Motorcycle Batteries .. AGM, GEL, Wet, Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4)

Discussion in 'The Garage' started by _cy_, Jan 20, 2012.

  1. Global Rider

    Global Rider Alps Adventurer

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    What makes it the "very best"? How is it better if my motorcycle starts every time...and since it has proven itself over the long term.

    I understand. Do you or do you not agree that it would be far better to charge each single cell than a string of cells, especially in a Li-Ion battery.
  2. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    thank you for acknowledging that you understand.... was really getting worried that my style of writing was not getting the message across.

    when you use li-ion label, as you know that includes a lot of different chemistries. so what's accurate for lithium cobalt may not apply to LiFePO4.

    assuming you are referring to LiFePO4, charging in a series with or without internal BMS is way less critical for LiFePO4 vs lithium cobalt, which is safest charging one cell at a time. hence need for balance leads and/or BMS during charging. lithium cobalt cells are inherently unstable and need all sorts of protection to keep from going into thermal runaway (explosion).. vs LiFePO4 are inherently stable and takes extreme abuse to catch on fire.

    charge/discharge curves for lithium cobalt are no where close to LiFePO4. but they both share traits of li-ion with extremely low internal resistance, resulting in HUGE discharge rates.

    have been using individual unprotected lithium cobalt cells in my flashlights for 9+ years. those are always safest charged one cell at a time with a lithium cobalt specific charger with a true 4.2v termination.

    check out these pic's taken in 2004 and 2005 showing very early Lithium cobalt cells being used in flashlights. second picture shows a Larry light, custom all hand made, including hand soldered circuit board. notice date code on li-ion battery of 02-2004.

    this was bleeding edge technologies in 2004 ...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
  3. Global Rider

    Global Rider Alps Adventurer

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    Although safety is the #1 concern, what concerns me is battery life if it is overcharged. And Li-Ion does not do well being overcharged. So if they are in a string, that may happen. Once they are overcharged, they are done...big money wasted.

    Same for AGM and GEL. None of these as well as your favorite battery are very forgiving in the charging process. FLA...no sweat. I can and do equalize the battery from time to time...it gasses, no sweat, I top it off a tad.
  4. achtung3

    achtung3 Long timer

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    Ok, how am I to make a "box" for this thing?

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
  5. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    again .. you keep referring to li-ion and not stating which type. overcharge lithium cobalt (LiCoO2) by little as 1/2v .. bad things could happen (explosion)

    vs LiFePO4 are more tolerant to overcharge and takes wild abuse to catch it on fire.

    it's not possible to use (LiCoO2) in 12v charging systems without step up/down electronics. operating voltages for (LiCoO2) simply don't match 12v charging systems.

    completely different charge parameters for PB vs LiFePO4 which is fully charged at 14.6v .. most normal 12v charging systems operate 13.8v to 14.2v ... if you feed 14.2v from a 12v charging system to a LiFePO4 battery it's not possible to overcharge. unless you plan on doing an iron butt ride for a week straight without stopping. then afterwards, that LiFePO4 will still probably be OK.

    if anything Gel is the most at risk from overcharging as it doesn't like to be charged much over 14.2v... AGM don't go much over 14.8v. wet PB is the most tolerant to overcharge.

    again time must be factored ... going over voltage for short periods will generally not hurt any of the chemistries mentioned except (LiCoO2 + 1/2v over 4.2v = thermal runaway). but over voltage if given enough time will kill all of the above. the most likely scenario killing your battery is when using a battery tender/charger without a true float mode for months.... NOT from your 12v charging system on your motorcycle.

    one other failure mode needs to be mentioned... on permanent magnet charging systems... if voltage reg/Rectifier fails, depending on make ... one could get 17v to 20v+ coming at your battery. this potentially kills all of the above chemistries .. including wet PB ...
  6. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    examine plastic case carefully to determine what's under the outer layer of shrink wrap. if mfg placed a protective layer under shrink wrap in case of failure. then a layer of safety has been factored in by the mfg. still it's the most fragile of all the battery pack styles.

    it's probably enough that you understand importance of protecting that battery pack. when you strap that battery down, place a layer of protective material between battery tray and LiFePO4 8 cell pack.

    don't make any mods to battery, leave that to battery mfg.
  7. achtung3

    achtung3 Long timer

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    Ok, will do that.

    Thanks
  8. kamikazekyle

    kamikazekyle Been here awhile

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    I think what _cy_ was getting on about some chargers not being compatible with LiFePO's was in relation to their charging voltage. Basically how some put out too many volts for too long or fail to go into a proper maintenance float charge. LiFePO's work in a vehicles charging system since said charging systems usually top out at around 14.2-14.4 on average. So even if the charging system is fairly rudementary, it still won't overcharge LiFePO's or lead batteries. In general, though, your average lead acid smart charger would be fine so long as you didn't use the desulfation mode. At least, that's what I think he was saying.

