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Lithium Motorcycle replacement Battery

Discussion in 'Electronics' started by RoderickGI, Feb 19, 2014.

  1. I wrote this up on Facebook, and thought I should share it here, slightly edited. There doesn't seem to be a lot of discussion about Lithium batteries here on Netrider. There is a huge discussion over on Adventure Rider, but reading that will do your head in. Enjoy.

    Motorcycle battery: Ducati Multistrada 1000S DS.
    [Warning: Long and sort of technical. Full of opinion.]

    After seven and a half years, with much coaxing and maintenance over the last six months, the original OEM Yuasa YT12B-BS lead acid battery in my Ducati was REALLY on its last legs. It never did let me down though. Most people seem to be happy with two years life for a lead acid battery. Not me!

    However, after much research I decided to try a Lithium battery. My selection criteria was:
    1. Reputable manufacturer with good reviews, using good, safe technology and components. (Which translates to LiFePO4 chemistry as a minimum, and good quality cells inside the battery.)
    2. Excellent CCA for fast and easy starts. I was never happy with how long it took to start the Ducati.
    3. Direct replacement fit, or at least with minimal packing required and the correct width. Could be shorter or not as thick, and could even be up to 87mm thick. (The Yuasa is 69mm but there is space for an 87mm battery.) Compatible terminal design.
    4. Must have reasonable real Ah capacity. (Lots of Lithium batteries claim high CCA but don't really talk about the real Ah capacity, which is often half the "equivalent" lead acid battery, or less.)
    5. I preferred to buy from an Australian supplier/retailer.

    After much more research selected an Antigravity YT12BS-16, a 16 cell LiFePO4 (Lithium Iron Phosphate) battery. This technology doesn't go up in flames or explode like earlier Li Ion or Lithium Polymer batteries. (Although technically they are still Li Ion batteries and can use polymer in the construction.) The motorcycle Lithium Battery market is full of exaggerated and false claims, and no doubt home to many shysters. They make up numbers to make their products look good; better than lead acid batteries, or just better than the competition.

    So this Antigravity battery has 480 CCA (Cold Cranking Amps). The original Yuasa has 215 CCA. More than double! The Yuasa was a 10Ah (Amp Hour) battery. This one is claimed to be a 22 Ah (Pb Eq), or 18 Ah, or 15 Ah, depending where you read about it. The battery itself is marked as 16Ah(PbEq), but I couldn't find any good close up photos of the label before purchasing. Take a look at the photo attached. You see, the Pb Eq bit means: "We took a guess at the lead acid Ah capacity this battery is equivalent to. Don't take us on our word. It really has a much smaller capacity."

    So I bought the largest CCA capacity battery that would fit in the bike, from a supplier that got good reviews, and had a distributor in Australia, hoping that it may actually have something around 9 to 10 Ah capacity, because the Ducati can take a while to start. I also selected a battery that was built to the same size as the OEM battery, so it fit without alterations to the bike. Unfortunately the distributor, selling through eBay, sent me the wrong battery first attempt, but got it right the second attempt, and refunded my return postage charges promptly.

    So, today I fitted the battery. The bike turns over twice and starts.

    I don't think it ever started that quickly in its life. No doubt the fact that the voltage only drops from 13.14 to 11.99 volts while the motor is turning over helps. This gives the ECU more power to make more spark, so it starts easier. The old battery used to drop to 10 volts or so. To start my Ducati I just turn it on and press the starter button once, without holding it down. The ECU then controls the start sequence and will turn over the motor for up to about fifteen seconds, and if it hasn't started by then, quits. Usually I had to press the button two or three times to get it started, even when the old battery was fully charged.

    In fact I think the motor starts so quickly that the ECU doesn't realise it has started for a moment. The starter seems to run on a bit longer. Or maybe it fires but doesn't run on. What ever it is doing, it starts quickly. I'll keep an eye on the running on thing.

    So far the verdict is that LiFePO4 batteries are good. Too early to be sure though. Ask me in another ten years when I expect to need to replace it.
  2. Interesting, particularly abou the starter staying on. I was warned by a guy at the local aprilia dealer not to o lithium, despite aprilia Australia using I on their carbon editions, as it caused an issue like this..... Apparently jap bikes werentngettingthe same problem.

