Motorcycle Batteries Buyer’s Guide

By: On: February 9th, 20132 Comments »Updated: February 13, 2013

old motorcycle batteryIn this guide to motorcycle batteries we explain different types of batteries that are on the market, along with some advantages and disadvantages of each.  No one wants to deal with a dead battery when its time to ride.  We’ve all been there, so let’s plan for our next battery right now instead of when we’re stranded.

You’ve likely heard a lot about the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the lithium battery problem.  At the time of this article, it is still being investigated for root causes.  With that in mind, I know many motorcyclists also wonder which type of battery technology they should go for when replacing their motorcycle battery.  Lithium batteries for motorcycles are gaining in popularity, but not all lithium batteries have the same degree of volatility.

Since many motorcycles have the battery located under the seat, it sure would be nice to avoid a fire under there, right?  Hopefully, I can help you choose the best motorcycle battery for your bike, as well as help educate you about motorcycle batteries in general.

lithium motorcycle battery size versus lead-acid motorcycle batteryLithium Motorcycle Batteries

Let’s talk about lithium motorcycle batteries first.  Lithium batteries are not all the same.  The Boeing battery in the news is made by GS Yuasa in Japan.  You might recognize the Yuasa brand. Yuasa Battery, Inc. of the USA claims to be “the largest American manufacturer and largest distributor of batteries for motorcycles, snowmobiles, scooters, all-terrain vehicles and personal watercraft”.  They also say they are the “number one powersports battery provider, supplying more OEM’s than all other competitors combined”.  Yuasa brand does not mean lithium, so let’s get that straight first.  In fact, I contacted Yuasa Batteries, Inc. and they confirmed with me that they do not sell lithium motorcycle batteries.

If you are interested in switching to a Lithium motorcycle battery, you might try the Shorai LFX ($99.95 – $349.95 list price range).  This is a lithium-iron design, which does not have the thermal runaway issues that other lithium based batteries have, such as lithium-cobalt.  Shorai batteries have rectangular cells instead of round cells.  Because they can group these cells in a smaller package than ones with round cells,  it will fit your motorcycle better.  The exception is that Shorai batteries are normally smaller than the stock battery, so they include self-adhesive foam pads that you can stick in the battery box to keep your new small lithium battery from moving around on you.

Why switch to a lithium motorcycle battery anyway?  One really big advantage is weight reduction.  According to Shorai, their lithium-iron batteries reduce the weight of a motorcycle by 4 to 15 pounds depending on the bike.  For example, a Shorai LFX litium battery for a 2012 Ducati Panigale weighs just 1.46 lbs. or 662 grams.  I picked the Ducati as an example because many Ducati riders are obsessive about reducing the weight of their bikes.  Yuasa’s web site lists their Y12B-BS lead-acid battery for this bike weighs 7.6 lbs.  or “130 kg.”  Wait a minute, 130 kg would be almost 287 lbs!  Regardless of that, the weight savings that lithium motorcycle batteries have over lead-acid is big, you get the point.

Better cranking and longer life are two more advantages that lithium-iron motorcycle batteries have over lead-acid.  While Shorai offers a realtively pricey battery charger (about $90), they say you can use a regular battery charger or battery tender as long as the charger does not have a “desulfation mode”.  Deltran says their battery tender does not have this mode, so Shorai has ok’d using it (source: shoraipower.com).

Lithium motorcycle batteries won’t “sulfate” as lead-acid motorcycle batteries do anyway. So, what does it mean for a battery to sulfate?

Motorcycle Battery Tender JuniorThe acid, in lead-acid batteries, is sulfuric acid.  Lead plates in the traditional OEM motorcycle battery sit in a sulfuric acid bath.  Lead sulfate is formed on the lead plates over time, causing the battery to weaken.  I actually use a Battery Tender Junior on my stock lead-acid motorcycle battery to help minimize the sulfate build-up and to keep my motorcycle ready to ride.  I ride a 2007 model Moto Guzzi with the original lead-acid battery.  Take a look at how I installed a Battery Tender at my Moto Guzzi California Motorcycles blog.

Ballistic EVO2 is another brand of lithium-iron motorcycle batteries.  Ballistic Performance Components claims their EVO2 motorcycle battery “is a purpose built product designed, engineered, and assembled in the USA by an American company with over 20 years of professional motorcycle racing and manufacturing experience”.  Ballistic battery sizes go by the number of cells they have.  So, when I look up which battery to use for my bike, Ballistic suggests a “16 cell”.  They currently make two different 4 cell models, an 8 cell and two different 16 cell models of lithium-iron batteries for motorcycles, scooters and atv’s.  The Ballistic lithium battery list prices range from $69.95 for use in 50 cc scooters up to $299.95 for their “16 cell HD” battery for Harley Davidson big twins and other large touring bikes with 1500 cc and larger engines.  Motorcycle Superstore has the Ballistic EVO2 batteries starting at $49.95 and they come with a 3 year warranty, as well as the Shorai lithium batteries from $89.95 with a 2 year warranty and free shipping.

