Lithium batteries for car audio are an alternative to typical AGM (lead-acid batteries), which are large and heavy.
When you have a powerful car audio system, an excellent option is a lithium-ion battery, but they are more expensive. So, what are the differences, and are lithium batteries worth the money?
Lithium-ion batteries offer many advantages over AGM batteries. They are smaller, lighter, and offer a higher DOD (depth of discharge) rate than AGM batteries. However, lithium batteries are also susceptible to heat, cold and can get damaged with incorrect charging methods.
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Tip: When you decide to add a Lithium battery to your car audio, remember that you cannot charge it with a typical charger used for the standard batteries.
Because of how Lithium battery works, the charger has to be specially designed for this type of equipment.
The best I have found and have been using for a long time is the CTEK Lithium US Automatic Battery Charger. It is a really simple plug-and-play charger and does not require any additional equipment.
If you want to try it, click the above link and check the current price on Amazon.
In the article below, I will take a look at lithium-ion batteries as a whole covering every single aspect you would ever need to know when trying to understand what they are.
That includes how they would benefit your car audio system or if they wouldn’t, and which are the top 3 lithium-ion batteries.
What Is a Lithium Car Battery?
A lithium car battery is just like any other lithium (also known as lithium-ion or li-ion batteries), a type of rechargeable battery.
Based on research in the 1970s and 1980s and made commercially available by Sony and Asahi Kasei in 1991, these rechargeable batteries are typically used with electric vehicles and portable electronics. They have also grown in popularity within the military and the used for many aerospace applications.
Do keep in mind that when I talk about lithium batteries in cars because they are rechargeable, they are considered lithium-ion batteries.
Lithium batteries will feature a primary cell construction which means, that lithium-type batteries are for single use only and not rechargeable. Conversely, lithium-ion batteries will feature secondary cell construction, which means you can recharge them again and again.
How Does a Lithium Car Battery Work?
Any battery, no matter the type is is made up of three major components. Firstly, a positive electrode is called a cathode, and then a negative electrode is called an anode, and a chemical layer is called an electrolyte.
Take note that all batteries, for the most part, function on having these three components, and simply put, the electrolyte lets charge flow between the electrodes.
Furthermore, during the discharge of a battery, the positive side is considered the cathode, and the negative, the anode. When reversed and the battery is charged, the positive is the anode, and the negative is the cathode.
The lithium ions will move from the negative electrode (anode) through the circuit (the ions will be used as electrical energy) to the positive electrode during discharge. When charging, this process is reversed. However, the ions will pass through the electrolyte without going through the circuit.
There are also different lithium batteries that I will not need to detail because I am focusing here and will look at the ones used in vehicles and car audio.
What Is the Difference Between a Lithium Car Battery and a Regular Battery?
As you would have guessed by now, the typical battery that comes with your standard motor vehicle is a lead-acid battery.
Do take note that typical batteries used in everyday household objects like your TV remote are alkaline batteries different from lead-acid batteries you find in your car.
When it comes to the fundamental differences between lead-acid car batteries and lithium batteries, I can break all down into five categories:
- Lifespan and cost
- Size and weight
Lithium vs. Lead-Acid Batteries (Lifespan and Cost)
Typical car batteries are much more affordable than lithium batteries. However, they offer a shorter lifespan because they are more susceptible to discharge. This means the more your battery is drained, the shorter its life expectancy.
Conversely, lithium batteries can be costly, but due to their DOD (depth of discharge) being phenomenal, you will need fewer batteries to achieve the desired capacity. At the same time, they boast a much longer lifecycle.
Lithium vs. Lead-Acid Batteries (Technology)
As I already explained how lithium-ion batteries work, and without getting into too much detail about lead-acid batteries, the principle for all batteries is the same.
However, lead-acid (AGM batteries) have been around for 150 years and offer an advantage in terms of working better and being able to recharge in freezing conditions. In contrast, lithium-ion batteries struggle with charging in harsh conditions (they require temperature regulation).
Lithium vs. Lead-Acid Batteries (Size and Weight)
AGM batteries (lead-acid batteries) are much heavier and larger compared to their lithium-ion counterparts.
