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Battery Overview

Lead Acid Batteries

When you think about battery types, we usually think about an automotive battery, a truck battery or a boat battery. Automotive batteries and truck batteries are starting batteries. They will deliver a short burst of power to start the engine.

Boat batteries, these can be for starting or deep cycle batteries are used to powering accessories. A deep cycle battery is used to power accessories like trolling motors, winches, radio’s or lights. You may find these types of batteries on campers/RV’s as well. Deep cycle batteries deliver a lower amount of amps/energy over longer period time than a starting battery.

Lead-acid batteries are utilized for a many purposes, but all batteries used for starting or deep cycle power. The difference is how much energy is delivered and how long a battery can deliver energy.


What a car battery / automotive battery/ truck battery does:

  • A car battery, automotive battery or truck battery supplies power/energy to the starter and ignition system to start an engine.
  • A car battery, automotive battery or truck battery supplies the extra power necessary when the vehicle’s energy need exceeds the supply from the charging system.
  • A car battery, automotive battery or truck battery performs like a voltage stabilizer in your vehicles electrical system. The battery levels out voltage spikes and prevents these spikes from damaging critical electrical components.

The Role of the Standby Battery/ Stationary Battery:

A standby battery or stationary battery supplies power to critical systems in the event of loss of power. There are many applications for this type of battery such as hospitals, telecommunications systems, lift stations and emergency lighting systems. All of these systems rely on standby / stationary batteries to keep us safe when there is a loss of power.

Like a car battery (automotive battery), standby/stationary batteries are utilized for voltage stabilizers. These batteries help smooth out fluctuations in electrical generation systems. A standby / stationary battery can temporarily hold large electrical loads as the energy demand transfer from one generation system to another; minimizing the loss of power in life saving situations. 

What the motive battery / industrial battery does:

  • A motive / industrial battery powers the motor that drives an electric vehicle, such as forklift truck or mining equipment.
  • A motive / industrial battery powers accessories like fans, headlights or other accessories on electric vehicles.
  • Motive / industrial batteries usually provide power for a specific purpose on an electric vehicle, such as the lift on an electric forklift.

How a battery is manufactured:

All batteries are manufactured using five basic components:

  • A hardy plastic container.
    Positive and negative plates made of lead.
  • Plate separators made of permeable synthetic material.
  • Electrolyte, a specific mixture of sulfuric acid and water, also know as battery acid.
  • Lead terminals, Lead terminals are contacts used to connect a load (such as a vehicle) or a charger.

Manufacturing of a battery begins with the production of a plastic container and cover. Automotive battery / car battery / truck battery containers and covers are made of polypropylene. Typical a 12-volt automotive battery/ car battery / truck battery cases is divided into six sections or cells. The cover is placed on top of the bottom container and sealed when the battery manufacturing process is finished.

All batteries are manufactured utilizing plates (grids) from lead or an alloy of lead and other secondary metals. A battery will have positive and negative plates to conduct energy.

The plates are pasted with mixture of lead oxide (powdered lead and other materials), sulfuric acid and water is applied to the plates. Negative plates use expander material made of powered sulfates that are added to the paste.

The pasted positive and negative plates must be separated. Separators are thin porous membrane; separators are used as insulating material between the positive and negative plates. The pores in the separators allow electrolyte to flow between the plates producing energy while preventing short circuits.

The next step in manufacturing of a battery is positive and negative plates are paired with separators in between the plates.

Multiply positive and negative plates stacked together are called an element. There is one element per battery cell, or compartment in the container. Elements are placed into the battery cells in the case. The cells are connected by through the cell walls welds and lead terminals are added. The cover will be added to the battery at this point and the unit checked for leaks. The battery will be filled with electrolyte (battery acid); electrolyte is a mixture of sulfuric acid and water.

The final step is in battery manufacturing is formation. During formation the battery terminals are connected an electrical source and the battery is charged for many hours for the first time. When the battery is fully formed, the battery will be cleaned and the labels will be attached.

How a Battery Works

A battery is like your gas tank; it stores energy for future uses. Batteries produce energy from a chemical reaction, when two unlike materials (positive and negative plates) are immersed in the electrolyte. The typical lead-acid battery, the voltage has approximately 2 volts per cell, for a total of 12 volts. When loads, such as a radio or headlights are applied to the battery; electricity flows from the battery between the positive and negative terminals.

Your lead-acid battery is in a constant process of charge and discharge. When a load is applied to the battery electricity flows out of the battery to what ever you are powering like your starter or radio, your battery will begin discharging.

Charging a battery is the reverse of this process, to recharge a battery you must restoring the chemical difference between the plates. This happens when driving and the alternator puts energy back into the battery or you use a battery charger to replace the energy.

