With the development of technology, the range of options we have for batteries is expanding. Lead-acid batteries, lithium-ion batteries, and more recently sodium-ion batteries. So, what factors do you consider when choosing a type of battery? To assist you in making a more careful decision, today we would like to provide a comparison guide between lead-acid batteries and lithium-ion batteries.

Difference Between Lithium Ion And Lead Acid Battery

Although lithium-ion batteries and lead-acid batteries are both rechargeable, do you know what other differences exist between them?

• The Materials Used 

Lithium-ion batteries and lead-acid batteries both primarily consist of a positive electrode, a negative electrode, and an electrolyte. The positive electrode in lithium-ion batteries is usually a metal oxide, while the negative electrode is typically graphite. For lead-acid batteries, the positive electrode is generally lead dioxide, the negative electrode is sponge lead, and the electrolyte is commonly dilute sulfuric acid.

• Work Principle

The working principles of both types of batteries involve the movement of ions. During charging, ions move from the positive electrode to the negative electrode. While discharging, ions move from the negative electrode to the positive electrode.

• Battery Type

According to the different metal oxides used, lithium-ion batteries can be divided into lithium iron phosphate batteries, lithium polymer batteries, lithium cobalt oxide batteries, lithium manganate batteries and lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide batteries.

Lead-acid batteries are generally divided into open-type batteries and valve-regulated batteries.

• Energy Density

Energy density refers to a battery’s capacity to store energy, which is categorized into two forms: gravimetric energy density and volumetric energy density.

As you may know, lithium-ion batteries store more energy. Because they have a higher energy density, typically in the range of 150-250 Wh/kg. In contrast, the energy density of lead-acid batteries is generally around 30-40 Wh/kg.

• Cycle Life

Cycle life refers to the lifespan of a battery. The more charge and discharge cycles it can complete, the longer its lifespan. Lead-acid batteries typically can undergo 300-500 charge-discharge cycles, while lithium-ion batteries can range from 5000 to 8000 cycles. You might already have a general idea about these figures.

Of course, cycle life is also related to the depth of charge and discharge, operating temperature, charging rate, maintenance, and the quality of the battery itself.

• Depth of Discharge (DOD)

Depth of Discharge (DOD) refers to the extent to which a battery can be discharged from its full capacity without causing damage to the battery. If you can use all of the energy stored in the battery, then the DOD is 100%. If you can only use half of the stored energy, then the DOD is 50%.

Lithium batteries can withstand a DOD of 80%-100%, but lead-acid batteries maintain a longer lifespan with a DOD of less than 50%.

• Efficiency

Efficiency, like DOD, is an important metric for assessing battery quality. High efficiency means a higher rate of energy utilization.

Lithium-ion batteries have low internal resistance and less energy loss, resulting in a typical charge-discharge efficiency of around 90%.

Lead-acid batteries have higher internal resistance and generate electricity through chemical reactions. During this process, some energy is converted into heat, leading to a charge-discharge efficiency of about 70%. Lower charge-discharge efficiency means that more energy is required to compensate for the loss, which also increases costs.

• Operating Temperature

Their operating temperature ranges are quite similar; they can both function normally from -20°C to 50°C. However, their performance will decrease under extreme temperatures. Lithium-ion batteries may suffer damage due to overheating at high temperatures. Lead-acid batteries working at high temperatures can experience accelerated aging due to excessive evaporation of water.

• Self-Discharge Rate

The self-discharge rate refers to the rate at which a battery naturally loses its charge when not in use. Lithium-ion batteries have a relatively low self-discharge rate, about 1% to 2% per month. In contrast, lead-acid batteries have a higher self-discharge rate, averaging 3% to 4% per month, or even higher. Therefore, it is advisable to charge lead-acid batteries regularly.

• Safety

Lithium-ion batteries are sensitive to high temperatures and are prone to thermal runaway reactions due to overheating, which can lead to fires or explosions. Therefore, lithium-ion batteries must use a battery management system to minimize the risk of overcharging, deep discharging, overheating, and other adverse conditions as much as possible.

Although lead-acid batteries are less likely to experience thermal runaway, they can produce hydrogen and oxygen gases when overcharged, creating an explosive mixture. Additionally, if the battery is damaged, it can cause sulfuric acid leakage and environmental contamination.

• Weight And Size

When selecting a power source for a device, you need to consider the weight and size of the battery. The weight and size of rechargeable batteries are often related to their energy density.

Lithium-ion batteries have a higher energy density, which means they can store more energy for the same weight or volume. In other words, lithium batteries are lighter and more compact compared to lead-acid batteries, making them more suitable for applications that require portability and a compact design. Lead-acid batteries are more appropriate for situations where weight and volume restrictions are not as stringent.

• Cost 

Regarding the issue of cost, we can analyze it from both the procurement costs and long-term operational costs.

You may have a general understanding of the procurement costs for both. Lead-acid batteries have a very mature production process and the raw materials are inexpensive. Therefore, the initial purchase price of lead-acid batteries is much lower than that of lithium-ion batteries.

However, when considering the long-term use of the battery, a lower purchase price does not necessarily mean lower usage costs. Lithium-ion batteries have a higher energy density and longer lifespan, with a DOD that can reach up to 100%. Due to their low self-discharge rate, their monthly energy loss is also low. Moreover, lithium-ion batteries require virtually no maintenance in daily use, saving you a considerable amount of time.

