Modern lithium motorcycle batteries are quickly replacing old-school lead-acid batteries as the high-performance battery of choice, with longer life, lighter weight, powerful cranking amps, and more flexible applications. But when you finally decide to step your battery game up to lithium, how do you know you’re making the right investment? We show you what you need to know.
Over the last several years, lithium batteries have increasingly “a thing” in the motorcycle and powersports worlds, and we are getting more and more questions about them from customers thinking about making the switch. In order to help you learn more about lithium motorcycle batteries, whether or not they are right for you, and which one to get for your application, we’ve put together this helpful Lithium Battery Buyer’s Guide to point you in the right direction.
In this Buyer’s Guide, we’ll cover:
An Overview of Lithium Batteries
Who They Are/Are Not Good For
How to Find The Lithium Battery You Need
Lithium Battery Brands Comparison
You’ll find a ton of info to help you narrow down your search for the right lithium battery here, but if you still have any questions, please feel free to contact us via email at [email protected] or on the phone at (888) 339-3888 and we’ll get you all squared away. Let’s begin!
An Overview of Lithium Batteries
Lead-acid batteries, the kind you’ve probably used in pretty much any kind of vehicle for most of your life, are reliable, inexpensive, and work well for most people in most applications, but they have their own set of drawbacks, such as very high weight, limited service life, and a fairly high self-discharge rate (the power a battery gradually loses just sitting on the shelf.) Lead-acid batteries are tried-and-true, but they are based on technology that hasn’t changed much in over a century, and by today’s standards are actually very “low-tech.”
But now, the same technological developments that have allowed huge advancements in battery power for small devices like laptops and cell phones have made their way over to the powersports industry, ushering in a new era in battery power – all thanks to the lightest metal in the universe, lithium.
Lighter, more powerful, safer, and longer-lasting, lithium-based batteries truly are the new generation of batteries in the powersports world, and eventually, will replace lead-acid batteries completely. It’s important to know that, unlike lithium-ION batteries found in small devices (which as you’ll remember from the recent Samsung Note 7 fiasco as being prone to catching fire or exploding) the lithium batteries found in vehicles are lithium-IRON batteries – technically, lithium-ferrous-phosphate, or LiFePO4 – which is a completely different chemistry that is much more stable and safe to use,
Lithium batteries are desired for having the following characteristics when compare with lead-acid batteries:
- 1/3 – 1/5 the size of a comparable lead-acid battery in a given application
- Up to 5 times the service life of a comparable lead-acid battery in a given application
- Very fast recharge rate – they can recharge to up to 80% of their full capacity in only minutes
- Very low self-discharge rate – they only lose about 10% of their charge per year when sitting, compared to lead-acids which will lose about 1% of their charge per day
- Ultimate deep discharge battery, compared to lead acids that are “dead” at 70-80% charge
- Higher CCAs when compared to a lead-acid battery for a given application (usually about 1.5X)
- Safer because they use a completely dry chemistry, compared to lead-acid batteries which use both hazardous lead and corrosive acid
- Longer warranties than most lead-acid batteries
Who They Are/Are Not Good For
As you can see, on paper, lithium-based batteries have the edge on lead-acid batteries in pretty much every way. The most dramatic benefit to using a lithium battery in place of a lead-acid is in weight – lithium batteries crank a lot more performance for their weight and mass than lead-acids do. However, while they are known for light weight and powerful starts, they are significantly more expensive than lead-acid batteries, they are known to slow down in cold weather, and after decades of refinement, lead-acids tend to have the edge on lithiums in terms of consistency and reliability.
As a result of their unique characteristics, lithium batteries tend to be excellent batteries for some kinds of customers, and not so much for others.
Who They Are Good For:
- Those who prioritize performance. For any racer or performance rider who wants the ultimate in low weight and high performance, lithium batteries are a no-brainer.
- Those with lighter bikes. Switching to a lithium from a lead-acid battery will immediately shave several pounds in weight (usually 5+) from your bike, and will be much more noticeable – and fun – in a dirt bike or small sport bike than in a big cruiser.
- Those who want the best/most modern of everything. Lithium batteries are the new top-of-the-food-chain in batteries, and if you want the best, most cutting-edge technology and don’t mind paying for it, this is a very desirable upgrade.
- Those who let their bikes sit for long periods of time. Lithium batteries self-discharge very slowly, so for those who go weeks or months without riding and don’t want to deal with the hassle of a battery tender, these are a life-saver.
Who They Are Not Good For:
- Those who are on a budget. Compared to comparable lead-acid batteries, lithiums are much more expensive, costing between 2 and 4 times as much. If all you want to do is start your bike, and don’t care about the extra weight or fancy technology, stick to lead-acids, which are a better short-term value.
