Trolling Motor Batteries: Lead-Acid Or Lithium? (Key Differences Explained) - TrollingMotorPro (2022)

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No matter what trolling motor you have, you will need at least one 12V battery to power it.

Today, lead-acid marine batteries such as AGM are still the most popular. However, this is changing fast with falling prices of lithium batteries, which are lighter and offer much better performance.

In this article, you’ll learn about different battery types to help you find the right battery type for your trolling motor.

Let’s get started!

Table of Contents

Lead-Acid Batteries

Lead-acid batteries can be further divided into: Flooded, AGM and Gel.

A flooded battery is the most common lead-acid type and is usually the cheapest. However, it is not sealed and has to be regularly maintained. This is done by regularly adding water and using a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity of the battery electrolyte.

An AGM or Absorbent Glass Mat battery is more advanced. It is sealed, won’t leak acid if put on its side, and offers better performance and a longer lifetime than flooded batteries. They can also be stored longer, as they have a lower rate of self-discharge.

Gel batteries are also an evolution of standard flooded lead-acid batteries. The main difference is the electrolyte, which contains silica and gives it a gel-like composition and unique characteristics. Gel batteries can be discharged down to 75% depth of discharge and generally have longer service life than AGM batteries (up to 1000 cycles).

(Video) Lithium vs Lead Acid for Trolling Motors!

Advantages of Lead-Acid Batteries

Chances are you’ve used a lead-acid battery before, for example bought one for your car.

Lead-acid batteries use a proven, well-known and safe technology.

They are also relatively inexpensive. True, there can be big price differences between AGM, flooded, and gel batteries, but they are still cheaper than comparable lithium batteries.

Plus, most of them can be charged with a regular car battery charger.

Disadvantages of Lead Acid

Lead-acid batteries are heavy. If you ever carried a car battery over a distance, you know what I’m talking about.

Another downside is that you should really discharge them only down to 50% of the rated capacity if you don’t want the battery to age too fast. True, some AGM or Gel batteries can be discharged deeper, but again – their lifetime will shorten.

One big problem with lead-acid batteries is that they suffer from Peukert’s Law. It basically means: the higher the load on the battery, the smaller available capacity. This is especially a problem when you have a smaller battery bank and use your motor frequently at higher speeds or in places where it has to work harder and draws more current.

Although this differs between different types and brands, lead-acid batteries provide only a few hundred discharge/charge cycles. How long the battery will last depends on several factors, such as depth-of-discharge and how well it is maintained. The bottom line is, if you expect a good performance, you will most likely need to replace your batteries after 1-3 seasons, depending on how often you use them.

Lithium Batteries

There are several related types of lithium-ion batteries, but this article discusses only drop-in lithium iron phosphate or LiFePo4 batteries, which are the easiest and safest to use.

Advantages of Lithium Batteries

The first thing you notice about lithium batteries is that they are 2-3 times lighter than lead-acid batteries of similar capacity. This is important, especially if your boat is weight-sensitive or you need to carry your batteries often to recharge them.

They can also be quickly charged and discharged, tolerating high loads and currents without a significant decrease in battery capacity. (the above mentioned Peukert’s Law)

Another big advantage is that lithium batteries have a much longer life expectancy. Good lithium batteries last over 3000 charge/discharge cycles.

Disadvantages

If lithium batteries are lighter, perform better, and last longer, why isn’t everyone using them?

(Video) Lithium Pros - Trolling Motor Batteries M3140-36CK - 36v Full Details

The main reason is that they are still significantly more expensive than lead-acid batteries with a similar capacity.

Also, lithium batteries require a Battery Management System (BMS) to make sure they are properly charged and used to perform as well and as long as promised.

Lastly, they shouldn’t be charged in freezing temperatures. A well-functioning BMS will automatically stop charging the battery when it’s too cold.

Which battery type is the right for you?

It really depends on how much you’re willing to spend up-front. Lead-acid batteries are cheap and if you’re not sure how much battery capacity you will need, go for lead-acid batteries. You can always upgrade to lithium batteries in the future.

Lithium batteries are much more expensive initially but offer much better performance, run time, and they’re much lighter. If you like the best, you should definitely consider them.

