Understanding Lead Acid Batteries: Powering Your Vehicles and Beyond

Lead acid batteries are used in vehicles, boats, mobility scooters, golf carts and UPS systems as a source of electricity. These battery types are also found in large industrial applications. Lead-acid batteries are the oldest rechargeable battery technology and are still widely used in applications where more advanced batteries have not yet proven cost effective.

The basic battery consists of two identical plates that are immersed in an electrolyte solution. When the battery is charged, sulfuric acid in the electrolyte solution decreases and water increases. As the battery discharges, the opposite happens: the sulfuric acid in the electrolyte rises and water decreases. In the process of discharging, the lead in the positive plates gets eaten away by the sulfuric acid and the deposits fall to the bottom of the cell. This is why it is important to use thick lead plates.

Lead-acid batteries are regulated as hazardous materials and require special handling. Their contents are toxic if ingested and they must be properly stored, shipped and disposed of. They are extremely flammable and can explode during charging or discharging, especially in high temperatures.

It is important to keep in mind that the life expectancy of a lead acid batteries Malta is highly dependent on its temperature. Colder operating temperatures yield a slightly longer battery life. Similarly, higher temperature operating conditions will cause the battery to self-discharge at a faster rate. The self-discharge rate can be as high as one percent per day in extreme cases.

Spent lead-acid batteries should never be dumped on the ground or in a waste dumpster, as this constitutes illegal disposal of hazardous materials. These batteries should be recycled in accordance with federal, state and local regulations. The most common method of recycling is to send spent batteries back to the retailer from whom they were purchased. Some retailers are required by law to accept a trade-in of a consumer’s old battery upon the purchase of a new battery (Health and Safety Code section 25215.3). Businesses and individuals can also take them to household hazardous waste collection locations or recycling centers.

Most lead-acid batteries are either flooded or sealed. Both types are capable of producing hydrogen and oxygen gas during charging through a chemical process called electrolysis. Flooded batteries allow these gases to escape during charging, while sealed batteries are constructed so that the gases remain contained.

A flooded battery should be checked regularly for water content and topped up when necessary. It is best to store a battery in a cool, dry environment with the terminals insulated. It is also best to have the battery undergo an open-cell voltage check before storing it for long periods. This will prevent sulfation of the negative plates.

Despite their limitations, lead-acid batteries continue to be the most popular rechargeable battery type in Europe. Their versatility, affordability and longevity make them the preferred choice for many applications. Their high power density also allows them to provide peak current for short periods of time, such as when starting a vehicle. Until more efficient and safer alternatives become available, these batteries will likely continue to be used in cars, mobility scooters, UPS systems and in industrial applications.