As a battery discharges, the voltage will drop because the lead plates become more chemically alike and the acid becomes weaker. The battery can no longer deliver electricity at a useful voltage.

Feeding electrical current back into it can recharge a discharged battery. A full charge will restore the chemical difference between the plates and leaves the battery ready to deliver power.

This process of discharge and charge is what’s known as the cycling ability of a battery. The battery can be discharged and charging, over and over again.

A battery that will not start your car is called “dead” this is incorrect. The battery is most likely discharged and needs to be charged. However some batteries are at the end of the service life and will need to be replaced.

If the battery is discharged, you should charge the battery with a battery charger. Most people try to utilize the alternator on their vehicle to recharge a battery. This can be harmful to the alternator and is NOT recommended by Batteries by Fisher, Inc. If your battery keeps discharging, have your electrical system checked. What looks like a bad battery could be an electrical system problem and not a battery issue.


Different types of Batteries

Small consumer sealed lead-acid batteries that provide extended deep cycling service. They power consumer products and tools like flashlights, power tools and children’s toy. Most sealed lead-acid batteries are made from recycled lead and plastic, and will be recycled at the end of their service lives.

Starting batteries are utilized to start engines on cars, boats, trucks and other vehicles. Starting batteries provide a short burst of power to get the engine started.

Deep cycle batteries provide power to electrical accessories, such as lights, trolling motors, radios or winches. They provide a steady level of power at a lower rate than starting batteries for a longer period of time.

Dual-purpose batteries are designed to serve a balanced combination of starting and deep cycle service. They have high starting power for engine cranking but also built to withstand the cycle service demands.

The majority lead-acid batteries are made of recycled lead and plastic, and can be recycled at the end of their service lives.

Industrial batteries provide steady power over a much longer period of time than a typical deep cycle battery. The positive and negative plates are much thicker, and there is more total energy available for a longer period of time. Industrial batteries are designed to lasts for years.

Batteries are also utilized in stationary applications; they provide critical back up power to systems that need a constant power supply. The batteries are usually not called upon to deliver power often, but when needed they have to deliver a lot of power, quickly and for enough time so that backup power generators can take over the electrical demand.

Battery Chemistries

French scientist Gaston Plante, invented the lead-acid battery in 1859, without them our current life style would not be possible. Platen could not have imagined the role his creation would play today in transportation, communication, and electric utilities and as emergency backup systems.

With development of more and more battery-powered devices; industry experts have been looking for battery chemistry that is powerful, long service life, safe, inexpensive, lightweight and recyclable.

Below is a brief summary of battery chemistries and their advantages and disadvantages.


Advantages: This chemistry has been proven over more than 160 years. Batteries are available in sealed and maintenance-free products in all shapes and sizes, are mass-produced today. Lead-acid batteries cost effective in providing the best value for power and energy per kilowatt-hour, have the longest life cycle and a large environmental advantage because they are recycled at a high rate. (98 percent of the lead is recycled and reused in new batteries.). No other chemistry has the infrastructure that exists for collecting, transporting and recycling lead-acid batteries today.

Disadvantages: Lead is heavier compared to alternative elements utilized in other technologies; however, current conductors and other advances continue to improve on the power density of a lead-acid battery’s design.


Advantages: Mechanically rechargeable primary battery system with a capacity equal to 15-20 cycles on a lead-acid system.

Disadvantages: frequent components replaced, frequent addition of water and sludge must be removed. Combined with the expense of reprocessing aluminum, aluminum-air is nowhere near commercialization.


Advantages: High specific energy (the number of hours of operation for a given weight) this light weight makes it huge success for mobile applications cell phones and notebook computers.

Disadvantages: Expense lithium is more expensive than lead. This cost differential is not as apparent with small batteries (cell phones, computers) you may not realize you are paying much more per stored kilowatt hour than other chemistries. Because automotive batteries are larger, the cost becomes more significant. Currently there is no established system for recycling large lithium-ion batteries.


Advantages: This chemistry very reliable, can operate in a wide range of temperatures, tolerates abuse and performs well after long periods of storage.

Disadvantages: It is much more expensive than lead-acid (3-5 times the cost), materials are toxic and very limits he recycling infrastructure for larger nickel-cadmium batteries.

Nickel-metal hydride

Advantages: This chemistry is reliable and lightweight. Hybrid vehicles utilize these batteries; some applications have performed to 100,000 miles.

Disadvantages: The metals in the battery more expensive than lead (25 times the cost). Nickel is a carcinogen. Hybrid vehicles applications have not studied long enough to allow the batteries to completely prove their projected life expectance. No significant recycling capability exists.


Advantages: Good energy density, good operating temperature range and performs reasonably well after long storage periods.

Disadvantages: Expensive and its life cycle (while improved) is still merely adequate. There has been no breakthrough in this chemistry.