Remember to do your research and buy your battery from a source you trust. There is lots of false advertising out there, even scams selling used battery cells as new ones when it comes to batteries. So be careful.

Things to Consider Before Buying New Batteries

Battery Capacity and Run Time

Battery capacity is measured in ampere-hours or Ah and current draw in amperes (amps). If your battery has 100Ah capacity and your motor draws 20 amps of current, you can calculate its run time by dividing 100/20 = 5 hours. However, this is only a theoretical number because depending on the type of battery you use, you will never want to deplete it to 0% of capacity. For example, if you have a standard lead-acid battery, you can significantly extend its life using only 50% of its rated capacity.

The current draw of your motor depends on the speed you set it to and how heavy your boat is. If you use your trolling motor at lower speeds, you will have a significantly lower current draw and much longer run time.

Weather and water conditions will also affect how long your motor will run. It is harder to push a boat against the current, choppy waters, or into the wind, which means higher current draw and shorter run time.

Battery Weight and Dimensions

For most boats, you should consider using larger capacity batteries to maximize your run time. It’s not good for battery longevity to be deeply discharged, and one way to prevent that is to get a battery bank with more than enough Amp-hours.

However, please don’t overdo it, especially when your boat is small. This battery will have to be lifted and carried onto your boat, so before you buy one, check how heavy it is. Also, measure its dimensions, see if it fits in the battery box or wherever you want to stow it.

Stowing Your Battery

On larger boats trolling motor batteries are usually kept in a designated compartment. If your boat doesn’t have one, you can keep batteries in their own battery boxes. This will keep them protected from the elements as well as make them easier to carry.

(Video) Lithium vs Conventional Batteries for Marine deep cycle applications

Choosing the Right Voltage for your Electric Motor

Depending on the voltage of your trolling motor, you will need a different number of 12-volt batteries.

A 12V trolling motor requires just one 12V battery; for 24V and 36V systems, you will need to connect 2 or 3 batteries in series. More batteries of the same size mean more capacity and more range available.

As a rule of thumb, trolling motors with 55 lbs of thrust or less operate on a 12 volts (single battery), those with 68-100 lbs of thrust run on 24 volts (two batteries), and those above 100 lbs of thrust require 36 volts in total (three batteries).

Wiring Your Batteries

If you have a 12 volt trolling motor with just a single battery, the wiring of your system is straightforward:

  1. Make sure the speed of the motor is set to “0”
  2. Connect positive (+) of the motor to positive (+) of the battery
  3. Connect negative (-) of the battery to negative (-) of the motor

And you’re set!

However, let’s take a look at other examples:

Batteries Connected in Series

If you have a 24 volt trolling motor, you will need to connect two 12 Volt batteries in series:

  1. Make sure the speed of the motor is set to “0”
  2. Connect positive (+) of the motor to positive (+) of Battery 1
  3. Connect negative (-) of Battery 1 to positive (+) of Battery 2
  4. Connect negative (-) of Battery 2 to negative (-) of the motor

Batteries Connected in Parallel

For 12 volt systems, an alternative to getting a single large battery is wiring two smaller batteries in parallel. You will then double the capacity while keeping the voltage the same:

  1. Make sure the speed of the motor is set to “0”
  2. Connect positive (+) of Battery 1 to positive (+) of Battery 2
  3. Connect negative (-) of Battery 1 to negative (-) of Battery 2
  4. Connect positive (+) of the motor to positive (+) of Battery 1
  5. Connect negative (-) of the motor to negative (-) of Battery 2

One thing to point out is that batteries wired in parallel should have the same capacity and be roughly the same age.

Circuit Breakers and Fuses

I highly recommend installing a circuit breaker or a fuse between the battery and your trolling motor.

If you keep your battery in a specially designed battery box, it may already be equipped with a fuse. In this case you will need to check if the fuse is the right size for your motor.

Battery Features

Terminals

Battery terminals are frequently overlooked when choosing a battery. There are several different types, with all their pros and cons. Have a closer look at the terminals, and – if possible – read user reviews.

(Video) Why The AMP HOUR RATING Is Important For Choosing A TROLLING MOTOR Battery!!

