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Lead Acid batteries have changed little since the 1880's although improvements in materials and manufacturing methods continue to bring improvements in energy density, life and reliability. All lead acid batteries consist of flat lead plates immersed in a pool of electrolyte. Regular water addition is required for most types of lead acid batteries although low-maintenance types come with excess electrolyte calculated to compensate for water loss during a normal lifetime.
More can be found here (Battery Basics) on how Lead Acid Batteries work and the effects of lead sulfate.