The motorcycling industry’s shift to lithium-ion starter batteries has had plenty of upsides: they’re lighter, smaller, and more powerful than their outdated lead-acid counterparts—which were invented 160 years ago—but technological progress always comes with a downside. (And we’ve all got a rat’s nest of useless old phone cables to prove it.) In this case, it means you really do need to upgrade to a charger specifically engineered for lithium batteries. The added upside? Doing so can hook you up with the full benefits of this new generation of moto tech.
One thing we may not always consider is that newer bikes with more electronics demand a lot more battery power than we’re used to—even when you aren’t riding, that battery is working to remember all your electronics’ settings. Do you have active suspension? That drains more power too. And while lead-acid batteries had more amps per hour and could go a month or two without a charge on an older bike, lithium-ion batteries powering modern electronics will need charging every two to three weeks under normal use.
Your lithium battery has very specific power needs, and work best if they’re “massaged” back up to full power—something your old AGM battery didn’t really need. Doing so will ensure that your machine is 100 percent ready to go the second you are, and that your (admittedly more expensive) lithium battery will last as long as possible.
Most major OEMs— Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, KTM, Husqvarna, Ducati, Triumph, Suzuki, and more—recommend TecMate/OptiMate lithium-ion chargers, as do plenty of top battery manufacturers. There simply isn’t a company with better, more up-to-date lithium charging tech, and we’ve found a few different charger models that will fit any rider’s budget and usage requirements.
The OptiMate 1 Duo is what the company calls their “no-brainer battery maintainer,” a fully automatic charger equipped with a great low-volt start that can charge a battery from as low as 4V. This is the charger to get if you’re absolutely on top of your business—if you come right home from the track and plug in right away and never forget. Sound like you? Congratulations! You were probably a great hall monitor, too. We’re kinda jealous. The Duo runs a 24/7 Maintenance program, allowing you to stay plugged in around the clock and keeping you and your battery ready to ride at a moment’s notice. It’s also made to charge and maintain both lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries, so that kind of flexibility is certain to be of use to some of you.
The next charger is what we’d call the Goldilocks option: rock solid and dependable for those of us who might occasionally forget to plug in, but not, you know, factory-level (or rich-guy showoff level). The Optimate Lithium 0.8A is used throughout the industry and might be the only lithium charger/maintainer/saver you’ll ever need. That’s right: saver. When you discharge a lithium battery, you need to take very specific steps to bring it back to life, and the Lithium 0.8’s “Safe” program can bring back a battery from as low as 0.5V. If you forget to charge or simply can’t get to a charger, you’re covered—this will get you back to 100 percent.
In addition, some lithium-ion batteries have a BMS—a Battery Management System—that shuts down the battery completely if it’s discharged. The OptiMate Lithium has a BMS wake-up system that will reactivate it fully and correctly. The Lithium also has a 24/7 Maintenance mode for 24/7 charging and maintenance. Unlike the Duo, however, it’s only suited for lithium batteries.
But let’s say you’re a pro rider, or somebody who envisions themselves as a potential pro. Or let’s say you’re a lawyer or something, and you can afford—nay, you demand!—the absolute top of the line. Here’s where we bring in the Optimate Lithium 5 Amp Charger. This is it: the bee’s knees, Thor’s hammer, the charger all the other chargers want to be. It’s got all the features of the Lithium 0.8 plus two more to make your life even easier. For one, the charge program is 5A Ampmatic, meaning your charge current adjusts automatically to the size of the battery. From the second it’s connected, it recognizes what kind of battery you’re using and knows the exact settings to use for maximum efficiency and performance. The second special feature will be of real importance to riders living in cooler climates: temperature-adjusted charging. If ambient temperatures happen to drop below freezing during charging or maintenance, the Lithium 5 Amp will automatically limit the current to ensure your battery’s safety. It’s a nice insurance policy.
One bonus product we want to mention is the Optimate Lithium Battery Monitor, which is essentially a lead whose ringlets connect to your battery and can stay on the bike at all times. Simple green, yellow, and red LEDs tell you when it’s time to charge. It’s small, light, and inexpensive and saves a ton of hassle and guesswork.