The History of Lead-Acid Batteries: From Invention to Modern-Day Use

12-70 12V AGM battery
The History of Lead-Acid Batteries: From Invention to Modern-Day Use

When we think of batteries, we may picture the sleek and modern lithium-ion batteries that power our smartphones and electric vehicles. However, one of the oldest types of rechargeable batteries still in use today is the lead-acid battery. Developed in the mid-19th century, the lead-acid battery has a long and fascinating history, and its evolution over time has made it a critical component in many applications today.

Invention of the Lead-Acid Battery

French scientist Gaston Planté created the lead-acid battery in 1859. Planté’s battery consisted of two lead plates submerged in a solution of sulfuric acid. When a current was passed through the plates, a chemical reaction occurred that produced an electrical charge. Planté’s battery was the first to be capable of being recharged, making it a significant advancement in the field of battery technology.

Early Developments and Advancements

After Planté’s invention, many scientists and engineers sought to improve upon the lead-acid battery. In the early 1880s, Camille Alphonse Faure developed the “pasted” plate, which consisted of a paste of lead oxide and sulfuric acid spread over a grid of lead. This allowed for a larger surface area of active material and greatly improved the battery’s performance.

Around the same time, a German scientist named Carl Gassner invented the dry-cell lead-acid battery, which used a paste of zinc chloride instead of sulfuric acid. This battery had a much longer shelf life and was easier to transport than previous lead-acid batteries.

Industrialization and Mass Production

By the turn of the 20th century, the lead-acid battery had become an essential component in a variety of applications. The development of the car significantly raised the need for dependable batteries. In 1901, the Electric Storage Battery Company (now known as Exide Technologies) was founded, and mass production of lead-acid batteries began.

Throughout the early 20th century, advancements in lead-acid battery technology continued to improve their efficiency and reliability. The addition of antimony to the lead plates increased their strength and durability, and the use of glass mat separators reduced the risk of acid leakage.

The Use of Lead-Acid Batteries Today

One of the most popular kinds of portable batteries still in use today is the lead-acid battery. They are employed in many different fields, such as reserve power systems, maritime propulsion, and automobiles. However, modern-day advancements have greatly improved their performance and durability.

One significant advancement in lead-acid battery technology is the use of absorbed glass mat (AGM) technology. AGM batteries use a glass mat separator to absorb and contain the electrolyte solution, reducing the risk of acid leakage and improving the battery’s performance.

The use of valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) batteries is another advancement. VRLA batteries are sealed and require no maintenance, making them ideal for use in backup power systems and other applications where reliability is essential.

Finally, the use of advanced manufacturing techniques has allowed for the production of lead-acid batteries with longer lifespans and higher capacities. As a result, they are now even more appropriate for use in popular uses like electric cars.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Lead-Acid Batteries

Despite the advancements in newer battery technologies, the lead-acid battery still has several advantages that make it a preferred choice for certain applications. For instance, lead-acid batteries are an appealing choice for applications where cost is a key consideration because they are comparatively inexpensive when compared to other kinds of batteries. Lead-acid batteries also have a comparatively low self-discharge rate, which allows them to retain their charge for long periods of time before requiring recharge.

However, lead-acid batteries do have their drawbacks. One major issue is the risk of acid leakage, which can cause damage to equipment and pose a safety hazard to personnel. This is why newer technologies like AGM and VRLA batteries have become more popular, as they are sealed and less prone to leakage.

Another issue is the environmental impact of lead-acid batteries. The lead and sulfuric acid used in their production can be harmful to the environment if not handled and disposed of properly. However, many companies are taking steps to mitigate the environmental impact of lead-acid batteries through responsible recycling and disposal practices.


In conclusion, the history of lead-acid batteries is a long and fascinating one, filled with advancements and innovations that have made them an essential component in many applications. Despite the emergence of newer battery technologies, lead-acid batteries remain a critical part of our energy infrastructure, and their continued development and improvement will ensure they remain relevant for years to come.

It will be fascinating to see how the lead-acid battery changes as technology develops to suit the needs of a changing world. With the increasing demand for renewable energy sources, the role of the lead-acid battery in supporting the energy grid and powering electric vehicles will only become more important. It is clear that the lead-acid battery, with its long history of innovation and reliability, will continue to play a vital role in powering our world for many years to come.

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