    There's really good weight savings to be had, so for a track bike I see the point, or an adventure\touring bike as smaller size means bigger capacity in the same battery space, or dirt bikes as these batteries generally handle vibration and shock better......
  3. I was after the higher CCA mostly, so the Ducati would start faster. The weight reduction is nice, down from 3.4 Kg (or 4.1 Kg from one report - I must weigh the old battery) to 1.75 Kg measured weight.

    The other thing I expect (maybe just hope) is that the battery will last even longer, if looked after. Suppliers claim they will last two to three times longer than a lead acid battery, but they quote a lead acid battery life of just two to three years. Mine lasted seven and a half years. I want ten years out of this battery, and to never have to worry about the bike battery again! It was three times the cost of a replacement Yuasa after all.

    As I said, the Yuasa never let me down, but it did have me worried a few times, and a couple of times I had to leave the bike at home and take the car as the bike wouldn't start. I knew the battery needed to be on charge though, so my fault, and I was never stranded anywhere.

    I have only started it a few times so far, all within fifteen minutes, so my observation of the starter running on is yet to be tested/observed properly. It could have just been me leaving my finger on the button too long, the bike started so quickly! You don't have to hold the button at all on these bikes with servo-assisted starting. I'll just give it a jab in future and see what happens.
  4. A couple of years ago now, I got two Shorei batteries, one for the BMW and one for the Striple.

    I just took the suppliers suggested sizes for both bikes, and they were noticeably smaller and LOTS lighter than the batteries they replaced.

    I have had no problems with either battery, although I did have a strange thing with the Striple, on very cold mornings.

    I tend to sort my bikes so that the headlights aren't always on, and, when I pulled out the Striple and hit the starter button on cold mornings, the ECU would not be too interested in firing up the bike, first time.

    The "fix" was rather counter intuitive, in that I had to switch on the headlights for a couple of seconds, to encourage the battery to output more volts, then, it would start no worries.

    The BMW with its simpler ECU hasn't shown the same thing and just seems to work perfectly..... so far, so good.

    Both batteries were left unused for three months, while I was O/S and, when I reconnected them, they just worked.

    I'm sufficiently impressed with them that I'll soon be getting one for the Cagiva, too.
  5. The LiPo are an interesting concept (very light with great power output) but the one thing that does worry me a little is damage resistance as they have a nasty habit of catching fire especially when damaged due to the high energy density. Thinking that a significant fall with a bike may lead to unseen battery damage and a spontaneous bike fire in the garage for example.

    But would definitely think about it when I have to replace my battery next.

    Cheers Spocky
    • Disagree Disagree x 2
  6. Yeah the cold start issue is pretty well documented now, particularly with Adventure Riders in American Winters. On my bike the headlights are always on, so if ever it is really cold I'll just turn the ignition on for a couple of minutes before trying to start the bike. That should warm the battery enough for it to provide full power, or at least enough for a start.

    I could have gone with the 12 cell Antigravity YT12BS-12 battery, which was the recommended battery for standard use, but went with the "Hi-Power" 16 cell just to give me that little bit more of a start even if I abuse the battery a little. Both are recommended by the Antigravity selection tool, along with three small case size versions, including a race version.

    Some people are saying that the only way to know approximately what the real Ah are for these batteries is to go by weight. Heavier batteries have more, bigger cells. Most batteries suitable for my bike weighed 1.0 or 1.1 Kg, so this battery at 1.75 Kg should have more Ah. No one has tested the real Ah of this battery as far as I know though, and Antigravity didn't answer my question on the matter.

    Nearly all the suppliers that have been around for a while are very vocal about parasitic drains when the bike is unused for a period, while at the same time telling you that the battery will hold charge for a year and still start your bike!

    I do have some parasitic drain initially after switching off the bike, which is the immobiliser and LED in the dash. But these turn off after a period, so I'm hoping that isn't going to be an issue. Again, hence larger Ah battery. It does make a lot of sense to disconnect Lithium batteries if you aren't going to use the bike for a while though.

    While suppliers claim current products are robust, the technology still seems a little fragile, with warnings about killing the battery by over charging or over discharging, getting the battery wet or getting salt water on it, cranking a bike too much with it, and so on. At least the WARRANTY on the Antigravity is three years, although getting a replacement here in Australia may be an issue, as Antigravity want all claims to go through them directly, with the customer outside the USA bearing all shipping costs. A three year warranty does inspire confidence though.

