish a simple comparative model that allows us to evaluate the difference between lithium and lead batteries and, in this way, be able to understand which type of battery is most suitable.

CharacteristicsLead acid batteriesLithium Batteries
MaterialZinc and manganese dioxide, potassium hydroxideLithium iron phosphate alloy, lithium cobalt, nickel and manganese
Lifecycle800 DOD 50%4,000 DOD 80%
Energy DensityLower energy density, 50-90 Wh/LHigher energy density 250-600+ Wh/L
Environmental performanceThey generate toxic gas emissionsNo gas emission
Loading time6-10 hrs2-5 hrs
Maintenance2 to 4 times a yearNo

Advantages and disadvantages of lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries

The difference between lithium and lead batteries means we can find a series of advantages and disadvantages, for example.

Pros of lead-acid batteries

1. It is a cheap product, and with a simple manufacturing process, the cost benefits thanks to the savings from recycled raw materials.

2. Its technology has a long history in the market, making it a reliable solution.

Cons of lead-acid batteries

1. It has a low energy density due to the poor weight-energy ratio that limits its use.

2. They require periodic maintenance to ensure proper operation.

3. The charging process is slow.

4. It cannot be stored when discharged since the cell voltage must never be below 2.10 V.

5. It has a limited capacity for complete discharge cycles.

6. Its lead-based content and electrolyte make it less sustainable and has transportation restrictions due to potential spill risks.

7. Danger of thermal runaway if the wrong charge is obtained.

8. Lead acid batteries contain toxic heavy metals and are not environmentally friendly.

Pros of lithium-ion batteries

1. They do not require maintenance since they do not require irrigation. This eliminates maintenance time and labor costs.

2. It has a fast charging process.

3. Provides longer execution time and reduces the need for loads.

4. When appropriately used, they have five times the lifespan of lead-acid batteries.

5. They have reduced energy use, reducing energy use and cost.

Cons of lithium-ion batteries

1. Lithium batteries cost around two times more than lead-acid batteries on average.

2. They require inspection, although they have a zero maintenance system.

3. Although lithium-ion batteries’ recycling value is higher, lithium-ion batteries’ recycling industry is currently less mature than lead-acid batteries, and the recycling rate is much lower than that of lead-acid batteries.

Applications of lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries

Although I have addressed the difference between lithium and lead batteries throughout this post, there are many similarities in the applications of these batteries.

Applications of lead-acid batteries

Starting, ignition, and lighting batteries are mainly used in automobiles, motorcycles, internal combustion locomotives, and electric locomotives. Industrial lead-acid batteries are primarily used in postal and telecommunications, communications, power plants, and substations for switch control equipment and backup power for computers.

As valve-regulated sealed lead-acid batteries for emergency lights, UPS, telecommunications, etc. As a power battery, it is mainly used for electric cars, golf carts, and forklifts.

Applications of lithium-ion batteries

1. Basically, all lead-acid battery applications are covered by lithium-ion and even more so by lithium-ion.

2. Power backups/UPS

3. Mobile devices, laptops, and other commonly used consumer electronics

4. Electric mobility

5. Motorcycles

6. Electric bicycles

7. Scooter

8. Golf cart

9. Electric scooter

10. Electric moped

11. Electric quadricycle

12. Energy storage systems

13. Motorcycle battery charging stations

Are lead-acid batteries safer than lithium batteries?

As for the difference between lithium and lead batteries, in terms of safety, lead batteries are a little safer. Lead-acid batteries have better heat dissipation and are not prone to overheating due to the lead plates inside. 

Lithium batteries, however, have high energy density and poor heat dissipation, making them a safety risk if not used correctly. However, the BMS inside a lithium-ion battery improves battery utilization, prevents overcharging or discharging, increases battery life, and regulates battery health.

Lead-acid battery vs. Lithium Ion: Which Should You Buy?

In both cases, these batteries offer advantages and disadvantages. However, if I evaluate the general characteristics, lithium-ion batteries are more durable, more environmentally friendly, and have a lower average cost, making them more suitable.

Why is it recommended to replace the lead-acid battery with the lithium-ion one?

Lithium batteries offer a more profitable alternative in the long term because, despite requiring a greater initial investment, they do not require maintenance. This type of battery has a faster charging process, a longer life, a higher density of power, and longer battery life using a lighter package. 

The issue of sustainability is also a valuable aspect when choosing since this type of battery does not have toxic gas emissions being a more beneficial option for the environment.

How do you replace the lead-acid battery with the lithium-ion one? What must be considered?

When replacing lead-acid batteries with lithium ones, you should check the voltage and current of the battery pack to evaluate whether the specifications match and perform battery monitoring (AH counting) against bypass since the voltage may throw errors.

Can a lithium-ion battery be charged with a lead acid charger?

How are lithium batteries charged? This is usually a fairly common question. However, lithium batteries differ from lead-acid batteries, and their chargers may differ. Lithium batteries must be charged with a special charger to avoid permanently damaging their internal structure, a difference between lithium and lead batteries.

Electric motorcycles use lithium-ion batteries because they are light, safe, environmentally friendly, quick to recharge, and very suitable for the increasingly popular battery exchange stations.

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