Battery 101: AGM vs. GEL Technology

The technology used to create batteries has come a long way since the time of glass cells and wooden encasements. Now we have specialized technology and advancements and it can get confusing trying to keep it all straight. So, we’d like to untangle some of this confusion by asking the question: What is the difference between AGM and GEL technology?

Before we dive feet first into the differences between the two, let’s take a look at what exactly each of them is.

AGM Batteries

AGM technology stands for Absorbent Glass Mat. That explanation alone sounds ridiculous but wait. The absorbent glass mat refers to a fine fiberglass mat that is capable of absorbing sulfuric acid, making batteries spill proof. Makes more sense now right? In the 1980’s the demand was increasing for lighter weight and less hazardous batteries that could be used in aircraft and vehicles.

AGM technology allowed this demand to be met. All of a sudden batteries could be transported without hazardous material issues and the construction of the mat meant that batteries could now be shaped as a cylinder or the traditional rectangular cube.

GEL Batteries

GEL technology is another matter altogether. A gel cell battery is a battery that uses a sulfuric acid that has been mixed with fumed silica to create a gel-like substance that is immobile. Because of the GEL cell, the battery does not have to be kept upright and the electrons can flow between the plates without the threat of spilling.

These batteries produce few fumes which make them ideal to be used in places that don’t have much ventilation.

Know that we have a better understanding of them, let’s compare ’em.

The Differences

While these batteries are not the same, some similarities cause people to confuse the two. They are both non-spillable, are deep cycle (meaning they can be deeply discharged), and can be transported safely among other things. So what sets them apart?

  • AGM

– Preferable when a burst of amps is required.

– Can last for years.

– Can be easily recharged, in some cases up to 5 times faster.

– Can be produced at a lower cost than gel batteries.

– Have a low internal resistance.

– Perform well in temperatures below 32 degrees.

  • GEL

– Lower power capacity.

– Does well in warmer environments.

– Does well with slow discharge rates.

– If recharged incorrectly the battery will fail before the end of its life cycle.

– Not suitable to be used as starter batteries because of an increased acid resistance.

– Do not perform well in below-freezing temperatures.

So when trying to decide which battery to purchase consider a few things.

  1. What application are you using the battery for?
  2. Will the battery have to function in below-freezing temperatures?
  3. How will you recharge the battery?
  4. Do you need a slow discharge rate or will you require bursts of power?

Once you have the answers to these questions you can determine the best battery for you. Warmer climate and lower discharge rates? Springing for the gel battery may just be the answer.

Colder climate and you want to use the battery as a starter battery? Definitely go for the AGM. Understanding the battery you are purchasing will go a long way in preventing damage to your equipment and preserving the life of the battery.