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AGM & Gel Batteries - Is there a difference?

Updated on January 25, 2012

In the market for ATV batteries? VRLA (valve-regulated lead-acid) batteries may be your best option.

It’s not just car batteries that need to be replaced after a certain amount of use – it’s all batteries, especially if you’re into more recreational vehicles, such as ATVs and motorcycles. ATV batteries and motorcycle batteries typically last around 2-5 years before needing replacement. If you’re in the market, VRLA (valve-regulated lead-acid) batteries may be your best option.

The two types of VRLA batteries are AGM (absorbed glass mat) and gel batteries, each commonly referred to as sealed lead-acid batteries. These types of batteries use considerably less battery acid, or electrolyte, when compared to the more traditional lead-acid batteries. This is because the oxygen and hydrogen that occurs between the positive and negative plates in these batteries recombines to make water, thus preventing water loss. The result is a higher ratio of power to floorspace and a high-rate power capacity. Additionally, due to their design, they do not require motorists to add water to their cells.

Here’s a look at the two types of VRLA batteries and why they might be right for your motorized vehicle.

AGM

These low-maintenance batteries are similar to the flooded lead batteries with one key exception: they are made with a fiberglass mat separator that absorbs the battery acid rather than it freely flooding the plates. The thin glass fibers woven into the mat create a larger surface area, enabling a sustainable amount of electrolyte to live on the cells for a lifetime. These work especially well as ATV batteries because they’re typically maintenance-free and won’t dry out with normal use.

Advantages include:

· Support their own weight in the acid bath due to construction

· High power density

· Rapid charge and discharge rate due to low internal resistance

· Operate below 0 degrees F (-18 degrees C)

· Vibration resistance

Gel batteries

Gel batteries, also known as gel cells, differ from AGM batteries in that the electrolytes are gelified. With these batteries, you’ll see less electrolyte evaporation and leakage and greater resistance to extreme temperatures, vibration and shock than their wet-cell counterparts. Wet, or non-sealed batteries, are very similar chemically to the gel. However, while the wet-celled variety has antimony in the lead plates, gel batteries have calcium, which allows the gases to recombine. These types of batteries are non-serviceable and, under normal usage, do not require electrolyte replenishment.

Today, motorized vehicles use VRLA batteries to reduce acid spillage. They work especially well as motorcycle and ATV batteries. Additional applications include:

· Premium vehicles

· 5 series BMWs (starting in 2007)

· Large-scale amateur robotics (AGM batteries)

· Power wheelchairs (low gas and acid emission makes them safer for indoor use)

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