We all know what the car battery does.
But did you know that there are eight different types of batteries — each with its own specific benefits and drawbacks?
This Article Contains
- What’s An Automotive Battery?
- What Are The 3 Major Car Battery Designs?
- The 8 Car BatteryTypes
- 8 Car Battery FAQs
- Do Car Batteries Come In Different Sizes?
- What Does Car Battery CCA Mean?
- What Does Car Battery Reserve Capacity (RC) Mean?
- What Is Depth Of Discharge (DoD)?
- Should I Test My Car Battery?
- Can I Change My Car Battery Type?
- What’s A Float Charger (Or Trickle Charger)?
- What’s The Best Way To Address Car Battery Issues?
Let’s crank that engine.
What’s An Automotive Battery?
The automotive battery is a rechargeable battery used to start a vehicle. Its primary purpose is to send a voltage to the starter, which provides the spark for the internal combustion engine. It also powers the electrical components of the car, like your headlights, wipers and radio.
As car designs evolved, and so did the vehicle battery design:
What Are The 3 Major Car Battery Designs?
The auto battery design varies with the battery technology used by battery manufacturers.
Most cars with an internal combustion engine use a lead acid battery.
These can generally be classified into the:
- Flooded battery: Also known as the wet cell battery, and requires regular topping up with distilled water.
- Valve Regulated Lead Acid (VRLA) battery: The VRLA battery is a low-maintenance, sealed battery, which is why it’s also referred to as the Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) battery. It doesn’t need to be topped up and won’t spill if tipped over.
A hybrid or electric car, on the other hand, commonly uses a lithium ion battery. However, they may have an auxiliary lead acid battery as secondary storage.
Now that we know the basics of car battery design, let’s go over the 8 most common car battery types:
The 8 Car Battery Types
Before we get into the different types, it’s important to note why there are so many types in the first place.
It’s largely down to power.
Remember, modern cars have varying power needs.
As such, car batteries also differ to suit those needs.
Now, let’s go over the 8 most common types of car batteries available today:
1. Flooded Lead Acid Battery (Wet Cell)
The flooded lead acid battery is the oldest car battery type, and it’s very common and affordable. It’s also called the SLI battery, which stands for “Starting, Lighting, Ignition.”
The flooded battery is a wet cell battery. It’s typically made of 6 cells with a liquid electrolyte solution of sulfuric acid and water and supplies a voltage of 12.6V at full charge.
It’s a reliable battery for starting engines and provides enough electrical energy to power standard vehicle accessories. However, the electrolyte solution needs to be topped off periodically, and it must be installed vertically to prevent spillage.
This wet cell battery also experiences a substantial reduction in battery life if it’s discharged below 50% of its depth-of-discharge (DoD).
2. Silver Calcium Battery
This battery type was designed as an improvement over the flooded battery technology. It’s still a lead acid battery with an electrolyte solution, but uses lead-calcium-silver plates instead of the lead-antimony plates in the conventional battery.
It’s usually sealed and maintenance-free.
The silver calcium battery is more resistant to corrosion and more resilient at high temperatures, so it has a longer lifespan in hotter climates.
However, the silver calcium battery needs a higher charging voltage and can deteriorate quickly from sulfation (damage of battery plates).
3. Enhanced Flooded Battery (EFB)
The EFB battery is an optimized, higher-performance wet cell battery. It uses a liquid electrolyte solution, but it’s a sealed battery, designed to take on twice the cycling endurance.
The EFB battery can provide about 85,000 engine cranks compared to the 30,000 of conventional flooded batteries. It was introduced as a lower-tier option to the AGM battery for durability and performance, often used in cars with simple start-stop technology.
4. Gel Cell Battery (Dry Cell)
Gel cell batteries were developed as a non-spillable version of a flooded battery. They’re a type of VRLA battery and are also known as dry cell batteries.
The gel battery is similar to a flooded battery, but calcium replaces the antimony in the lead plates and silica is added to the electrolyte solution, turning it into a gel. It has an increased cycle life and is more resistant to vibration and shock.
You can still find the gel battery on the market, but advancements in AGM batteries have limited its application.
5. Absorbent Glass Mat Battery (AGM)
The AGM battery is a VRLA battery designed to support higher electrical energy demands in modern vehicles. It’s similar to a wet cell battery, but a fiberglass separator (a “glass mat”) absorbs the electrolyte solution and keeps it in place.
This battery type performs better than its flooded and gel cell counterparts.
It can charge up to 5 times faster and withstand 3 times more cycle life than a conventional battery. It can also cycle down to 80% of its DoD.
The AGM battery is ideal for vehicles with automatic start-stop applications and with braking energy recovery. However, it can cost 40-100% percent more than conventional batteries.
6. Deep Cycle Battery
The deep cycle battery is a type of lead acid battery and can be flooded or sealed. It uses a thicker battery plate in its cells and has a denser active material.