    Special note to all readers considering an Antigravity bought in Australia:
    My battery arrived with a label on it stating that it was tested in July 2013 at 13.19 volt. It arrived at 13.14 volt. So it held its charge well, but it appears that local stock is quite old. I suspect that at the price there is quite a small turnover. That may mean that at some time the local distributor will drop it as a product. Or it may mean that the eBay discounts will get better in the near future. Just be aware.

    Also note that I did find a better LiFePO4 battery, the Aliant X4 out of Italy with a real capacity of 9.2 Ah, at a weight of 1.62 Kg. But the local distributor only imported a few, and isn't sure if he will import any more, because of the price, which around the world varies from about AU$420 to AU$550. Too much even for me!
  7. LiFe batteries are getting some excellent feedback within the caravanning world at the moment. They have the ability to "drain" to a much lower level than a lead acid battery without damage. There is no liquid to spill in the event of an incident, and as noted by Roderick - they hold their charge for an exceptionally long period of time. More bonuses: they allow VERY rapid discharge rates (translates roughly to huge CCA numbers for their apparent size), and accept VERY rapid charging and greatly reduced internal resistance compared to lead acid.
    • Like Like x 1
  8. Spocky, while your concerns may be valid for LiPo batteries, these aren't LiPo batteries. They are LiFePO4 batteries. Different chemistry. Much more stable. They don't catch fire. Well, maybe if you shot a bullet through them. The cases are pretty tough as well, and in the case of some, contain cylindrical cells, such as the A123 cells. So damage would be unlikely to cause a runaway heat build-up, certainly not hours later.

    Of course a short across the terminals would produce a lot of heat, which may catch something else, or the case, on fire. The high current delivery capability is both the biggest advantage of LiFePO4, but also its greatest safety risk.
  9. Well, no sign of the starter motor running on today.

    It was a cool morning this morning. Around 15°C. The engine turned over three times and started. Not quite as sharp as I was hoping for, but no problem starting the cold engine.

    After a 20 minute ride into town, restarted after the engine turned over only once. It still doesn't sound like it is throwing the engine over hard, but I can't complain about how easy the start is.

    Now I just have to wait ten years to see if it will still do the same.
  10. Thats the issue that I worry about...an inadvertent shorting after an accident. I am aware of the chemistry of these high energy batteries (use them in HexiCopters) but have also seen 'safe' lithium batteries catch fire after accidental danage that wasn't recognised. The newer ones (like the LiFePO4's) are certainly more stable at a slight reduction in stored energy potential but as you say their greatest strength is also their biggest potential problem.

    Great to hear about the battery though so keep up the reports as stated I am interested in possibly changing to this type when my batteries are next due.

    Cheers Spocky
  11. +1

    I've got a Shoria in each bike and never had a problem. No need to tenders when leaving the bike for extended periods is great. I agree with the cranking power and speed as well. The Ducati seems to really benefit from this type of battery.

    I still remember the first time I picked one of these batteries up - I thought it was a joke it was so light!
  12. Good write up! The Lead acid battery in the TRX is still going strong but I'm looking at getting a LiFePO4 battery for my VFR trackbike, how much was the Anti Gravity battery?
  13. The Antigravity YT12BS-16 was $359 plus $10 shipping from CTA Powersports selling via eBay. See;
    Carlisle Tyre & Accessories and eBay listing

    If it is for your track bike though, where weight is usually more important than never being stuck on the side of the road, I wouldn't buy that battery. I would look at one of the smaller, lighter LiFePO4 batteries. They will also be cheaper, but you should also buy a LiFePO4 battery charger to maintain the battery ready for track days.

    My preferred brands, in order of preference after research, were;

    Antigravity, here listing the small case models
    Earth-X with their built in Battery Management System
    SSB Powersport from HollyHock Batteries Plus (cheapest retail). The supplier/importer is Super Start Batteries in Australia.
    Motocell because lots of people sell them. Imported by Link Intl. Australian support. See technical Specs here.

