The advantages of LiFePO4
Lead-acid batteries are a combination of lead plates and sulfer acid and they have been around since 1859. They have had a long run of more than 150 years, but now there are a new type of batteries that have taken of the many disadvantages of the traditional lead-acid batteries. 35 years ago in 1980 the first lithium-ion batteries were introduced for commercial use. These batteries have pushed NiCad ( Nickel-Cadmium ) of the market due to its many benefits and haven proven themselves as the best solution for small electronics like laptops and wireless devices.
There have been negative reports in the media regarding lithium technology due to some unfortunate accidents. These cases involved the most used Lithium-ion cells for small devices: Lithium Cobalt Oxide. When these cells are overcharged they can ignite, leading to hazardous fires due to the energy that is exposed.
LiFePO4 Lithium iron phosphate cells
Due to safety reasons lithium wasn’t used for heavier applications. However, in 1996 there has been an important new Lithium development: the introduction of LiFePO4, Lithium iron phosphate. The LiFePO4 cells have a lower energy density and are far safer then LiCoO2 cells. When looking at the other advantages of LiFePO4, there are no reasons anymore to choose any other type of battery.
The advantages of LiFePO4
In contrary to lead-acid batteries 100 percent of the nominal capacity of LiFePO4 batteries can be used. When you take a 100A battery you can use between 30A to 50A with a Lead-Acid battery, opposed to 100A with a LiFePO4 battery.
Longer life expectancy
Research has proven that a life expectancy of 2000 to 5000 cycles is realistic for a LiFePO4 battery. These are theoretic results, but recent tests shown that this type of battery still has more than 75 percent of its capacity after 2000 cycles. A lead-acid battery only lasts 300 to 500 cycles, and only if it’s maintained properly. The LiFePO4 batteries on the other hand don’t need any maintenance and are extremely user-friendly.
Quick and efficient charging
LiFePO4 batteries can be charged quick up to the full 100 percent. A lead-acid battery has to be charged with an absorption phase to charge the final 20 percent. When using a powerful enough charger the LiFePO4 batteries can be charged extremely fast, within 30 minutes. Not every
charge for the LiFePO4 battery has to be up to the full 100 percent, another difference and advantage to the lead-acid battery.
Almost no loss of energy
LiFePO4 batteries are far more efficient in storing energy then lead-acid batteries. The LiFePO4 batteries charge with an efficiency of almost 100 percent, opposed to 85 percent with lead-acid batteries. Especially when using solar panels this efficiency is a huge benefit.
Both lead-acid batteries and LiFePO4 batteries lose capacity in cold environments. The loss of energy with LiFePO4 batteries is minimal. It will still have 80% of capacity at a temperature of -20˚C, compared to 30 percent when using an AGM battery. So for use in extreme cold and hot weather the LiFePO4 battery is the only way to go, making it ideal for professional and industrial use.
Easy to fit
LifePO4 batteries can be fitted in any position and the space where it’s fitted doesn’t have to be ventilated. The LiFePO4 batteries are not only smaller, but only weigh a quarter of the weight of an equivalent lead-acid battery.
LiFePO4 batteries don’t need any maintenance. The ‘Battery Management System’ secures all the cells being charged equally and balanced. You only need to charge the battery and it’s ready to use. The charging can be done an hour before using it.
Loss of voltage
When using a LiFePO4 battery the discharge curve is almost flat, meaning that a battery with 20 percent capacity can give the same output as a fully charged battery. This prevents a lot of the problems that lead-acid batteries experience when discharging. Another important benefit is the extreme peak current that can be provided by LiFePO4 batteries, even when they are almost fully discharged.
Size and weight
The weight of the LiFePO4 battery is only a fraction of their lead-acid counterparts, and the same goes for size. The battery is easy to carry by young and old, which makes the life of caravan and motorhome owners a lot easier.