    Frankly, plain ol' FLA's are solid for those that are willing to check the battery. Dirt cheap, long life if properly maintained, and not too bad on recovery from overdraining. But how many people are going to check their battery to make sure it's got enough water? How many people even know what a battery looks like beyond the AAAs they stick in their remote? My girlfriend never even knew to check occassionally her tire pressure before I met her (at least she remembered to get oil changes). So I'm a proponent of AGM's for everyday vehicle use, especially in motorcycles where the battery might be very difficult to reach (helloooo Setaro).

    All that said, I recently picked up an EarthX 12 cell for my Setaro; EarthX specifically for the BMS. Said Setaro came with an FLA. I wasn't too keen on an FLA in a motorcycle that might be dropped or see spills reguarly offroad, albeit with a very minimal chance of actual battery spillage. I wanted to replace it moreso in that you have to remove screws and fairing panels to see the battery, and more than one owner has dried their battery up within a few months of purchase. Heck, BMW even ran leads off the battery to under the seat in order to jump start the bike. It's also a fairly weird size that I had difficulty finding an AGM match -- I came up with two that would fit, provide more than a few aH, and also provide enough juice to actually crank the bike over. And one of those was frequently reported to last less than 1-2 years in the Setaro. So I decided to grab an LiFePO. It'd fit in the compartment and free up some room for additional things I plan on putting in (fuse blocks, relays, harnesses, etc).

    Will it perform as well as an AGM or FLA over years? I dunno -- I deal more with Lithium polymer/cobalt batteries more often than LiFePOs. I just wanted something that would fit and I wouldn't have to worry about unless the bike's charging system went AWOL or something. The fact that it's lighter weight and smaller is just a side effect.

    Soooo...yea. I'm with _cy_ in recommending AGM for general purpose automotive/motorsport use and LiFePO's or gels for more specific applications. FLA's are fine and all, but in terms of automotive or motorsport use are probably best left to select applications or to self-installed instances where an individual would actually check and maintain the battery. But that's just my opinion. If someone wants to power their vehicle with a gaint cluster of Duracell AA alkalines, they can be my guest.
  9. Merlin III

    Merlin III Mean SOB

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    Excellent thread Cy! I found it very helpful in educating myself about which battery to to purchase for my GS.
    Phil
  10. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    resting voltage of 11.2v is all but dead .. charge with your higher setting of 6amp.

    use state of charge chart below for resting voltage after 4 hours or better yet overnight. your charging system should be putting out 13.8v to 14.2v at mid rpm, measured at battery. use a known to be correct meter.

    [​IMG]
  11. walkingbear

    walkingbear Long timer

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    Two airheads

    number one: R90S with high compression pistons , dual plugged


    number two: 88 R100 GS. thinking about dual plugging switching over to 40mm heads and 40 mm bings.

    Both take lots of juice to start. Would be better if I change out the starters to something newer that would take less load.

    SO, what battery should I be looking at and why
  12. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    thanks for asking ... answer depends on how/when you plan on riding your airhead.

    airheads used for adventure duties has one of the most demanding requirements of any motorcycle battery. as you know starting requirements can veri widely... anywhere from barely touching the starter button to hard cranking for several 30 seconds + sessions before starting at below 20f ...

    LiFePO4 battery's performance drops dramatically at lower temps. at 14f capacity drops in 1/2 .. hence need to warm up battery internals by drawing current to warm up battery.

    carburetor equipped bikes generally require more cranking at colder temps than fuel injected bikes. even when both bikes are in a good state of tune.

    then factor airhead charging systems at about 250 watts are marginal at best with heated gear. unless charging system has been upgraded to 400+ watt versions.

    recommendations is to go with a quality AGM battery ... unless saving weight is more important than saving $$$.

    if airhead is to be used for adventure duties .. go with the largest LiFePO4 you can stuff into battery tray. R80G/S has EarthX ETX36 currently installed with excellent performance. for the last year Shoria LFX36 has done an outstanding job starting R80G/S, including starting in brutal conditions like below 20f ...

    definitely look into Valeo copies for Airheads, which has a reputation for less amp draw while spinning over engine faster. feedback is to go with version that has magnet with clips.

    my R90S did have an 16AH AGM installed .. your clock on R90S will drain a fully charged 16AH AGM after a few months. my R90S 16AH AGM drained down to below 11v or pretty dead. Yuasa 900 Smartshot battery charger/maintainer recovered dead AGM nicely.

    one of the main drawback to LiFePO4 is actual amp hour is relatively low. parasitic drain has an higher effect on LiFePO4 due to smaller actual amp hour capacity.

    EarthX ETX36 and Shorai LFX36 both are about 14AH actual. 12 cell Antigravity has about 6.9 AH actual. 8cell = 4.6AH actual, 4cell = 2.3AH actual

    if airhead is only going to be used in warm conditions ... smallest LiFePO4 would be EarthX ETX24. which does an excellent job of starting R80G/S even during colder conditions. but doesn't have enough amp hour capacity for the dreaded cold start, then short ride with heated gear. next morning at say 25f .. ETX24 battery didn't have enough AH remaining to start. so if you are only riding you airhead during warm seasons and/or always starting out from a fully equipped garage ... EarthX ETX24 would be an excellent choice for your airhead.
  13. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    an excellent video by Yuasa ... shows how to do an initial acid fill for a dry AGM battery. note Yuasa instructions above specifically calls for an initial slow charge. which requires a charger that delivers about 900 mah.

