When it comes to batteries, lithium-ion has established itself as a superior alternative to lead acid. More widely used in commercial applications around the world, lithium-ion is gaining momentum in the United States beyond its traditional mobile technology foothold. Consumers looking to power their applications should know the key elements that differentiate lithium batteries from lead acid.
Next time you’re selecting a power source, consider that lithium-ion is:
Efficient And Cost-Effective While lithium batteries typically command a higher price tag than lead acid, they also offer 80% (or higher) usable capacity – with some reaching 99% – providing more actual power per purchase. Lead acid’s dated technology underperforms in this arena with a typical capacity ranging from 30-50%. A reduced self-discharge rate also makes lithium more efficient over time, as it releases less energy when it’s not in use.
Additionally, studies indicate that lithium batteries offer better cost of ownership in the long-term despite commanding a higher upfront cost.
Lightweight And Low Maintenance At a third of lead acid’s average weight and half its average size, lithium-ion technology provides a convenient alternative for transportation and installation purposes. Even better, it doesn’t require distilled water maintenance – saving considerable upkeep time – and carries almost no risk of environmental pollution.
While the performance of all batteries suffers in cold temperatures, lithium batteries retain capacity far better than lead acid.
Safe For a long time, negative perceptions persisted about lithium’s volatility. In reality, lithium-ion batteries carry fewer fire risks than lead acid batteries, as manufacturers typically build in safeguards against direct hazards such as fire and overcharge. Lifepo4 batteries, specifically, are incredibly safe for consumer application use.
While lithium batteries represent the safe alternative, no technology is perfect. Ensure you’re educated on battery use best practices to get the most from your chosen solution and mitigate risk of unintended consequences.
Fast Charging And Long Lasting Lithium batteries charge rapidly and enjoy a significantly higher life cycle than lead acid. Lithium’s charge acceptance rate is one times its total capacity and only requires one charging session, demonstrating significant performance and convenience. Lead acid, conversely, requires three-stage charging, takes longer and consumes more fuel.
Lithium’s longevity is well documented. Consider this chart, taken from a study comparing lithium to lead acid in stationary storage applications:
Here, in a moderate climate, lithium operating at higher rate of discharge displayed higher capacity retention over a longer period than its lead acid counterparts. These measurements span the low end of lithium’s total potential battery life span, as the technology is capable of reaching 5,000 cycles.
When choosing a battery for consumer applications, it’s important to weigh all options and arrive at a solution that makes the most sense. While lead acid batteries certainly have their time and place, it’s clear that in most situations, lithium batteries are the most cost-effective, efficient option.