Lead acid was invented in 1859, by Gaston Planté, a French physician. This battery happened to be the first one to be used for commercial purposes. The lead chemistry, despite its old age, is very popularly used today, and there of course are reasons behind its never dying fame. Lead based batteries are economical on the cost-per-watt basis and is completely reliable. There are very few other batteries that can offer bulk power in as cheap a rate as lead based ones, and this is the reason why the battery has become a perfect option for golf cars, automobiles, un-interruptible power supplies and more.
However, lead also comes with its disadvantages. When deep cycled, it is heavier and less durable compared to the lithium and nickel- based systems. When it is completely discharged, it causes a strain, and every charge/discharge cycle steals the battery of a little amount of its capacity, and that too permanently. While the battery is in proper working condition, this loss is quite small, but when the performance reaches half its normal capacity, the fading keeps increasing. All batteries experience this type of wear-down, though in different degrees.
Lead batteries, depending on the discharge depth, offers 200 to 300 charge/discharge cycles for deep-cycle applications. The main reasons behind its comparative shorter life cycle are exhaustion of active material, grid corrosion on positive electrode, and because of the positive plates experiencing expansion. Such changes are most prevalent at high-current discharges and elevated operating temperatures.
It is very easy to charge lead batteries, but it is very important to maintain the right voltage limits, and here there are some concerns. If a low voltage is chosen to charge the battery, it will indeed shelter the battery, but lead to a poor performance and there will be sulfation build up on the batter’s negative plate. If, however, high voltage is chosen, the performance will be improved but the positive plate of the battery will experience grid corrosion. It is possible to reverse sulfation if timely services are opted for, but corrosion stays permanent.
Lead based batteries do not get charged very fast, and in most cases, a complete charge will need about 14 to 16 hours. It is important to store the battery at complete state-of-charge. If the charge is low, it can lead to sulfation, and this can steal the battery of its proper performance. If carbon is added on the battery’s negative electrode, this problem can be reduced, but the specific energy will also be lowered.
Lead based batteries have a reasonable life span and unlike the nickel-based systems, are not subject to memory. The rechargeable batteries are the best ones to retain charge. In just three months, NiCd loses about 40 percent of stored energy, but the same amount is self-discharged by the lead batteries in one year. Lead based batteries works best in cold temperatures, and in subzero conditions, it proves to be better than lithium-ion. Lead batteries offer great environmental advantage if they are recycled at extraordinarily high rate. No other chemistry can come close to the infrastructure that exists for transporting, collecting and recycling the lead based batteries.