The lead–acid battery was invented in 1859 by French physicist Gaston Planté and is the oldest type of rechargeable battery. Despite having a meager energy-to-weight ratio and a low energy-to-volume ratio, its ability to supply high surge currents means that the cells have a relatively large power-to-weight ratio. These features, along with their low cost, make them attractive for use in motor vehicles to provide the high current required by automobile starter motors. As they are inexpensive compared to newer technologies, lead-acid batteries are widely used even when surge current is unimportant, and other designs could provide higher energy densities.

Large-format lead-acid designs are widely used for storage in backup power supplies in cell phone towers, high-availability settings like hospitals, and stand-alone power systems. For these roles, modified versions of the standard cell may improve storage times and reduce maintenance requirements.

Gel cells and absorbed glass-mat batteries are standard in these roles, collectively known as VRLA (valve-regulated lead-acid) batteries.

Lead–acid battery sales account for 40–45% of the value of batteries sold worldwide (1999, not including China and Russia), a manufacturing market value of about US$15 billion.

The advantages and disadvantages of using lead-acid batteries compared to newer technologies

Lead-acid batteries have been around for a long time and are widely used in many applications, such as car batteries and backup power systems. However, newer battery technologies, such as lithium-ion batteries, have emerged and offer different advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a comparison:

Advantages of Lead-Acid Batteries:

  1. Cost: Lead-acid batteries are generally less expensive to produce than lithium-ion batteries, making them a cost-effective choice for many applications.
  2. Recyclability: Lead-acid batteries are highly recyclable. They are among the most recycled products worldwide.
  3. Tolerance to Overcharging: Lead-acid batteries are more tolerant to overcharging than lithium-ion batteries. Unlike lithium-ion batteries, they can also be stored in a discharged state without suffering from capacity loss.
  4. Proven Technology: Lead-acid batteries have existed for over 150 years, and their technology is well-understood and reliable.

Disadvantages of Lead-Acid Batteries:

  1. Weight and Size: Lead-acid batteries are heavier and larger than lithium-ion batteries for the same amount of stored energy. This makes them less suitable for portable applications.
  2. Lower Energy Density: Lead-acid batteries have a lower energy density than lithium-ion batteries. This means they must be more significant or heavier to store the same energy.
  3. Shorter Lifespan: Lead-acid batteries generally have a shorter lifespan than lithium-ion batteries, especially when frequently discharged and recharged.
  4. Maintenance: Some types of lead-acid batteries require regular maintenance, such as topping up with distilled water.

Advantages of Lithium-Ion Batteries:

  1. Higher Energy Density: Lithium-ion batteries can store more energy for their size and weight compared to lead-acid batteries.
  2. Longer Lifespan: Lithium-ion batteries typically withstand more charge/discharge cycles before capacity drops.
  3. Maintenance-Free: Lithium-ion batteries are generally maintenance-free.

Disadvantages of Lithium-Ion Batteries:

  1. Cost: Lithium-ion batteries are generally more expensive to produce than lead-acid batteries.
  2. Safety Concerns: Lithium-ion batteries can pose safety risks if damaged or improperly charged. They can overheat and catch fire in certain conditions.
  3. Complex Charging Circuitry: Lithium-ion batteries require complex charging circuitry to prevent overcharging and overheating.
  4. Environmental Impact: The lithium extraction for these batteries can have significant ecological impacts, and recycling processes for lithium-ion batteries are not as well-established as for lead-acid batteries.

In summary, while lead-acid batteries are cost-effective and reliable for many applications, lithium-ion batteries offer higher energy density and longer lifespans, making them a popular choice for many modern applications, including electric vehicles and portable electronics.

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