Battery 101: So What Exactly IS a Battery?

Battery 101: So What Exactly IS a Battery?

A battery stores and delivers energy though electrochemical reactions. Energy is stored chemically and when the terminals of the battery are connected, electrical energy passes through thus providing power.

Since its invention in 1859 the lead acid battery has remained fundamentally the same.  It contains the following:

1.    A heavy duty plastic container.
2.    Positive and negative plates made of lead.
3.    Plate separators made of porous synthetic material.
4.    Electrolyte: a mixture of sulfuric acid & water (battery acid). This electrolyte is what causes the chemical reaction that gives the battery its ability to provide a high surge current to generate power.
5.    Lead terminals that connect the battery to its application.

It creates voltage from the chemical reaction produced when the positive and negative plates are immersed in the electrolyte.  In a typical lead-acid battery, the voltage is approximately 2 volts per cell, for a total of 12 volts. Electricity flows from the battery as soon as there is a circuit between the positive and negative terminals. This happens when any load that needs electricity, such as the radio, is connected to the battery.

There are many different sizes and types of lead acid batteries in the market today. Batteries differ internally if they are designed for engine starting purposes or deep cycle applications.  

A starting battery has thinner plates as more plate surface area results in higher surge power.  They provide a short burst of strong power to get the engine started.

Deep cycle batteries have less plates and are thicker in order to withstand constant charges and discharges. 
They provide a low, but steady level of power for a longer period of time than a starting battery. They typically power accessories.

The other major difference in lead acid batteries today is how the electrolyte is stored. Its traditional batteries that we refer to as “flooded”.  The electrolyte could be poured into or out of the battery through the filler hole whereas many batteries today are constructed with the electrolyte immobilized or soaked up in thick cotton batten type separator. These batteries are known as Absorbed Glass Matt (AGM) or Valve Regulated batteries. The advantage AGM is that under normal operation they do not emit any dangerous gases outside the container making them much safer for operating in confined areas and eliminates the need for maintenance such as cleaning battery terminals or the need to add water.   

Batteries are one of the most recycled items around. They are also made up of made of up to 80 percent recycled materials