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Lead Acid versus Lithium Ion

When the time has come to replace the onboard battery bank, it is essential to consider the benefits of upgrading from the standard lead-acid battery to the updated technology in lithium-ion batteries. The process of converting from lead-acid and the benefits provided will be defined below. The decision process will shift from an if I am going to make the upgrade to a when.


The internal components between lithium-ion batteries and lead-acid are significantly different. Just as the names imply, Lithium batteries are composed of the metal lithium, while lead-acid is composed of the metal lead. Each differs in weight; lithium is the lightest metal on the periodic table while lead is denser, thus adding weight. However, one similarity is that they are both soft and malleable.


One element to take into consideration is the weight. Lithium batteries are nearly one-third of the weight of lead-based batteries and smaller in size. Weight reduction certainly has significant benefits. Some of these benefits include ease of replacing batteries after the initial upgrade and reduced weight load to increase overall performance.


The day of crawling into a confined space to check battery water levels is a thing of the past. Lithium batteries are considered maintenance free. While nobody should believe any part of a vessel is entirely maintenance-free, it is safe to say the workload is reduced, and the risk of having dry batteries is eliminated. An occasional terminal check to be sure they are snug and clean should remain a maintenance routine.


When you break down the life span of a lithium battery to a lead battery, the difference is significant. The life cycle of a cell is the number of times it can discharge and charge before requiring replacement. While a lead-based battery on average can withstand 500-1000cycles, lithium can cycle over 5,000 times.


To increase the lifespan of any battery, you should always try to avoid fully draining them. Depth of discharge parameters are in place for each type of cell. The depth of discharge measurement is the percentage that a battery can be safely drained while avoiding permanent damage. The difference between lithium and lead is notable. While lead-acid should not be discharged past 50 percent, its counterpart withstands a discharge of 85 percent.


The voltage varies between lithium and lead when in a resting state. In comparison, a fully charged lead-acid battery will read between 12.6 volts and 12.8 volts while a lithium battery rests at 13.2 volts when charged. Despite the reduction in both size and weight, lithium has a higher capacity. When a load is applied to either type of cell, the available voltage varies. Lithium batteries see little to no change in voltage when running onboard systems even when they are significantly discharged. Additionally, lithium batteries run components more efficiently because they maintain a high and steady voltage. As a result, energy consumption is reduced by 20-30%. On the other hand, the voltage drops in lead-based cells, making the device or devices its powering run less efficiently and ultimately draining the battery more quickly.


When running heavy load-bearing equipment such as a windless or a starter, energy consumption is remarkably different between lithium and lead. A dip in the voltmeter does not go unnoticed on lead cell house bank batteries when running heavy-load systems. However, this is not the case in lithium. Lithium batteries do not see that voltage dip under high demand situations. The cells continue to crank out high amps while the voltage is left unphased. Lastly, because of the steady energy released and the ability to discharge at a higher overall percentage, the size of the battery bank can often be reduced in a conversion.


When the onboard batteries are depleted, it is essential to take into account the time it will take to recharge completely. First, understand the maximum charge capacity of a lead versus lithium. Lead cell batteries most often max out at around 80% of capacity and can go higher but at a prolonged charge time rate. Lithiums charge to nearly 100% of its holding capability, but how fast? Depending on the size of the battery and the onboard charging system, Lithium-Ion batteries can go from dead to 100% charged in just two hours. Why can they charge so much faster? Lithium batteries are more efficient. Greater efficiency allows for a higher charger amperage; however, they must be paired with a compatible charger. The Yacht Gurus guys are experts at matching the charger to the batteries.


You may not realize it, but lithium batteries are a part of our every day lives. They are found in our cell phones, rechargeable power tools, laptop computers, cameras, and more. These devices are part of modern-day technology, so why not apply the same technology to your vessel. When comparing the benefits, it becomes evident that lithium-ion outperforms lead-based batteries.  


Lithium Battery Benefits:


  1. The batteries are smaller in size and significantly lighter.
  2. They offer a much-extended life span with over 5,000 cycles.
  3. Achieve a higher charge capacity in a reduced time frame.
  4. Offer the ability to run efficiently when highly depleted.
  5. Maximizes the functionality of onboard systems while reducing energy consumption.
  6. More environmentally friendly.

While the upfront cost of lithium-ion batteries is significant, the benefits are worth the additional expense. To put it simply, compare the lifespan of a traditional lead-acid battery rated for 5 years against the life of lithium-ion technology at ten years. Doubling the duration eliminates the need for the added cost of labor and an extra set of batteries. Additionally, factor in the time consumed by maintenance while crawling into those confined spaces. Life span combined with all of the benefits mentioned should make this decision a no brainer.


When it comes time to upgrade from lead-acid or have maxed out the cycles on already installed lithium-ion batteries Yacht Gurus are the professionals who will get the job done. The Yacht Gurus team of experts is well-seasoned with the features and benefits of lithium-ion marine batteries. Yacht Gurus will properly match voltage and amp-hours based on the previously installed lead-acid batteries to power all onboard electronics, starters, and equipment. Additionally, Yacht Gurus qualifications include an electrical certification to ensure your project is flawless. For your next battery upgrade or installation, give Yacht Gurus a call at 954-348-4894. We look forward to servicing your vessel.

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