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Flat Plate vs. Tubular Batteries

This article talks about two main types of batteries (regarding the design), explaining all main aspects and factors which are related to those specific designs. It compares their advantages and all other characteristics trying to give a full insight to potential users, so they can easily decide what would be the best choice for them.

There are basically two types of batteries: flat plate and tubular. In general, the negative plate is almost identical for both models. The main difference between them is the design. Inside the batteries, materials are the same for both designs but there are several differences in terms of performance.

The Flat Plate Batteries

This battery design is based on lead alloy plates. The finished product is a rugged battery that holds several characteristics such as:

- Good electrical efficiency and performance

- Extended life cycle

- Has a durable and tough build

- Sufficient content of pasted material, extending the life of the battery

- Sufficient reserve of lead

- Better protection against damage

- Better heat dissipation

The Tubular Plate Batteries

This design is more difficult to manufacture. The lead alloy used has the same 6-10 antimonial as the one used for flat plate ones. Compared to the manufacturing process of flat plate batteries, tubular ones have considerably more steps and the control of the process is more difficult. The characteristics of the finished product are:

- Good electrical efficiency and performance

- Moderate life cycle

- Low reserve of lead

- Low reserve of pasted material

- Sensitive to material shedding

- Sensitive to top bar breakage

The Comparison

Batteries are not simple "black boxes". Their design and materials used play a decisive role when determining the life span and durability of the cells. Both designs are commonly used in simple household appliances and electronics and industrial environments. The flat plate batteries are usually more resistant to heat. The heat dissipation is much better optimized due to the flat surface. A poor heat dissipation will cause the battery to deteriorate faster. Regular tubular batteries hold heat.

The grid of a flat plated battery is usually composed of a vast crisscross network made of lead alloy, separated with spaces filled with active material. All the areas of the pellets of active material are surrounded completely by the alloy, causing the material retention to be close to excellent, ensuring a superior conductivity. As the battery ages, lead plates become damaged due to the corrosion effect of the sulfuric acid.

On the other end, tubular plates have no reserve of lead alloy. The sulfuric acid can corrode trough the plates, causing the electrical connection to be completely or partially discontinued. As the corrosion progresses, the battery starts to lose capacity gradually. In one battery, there are usually 15 spines in a plate. If only one spine is corroded, the capacity of the battery is reduced by 6%.

The Bottom Line

It seems that the flat plate battery holds several advantages when compared with the tubular design. They seem more reliable, the life span is longer, the performance seems to be improved and less affected by performance and the design makes them easier to build. It is important to take all these aspects into consideration. Even if the materials used are almost identical, the performance differences might make one choice better than the other. Making an informed can save money. As a conclusion, the flat pasted design seems like a better choice as it delivers a higher quality product.

Author: Alex P - technology researcher for High Tech Battery Solutions

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Comments (1)

This analysis is misleading and incorrect.  A tubular battery will offer improved performance over a flat plate battery given equivolent quality of materials and manufacturing.  A battery is a chemical reactor.  The available energy is a function of the surface area of the active material that is in contact with the electrolyte.  A flat plate battery has less surface area than a tubular battery of the same dimensions and therefore less ability to perform work.  Tubular batteries sustain higher voltages throughtout a discharge and therefore offer superior performance (faster speeds, longer run times).  Tubular batteries also have greater ability to produce and accept current compared to a flat plate battery.  This phenomenon occurs in both the discharge and charge direction which means that a tubular battery is better suited to the high charging rates associated with opportunity and fast charging as well as heavy duty applications that require high sustained current.  Finally, battery longevity is about the same for both designs.  The relatively smaller quantity of lead in the tubular battery is offset by the fact that tubular batteries resist sulfation better than a flat plate battery which means that the active material is used up more slowly.  

-Joe Roberts, Information Solutions Specialist, EnerSys data sciences division, Americas

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