E-bike batteries: Lithium vs. Lead Acid batteries

Electric bikes have become a permanent feature in Canada, as it offers excellent ease of ride and such an enjoyable experience. The functioning of the electric bike is premised on the motor. However, electric bike batteries are essential parts that should be duly considered. Without the cells, the engines are as good as dead. Without a properly functioning battery, your e-bike is going nowhere.

Owing to research and new ideas, there has been the development of different battery types. Without proper care, it is possible that you might pick a wrong or lousy battery for your bike. 

Of the various batteries that have been developed for electric bikes, lithium-ion batteries and lead-acid batteries are the most popular. The different pros and cons of the batteries, serve as the basis for the lithium-ion vs. lead-acid comparison.

Hence, this guide comprehensively compares the two battery types to guide you to the best choice for your next bike’s battery. 

Related article: How should I charge my e-bike?

 

Types of batteries

Before delving into the lithium-ion vs. lead-acid batteries comparison, it is pertinent to examine the various types of e-bike batteries we have.

Lead-acid electric bike batteries

When it comes to cutting down on cost, this type of cell can be handy. These battery types are very cheap, and you can also recycle them. There is a downside to this. This battery might not last as long as the others, especially when treated harshly. If you are looking to commute with your e-bike, this might not be the best choice for you.

There are various reasons why these batteries are cheap. However, weight is one primary reason for the reduction in its price. The average lead-acid battery weighs about three times a lithium-ion battery and twice a NiMh battery. They last only for shorter periods. 

Nickel-cadmium (NiCd) electric bike batteries

Though this battery type also has considerable weight, it has more capacity than lead-acid batteries. In actuality, nickel-cadmium cost a fortune, and the cadmium element in it is a lousy pollutant. Not only does cadmium pollute the atmosphere, but it is also tough to recycle. It isn’t easy to get rid of these batteries safely. 

Other than this, this battery is bound to last longer than the lead-acid batteries. This is an advantage it has over the lead-acid battery. However, it’s challenging to recycle and dispose of. Therefore its use is out-of-date. Overall, this is not a functional battery choice, even if you will be given for free. 

Nickel-metal hybrid (NiMh) electric bike batteries

In some areas, this battery has higher efficiency than NiCd batteries, but it comes at a higher price. This batter lasts a bit longer than its NiCd counterpart, and you can quickly dispose of them. However, its use is coming to an end as lithium-ion batteries are gaining popularity.

Related article: How to choose the right battery for your electric bike

 

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) electric bike batteries

This battery type has gone on to become market leaders, taking about 90% of the battery market. They have been tested and proven to be just the right panacea to our battery needs. 

Whichever type of Li-ion battery you decide to go with, they are known to last longer and generate more power than other cells do. These batteries are fantastic, but a single mistake in the connection or the system can result in self-destruction.

Also, these batteries are susceptible, and with a wrong link, it can easily catch fire. To prevent this, there has to be an astute and meticulous arrangement of electrical features to keep it stable throughout its use.

These batteries are highly efficient. They deliver optimum power and impeccable design. Hence, there is a higher price tag on Li batteries. These batteries don’t seem to be getting cheaper, as they are in high demand, in spite of the price.

There are different types of Li-ion batteries. They include:

Lithium-ion polymer (Li-pol) Electric Bike batteries

This is a newly developed battery type, and there is no significant difference between it and a li-ion battery. They are very similar in terms of range, weight, and price. The only difference is that fact that this battery type can be modified into different shapes. 

Since this battery type does not contain any liquid, it does not require bulky protective casing that is needed in other batteries. Also, due to the lack of liquid content, they are predicted to offer more stability and are less prone to self-destruction or damage. Damage in batteries can be caused by overcharging, accident or abuse.

Whichever way you look at it, these batteries are best for use in high capacity, and with equipment that needs lower power. This makes it perfect for use with electric bikes. 

Lithium cobalt (LCO) Electric bike batteries

The Li-co battery is another variation of the Li-ion battery, a very recent innovation. According to manufacturers, it is said to have a higher amount of energy density than other lithium batteries. It is also said to offer a light, compact packaging. 

Lithium magnesium (LiMg204) electric bike batteries. 

This is another innovative battery of the Li-ion family. The technology adopted in this battery is the same one used in the Nissan Leaf hybrid car. Just like other battery Li-ion batteries, this is claimed to be the best, as it is proposed to last longer than different lithium hybrids. It is also said to generate more power than the other lithium batteries.

 

Lithium-ion vs. Lead-acid

These are the two primary batteries used in an electric bike, the lithium-ion batteries, and the lead-acid batteries. 

Lead-acid batteries: Are they old or good enough? 

