I admit to being neglectful when it comes to my motorcycle battery.
The 19th century alchemy of a lead-acid battery is a mystery to me. Fill the cells with distilled water at midnight during a full moon till the lead begins to bubble...
As far as I'm concerned, the starter motor either turns the engine over, or it doesn't.
Maybe it's the fact that checking the water level of each cell requires the removal of the panniers, two side panels, the seat, the battery holder and the +/- terminals. Not something I'm likely to do at the end of a hot day in Honduras.
Back in Canada, the battery I had bought over a year ago in El Salvador was beginning to fade. It wasn't holding a charge and very nearly left me stranded after a fill up at a gas station when I was given an opportunity to try a 5Ah Lithium Iron Phosphate, (LiFePO4) battery from Turn Tech - a one-man outfit based out of the USA.
The Turn Tech battery is related to the batteries you'll find in your laptop or your cellphone, but apparently they use iron as a cathode rather than graphite. Which is great if you understand things like:
Like I said, the bike starts, or it doesn't - Check the Turn Tech FAQ if you need the nitty gritty.
Joe Turner of Turn Tech was quick to answer my uninformed questions by email;
- Is the battery big enough to start my KLR650?
- Can I run accessories like an electric vest with the Turn Tech battery?
- What about long term storage?
"The answer to running accessories off the battery is yes.
One note though, if the accessories are left on the battery will be drained. If the battery is drained too far it can be damaged.
The bike has more than enough power to everything while the bike is running, with the bike not running the battery will drain fairly quickly (a little more than 1 hour).
For storage I suggest putting it on a tender overnight, disconnecting one leg, negative or positive, and then just let it sit. When getting it out of storage put it on a tender while you get the bike ready, then reconnect the battery."
So from what little I've read, I'll be expecting:
- Longer operating life out of the battery
- Ten times longer "sitting time" before the battery will go flat
- No distilled water to worry about.
And yes, it is tiny: 1.9lbs for the Turn Tech, while the stock battery weighs in at 9.6!
The Turn Tech battery is not model specific, this 5Ah battery is intended to be used in many different motorcycles. The upright positioning of the Turn Tech battery posts don't match well with the KLR wiring harness- The terminals are specially shaped to fit a stock battery and the leads are stiff, without enough slack to twist the wiring into place. I don't want to modify the stock harness, in case I have to re-install a stock battery somwhere in the back of Bolivia. A couple of 3" extension leads made-up of parts from the auto supply place should do the trick.
I plan on using extra open-cell foam leftover from my Pelican cases to fill the void space and to keep the tiny battery from rattling around. It might be worth fabricating a plastic frame to support the battery and to make an emergency stash compartment for bulbs, fuses, brake pads etc. I have even seen a few reports of bikes that use the half size 2.5Ah battery ditching the battery box altogether and installing the battery inside the airbox...
I couldn't wait to try the 5Ah Turn Tech on the KLR, so just to be able to connect the leads I flipped the battery upside down - orientation doesn't matter once you've ditched a lead acid battery. The bike started right up with gusto, noticeably quicker than a charged stock battery, which surprised me.
I'll update this post with photos once the battery is properly installed and will report back on the Turn Tech batteries' reliability and performance. I have a feeling that no news will be good news...
*update* I'm learning more about amperage, and discovering that 5Ah might not be enough current for the battery to keep itself charged on the KLR. I believe Turn Tech makes custom batteries, I may need to go that route and have a 14Ah battery made. More research to be done yet...