Battery School Part 1 – How Batteries are Made

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A 12-volt motorcycle battery is made up of a plastic case containing six cells. Each cell is made up of a set of positive and negative plates immersed in a dilute sulfuric acid solution known as electrolyte, and each cell has a voltage of around 2.1 volts when fully charged. The six cells are connected together to produce a fully charged battery of about 12.6 volts.

That’s great, but how does sticking lead plates into sulfuric acid produce electricity? A battery uses an electrochemical reaction to convert chemical energy into electrical energy. Let’s have a look. Each cell contains plates resembling tiny square tennis racquets made either of lead antimony or lead calcium. A paste of what’s referred to as “active material” is then bonded to the plates; sponge lead for the negative plates, and lead dioxide for the positive. This active material is where the chemical reaction with the sulfuric acid takes place when an electrical load is placed across the battery terminals.