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Charging the Lithium Battery in Your Powersports Vehicle


Powersports Season is about to rev up here in the US and Canada, especially with the early spring we’re experiencing throughout North America. That means garages and barns are seeing lots of activity in preparation for getting the season kicked off right. Over the last 10 or so years, we’ve seen a huge shift in the powersports market from lead acid to lithium starting batteries. There are many reasons for the this, as we’ll see below, but a change of this sort comes with some very real world consequences, particularly when it comes to servicing those lithium batteries safely and beneficially.

Why are Lithium Batteries Gaining Ground?

Lithium batteries have gained steady market share in the powersports market due to many factors, but the greatest advantages driving lithium adoption are weight savings, avoidance of lead and the environmental concerns that come with it, and the increased longevity perceived to come with lithium batteries. There are other factors, but these are the primary drivers. And they all make sense. Lithium batteries are very energy dense and can deliver more power in the same package with a lighter weight vs lead acid batteries. That’s a winning combination. They also don’t have lead, the main component of traditional batteries. This is seen as a significant benefit, though, in truth, it is offset by the lower recycling rates currently seen for lithium batteries vs lead acid batteries (the most recycled product in the world, according to BCI). Lithium battery cycling (how many times the battery can be discharged and recharged) longevity can be as much as 2-3 times that of lead acid batteries, which is a huge benefit. Whereas our AGM jump starter batteries can be cycled 700-800 times, many lithium batteries, including those in our lithium jump starters, can be cycled 1000-3000 times. That means a much longer useful life, which helps when weighing the extra cost of an equivalent lithium battery vs lead acid.

That last point is a critical one. Weight saving is great. Perceived environment benefit is really nice. But, from our analysis, the critical part of the shift to lithium is the longer life promised by these batteries. But, in order to achieve that longer life, you need to treat your battery(ies) well and service them regularly, otherwise your battery longevity will likely fall short of your expectations. And, if this happens, much of your justification for spending extra for the switch to lithium will crumble. 

Before we go much farther, it’s really important to note that there are many, many different lithium battery types out there, which we refer to as different lithium chemistries. Also, along with the different chemistries, there are different configurations in terms of cell structure, leading us to our common warning, “All lithium batteries are not created equal.” What this means for this discussion is that each different lithium battery type typically has different charging requirements. So, it is critical to make sure that any charger you use is properly mated to the lithium battery that you are servicing. In the case of the North American powersports market, the dominant lithium battery type is Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4 or LFP). As a result all of our lithium-capable products are optimized to service this battery type. But, it’s important to remember that lithium batteries are very sensitive to voltage and can be dangerous if exposed to excessive voltage. So, check before you service your lithium battery – know the type of lithium battery it is and that your equipment is compatible with it.

Beneficial Lithium Service

One critical aspect to achieving your expected longevity from any given lithium battery is making sure it is serviced properly using a quality battery charger. This includes periodic charging, for instance prior to a big weekend of use, and offseason storage charging. Failing to regularly service your battery(ies) can have a significant detrimental impact on their longevity. Similarly, servicing your battery(ies) with the wrong charging equipment (not optimize for servicing lithium batteries) or poor quality equipment (imprecise control of charging current or voltage, inability to bring the battery to a proper full charge, etc.) can also result in your battery(ies) having a much shorter service life than expected. So, your choice of charging equipment and your method of deployment of that equipment can drastically impact the financial return on your battery investment.

Getting the longest life from your battery investment starts with your charging habits. Any battery, lead acid or lithium, wants to be at or near full charge as much as possible. Nothing is worse for a battery than to sit for an extended period in a severely discharged state. Of course, that term is different for different battery types. For lead acid batteries, you don’t want them to face extended periods with a State of Charge (SoC) below 75-80%. This is very bad for battery health and will invite accelerated sulfation to accumulate within the battery, which robs it of its capacity to store power. For lithium batteries, it varies by chemistry, but the danger zone is closer to 20-30% SoC. While lithium batteries do not experience sulfation, extreme discharge instances and periods of extended extreme discharge are detrimental to battery health. Plus, most lithium batteries have a point at which they, if discharged beyond it, cannot be recharged (usually due the BMS built into the battery that protects it from charging current when the cells are excessively discharged).