Taking everything into account, lithium-ion batteries actually offer a higher cost-effectiveness. Of course, this should be considered in light of your specific needs.

• Application Areas

Lead-acid batteries and lithium-ion batteries each have their own characteristics and are widely used in different scenarios. When equipment space is limited and a longer battery life is required, people tend to choose lithium-ion batteries, which have a higher energy density and are more lightweight. TSuch as portable electronic devices, electric vehicles, data centers and medical equipment applications. Due to their excellent discharge performance and low cost, lead-acid batteries are commonly used as starting power sources for vehicles and for power traction purposes.

12V Battery Application

• Installation

They all need to be installed in a well-ventilated area, while also avoiding high temperatures and direct sunlight. What you need to pay attention to is that when installing open-type lead-acid batteries, care must be taken with the orientation to prevent leakage of the electrolyte.

Charging Time

Compared to lead-acid batteries, lithium batteries have a higher charging efficiency, typically between 80% to 90%. Generally, if a lithium battery takes 4 hours to fully charge, a lead-acid battery may require 8 hours or even longer.

• Maintenance

Lithium batteries do not suffer from memory effect, eliminating the need to be charged and discharged regularly, nor do you have to worry about the electrolyte evaporating. 

However lead-acid batteries are different. They require regular deep discharges as well as periodic charges if they are not in use for an extended period. Additionally, for vented lead-acid batteries, you need to regularly check the water level and replenish distilled water in time. To maintain good connections, it is also important to clean the terminals and connectors regularly.

Both types of batteries should avoid being overcharged. When storing them, you should also pay attention to keeping them in an environment with suitable temperature and good ventilation.

• Environmental Impact

The lithium content in the Earth’s crust is only 0.0065%, and excessive mining can have adverse effects on the environment. In addition, the recycling rate of lithium batteries is relatively low, and improper disposal can lead to environmental contamination.

Lead-acid battery technology is well-established, which results in lower energy consumption. However, during their production and use, they can emit harmful gases which may contaminate water and soil. Fortunately, lead-acid batteries have a higher recycling rate, but care must still be taken to prevent leaks of lead and sulfuric acid, which would worsen environmental pollution.

Application Comparison

Lead Acid Vs. Lithium Ion Motorcycle Battery

We know that lithium batteries have a relatively high energy density and offer a large output power. Therefore, they can provide a strong starting current to vehicles with a smaller volume. Lead-acid batteries can also deliver the same starting performance, but due to their lower energy density, a greater number or larger volume of batteries is required to achieve this.

Visibly, the space on a motorcycle is limited, and an overly heavy battery can affect the vehicle’s balance. Thus, you need to carefully evaluate your needs from multiple aspects, including procurement costs, lifespan, charging time, maintenance requirements, and environmental impact.

Two Wheeler battery

Lead Acid Vs Lithium Ion Car Battery

If you are an electric vehicle owner, would you prefer to choose a battery with longer endurance and shorter charging time? This can be quite beneficial for vehicles with high usage frequency. Because you don’t need to charge the car frequently, it not only reduces the waiting time for the battery to be fully charged but also won’t delay your daily travel. From the aforementioned comparison, we can see that the characteristics of lithium batteries are more likely to meet these needs.

Lithium Ion Vs Lead Acid Forklift Battery

Forklifts have specific requirements for battery weight and volume because they need to ensure handling efficiency and operability. Similar to motorcycles, forklift batteries should be compact and lightweight while also being capable of providing sufficient output power. The charging time for the batteries should be as short as possible to ensure that the forklift can return to work quickly. Although these specifications clearly favor lithium-ion batteries, we must also consider factors such as cost, maintenance requirements, environmental impact, and safety performance.

Lithium Ion Vs Lead Acid Golf Cart Batteries

Golf carts have limited space and require frequent starts, the ability to climb hills, as well as a long battery life to ensure a satisfactory user experience. This means that there are not only restrictions on the battery’s weight and volume but also requirements for the starting current, output power, energy density, and charging time. Compared to lead-acid batteries, lithium batteries have superior specifications. However, when it comes down to it, your actual needs should be the starting point for your decision.

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Which Is Better Lead Acid Battery Or Lithium Battery?

If we consider battery performance alone, lithium batteries are actually better. This is because they have a higher energy density, longer lifespan, lower self-discharge rate, and better safety features, which can provide you with a better user experience during use.

However, if we start from practical applications, what you really need to consider are your current requirements. For instance, your project budget, whether your application requires the battery to have a long endurance, or if there is a need for the battery to charge quickly. If you are only looking to minimize costs in the short term, then lead-acid batteries might be a good choice.

Lithium Battery VS. Lead Acid Battery

Lithium Battery VS. Lead Acid Battery

Can I Just Replace the Lead-Acid Battery With Lithium?

Many applications support replacing lead-acid batteries with lithium batteries. However, from a safety perspective, you need to understand basic electrical knowledge to ensure compatibility of current, voltage, capacity, and the charging system before you proceed with the battery replacement. If you are unsure about the direct replacement, it is advisable to consult with the equipment manufacturer or a professional lithium battery manufacturer, who can offer you practical and feasible advice.


The content above is our comparative guide on lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries from multiple perspectives. For friends who have doubts about these two types of batteries, we hope this article can offer you some help. If there are aspects not mentioned, we welcome your valuable suggestions.