There are other brands of lithium-iron motorcycle batteries on the market too, but let’s move on to discuss a few other types of motorcycle batteries that are well worth considering.  These are the Gel and the AGM batteries, also known as sealed batteries.

Gel motorcycle battery drilledGel Motorcycle Batteries

In a Gel battery, the electrolyte sulfuric acid is mixed into a gel form instead of liquid.  Some of the the benefits of gel motorcycle batteries is that they are sealed to be leak free and maintenance free (no evaporation and no refilling), are vibration and impact resistant, won’t sulfate, and can be installed at an angle instead of sitting flat.  They tend to also be lighter than traditional lead-acid motorcycle batteries, and more reliable too. Even if somehow the battery’s case got cracked or punctured, a gel battery won’t leak.  The BikeMaster TruGel battery pictured here is a great example.  Cost for a Gel motorcycle battery can range from about $25 to $200 depending on the bike.

AGM Motorcycle Batteries

Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) motorcycle batteries are another type of sealed battery and often are high performing. These have glass fiber mats inside them that are saturated in the acid electrolyte.  The mats act like a sponge inside the battery, so no leaks, no spills.  Additionally, AGM motorcycle batteries tend to be a little lighter than a regular gel motorcycle battery, and even more durable.   If you are looking for the best motorcycle battery without investing in the typically higher up-front cost of  a lithium battery, then an AGM motorcycle battery is the way to go.  Cost for an AGM motorcycle battery can range from about $25 to $170 depending on the bike.

Flooded Motorcycle Batteries

Common lead-acid, or flooded batteries motorcycle batteries (not sealed) normally cost between about $20-$120 depending on the bike.  These kinds of batteries require periodic topping-off of the acid inside due to evaporation.  They have screw caps on the top of the battery where you can refill it. If you order a battery like this, you will need to have it filled and charged, since they don’t ship these with acid in them because they could leak.  A battery like this needs to be mounted in a normal upright position, as level as you can get it.  Warranty on a traditional flooded type lead-acid motorcycle battery is sometimes just 1 year.  If you’re willing to maintain it and if you don’t run a lot of electrical accessories, and don’t have a bike with a lot of vibration (or use off-road), then this kind of battery may be just fine.

Yuasa makes a huge variety of motorcycle batteries, from conventional flooded lead-acid up to their top-of-the-line absorbed glass mat AGM batteries.  The top-of-the-line Yuasa battery for 2013 is their GYZ series.  Compared to their other AGM batteries, this one has better capability to recharge after being badly drained of it’s charge.  It also has a longer shelf life and comes factory activated.  They recommend this for big v-twins and customs.

Charging Motorcycle Batteries

Did you know that a normal 12 volt motorcycle battery voltage range, with no load on it, is only between 11.4 volts (needs charging)  and 12.9 volts (fully charged)?  If yours reads less than 9 volts when nothing is connected to it, then it is more than likely time for you to buy a new one.  I hope you find this guide to motorcycle batteries useful as you decide which type to get next for your motorcycle.

Motorcycle batteries can be dangerous.  Always be sure to read and understand the instructions from the battery manufacturer, and from the battery charger manufacturer if you plan to use a charger.  I saw a car battery explode in my friend’s face when I was a teen.  His glasses helped keep the acid that sprayed everywhere from getting into his eyes.  I still think of that whenever I connect a charger or work near battery terminals.

By the way, the brands mentioned in this original Motorcycle Information article were chosen only because of their popularity and my awareness of them.  This is NOT a paid review.  If any motorcycle, scooter or atv owners out there have any feedback to provide about their experience with different types of batteries in their bikes, please share your comments and suggestions by using the form below.

About John Clay

John Clay is the author of MotorcycleInfo.Org. He and his family reside in North Carolina in the United States. A graduate of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Experienced Rider Course, he enjoys riding his Moto Guzzi in charity rides and serves as a volunteer motorcycle marshal for an annual bicycle charity event in the Carolinas.

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2 Responded

  1. Melissa says:

    Do not use a flooded battery. I ride my quad a lot off road. I bought this type of battery and on two occasions it has failed me. I have upgraded to a maintenance free battery. I will see how this one goes.

  2. David William says:

    Hello please Confirm if you have this unit

    Yuasa GYZ Factory Activated AGM High Performance Battery

    Antigravity YTX12 12-Cell 360CA Lithium Ion Battery

    Shorai LFX Batteries – LFX24A3-BS12

    Shorai LFX Batteries – LFX14A1-BS12

    Antigravity YTZ7-S 8-Cell 240CA Lithium Ion Battery

    Antigravity YT12BS 12-Cell 360CA Lithium Ion Battery

    Ballistic Performance 12 Cell EVO2 Battery

    Sealed Lead Acid Battery OR AGM Battery

    12volt100 ah,12volt 250 ah

    Advise stock, unit cost

    Phone-951-370-1668

    Company name: powerlink

    3401 Etiwanda Ave. Mira Loma 91752,California

    Best regards