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What's The Difference In A Lithium And Lead-Acid Battery Charger?

Both types of chargers can charge your battery to 14.6 volts, but they have unique ways in which they get your battery there. From charge speeds to higher voltage requirements, we have summarized the most important factors to consider when comparing these two types of battery chargers:

How Lead-Acid Battery Chargers Work

A lead-acid battery is generally made up of 6 cells that each have 2 volts. This results in a resting voltage that is 12 volts. On the other hand, a lithium battery has 4 cells that each have 3.2 volts, which results in a resting voltage of 12.8 volts. This is important to keep in mind because lead-acid batteries function by providing a battery with low voltage over a long period of time. This works due to the current raising the terminal voltage inside the battery until the upper charge voltage is achieved, at which point the battery becomes saturated, and the current drops.

How Lithium Battery Chargers Work

A lithium battery charger works similarly, except that it has a higher voltage per cell and a more narrow voltage tolerance. Additionally, a lithium battery does not have a trickle charge when it is at full charge. When a lead acid battery remains connected for too long, it can become overcharged once it receives a full charge. A charger meant for a lithium battery will be built to ensure this does not happen when it is at full charge.

Can You Charge A Lithium Battery With A Lead-Acid Charger?

Sometimes using a lead-acid battery charger for a lithium battery can result in damage due to the differences in how the two observe the battery’s charging stage. When a lithium battery has a different ideal discharge level, a lead-acid battery will mimic an exaggerated amount of discharge that can damage the lithium battery. Some believe that you should be able to use lead-acid and lithium chargers interchangeably as long as you can set the maximum charge of the battery yourself.

However, after nearly a decade of experience in the field, the experts at RELiON agree that you should be wary of any advice that attempts to conflate the charging needs of these two batteries. We encourage new Lithium battery owners to use a charger that has a Lithium specific charge profile, like the ProMariner ProSport HD, for LiFePO4 batteries. These are easy to find since most chargers on the market today have a lithium charge profile, and LiFePO4 is the predominant Lithium battery chemistry in the marketplace. However, some customers would like to continue using their existing Lead-Acid charger if possible. Although many existing lead-acid chargers will still charge our Lithium battery, it is generally discouraged to do this. The risk is the lead-acid chargers may wind up in fault code condition at some point, despite the Lithium battery probably having received a full recharge. The problem is that the conditions incurred during the fault codes can also cause issues and/or damage to other system electronics, and even the charger itself. Therefore, we strongly recommend you use a Lithium battery charger. If this recommendation is neglected then it is best to choose AGM, Gel, sealed battery charge profiles to charge a Lithium battery.