Advantages: Chemistry is about as efficient as lead-acid, but has more specific energy (three to four times number of hours of operation for a given weight).

Disadvantages: Thirty plus years of research has yielded only one commercial application – in Japan.


Lead Acid Battery Safety

Lead-acid battery safety information.


The battery industry is the world’s largest consumer of lead in the world, the primary sources of lead in the environment and lead exposure to people-have been transportation, preparation of water, food, paint, and storage. Such as, leaded gasoline, leaded paint, lead glaze on pottery, lead water pipes and fixtures, and lead solder.

Today, battery manufacturing accounts for more than 80 percent of lead usage in the USA. The industry is commitment to lead-acid battery safety; lead emissions from battery manufacturing accounting for less than one percent of the country’s total estimated lead emissions.

There are two ways for the body to take in lead: ingestion or inhalation. Lead is notusually absorbed through the skin or hair.

Measuring lead in the ones body done by the amount of lead in the blood and sometimes in the bone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], the level of concern is 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of whole blood for children. Parents should always be evaluating a child’s environment to see if there are any sources of lead. If the child has a level of 15 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, parents should consider looking at the child’s home, school and play environments and their own jobs, hobbies or other situations that could expose the child to lead. For more information on children and lead, go to the CDC Web site.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA] threshold for adult is 50 micrograms of lead per deciliter of whole blood working in battery plants. Workers who tests at a 50 will be moved to a different job at the facility until his or her blood lead falls to acceptable levels. Employee will receive counseled and monitored to keep the blood level below the OSHA threshold.

Voluntary agreement made with OSHA in 1996, Battery Council members have been working to reduce the 50 microgram medical removal threshold to 40 micrograms within the next three years to continue lead-acid battery worker safety efforts. Blood testing is an important tool for people who are regularly exposed to lead.

This voluntary effort by Battery Council members have achieved significant reductions in the blood lead levels of their workers, whose levels now average far less than this 50 microgram. Capital investment and emphasis on employee work practices and education have lead to successfully lowing the blood levels in workers.

Battery recyclers and manufacturers have education programs and health maintenance programs for their employees, backed up by regular blood lead testing. Regular monitoring of blood lead levels allows track the success of lead-reduction programs. Testing results are a critical tool in the employees’ health management programs.

Ventilation systems and technology in the work place help protect workers. However good work habits and good hygiene are equally as important to protect adults in the workplace.

How lead is controlled at battery plants:

Air Filters and Scrubbers keep microscopic particles of airborne lead emissions to a minimum; recyclers and manufacturers use high-efficiency air filters and wet scrubbers to filter plant air before it is released. These filters are inspected and replaced regularly. These filters also are equipped with alarms, and the process is shut down or re-routed should a filter fail to perform as designed.

Clean Water recyclers and manufacturers capture and treat process water to keep lead out of our environment. All water is tested before it is released to be certain it meets clean water standards.

Clean Air At recycling plants, to insure lead levels below the allowable limits air monitors are installed at the perimeter of each property. The limit is .15 micrograms of lead per cubic meter of air, three month rolling average. This is an extremely conservative limit.

Work Practices OSHA regulations require plant workers in high-lead exposure areas to leave their work clothes including shoes at the plant and to shower and wash their hair before going leaving the facility. Often children of plant works can be exposed to lead when a parent who works at a leadplant carries dust home on work clothes or in the worker’s hair. OSHA also require workers in the plant to wear a respirator, a device that filters lead particles out of the air a worker breaths. Educational programs train workers to properly wash before eating or smoking during lunch or breaks, and to practice other habits that safeguard everyone’s health.

Emissions Regular program of exterior vacuuming, washing down paved areas in an effort to capturing and treating rainwater runoff mandatory at every plant. Vehicles that transport lead products are thoroughly washed before leaving a facility so that any dust on tires or the vehicle body in an effort not to carry lead products to public roads.

Battery Recycling

Lead-acid batteries top the list of the most highly recycled consumer product. Compared to 26% of tires, 26% of glass bottles, 45% of newspapers and 55% of aluminum cans. 98% of all lead-acid battery are recycled! New lead-acid battery contains 60% to 80% recycled lead and plastic. The lead-acid battery manufacturing industry gains its environmental edge from its closed-loop life cycle. When a spent lead-acid battery is collected, it is shipped to a permitted recycler where the lead and plastic are reclaimed and sent to a new battery manufacturer. The recycling of spent lead-acid batteries can go on indefinitely. That means the lead-acid battery in your car, truck, boat or motorcycle have been and will continue to be recycled many times. This process makes lead-acid battery industry’s recycle programs extremely successful from an environmental and cost perspective.

This article is provided courtesy of Batteries by Fisher, Lakeland, Florida.