Batteries R' Us

It’s the winter season here in New York City and many riders are already thinking ahead to the spring riding season. A few of us have had the misery of having spring starting issues caused by old and tired batteries. It’s time to replace that battery but where do you get it from? Generic eBay or full price for OEM?

Part of the issue is that the generic eBay batteries are usually lower quality and have reduced CCA ‘s but they dont hit the wallet as hard. Who wants to pay $100 for a battery when you can get the same for $30? The difference in cost is largely due to the reduced quality of the cells, from the purity of the lead to the quality of the acid and mats in an AGM battery.

First lets talk about what a CCA is. CCA stands for cold cranking amps. It’s the average amperage a battery can sustain for 30 seconds at 0F but still maintain a minimum of ~7.2V. Realistically, we are concerned about the first 5-6 seconds of cranking and we are only concerned with a nominal voltage drop of no less than 10V otherwise the ECU may shut down and the starting cycle shuts off. There is also CA, which is cranking amps. The idea is the same, but the temperature is raised to 32F. There is also PCA for the LiFePo4 batteries, or Pulse cranking amps. The idea is the same but at room temperature and the duration is only 5 seconds. Although a PCA is more realistic, the temperature range at which the amperage is reported isnt quite what we need since batteries can have as much as a 60% reduced output at 32F. This is much more evident in LiFePo4 batteries. You'll probably start asking yourself, who rides when its 32F outside anyway? ...I do!

So how many CCA’s does your bike need?

The no bullshit answer is that you need to perform a starter draw test, however, it requires special equipment and its not something that most can do. So we need to look at the OEM battery rating and the expectations you have for your bike. I’ll be speaking about the Ducati Monster lineup since that is the one I am most familiar with.

My S2R1100 has a single spark 1100cc motor from the Monster 1100 EVO. It has a custom dyno map and runs the DS1000 throttle bodies. The 1100 motor has hot cams and bigger ports all around. The stock battery is the Yuasa YT12B-BS with 180CCA. This battery is the default battery for nearly all later model Ducati's from the 999 to the new 4v Multistrada. You can purchase most generic eBay YT12B-BS replacement cells for around $40 and it would only produce 130CCA, a far cry from the $100 Yuasa producing 180-215 CCA.

However, 130CCA is insufficient for my bike due to a variety of factors. Possibly a bad ground somewhere or simply because I’m running too heavy of an oil. Either way, you may or may not have the same issues as I do.

Here are 3 batteries. The orange is a generic eBay battery I purchased. It has the same dimensions as the OEM Yuasa but the battery leads aren’t exactly the same (this may be an issue if you’ve modified the wiring on your bike as I have). This isn't an issue if you kept your factory connectors. It is rated at 130 CCA and cost $39.99

The terminals are a bit shorter, and they dont exactly fit the connectors i use.

Now you may wonder if 180CCA makes a difference. Let me tell you it makes a TREMENDOUS difference on a motorcycle. Yuasa has an OEM brand called motocross and their updated YT12B-BS now puts out 215CCA. This is near the CCA produced by one of the newer LiFePo4 batteries (the smallest model) made by Shorai or EarthX (by the way, stay away from ballistic, they use refused A123 cells and the industry is leaning towards prismatic cells which are much better quality. A123 is also now sold to a chinese company with unknown quality control standards). Of course LiFePo4 batteries aren’t rated by CCA since they are an entirely different chemistry altogether.

Moving on, the 130CCA eBay battery in my bike will easily start a stock Ducati 1098 at the same temperature and same conditions. It really boils down to several things.

•Are you running the bike in sub zero temperatures? Go with the highest CCA you can get, generally, this will be the OEM brand, or something from a high end battery company such as Odyssey or Yuasa. Your money will pay for itself since you are less likely to kill a higher end battery as soon as you would a generic battery.

•Are you going to keep your bike on a tender? If yes then its probably a garage queen and you don’t ride when its cold, then it wont really matter. The lower CCA batteries usually don’t have much of an impact in the warmer weather.

•Long distance and away from civilization often? Get the biggest CCA you can find in an AGM format.

•How old and reliable is your wiring? Increased resistance in the wiring means you need a higher CCA to start the bike.

LiFePo4 batteries are for the people who have the money to spend, need the weight savings, or need the battery tray space for devices such as ballast or relays and such (useful for people doing rebuilds and looking to hide wires and ignition coils etc). The technology is still developing and I don't believe they will replace Lead acid batteries anytime soon. The lead acid industry recycles 98% of the lead in batteries and its actually quite consumer friendly. Lithium on the other hand isnt recycled and mining new lithium presents a hazardous challenge with increase demand. However LiFePo4 batteries are not toxic so normal disposal is acceptable.