The deep cycle battery type is designed for sustained power with a lower current draw over extended time periods. It’s better suited to recreational vehicles, golf carts and marine vehicles — which is why it’s also called a marine battery.
7. Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) Battery
You’ll often find the lithium ion battery in a hybrid or electric vehicle (EV). The Li Ion battery can store more energy and has faster charging times. It’s also lighter than conventional batteries, which is essential for the electric car. Less weight means more travel distance on one charge.
While a lithium ion battery pack does cost far more than lead acid batteries, they last longer. Most manufacturers grant a 5 to 8-year warranty on their lithium EV batteries, but they can be expected to last between 10-20 years.
Lithium ion battery parts are recyclable, which is another advantage making it a good option for the environmentally conscious.
8. Nickel Metal Hydride Battery
The NiMH battery (nickel-metal hydride) is often used in hybrid vehicles but is successful in some electric cars. This hybrid battery has a longer life cycle than the lithium ion or lead acid battery.
However, they have a high self-discharge rate, are expensive, and generate a lot of heat at high temperatures. This is why the NiMH battery is less effective for the rechargeable electric vehicle and is focused on hybrid cars.
Now that we’ve covered some common car battery types, let’s go over some FAQs.
8 Car Battery FAQs
Here are some answers to car battery-related questions that you may have.
1. Do Car Batteries Come In Different Sizes?
Yes, they do.
It’s essential to get the right battery size to ensure that it mounts securely in your car compartment and provides sufficient power. If you use the wrong size or one with terminals in the wrong position, your vehicle’s cables might not reach or fit correctly.
2. What Does Car Battery CCA Mean?
There are usually two amp (ampere) ratings on a car battery — the Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) and Cranking Amps (CA):
- CA: Cranking Amps is a measure of how many amps can be delivered for 30 seconds at 32°F (0°C).
- CCA: Cold Cranking Amps defines how many amps it can deliver for 30 seconds at 0°F (-18°C) — that is, how well a battery can start an engine in frigid conditions.
The higher the amp rating number, the easier it is to crank the engine.
It’s more difficult for a battery to deliver power in cold conditions, so the CCA rating is a truer measure of the battery’s power.
3. What Does Car Battery Reserve Capacity (RC) Mean?
The reserve capacity (RC) highlights how long a battery can run a vehicle if the charging system fails. It’s the number of minutes the battery can deliver 25A of current before the voltage is discharged down to 10.5V (and the battery is considered fully discharged).
4. What Is Depth Of Discharge (DoD)?
Depth of Discharge (DoD) indicates the percentage of the battery that has been discharged relative to the battery’s overall capacity. A car battery’s maximum DoD is the percentage of the battery that can be safely drained of power without damaging it.
5. Should I Test My Car Battery?
While not entirely necessary, it’s recommended to have your mechanic load-test your battery annually after it’s 2 years old (if you’re in a warm region) or after 4 years (if you live in a cold area).
This is because batteries tend to fail faster in hot climates.
The load test will highlight the battery’s ability to hold voltage while being used and let you know if it’s time to change. It’s also always a good idea to get your battery checked before a long road trip.
6. Can I Change My Car Battery Type?
It may be possible to change to a different battery technology but always consult a mechanic.
For instance, if yours is a start-stop vehicle or one with an extensive array of electrical components, swapping out what’s probably an AGM battery for a new battery type might not be viable.
7. What’s A Float Charger (Or Trickle Charger)?
The float charger (also known as a trickle, storage or maintenance charger) is a type of battery charger that prevents excessive discharge when your battery isn’t used for extended periods. It helps maintain the batteries of cars that aren’t often driven.
Most have a monitoring circuitry to ensure no overcharging, though you’d have to check the battery charger model to be sure.
8. What’s The Best Way To Address Car Battery Issues?
Battery problems don’t necessarily always result from bad batteries. Issues can stem from various other problems like a faulty alternator or voltage regulator.
To make sure you address the right issues, you’ll want a reliable mechanic to help you solve them.
Luckily, that’s what RepairSmith is there for.
RepairSmith is a convenient mobile vehicle repair and maintenance solution that offers these advantages:
- Replacements and fixes can be performed right in your driveway
- Professional, ASE-certified technicians perform the vehicle inspection and servicing
- Online booking is convenient and easy
- Competitive and upfront pricing
- Repairs are conducted using high-quality equipment, tools, and repair parts
- RepairSmith provides a 12-month | 12,000-mile warranty for all repairs
For an accurate estimate of battery-related repair and maintenance costs, fill this online form.
Evolving car technologies led to the development of evolving batteries.
It’s important to note that each battery type comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, and you should only use one that’s meant for your vehicle.
And if you’re facing any kind of battery-related problems, RepairSmith is just a few clicks away.
With RepairSmith, you won’t even have to step out of your home to deal with a battery change, or any other car issue, for that matter. Contact them, and ASE-certified technicians will drop by to deal with any battery problems!