The actual lead-acid (liquid found in AGM batteries) is the main cause of this factor, and due to lithium-ion batteries have a DOD of 80% to 90%, their battery bank (cells) will typically occupy less space.
Lithium vs. Lead-Acid Batteries (Discharge)
The DOD of a battery refers to the actual percentage of the battery used relative to the battery’s overall capacity, which relates to one charge cycle.
Typical AGM batteries have a 50Ah discharge, while most lithium-ion batteries offer a standard 80Ah to 90Ah. This means that the lithium battery will need to be charged fewer times and have a longer lifespan.
Lithium vs. Lead-Acid Batteries (Maintenance)
When not made of quality materials, both battery types will build up various substances and compounds around the cathode and anode areas during the charging and discharging process.
For the most part, if you purchase a high-quality battery, then maintenance is not required. However, if you have a battery made of less than adequate materials, you may frequently clean the connection points and the terminals.
Furthermore, if the materials that make up the batteries are not great, there may even be instances where they will explode. For example, Samsung had to recall their range of Galaxy Note 7 smartphones for this exact reason.
Are Lithium Car Batteries Better?
Information you will read below may surprise you, but cars are not designed to charge lithium car batteries. However, let’s look at some aspects concerning car audio and if a lithium battery is better for sound systems.
Depending on how many batteries you need to run your car audio system, you may want to look at getting a lithium-ion battery.
As you already know, lithium-ion batteries are lighter, smaller, and hold more of a charge. They also require fewer “rated amps” to accomplish the same amount of work. The caveat however is, that they are typically much more expensive.
If you are looking to reduce clutter, free up some space and essentially even power your audio system, then a lithium-ion battery is for you. In that case, it’s a better option than a standard lead-acid (AGM) battery.
Because you can free up space in your vehicle and due to the lithium-ion batteries being lighter, this may allow you to install more speakers or an extra subwoofer without increasing the overall weight of your car.
Furthermore, a typical lead-acid battery weighs approximately 40lbs, and you may need, in some cases, two or even three depending on how complicated your car audio system is. This is the weight of an adult person.
Take this weight away, and for your car, it means faster acceleration, top speed, and even fuel economy. It may not seem like a lot but take that weight over a driving period of 5 years or more, and you could save quite a bit of money.
Additionally, when you purchase a lithium-ion battery for purposes of your car audio system, they will typically come with a charging unit, so you do not have to use a lead-acid charger which may not work very well.
Check out this short video where an audiophile compares and tests a lead-acid battery pack with a lithium-ion battery for his car audio system, and the results are pretty surprising.
The lithium-ion battery gives an extra volt of power that increases the power and dynamic of the music and is also quick to recharge back from idle.
What Are the Advantages of Lithium Batteries?
I highlighted the differences between a lithium-ion battery and a typical AGM battery going over if a lithium-ion battery is, in fact, better for your car audio system.
Let’s break down the advantages for easy reference.
- DOD rate of 80% to 90%
- Longer lifespan
- Less recharging needed
- More power
- Lighter in weight compared to AGM batteries
- Smaller in size compared to AGM batteries
- Require fewer batteries for the same workload
What Are the Disadvantages of Lithium Batteries?
Even though lithium-ion batteries are great, they do have some downsides that I listed below for easier reference:
- Lithium batteries are expensive
- They don’t work well in cold temperatures
- The temperature needs to be regulated
- They can get damaged when charged using a lead-acid battery charger
- Subject to aging in cool temperatures
- Require a protection circuit to maintain the correct voltage and current within safe limits
Why Are Lithium Batteries Not Used in Cars?
There are five main reasons why lithium-ion batteries have not made their way to petrol and diesel automobiles, and they are:
- The alternator is not designed to charge the lithium battery properly
- The lithium-ion battery needs extended protection
- The price of the battery
- Sensitivity to high temperatures
- Safety concerns
Your Car Alternator and Lithium-Ion Battery
Cars have been around for a long time (since 1886) and so have lead-acid-based batteries. Technology was built around the two so that they could be integrated and work well together.
Although you can hear different opinions from the marketing “gurus,” the fact is that the typical car alternator is unable to charge lithium-ion batteries (without getting into too much detail) because we know that the inner workings are different.
