Automotive battery technology has evolved significantly over the years, from lead-acid batteries to Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) batteries, and now to Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. With this change in technology also comes at a cost, complexity and new understanding on what is what with your electrical system in your vehicle.
Lead-acid batteries have been the standard in the automotive industry for decades. These batteries are reliable and affordable but have some significant drawbacks, including being heavy and having a shorter lifespan. They also require regular maintenance to prevent corrosion and maintain their performance. They have acid that must be vented correctly when installed inside vehicles, like most European vehicles.
AGM batteries are an improvement over lead-acid batteries, offering better performance and durability. These batteries use a glass mat separator that absorbs the electrolyte, allowing for a more significant amount of electrolyte to be stored. This design provides better power and longer life, making AGM batteries a popular choice for high-performance vehicles. AGM batteries starting showing up in European vehicles around 2010.
Lithium-ion batteries are the latest technology to be used in automotive batteries, but aren’t mainstream in most cases. AGM batteries are still the most common one seen currently. Lithium batteries are lighter and have a much longer lifespan than lead-acid and AGM batteries. They are also more efficient, providing better performance and faster charging times. However, they are much more expensive than other types of batteries, and require more complex management systems to ensure their safety and longevity. European cars saw these in the BMW M4 in 2015.
European vehicles pioneered the use a of unique battery charging strategy called “intelligent charging.” in 2002 with the release of the BMW 745. This strategy uses a microprocessor-controlled alternator to adjust the charging rate of the battery based on its needs. This strategy helps prevent overcharging or undercharging of the battery, extending its lifespan and allowing the vehicle to run various electrical components effectively. The Engine control unit (ECU) can control the alternator with a data communication bus to control battery charging. State of Charge (SoC) and State of Health (SoH) are heavily used terms and statuses used to see if the vehicle can properly maintain the battery health. This technology has started to trickle into Asian and Domestic manufacturers as well, and practically every manufacturer has this type of system since 2020.
Replacing a battery in a modern vehicle is not as simple as disconnecting the old battery and connecting the new one. Today’s vehicles have complex electrical systems that require specialized knowledge and equipment to work correctly. When a battery is replaced, the car’s onboard computers must be reprogrammed to recognize the new battery’s characteristics. Sometimes the vehicle must be programmed when converting from Lead Acid to AGM batteries. The new battery must also be compatible with the car’s electrical system, including its voltage and capacity. If the wrong battery is used, it can cause significant damage to the car’s electrical system. Beyond that, the terminals that are bolted to clamped to the battery are electronic data communication pieces- if they are not properly installed (and torqued!) the terminal could be damaged and cause incorrect information to be sent to the engine control module.
Automotive battery technology has come a long way, from lead-acid batteries to AGM batteries, and now to lithium-ion batteries. Each new technology has brought better performance, longer lifespan, and improved efficiency. It is crucial to have a service center replace the battery to ensure that it is compatible with the car’s electrical system and is programmed correctly. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask or come by to allow us to help you!
CEO – ABR Houston