    If you buy a smaller, lighter battery with enough power to start the VFR, you may be able to relocate it to a better spot on the bike, and use the freed up space for some lap time electronics!
    • Like Like x 1
  14. Awesome, thanks for the info. Yes, I'll get the smallest I can get away with.
  15. These batteries are supposed to be able to sit unused for about 12months without needing a charge. If charging is required, you need a "special" charger, you arnt supposed to use a typical lead acid battery charger.
  16. #16 RoderickGI, Feb 21, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2014
    Correct on all points V2. But on a track bike the battery may not get properly charged during short track sessions, and if you have extra electronic gear on it for lap timing or something, there may be parasitic drains on the battery when the engine isn't running. Even Power Commanders or electrical mods can result in some parasitic drain, which will flatten a LiFePO4, or any small capacity Lithium battery quickly. If over drained the battery will become a paperweight, although Tecmate claim that their Optimate Lithium charger will bring a LiFePO4 battery back from the dead.

    Of course you could just disconnect the battery when not using the bike. But if I was using a smaller, light weight LiFePO4 battery, which means that it has quite a small Amp Hour capacity, I would like to know that it was fully charged when I head off to my expensive, much looked forward to, track day. So I would need a charger.

    For example, my old Yuasa had spec of 10 Ah capacity, with 215 CCA, at 150x69x130mm and 3.4Kg. The recommended small case race use Antigravity is the AG801 8 cell battery. It is only 110x57x95mm and weighs 0.7Kg, but has 240 CCA. However, it only has a capacity of 9Ah (Pb Eq), which means that it has no more than 4Ah real capacity. Probably more like 2.5 or 3Ah.

    But assuming 4Ah, if I am pulling 200 Amp out of it to start the bike I get 1 minute and 12 seconds of cranking the engine before the battery shuts down. So I might get five tries to start the bike, if it is fully charged and in good condition.

    If it is getting a little old, and I haven't charged it since storing the battery, I might not get more than one chance to start the bike. For example, if there was a parasitic drain in the bike of 4 milliamps, then the battery, from fully charged would last 1000 hours, or a little over 41 days. No track day for a couple of months? The battery is dead when you try to use it.

    Finally, in order to get the most life out of a LiFePO4 battery which is not used regularly, or is stored between events such as track days, it is recommended that the battery be stored at 60%, or as little as 50% charge. Radio Control model people talk about this stuff a lot. So if you are going to store the battery at anything other than fully charged, and given the above discussion, it would be a good idea to have a LiFePO4 battery charger handy, to bring it up to full charge for your track day.

    Of course, never use a Lead Acid battery charger to charge and Lithium battery, unless you really know what you are doing. For example, my CTEK XS7000 charger has a Power Supply setting which provides 13.6 volts and a maximum of 7 Amps. In a pinch I could use that to charge my LiFePO4 battery to give it enough power to start my bike.

    Mind you, if all the bike is used for is a casual track day every now and then, some of the above will not apply. But it doesn't hurt to be aware of the issues and take them into account.
  17. #17 Bjpitt, Feb 21, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2014
    I'm not sure you need to worry about having "storage charge" and a Lifepo, you use these batteries in R/C for low power tasks (like TX's and RX's) and people keep them topped up all the time with no issues. It's only Lipo's that need a storage charge if you don't plan to use the batteries for a couple of days, they will puff and their internal resistance will go up, leading to less max power available. Plus temperature changers can do damage too.

    I used to have a 700 sized R/C heli, that thing had 14S 4000mah (58Volts) lipos, damn it had power! The electric motor was hand wound, and had bursts of 10KW/14Hp! 10KW on something that weighs a total of 5kgs is insane! Add a blender and it's scary!
  18. Could be Bjpitt, but I was reading some RC sites earlier, and they were definitely talking about storage charge on the LiFePO4 batteries. The ones that power their models, not just the TX's and RX's.

  19. Perhaps, but tbh a lot of those guys talk out of their ass and are probably just going with what they trust (learned from lipo's). Lifepo's are what is used in mobile phones, notepads, notebooks etc.
  20. Would like to PM you mate, but couldn't find out how :/ haha

    just wanna ask though, my 749s right here has a dead battery. so looking for a new one, so I was wondering how is the your lithium battery doing at the moment?

    Considering to buy lithium because I rarely use or even warm up the bike :( was thinking if it's a good idea to buy lithium in my case, but due to budget restriction, I might also go for the lead type.

    I was considering this two batteries, either

    1. http://cgi.ebay.com.au/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=290963979522

    2. http://www.hollyhockbatteries.com.au/LFP12B_4.html

    my current battery is YUASA MF YT12B-BS. Any opinion from you would be really appreciated! cheers mate :)