Changing this technology into typical cars will cost too much to implement in vehicles (this is not considering EV vehicles).
Lithium-Ion Batteries Need More Protection.
Lithium-ion batteries are far from robust and require a lot more protection than AGM batteries. Specifically when regarding them from overcharging or discharging.
This factor plays a role in your car’s alternator, but besides that, they need to have protection circuitry within the battery to keep them from getting damaged and leaking.
Cost of Lithium Ion Car Battery
Due to the technology and materials used in manufacturing these batteries, they are much more expensive than AGM batteries and approximately 40% more expensive than lead-acid batteries.
Furthermore, the amount of protection needed for them and the money that automotive manufacturers would need to spend to implement lithium-ion batteries in their vehicles is significant.
Lithium-Ion Batteries Are Sensitive to High Temperature
Lithium-ion batteries are susceptible to too much cold and heat.
If they get too cold, they will degrade, causing their life expectancy to go down, and the same thing will happen with high temperatures. High temperatures can be caused by overcharging or by the elements.
This means that for people who live just about anywhere in the world who experience cold winters and sweltering summers, you may be looking to get a new battery for every seasonal change.
Lithium-Ion Battery Have Safety Concerns.
Overheating and overcharging in lithium-ion batteries can lead to electrolyte decomposition, and this means that gas can form within the battery.
This gas can ignite and cause a fire or, even worse, cause the battery to explode. This risk is high because your car’s alternator would be charging the battery continuously, which it is not designed to do, and consequently, your car battery could explode any time you drive it.
This is the main reason why lithium batteries are not used in cars as a piece of standard equipment.
What Is the Best Lithium Car Battery?
The three manufacturers that produce the best lithium-ion batteries for your car audio system are Ces, Limitless lithium, and Xs Power.
Let’s review the top lithium batteries from each of them.
Although you can not find top-quality lithium-ion batteries on Amazon, you can check out these batteries and other top-quality batteries at the manufacturers’ websites and purchase from them directly.
LI-S975 from XS Power is my favorite battery that I installed a few years ago and works perfectly until today.
Why did I choose XS Power? Well, firstly, it perfectly fits in the size spot I had in the car without any modification but more importantly, because my system has just over 5,000 Watts, and I did not need anything with extreme power.
This battery only weighs 10lbs (that’s 4.45kg if you prefer metric) and has dimensions of only 6.5inches in length, 4.92inches in height, and 6.93inches in width.
It has a max amp rating of 2880 and supports a 6000W. The m6 terminal hardware for this product is included, and its sports a motocross-style graphics pattern of black, grey, red, and white, emphasizing the battery’s name.
This battery has 40AH Yinlong branded LTo cells which means it is very durable, and the battery structure is arranged in a 2P6S format. The battery is housed in a black acrylic case with aluminum links and stainless hardware. It also includes 10 Spot Machines Bus Bars.
It boasts being suitable for up to 10kw amplifier power when clamped with a conservatively ramped 200a alternator rating.
This battery features LL’s Lifepo4 technology and can be mixed in a circuit with older limitless Blue batteries with a max charge of 14.8 volts and supports 10kw to 14kw depending on the alternator amperage.
It has a sleek bright blue design and is 13.5inches wide by 8 inches deep x 6.25inches tall.
In this article, you have learned that lithium-ion batteries are quite different from your standard AGM batteries filled with lead-acid. In fact, many people don’t even know that lithium-ion batteries can be used for car audio systems.
Many advantages come with using a lithium-ion battery for your car audio system. These included them being much lighter and smaller than their lead-acid counterpart and producing more power when the power to weight ratio is considered. More advantages were them holding a charge for longer and having a longer overall lifespan when compared to lead-acid batteries.
That means you could have more space in your car and make it lighter on top of that. The benefits of this are perhaps additional audio equipment in your vehicle and faster acceleration and top speeds because of the weight reduction or lower fuel consumption.
For the most part, lithium-ion batteries are a better option if you consider them for your car audio system, although they do not work quite well for the battery that runs your actual vehicle.
They are not without their disadvantages, though, and they can be very costly, susceptible to heat and cold, and clean get damaged pretty easily if charged incorrectly.
Whatever you decide to choose for your car audio system, I hope this article made your decision a little bit easier.