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The Different Types of Motorcycle batteries: The Pros, Cons, and Comparisons

A cartoonish guy standing behind a desk measuring a battery.

There are just two main types of motorcycle batteries sold in the USA-lead acid and Lithium. Pretty simple, no? However, that gets muddied a bit when you toss in the sub-variants.

In the lead-based battery categories, you might hear or read terms such as flooded, AGM, Gel, VRLA, or maintenance-free.

Lithium also consists of varying chemistries: You may have heard of LiFePo4, lithium Ion and even Lithium Iron.

So, how do I know what type of battery my motorcycle has? Or, what is the best type of battery for motorcycles? We will try to answer these questions and others below, so put your thinking cap on and sit tight.

But first, to assist with understanding what we are discussing, we have created a basic chart that lists the different battery terminologies:

Common Motorcycle Battery Chemistry Terms

Terms Description
Flooded

A lead-based battery that has removable caps and contains liquid acid. These are used primarily in older motorcycles, certain ATVs, and a few personal watercraft.

AGM

A lead-based battery, the most common motorcycle battery type, filled with acid that is Absorbed into a Fiber Glass Matt which is sandwiched between the lead plates. They are non-spillable and the most versatile of motorcycle battery types.

Often, AGM battery part numbers will contain a “-BS” at the end. What does BS mean on a motorcycle battery? This refers only to how the battery is manufactured and has no practical effect on the battery’s performance or usage. Some manufacturers will still use it, and some will delete it. It is truly unimportant. For those who MUST know, it stands for Bottle Stock and refers to how the acid is stored pre-production.

Gel

A lead-based battery containing a suspended silicate gel. They act and function similar to an AGM but are a bit more finicky about the voltage they can be charged at. No current motorcycle manufacturer uses these, though the terminology is often confused with AGM.

VRLA

Lead-based battery, VRLA means “Valve Regulated Lead Acid.” In all practical applications, this is an alternate terminology for AGM.

Lithium-Ion

This is a family term that contains several lithium chemistries. Some chemistries within the Lithium Ion family gave lithium a bad reputation for fires. However, motorcycle lithium batteries use Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) chemistry which is very stable and hasn’t had those issues. It is not uncommon to see a motorcycle lithium battery referred to as a lithium-ion battery. Some manufacturers, like Antigravity Batteries, still label their products under the family term versus the chemistry-specific LiFePO4 term.

Lithium Iron Phosphate

Lithium-ion-based battery is most commonly used for starting applications. Very stable mimics charge characteristics of AGM. This is the lithium you want!

LiFePO4

Lithium-Ion based battery. This is the same as Lithium Iron Phosphate, but a more technically correct way to state it. 100% interchangeable with batteries labeled lithium iron.

Whew! Glad that is out of the way, but now that you are that much smarter, what are the practical uses for the battery types? Let’s ask and then answer a few questions to clear that up.

How do I know what type of battery my motorcycle has?  You can make an age-range educated guess, pull your battery and have a look, or call our experts. There are a few giveaways if you are unsure. If you see removable caps, it’s a flooded battery. Sealed, but still heavy, and AGM. Surprisingly light weight means it’s lithium.

What type of Motorcycle battery lasts the longest? In a purely technical sense, a Lithium based battery should outlast an AGM, which should outlast a Flooded. However, battery use, care, and maintenance can be a great equalizer. Simplified, our money is on lithium for a properly maintained motorcycle battery.

What does AGM mean on a motorcycle battery? AGM is the short form for Absorbed Glass Matt. This is the go-to technology when speaking about lead-based batteries.

Can I put a lithium battery in any motorcycle? No. While lithium is generally superior, there are a few places where Lithium batteries may not be appropriate. Lithium starting batteries should avoid extreme cold, extreme heat, and prolonged heavy loads. For more info on this, we’d love for you to speak with one of our tech guys about your specific application.

Hopefully, this simple guide gets you on the path to purchasing the correct battery for your circumstances. While we would love to tell you which is the best type of battery for all motorcycles, you now know that each application is a bit different, every ride is unique, and one size does NOT fit all. Hey, that’s like you and probably one of the very reasons you ride a motorcycle!


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