A Brief History of the Lead Acid Battery

In 2012 the humble lead acid battery celebrated its 153rd birthday. The principles on which a lead acid car battery works haven't changed much since then.

In 1859 a French physicist called Gaston Plante demonstrated the world's first rechargeable lead-acid battery.

To do so he took two long narrow sheets of pure lead, placed one, then a sheet of rubber, then the other lead sheet into a stack. After this he rolled it all up into a cylinder.  Connecting two copper wires, one to the edge of each sheet he then immersed the cylinder into a glass jar of 10% sulphuric acid solution leaving the wires sticking out of the top.  Using a form of generator device Plante charged the battery up and demonstrated its power in front of an audience.

The most important element of this discovery was that Plante had created the first rechargeable battery after the groundwork was laid previously by Volta, Cruikshank, Davey and Daniell.

Each generation of the electric battery had been refined until Plante discovered how to make them re-usable.

Plante's first prototype was quickly expanded on and replaced with a more efficient design that resembles modern car batteries. He placed rows of lead sheets, instead of a spiral, experimented with thicknesses and distances between each sheet until he was happy that his new product would satisfy the needs of commerce. The world's first rechargeable batteries went straight to work as railway automotive lighting.

In 1881, Camille Alphonse Faure trumped Plante with a much more powerful and reliable equivalent. His new products were to be the first electric car batteries.

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