- Those who live or ride in cold climates. As a result of their unique chemistry, lithium batteries are known to slow down in cold weather, and will behave as though they are dying (they actually don’t lose power, they just discharge it more slowly.) There is an easy solution for this – simply “warming up” the battery by running the headlights for 30-60 seconds before starting – but many riders feel uneasy with a battery that becomes finicky, especially in the cold. If you live or ride where temperatures drop below 40 degrees, it is unlikely that you will be satisfied with a lithium battery.
- Those with a lot of accessories on their bikes. Lead-acid batteries handle parasitic draw (that that which comes from accessories like alarms, GPS systems, USB chargers, etc.) better than lithiums do. If you have a lot of accessories on your bike, or tend to use them when your bike is off, stick with lead-acid batteries.
As you can see, lithium batteries are high-performance – but they are not the “be all, end all” for motorcycle batteries. If you want the highest quality, most advanced motorcycle battery you can get, but think any of the aforementioned conditions might apply to you, check out AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) batteries instead. AGMs are the most advanced version of lead-acid battery technology today, and will work reliably in pretty much all conditions while still being a fairly good value.
How To Find The Battery You Need
At the time of this writing, we at BikeBandit offer 84 different models of lithium motorcycle batteries from 5 different brands: Antigravity, Ballistic Performance Components, BikeMaster, Shorai, and Western Power Sports.
While including an exhaustive list of what batteries would fit what application would be impossible in this article, we have worked closely with all five manufacturers to incorporate their product offerings into our exclusive Parts Fitment Tool, creating an easy way for you to instantly see what batteries will fit your application. Try it here by simply inputting the make, model, and year of your machine and let our search engine do the rest.
One thing to note: depending on the manufacturer and model of the lithium battery you order, you may find that even when you order the correct battery for your application, the battery itself is smaller than the lead-acid battery it is replacing (this is because lithium batteries are more power-dense than lead-acids.) For this reason, most manufacturers will ship their batteries with foam spacers to take up the extra room in your battery compartment to prevent your battery from shifting.
When you order your battery using our fitment tool, you may get a lithium battery that is smaller than your current battery, but it will not be larger, so you should not have any issues with your new battery fitting. If you have questions about this, please contact us and we will let you know more about the specific battery for your application.
Lithium Battery Brands Comparison
As mentioned in the previous section, we offer lithium batteries from five different brands at BikeBandit. Here, we will identify each of them, along with information about each one to help you choose the brand that will be right for you.
Antigravity is one of the industry leaders in lithium battery technology, manufacturing a full line of lithium powersports batteries, portable power packs, electronics, and now, even full-size batteries for automobiles. Antigravity batteries are made in the USA, and offer a 2-year warranty. Shop Antigravity batteries here.
BikeMaster offers a huge product line of parts and accessories for motorcycles, including a full line of batteries from entry-level lead-acid batteries to higher-end AGM and Gel Cell batteries, to top-of-the-line lithium batteries in their Lithium-Ion line. For their lithium battery line-up, they offer a 2-year warranty, and are among the best values in lithium batteries. Shop BikeMaster Lithium-Ion batteries here.
Ballistic Performance Components
Ballistic Performance Components is a well-known name in the lithium battery name, especially in the performance motorsports world, as they specialize in lithium batteries for the high performance and racing industries. Their batteries, which all come in their signature bright red molded case, are divided into two categories: EVO2 batteries, which are as small and light as possible, and EVO3 batteries, which offer the same high performance, but are designed to match OEM size and dimensions. Ballistic batteries are fully made in the USA, and have a 3-year warranty. Shop Ballistic Performance Components batteries here.
Shorai is one of the most well-known names in the lithium battery world when it comes to motorcycles and other powersports vehicles. Shorai has made a name for itself in the industry when it comes to reliability, and are known to have high quality products and excellent customer service. Shorai batteries are built in a military-spec carbon case, are developed and manufactured in Japan, and have a 2-year warranty. Shop Shorai batteries here.
Western Power Sports
Western Power Sports may be known to many as one of the country’s largest distributors of power sports parts, accessories and apparel, but they have also created their own exclusive brand of lithium batteries. WPS’s batteries have a unique feature not found in any other brand – an on-board battery tester that will indicate the battery’s charge with the push of a button. WPS lithium batteries carry a 2-year warranty, and are an excellent value. Shop Western Power Sports batteries here.
Getting the right lithium battery for your application is easy using our exclusive Parts Fitment Tool, but if you are having trouble finding the right battery for your application or have any questions regarding this topic, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us! You can email us at [email protected], call us at (888) 339-3888, or use our Live Chat feature at the top-right of our page. No matter what, we’ll get the answers you need and get you in the right battery for you!