    Yuasa 900 Smartshot charger/maintainer is ideal for this task.

    [​IMG]
  14. smichel

    smichel n00b

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    I have a 1993 r100gs pd with the original BMW 3 amp, 12V black metal charger. I also have installed an odyssey 925 battery on the bike and an endurolast charging system. So my question is: can I use this charger on this battery without wrecking something? :kboomIf not, any recommendations on a good charger/tender for this battery. The Odyssey Ultimizer (12 amp) is recommended, but the fan seems to run continuously - which could get pretty annoying.
  15. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    thanks for asking ...

    from Endurolast website: "Ultimate Alternator Charging Kit with permanent magnet rotor & hi-output stator. Combination electronic volt regulator/rectifier. The amperage output of this system at low engine RPM's allows use of lighting, heating and other accessories. Not Compatible with lithium iron batteries as supplied by Shorai."
    -------------

    odyssey 925 battery is an AGM battery which works fine with any 12v charging system, permanent magnet or electro-magnet rotor.

    Odyssey Ultimizer (12 amp) should work fine with any motorcycle AGM battery, but is really sized for a full size auto battery. any quality AGM charger that has a true float mode will work fine for both auto and motorcycle AGM batteries.

    it's worth understanding ... drawback to permanent magnet charging systems is failure mode when rectifier/regulator goes out. 17v+ will dump to battery .. killing it! then not only will you have a dead RR, you will also have a dead battery.

    it's worth installing a volt meter on your airhead or any other bike with a permanent magnet charging system to track voltage output. if you shut down bike at first sign of overcharge.

    you will still have to replace your RR, but your battery will be saved.

    my recommendation is ... if you have not already purchased charger ... go with Yuasa 900 Smartshot charger/maintainer for your motorcycle battery. which is also compatible with LiFePO4.

    or go with BMW 3 amp, 12V black metal charger ... which needs to be checked to make sure volts doesn't go over 14.8v ... in 1993 charger I believe wet lead acid batteries were OEM equipment on BMW, wet PB tolerates a higher charging voltage, which may not be compatible with AGM. don't use any charger with a desulfate mode on your AGM, unless mfg specifically gives instructions to do so. most chargers with desulfate modes are made for wet PB, voltages can exceed 15.9v. much safer not to go over 14.8v on all AGM.

    chargers specifically designed for Gel should not go over 14.2v, then go into float mode at about 13.6v. which is within range for AGM.
    [​IMG]
  16. smichel

    smichel n00b

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    great info... thanks!!!
  17. smichel

    smichel n00b

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    probably a dumb question cy, but can a fuse protect the battery against a failed R/R - as opposed to monitoring with a volt meter? I know that a fuse is rated by amperage, and that's different than voltage...[​IMG]
  18. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    nope .. voltage is the problem when RR fails, not current. assuming output stays within normal 13.8v to 14.2v, your battery self limits current that it will absorb.

    at 17v+ .. current is getting pushed into battery, even if battery is fully charged... if over-charged long enough and with high enough voltage, all 12v batteries PB or LiFePO4 will be destroyed.
  19. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    your KTM charging system was originally designed to support lead acid batteries. which includes wet PB, AGM and Gel. 13.8v to 14.2v is the range needed to support PB.

    drawback to permanent magnet charging systems is when your RR goes out. 17v+ goes to your battery killing it. recommendations is to install a small waterproof voltmeter. you will still have to replace your RR. but your battery will be saved.

    it's possible to operate bike with RR out. but limiting charging to for short periods by disconnect wiring, operating on battery only. during bulk phase of charging, voltage too high will not hurt battery.

    recommendations is go with AGM ... stay away from batteries with too small Amp hour, especially tiny LiFePO4, like Shorai LFX18. if you must have LiFePO4, go with largest LiFePO4 you can stuff into space available, which would be EarthX ETX36 (14AH actual)

    LiFePO4 is fully charged at 14.6v ... normal discharge range is 13.3v to 12.8v ... a very flat discharge curve. this is why LiFePO4 mates almost perfect to 12v charging systems designed to support PB.

    Gel should not be charged over 14.2v, so will work fine on your bike's charging system. but most automotive chargers puts out 14.8v or so and will kill it.

    those sealed 12v batteries used for alarms, etc are usually Gel.
  20. battlecry

    battlecry n00b

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    _CY_, so the charge voltage profile of the 900mA Yuasa tender is compatible with the charging needs of the LiFePo batteries. Can it also be used as a tender on bikes with LiFePo batteries and parasitic loads? It appears to be "smart" and to cut the charge before 14.6V, so it works more like a true tender than a trickle charger.