While the engine of your car might be its heart, it's the battery that provides the juice to get that engine moving. By now, you probably know plenty about how your engine works. Do you know anything about your battery, though? If not, you're going to need to watch this video from Engineering Explained in conjunction with Optima Batteries. Our friendly host Jason Fenske is here to tell us all about the differences between two typical types of lead-acid batteries: flooded and AGM.
That heavy hunk of plastic and metal in your engine bay (or trunk, if you're fancy) is likely a lead-acid battery. It was invented way back in 1859 by a French physicist, and it way back in the day it was used to power the lights on train carriages when they stopped at a station.
Today's lead-acid batteries are constructed of a housing that hides positive and negative lead plates. These plates rest in an electrolyte solution that is comprised of 65 percent water and 35 percent sulfuric acid. A set of plates represents a cell, each sell produces 2.2 volts, and there are six cells in all for a total of 13.2 volts in a 12-volt battery. Jason explains that the negative plates want to shed electrons and the positive plates want to grab them. A chemical reaction occurs between the negative plates and the electrolyte solution, and the result is a flow of electricity. That's a very simplified explanation of how the process works, but Jason dives into a bit more detail.
Jason also takes time to talk about the different types of lead-acid batteries on the market. The most common is flooded lead acid, which can require maintenance in the form of adding water. There's also Spiral Cell Absorbed Glass Mat (or AGM) and Flat Plate AGM lead-acid batteries. A spiral cell battery layers the plates in a spiral layout, and the lead used is 99.99 percent pure, which leads to greater deep cycling over the life of the battery. An AGM battery also offers better cold-cranking behavior, so your car will start even if the weather outside is frightful. According to Johnson Controls, Optima's parent company, a glass mat battery will often last three times as long as the standard flooded lead-acid battery.
Optima has a new battery design that it's bringing to market, a flat-plate AGM. It combines the best parts of both the flooded lead-acid battery and the spiral-cell. Per the video, it appears that automakers are moving toward this flat-plate design and working to ditch the older flooded acid style of battery.
If you've ever wanted an introductory course on the inner workings of your car battery, this is the video for you. Click play and let Jason school you on some lead-acid tech talk.