One type of terminal to avoid is the threaded type that accepts bolts. Depending on the material it is made of, you can easily overtighten them and damage the thread. In many cases, this makes a battery unusable.

If your battery has threaded terminals, you should read the battery specifications and find out what torque you should use to tighten them. You will need to get an appropriate torque wrench to do that.

Charging Your Battery Bank

There are two main types of battery chargers out there: smart chargers and manual chargers.

Smart/Automatic battery chargers are also called multi-stage, intelligent chargers. The “smart” thing about them is that they monitor the battery and charge it only when necessary.

This means you can connect your smart charger to the battery and forget about the charging process.

Your battery will be fully charged and properly maintained.

Manual battery chargers are less sophisticated and usually less expensive than smart/automatic chargers.

They don’t monitor the battery and will keep charging it until the charger is disconnected or unplugged.

I always recommend getting a smart charger for your trolling motor batteries. Why? I personally like to leave the charger on without worrying the battery can be overcharged and potentially damaged.

Trolling Motor Battery FAQ

Can I use a car battery instead of deep-cycle/marine battery?

Of course you can, but it doesn’t mean you should. In fact, unless you move only very short distances, you should consider using a deep-cycle/marine battery. A car battery is designed to provide a very high current for a short period of time and begins recharging as soon as the engine starts.

If you use most of your car battery capacity over a short time, it will start deteriorating and not hold its charge very well. Its lifespan will be reduced.

What size battery do I need for a 30 lb thrust trolling motor?

(Video) The Truth About Lithium Batteries for your Boat - Myths vs Facts!

What’s important here is not just the thrust of your motor, but also how heavy your boat is. If this motor is on a lightly-loaded kayak, I recommend a minimum of 50Ah capacity. If it’s anything heavier, for example a jon boat, go with at least 100Ah to be on the safe side.

What is battery equalization and why do you need it?

Equalization is a process of controlled overcharge of a lead-acid battery. It is done to help de-sulfate the battery plates and extend its charge-holding ability and lifetime.

FAQs

What is the difference between a lead-acid battery and a lithium battery? ›

Lithium batteries provide 100% of their rated capacity, regardless of the rate of discharge. Lead-acid batteries typically provide less usable energy with higher rates of discharge. They are usually limited to 50% of the rated capacity to prevent diminished life.

Why are lithium batteries not recommended for trolling motors? ›

Longer Run Time

By the time about 50% of the battery's amp-hour capacity is used, the voltage will have dropped enough that it can no longer power your trolling motor. Lithium batteries have a flatter voltage curve which means they do not experience this same voltage drop as you use the battery.

What type of battery should I use for my trolling motor? ›

Most trolling motor batteries fail due to lack of proper charging. Click here for more information on battery selection and power issues. We suggest selecting a 12 volt deep cycle marine battery with at least a 110 amp hour rating, usually a group 27 size battery.

How long will a 100ah lithium battery last on a trolling motor? ›

In more technical terms, a 100 amp hour rated battery can deliver 100 amp hours of current to a trolling motor. So if a motor was running at low speed and pulling 4 amps, the battery should last around 25 hours. (100 amp hour rating / 4 amps = 25 hours).

What battery lasts longer lead-acid or lithium? ›

Although all batteries lose efficiency over time, lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries typically last several times longer than lead acid batteries due to higher life cycle numbers meaning the frequency that they need to be replaced will be reduced.

What are the disadvantages of lithium-ion batteries? ›

Despite its overall advantages, lithium-ion has its drawbacks. It is fragile and requires a protection circuit to maintain safe operation. Built into each pack, the protection circuit limits the peak voltage of each cell during charge and prevents the cell voltage from dropping too low on discharge.

Do lithium boat batteries require a special charger? ›

Not all lithium marine batteries makers require that you use lithium battery chargers. Most 12-volt lithium marine batteries on the market today can be charged with any charger that is rated for AGM or gel batteries.

What size battery do I need for a 55 lb thrust trolling motor? ›

Using a Newport Vessels 55lb thrust motor continuously for two hours at full speed would require a battery with a 100-120 AH rating.

