Ever wondered what powers your back-up generator, golf buggy, or those temporary traffic lights you get stuck at when you’re in a rush? These and electric wheelchairs, forklifts and medical equipment are all often powered by SLA batteries.

So what are SLAs?

SLA stands for Sealed Lead Acid batteries; a more expensive but safer version of lead acid batteries. Despite the technology that powers them having been around since 1859, SLAs have remained a popular means of bulk commercial power (making up 40% of battery sales worldwide) due to their cost-effectiveness.

Will the Li-ion Take Over?

Whilst SLA technology has so far survived the test of time it could soon be overthrown by lithium-ion batteries. Li-ion batteries have a charge time of three hours or less, far shorter than that of the typically 8-10 hour charge time of an SLA. In addition, li-ion batteries for not require the frequent maintenance of SLAs; and tend to be a lot lighter in weight. Li-ion batteries are in fact taking over some areas of a market in which SLA batteries have traditionally reigned– the golf buggy market. In Germany, practically the entire market is now powered by the li-ion interloper, as opposed to the UK market in which 75% remain loyal to the good old SLA.

On the other hand, SLA batteries are cheaper to buy, and tend to be more suited to the terrains of the golf course, and other environments in which durability is a necessity. Additionally, many tech companies are working on improving the lifespan of trusty lead acid batteries, aiding predictions of an SLA battery market worth $58.55 billion by the end of 2020.

What’s the future for SLA batteries?

Whilst alternative batteries have many advantages over the humble SLA, investment in its development and our historical reliance upon it will most likely see the battery through the next few years. Without a significant increase in output, efficiency and reduced charging times however it is likely it will decline in use over the next decade.