What does this mean in the real world? First, if you are really pushing your batteries and they get low, don’t wait to charge them. Most lithium batteries benefit from any charge you can provide them, so even if it’s a short opportunity charge (20-30 minutes), it is net plus for your batteries. At the end of a busy day using your equipment, try to get your battery(ies) on a charger. Then, after that week at the cottage or the weekend on the farm, get your equipment on a charger to get your battery(ies) back to full charge after heavy use. In other words, working charging into your routine will pay big dividends in terms of battery life.

Secondly, during the offseason, it is critical that you have a service plan for your battery(ies). This is paramount. Nothing shortens the useful life of a battery like ignoring it for months when the weather isn’t favorable for use of your equipment. The easy option is to have a quality battery charger/maintainer (or charging channel, if you have a multi-bank charger) for each of the batteries you need to service in the offseason. A quality maintainer will bring the battery to full charge and then keep it charged throughout the storage period, maintaining its health during the storage period and keeping it ready for service when you need it. For some, having a charger for every battery is not realistic for a variety of reasons. In this case, we recommend deploying a rotation strategy. For instance, charge battery A for 10 days, battery B for 10 days, then battery C for 10 days, before returning to battery A and repeating the process throughout the offseason. This way, each battery gets serviced at regular intervals during the equipment down period. 

The Battery Service MVP

PRO-LOGIX battery maintainers are the ideal solution for powersport battery service, delivering beneficial service to a wide variety of batteries. They can be used for a short single charge event in preparation for the big weekend and can also be used for extended offseason storage charging service. With the ability to properly charge everything from Flooded, AGM and Spiral Wound lead acid batteries to Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4 or LFP) lithium batteries, they provide service coverage for virtually every battery type in your stable. We have specific charge routines for each battery type, precisely dialing in the charge parameters to the specific needs of the battery type under service. In other words, we give each battery exactly what it wants. Plus, our units feature temperature compensation, bringing additional precision to the charging event. We have two models from which to choose and each comes complete with several output options, including clamps, rings and 12V male plug. Additional output accessories can be purchased. For instance, you could put a set of ring connectors on each of your installed batteries to make the charging process as quick and easy as possible.

One of the great aspects of our PRO-LOGIX battery maintainers is our enhanced maintenance mode.
Our enhanced maintenance process has two key stages that are both unique to us and very beneficial for batteries under extended service. The first unique aspect of the PRO-LOGIX approach is that, upon reaching a full, complete charge, we put the battery into a rest phase. We don’t want the battery to be constantly under service. It isn’t necessary and it isn’t beneficial. Instead, we more closely mimic the way a battery is used when the vehicle is in service, with periods of activity and periods of rest. The second unique aspect of the PRO-LOGIX approach is that, when the battery exits the rest phase, it enters an exercising phase before going through the next charge cycle. This exercising phase puts a load on the battery, simulating a starting event, which allows us to get a full, deep charge into the battery in the next charging cycle, which occurs immediately upon completion of the exercising phase. We believe that this rest-exercise-full charge cycle is far more beneficial for all battery types than a basic trickle, or float, charge.


The PRO-LOGIX Maintainer Line-Up (Single Channel Edition)

Model PL2112
12 Volt 1 Amp
Battery Charger / Maintainer

• 12 Volt Operation
• 1 Amp Output
• Beneficial, Multi-Phase Charging
• Charges multiple battery types,
   including LiFePO4 lithium
• Enhanced Maintenance Mode
• Overcomes power outages
• Ideal for smaller batteries
• Multiple output options

Model PL2140
6/12 Volt 4 Amp
Battery Charger / Maintainer

• 6/12 Volt Operation
• 4 Amp Output
• Beneficial, Multi-Phase Charging
• Charges multiple battery types,
   including LiFePO4 lithium
• Enhanced Maintenance Mode
• Overcomes power outages
• Services a wide range of battery sizes
• Multiple output options

2 Responses

    1. Bruce – Thanks for your question. Your best bet is to call our Tech Line at 800 328 2921, otpion #2. They will be able to help identify what is needed and get it on order for you. Thanks, Jim from Clore Automotive

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