What battery does Minn Kota recommend? ›

What type of battery do I need to run my Minn Kota Trolling Motor? A Minn Kota trolling motor will operate with any lead acid, deep cycle marine 12-volt battery/batteries. For best results, use a deep cycle, marine battery with at least a 110-ampere hour rating.

How long will a lithium battery run a trolling motor? ›

As a general rule of thumb, a lead acid battery will provide about 3 hours of run time at full throttle, while a lithium ion battery will provide about 6 hours of run time at full throttle. So, to sum it up, you will need a battery that can provide at least 30 amps of power for a 30 lb thrust trolling motor.

Are lithium batteries good for trolling motors? ›

Waterproof, GRP size 31 lithium batteries make good marine batteries and power a range of equipment, not just trolling motors. Lithium batteries are also suitable for sonar, fish finders, shallow water anchors and chart plotters. Head to our marine battery page to find out more!

How long will a 50AH lithium battery run a trolling motor? ›

The runtime depends on the Amp-Hour rating of the battery. Theoretically, a 50AH battery on our 55lb thrust motor will run continuously on the highest speed for an hour.

How many amps does a 55lb trolling motor draw? ›

Example: The NV 55lb thrust motor draws 52 amps at full speed and uses one 12V battery.

How can I make my trolling motor battery last longer? ›

Maximizing Battery Life
  1. Battery and boat manufacturers recommend that you fully recharge your trolling motor battery as soon as possible after use. ...
  2. It's a good idea to use a trickle charger during the offseason to keep power flowing through the battery, or to re-charge them every month.

Can I replace a lead-acid battery with a lithium battery? ›

Can you replace the lead acid battery with lithium? Yes, you can replace your lead acid battery with a Lithium ion one. However, there are some things you need to know first before making the transition. You will not need an external charger to charge your Lithium ion battery.

What is the lifespan of a lithium battery? ›

Like any other battery, lithium-ion batteries lose some of their capacity over time. Regular use and recharging take a toll on the battery's components. Users should expect their batteries to have lifespans of about 500 charging cycles. Depending on the frequency of use, this typically works out to two or three years.

Can you charge a lithium battery with a lead-acid charger? ›

Using a lithium battery with a lead-acid charger is a different matter. You can use a lead-acid charger to charge lithium batteries as long as you can set the maximum voltage of the charger and as long as the charger does not have an automatic equalisation mode enabled.

What is the most efficient battery? ›

Sodium-ion batteries

These new batteries will use sodium, one of the most common materials on the planet rather than rare lithium – and they'll be up to seven times more efficient than conventional batteries.

Can I use a lithium battery in my car? ›

Absolutely, in most all circumstances our particular Lithium Chemistry works as a direct replacement for Lead/Acid Batteries without any changes needed to the Vehicle's System Settings.

What is going to replace lithium batteries? ›

Salt, or sodium, is a close chemical cousin to lithium. While a very similar element, it does not have the same environmental impact, meaning it could be a feasible option to replace it. The solution could be sodium-ion batteries.

Is there a better battery than lithium? ›

Fluoride. Fluoride batteries have the potential to last eight times longer than lithium batteries, but that's easier said than done. That's because fluoride is an anion, or a negatively charged ion, which is the magic behind its high energy density but is also the reason it's reactive and hard to stabilize.

What is the battery that could change the world? ›

Given the technical data it reported , we firmly believe that QuantumScape will launch workable forever battery samples in 2022-23. And by 2030, this company will produce millions of batteries every year to power nearly everything. It has been confirmed. The Forever Battery Revolution has arrived.

Videos

1. How to choose the right battery for your fishing boat
(Minn Kota Tutorials)
2. What's The Best Trolling Motor Battery (Best Value)
(Sammy Benitez)
3. What kind of Batteries do I need for my Boat? Marine batteries explained!
(Dan Richard Fishing)
4. What to Look for in Lithium Trolling Motor Batteries [Aolithium 100 ah review]
(Spilt Milt Productions)
5. Selecting the Right Marine Battery for Your Fishing Application
(Minn Kota Tutorials)
6. Choosing the Right Battery for Your Motorized Fishing Kayak and Accessories
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