Batteries aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when considering motorcycle upgrades. Traditionally, absorbent glass mat batteries, otherwise known as AGMs, have long been a standard in the industry in terms of durability, reliability, and longevity, but in the past 10 years, new technology has risen in popularity, especially among the performance and custom bike crowd.
Lithium is nothing new. The element is found in phones, laptops, and pretty much anything that has a rechargeable battery in it. The technology is old-hat at this point, but it’s definitely one of the newer elements compared to lead acid, or AGM cells. With that in mind, going lithium does carry some benefits, but there are a few things to consider, which we will touch upon in this long-term review.
For full disclosure, we were provided a review sample of the Poweroad Lithium battery for this review, but I’ve been running a cell in my Honda CB650R long before I was given the chance to review it, since 2020 in fact and it’s been powering through ever since. However, in my KTM, I was actually advised by the dealer to go with an AGM battery due to the hardware “complaining” about the lithium cell. So, what’s the verdict? Here are some of my findings.
There are two types of lithium cells that you can get for your motorcycle from Poweroad. The first is an ultra-compact cell that can fit into almost any bike, and it’s so small that Poweroad gives you foam spacers in the box in order to fit it in the battery tray. Following that, the second type that Poweroad offers is one that adopts the size of a traditional AGM battery, with the external housing mimicking the volume of whatever popular sizes are available in the market in the AGM category.
The question of which size you will go for will depend on what bike you have. The sizes go all the way from 5s to 14s but do get in touch with your local dealer for more information about appropriate sizing and compatibility for your motorcycle, and the recommended model you should get. However, motorcycles with non-standard battery trays, in other words, custom bikes or heavily modified motorcycles, can benefit from the non-OEM sizes that Poweroad offers. These batteries are tiny compared to the stock AGM cells and they offer even more versatility for you in terms of placement and installation. As such, it’s up to the buyer’s discretion.
While we don’t have exact figures to measure the lightness, Poweroad has its own figures and estimates that its batteries are about 60 percent lighter compared to AGM batteries of a similar size. While the difference in hand is a grand one, perhaps there’s something to be said about how the battery feels when installed on your motorcycle.
It’s weird to say, but there is a marked difference in how the bike handles with the battery on board. Of course, it’s not night and day, but for the experienced riders among us, there is a bit of a benefit. Take note that most motorcycle batteries are stationed high in the bike’s chassis, often under the seat of the motorcycle. There is a slight difference in feel while the bike is stationary, but there is more to be felt while things are moving. With a good chunk of weight off the top of the seat in most cases, the bike will feel lighter to pilot in low-speed situations, benefiting most riders. At higher speeds, there is a slight improvement to the bike’s nimbleness in the corners and in transitions. However, your mileage may vary here because it’s likely that you will feel this difference on a light motorcycle, but not much if it is a heavyweight.
In relation to the weight of a motorcycle, a battery change can make a big difference depending on the location and depending on the weight of the bike in relation to the delta of going from AGM to lithium. For middleweight motorcycles, the difference is a bit noticeable, but I can only say that there is a slight improvement in terms of handling going from AGM to lithium on my motorcycles. Day-to-day, it’s a quality-of-life improvement more than anything else, and I don’t think I have the skills to really back up the claim since I have no data to prove that going with a lithium battery will make me ride faster.
As for the battery’s specs, the PLFP-10S cells have lost a cold cranking amperage (CCA) of 280 and are rated at 12 volts with a capacity of 48 watt-hours. It’s important to note that the lithium battery does have some warm-up before it can dish out its full CCA rating, but the cell in my Honda didn’t hiccup or stutter when starting even after the bike was woken up from hibernation.
The first Poweroad that I used was the non-standard size, and the foam spacers held up even after long rides and hours on the saddle. My Honda’s currently at over 30,000 kilometers on its odometer, and the battery’s still running strong with one-click starts and strong amperage. As for the cell’s characteristics over this long period, there’s something to be said. My bike was part of the first batch of CB650Rs in the Philippines. The model year of my unit is 2019, and after a little while on the road, a lithium battery was purchased for it around 2020. For three years now, the battery has been going strong and it’s been powering through all manner of rides just like a traditional AGM. One thing that I can say about the cell, however, is the fact that it is slated to last up to five years or more, and the discharge rate for this cell is actually quite slow compared to standard AGM batteries. For some reason, my Honda seems to like the Poweroad, and its electronics get along with it rather well, often starting without a problem or a complaint with just a single click on the starter button all the time. It’s also worth noting that I regularly start and ride my bikes. However, due to the fact that it is a lithium cell, I don’t feel so nervous about leaving it in while I take the KTM out or if I have a trip out of town for a few days to a week or two. The bike will start the moment that I twist the key and thumb the starter (all other maintenance jobs conducted and taken care of).
There’s a catch
Now, on my second Poweroad battery for the KTM, there was a bit of a wall that came with it. Picky bikes from Europe might have more traditional tastes in batteries, and their sensors and systems might freak out when a lithium battery is installed. For my particular case, I took a new Poweroad to be installed by the KTM dealer, but the diagnostic software didn’t like it. I did a bit of digging and other European brands like BMW and Triumph both preferred AGM batteries. However, there are some users out there, particularly those from other countries and some riders here in the Philippines, that have been using lithium batteries without any issues.
With that in mind, it has to be mentioned strict software safeguards might be a hurdle for lithium batteries if you want to keep your bike in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations. At the time of this review’s writing, however, I’ve gone back to an AGM battery for the 790 Duke as per the KTM’s recommendations, and due to the fact that the cell wasn’t “Ready to Race” in a manner of speaking. It was, however, powering my Honda just fine, so do your homework, get it from an experienced installer-dealer, and make sure that you get the right spec for your motorcycle for the best results.
After experiencing the lithium battery technology from Poweroad, I can safely say that the technology has the potential to be standard OEM equipment in the future, however, the industry is used to AGMs, and with brands like Yuasa being so established and with AGMs being so affordable and reliable already, it seems that lithium cells have to occupy a niche for the time being.
For now, my recommendation for this battery will have to come with a few considerations before you get one for your motorcycle. First is that you have to check with your bike’s manufacturer or a shop that is experienced with your bike’s brand or model. Following that, it’s a matter of getting the right spec for your motorcycle and getting it installed right.
Starting at a price of P5,500 for the smallest size and up to P7,500 for the largest PLFP-14 models, going lithium-light is quite pricey, with traditional AGMs in a similar size going for about P4,000 or less. The price gets even lower when you opt for a lead-acid unit, but I digress. What you are getting by purchasing this “premium” battery are weight savings, more life out of a battery—potentially, and stability in storage. For riders who have multiple bikes, it’s worth considering if you cannot give equal and optimal attention to a particular motorcycle. For performance nuts, the weight savings could add up and potentially make your bike feel more nimble and handle better—to a certain degree. In my case, the storage stability of the battery is its best trait, and I’ll be keeping it and seeing how it ages further after the three-year mark. So far, the cell that I got hasn’t failed me yet—at least for my particular motorcycle.