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Battery Glossary

A battery stores energy in a chemical form that can be released on demand as electricity. To help you better understand this 'stored energy' here are a few definitions. Also, please check out our safety information section for helpful tips.

Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) - A technique used in sealed lead batteries. The electrolyte is absorbed in a matrix of glass fibers which holds the electrolyte next to the plate and immobilizes it preventing spills. AGM batteries tend to have good power characteristics, low internal resistance, and good behavior during charging.

Ampere Hours (Ah) - A unit of measure for battery capacity obtained by multiplying the current flow in amperes by the time of the discharge in hours until a minimum predetermined voltage is reached. The amp-hour rating for a battery is usually based on a 20-hour discharge @ 80 degrees Fahrenheit at a particular rate. An example would be if a 12 volt battery @ 80 degrees Fahrenheit delivers 4 amps of power for 20 hours before its voltage drops below 10.5, its amp- hour capacity will be 4 amps x 20 hours or 80 amp hours.

Anode - The negative electrode of a battery.

Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) - The amount of current (amps) a battery at 0 degrees Fahrenheit can deliver for 30 seconds and maintain at least 1.2 volts per cell. (7.2 volts for a 12 volt battery)

Cathode - The positive electrode of a battery.

Cycle Life - The number of charge/discharge cycles that a battery can endure before it loses its ability to hold a useful charge. Cycle life usually depends on the depth of the discharge.

Dumb Battery - A battery pack without internal circuits enabling communication between the battery and the user.

Electrode - A conductor by which electrical current enters of leaves a non- metallic medium, such as electrolyte in a battery.

Electrolyte - An electrically conductive medium in which current flow is due to the movement of ions. In a lead- acid battery, the electrolyte is a solution of sulfuric acid and water.

Flooded Cell - Your standard automotive battery is a flooded cell battery. The electrolyte is an ordinary liquid solution of acid and is 'flooded' on the lead plates. Flooded cells are probe to producing gas while being charged. They also must be checked periodically for fluid level and be filled with distilled water when necessary.

Gel Cell - In a gel cell battery, the electrolyte solution is in a gel form, usually silica gel, instead of liquid. The gel sets up similarly to a candle wax. Lead Acid- Standard type of battery where electrodes of lead oxide and metallic lead are separated by an electrolyte solution of sulfuric acid. This type of battery has no 'memory' and it is very reliable.

Lithium - A light metal, atomic #3, used in advanced rechargeable batteries.

Lithium Ion (Li-ion) - A rechargeable battery that uses lithium ions on the carbon electrode. This battery has no 'memory' and is very reliable. It is used where high-energy density and light weight is of prime concern. Laptops and cellular phones are primary applications.

Lithium Polymer - A lithium anode is separated from the cathode by a thin polymer electrolyte. It is flexible, lightweight, and the battery of the future. For now, main applications are cellular phones.

Marine Cranking Amps (MCA) - The amount of current (amps) a battery tested at 32 degrees Fahrenheit can deliver for 30 seconds and maintain at least 1.2 volts per cell (7.2 volts on a 12 volt battery)

Nickel- Cadmium (Ni-Cad) - This battery has a nickel- hydroxide cathode, a cadmium anode, and aqueous potassium hydroxide electrolyte. The Ni-Cad battery is a work horse. It is used where long life, high discharge rate and economical price are important. Main applications are two way radios, medical equipment, professional video cameras and power tools.

Nickel Metal Hydride - This battery is similar to the Ni-Cad except that is uses an anode of a metal hydride. It has 30%-40% more capacity that the NiCad but has a reduced cycle life. It is less prone to memory than the Ni-Cad and is better for the environment.

Primary Battery - A battery that can not be recharged once the chemical reaction is spent. For example, an alkaline battery has to be discarded when spent.

Reserve Capacity - The amount of time, in minutes, that a battery can deliver 25 amps at 80 degrees Fahrenheit without falling below 1.75 volts per cell. (10.5 volts on a 12 volt battery)

SLI - SLI stands for starting, lighting and ignition and is the type of battery you will find in any gas or diesel engine. The SLI battery is designed to give current during the starting process and then immediately recharged by the alternator.

Smart Battery - A battery an internal circuit enabling some communication between the battery and the user. Some batteries feature a capacity indicator only (fuel gauge) while others offer an external bus to interfere with the equipment, battery power, and the charger.

Valve Regulated (VRLA) - This is a technique for making sealed lead acid batteries. Instead of simple vent caps on the cells to let gas escape, the VRLA battery has pressure vales that open only under extreme conditions. VRLA batteries also need an electrolyte design that reduces gassing by involving a catalyst that causes hydrogen and oxygen to re- combine into water.