Lead-acid batteries were initially developed in the mid-1800s. Of all the batteries there are, these are not the most efficient. Once there is a depletion in the power or battery percentage, you can be sure that there will be a steady decrease in the performance. 

In most cases, there is every possibility that most features of the e-bike will not function when the power is depleted to around 50%, and there is no recharge. In this aspect, it is safe to say that lithium-ion batteries win the lithium-ion vs. lead-acid comparison. 

Battery power is not the only issue that lead-acid batteries face. They also take forever to charge. Just for the battery to reach 2amp, it may take between 5 to 8 hours of charging. 

Hence, with this battery, there is a need for a less exhaustive use. You should only make use of this battery type when you want to go on jolly stress-free rides. If you are commuting, this is a no-no. The only advantage of the battery is that you can quickly get it anywhere and it is relatively cheap.

Lithium-ion batteries: High efficiency and performance. 

The very first attempt at making this battery type resulted in an unstable entity which later caught fire. Some years later, the more stable and safer version was created, which comprised of lithium, iron, and phosphate.

This innovative form of batteries has superior chemistry, which provides a longer battery life. It can also deliver between two thousand and five thousand charge cycles. Even if you don’t change this battery right away, it won’t age drastically. When it comes to charging, this battery design is very efficient.

This is your best shot if you hope to commute extensively on your electric bike. Unlike its lead-acid counterpart, this battery can deliver efficient performance at power as low as 20%. You don’t need to worry about always charging your lithium-ion battery. 

Before you change the battery system of your e-bike, it is best to have a professional run check on the bike to make sure the parts can handle the power. You can’t be too careful with your well-being; you don’t want to have issues while riding your bike. 

Price: Lithium-ion vs. lead acid

Lead-acid batteries are very cheap, and one can easily find these in local stores. The prices vary, mainly depending on the brand make. There is no significant difference in the prices based on different brands.

There are also lead-acid batteries that tend to generate more current. These batteries cost about $10 – 50 dollars higher. Once your bike is faultless and undergoes proper maintenance, it should be able to last for a long time.

Lithium-ion batteries cost more than lead-acid cells. A set of four can run your bill as high as two thousand dollars. Unlike lead-acid batteries, these are less readily available. However, over time, there has been an increase in demand and popularity. 

Hence, there is an increase in supply. Lithium-ion batteries are easy to replace or install on e-bikes. With price and maintenance in mind, it is evident that this is the best battery for an e-bike. Any e-bike expert would recommend that you take on this type after your bike has been duly checked.

Chargers and charging

Your e-bike will most likely come with its charger, especially when you are purchasing it new. No matter how fast or good the charger is, a lead-acid battery will always charge slower. 

With the same charger, the charge time for a lithium-ion battery is cut down by about 3-4 times. If you are lucky to have a fast charger, you can get your bike charged in Canada with a couple of hours.

Before you fast charge your battery, you must, however, ensure that it is not a lead-acid battery. They cannot be charged with the fast charging tech. Also, if you use a lithium-ion battery, you should know that the cell can imbibe massive amount of current. 

Related article: How to extend the lifespan of your e-bike battery

 

Taking care of your battery

Without a battery, your e-bike won’t work. There is no need to emphasize that, as it has been established that the battery is the heart of the e-bike. If you want to make use of your bike for a long time, it is only right that you take care of proper care of the battery.

Below are some necessary steps that can help ensure a longer lifespan for your e-bike.

  • After every ride: You need to start thinking of your next trip, after every trip. With this, you would be conscious and want to keep your battery in a perfect condition. After every ride, you should charge it, to top-up the charge. 
  • In the event that you want to clean your bike after a ride, make sure to detach the battery. It is safe and suitable for your e-bike’s battery. 
  • After charging, make sure the battery is fixed back. Make sure it is correctly fitted back into its frame so that it never drops out.
  • Storage: There are times when you don’t want to use your bike for a while. There are some tips that will ensure your battery is in top condition when you are ready to start pedalling again.
  • Don’t leave it fully charged or depleted. Here, you need to find a compromise, and that would be best at 60%. 
  • Have your battery stored at room temperature; this is important. 
  • Travelling with your battery: Sometimes you may have to load your stuff on the car rack. If your bike is going to be there, you should ensure that the battery is removed and inside the car. This is safer.
  • Have a cover for your e-bike’s battery

Related article: How to Protect the Battery of Your Electric Bike

 

Conclusion

The lithium-ion vs. lead-acid comparison somewhat seems one-sided as lithium-ion batteries are arguably the best battery type of the 21st century. 

On the other hand, there is still the problem of availability and cost, which is not experienced with a lead-acid battery. Both batteries have their pros and cons, which is what makes them unique in their use with the e-bike. 

Contact us if you need more e-bike battery advice!

 

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