The Development of the Motorcycle Battery

There was a time when every motorcycle was simply kick started. The idea of using an electric start system powered by a battery to start a motorcycle seemed unnecessary. That was something reserved for the larger and heavier cars. Today, practically every motorcycle has a battery for starting the engine.However, in the earliest days of motorcycles, the idea of having an electric start system was there. There are extant poster adverts from the 1920s extolling the virtues of such a system.

These consisted of clumsy and heavy lead acid batteries, coupled to equally clumsy and heavy electric starter motors.Most people riding a motorcycle, however, continued to use the kick starter. It wasn't very reliable, and it could kick back, so you had to be careful, but by and large it worked. Prior to 1908 when the kick starter was first introduced, practically all motorcycles had to be push started.It wasn't really until the 1960s that an electric start system on a motorcycle became popular and common. At this time it was still almost exclusively the old tried and trusted lead acid battery that was used in a 12-volt system, or even a 6-volt system. The batteries had to be topped up with water on a regular basis to make up for natural evaporation, but that was really all the maintenance required.

The next big development in the motorcycle battery was the sealed unit. These are maintenance-free dry cell batteries, and are usually only available as 12-volt systems. These batteries didn't really offer any advantages in terms of power or longevity, but rather just a unit that you could install and forget about, which for many people was a definite step forward.The next motorcycle battery development was the introduction of the gel battery. These batteries are normally only available for 12-volt systems, they are fully sealed and completely maintenance-free. They are commonly found on motorcycles these days, especially where the battery has to lie on its side or at an angle. That would have been impossible with earlier units that have stoppers on the top allowing acid to leak.

It was the introduction of the cell phone that kick started the battery industry, as manufacturers of cell phones needed a smaller, more powerful battery that could last longer and discharge slower.The lithium ion battery has an excellent energy-to-weight ratio. It has no 'memory' effect either, and it discharges at a very slow, almost negligible, rate. The latest development is the lithium ion polymer motorcycle battery. It is not yet available on a typical road bike, as the manufacturing cost is still quite high, but the performance level is quite amazing. The development of the motorcycle battery has indeed come a long way.
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