AGM vs Lithium, what's best for you?

AGM vs Lithium, what's best for you? main image AGM vs Lithium, what's best for you? image

When it comes time to replace the battery in your motorcycle, what do you choose, AGM or the new wave of Lithium options out there?  There are great cases for both types of motorcycle battery, but the most overlooked reason while shopping around is what is best to suit your application?  Lifespan, cost, performance, weight, size, fitment, Amp hours, cranking power, OEM requirements and brand preference.  Any or all of these will influence your purchase to find the product best suited to you, but some may be misleading and offer false confidence.  You will have your battery for years to come, making the right choice now will pay off in the future.

Cost is often the first defining factor with any replacement battery.  The cheapest is not always the best value, and the most expensive can be money for features you don't need.  Finding value is getting what you need, that will serve you for years.  Motorcycle manufacturers will always state the battery requirements of the bike in the handbook, and sometimes it will even be listed on the bike itself.  This requirement consists of the Amp hours needed and the Cold Cranking Amps.  I will use the example of the YTX12-BS with 10Ah and 180CCA, a relatively common battery.  Cheaper options look good on the wallet, but compromising the Ah reduces the amount of power that the battery can hold in reserve for when you need it, and a drop in CCA would limit the output of the battery not allowing it to deliver the power on starting when you want the kick of power.  Sure, these will do the job when new, but they are going to suffer over time as they are already starting behind the requirements and diminishing over time.  Alternatively, there is no harm in exceeding the minimum with higher ratings, such as an MBTX12U with 14Ah and 200CCA, physically the same size as the previously mentioned YTX12-BS, but with improved technology in the core of the battery.  You will have something that is going to meet all the needs of the motorcycle and with more to give in reserve.  Over time all batteries will drop in ratings as they are used, going with higher ratings will extend the lifespan giving you return on your investment.  It is also possible to overshoot and go too big, weight and size can create issues beyond the manufactures intentions, and consideration should also be given to the charging system, is it up to the task of a larger battery that will have a higher resistance?  The best value is often found close to or slightly above the original specifications, motorcycle manufacturers spend a lot of time and money balancing out what is required for the best results.

Lithium batteries are the latest technology on the battery market and bring some big ideas and changing opinions on what a battery should deliver.  Typically, lithium's cost twice as much, with less than half the weight as a comparable AGM.  They also have little voltage drop off across the capacity of the battery before the voltage plummets, where as an AGM battery will have predictable voltage drop off for the duration of the capacity in the battery.  This means they each have very different characters in use, an AGM will slow as it ages, where as a lithium will be strong for its life and then drop off almost instantly.  The higher cost of a lithium battery comes from the difficulty of manufacture of the product, not only is the material of lithium expensive to obtain, but lithium batteries should also have an inbuilt cell balancing circuit (CBC) for safety of use and charging.  AGM batteries are the premium of lead-acid design refined over years of research, non-spillable safety and the industry standard.

An often-overlooked factor is how you use the bike that you are putting the battery in.  Is it used for more extreme scenarios than intended?  Trail bike competition or using a street bike for track days, for these applications the bike is often outside the original parameters that the manufacture has planned for, and thought should be put to the construction.  Is the battery you're looking at capable of extreme environments of heat and weather, or excessive vibrations?  There are good reasons for either AGM and Lithium, but often the individual battery manufacturers that specialise in these applications will come out street in front, and some research into a battery brand or asking an expert is the best solution.

Alternatively, you may only use your bike for a special ride on those sunny days to tour the hills or search along the coast.  For these bikes that spend more time at home waiting for the right moment, it is confidence you are buying so that it will not let you down.  An AGM in conjunction with a maintenance charger is by far the best solution.  Keeping the charge topped up to 12.6V an AGM will be ready to take you out and back home again safely while not stinging you in the wallet.  A Lithium will do the job too with the same maintenance trickle charging but it is unlikely to give you more than twice the years that an AGM will give.

There is no simple one answer that fits everyone.  There are many different bikes, many different applications and many different riders all wanting the best for them.  In most cases an AGM will comfortably fill the role for any bike, it is the battery chosen by most manufacturers to fit to their products.  Value is key, tailor your choice to how you use your motorcycle, the most expensive doesn't always last twice as long and the cheapest may lead to low life performance.  

One thing that both AGM and Lithium respond well to, particularly if being left for lengthy periods, is a good maintenance trickle charger.  This cannot be understated, when not in use a trickle charge topping up any battery will lengthen its lifespan giving you more days to enjoy on a ride.

If you would like any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Battery Solutions Network