Lithium batteries are most commonly known for their mobile electronic applications. Many consumers are aware that lithium powers their mobile phone, laptop, tablet or other portable device. However, when it comes to larger applications – including traditional vehicles and watercraft – fewer consumers are aware of lithium’s benefits over traditional, lead acid units.
If you’re looking for a battery, consider lithium’s functional advantages, including:
Life Span And Performance
When operating at a high rate of discharge – in other words, heavy usage – lithium batteries retain more capacity than lead acid batteries. That means lithium users get more out of their battery over a long period (usually five years), whereas lead acid users need to replace units as discharge wears them down and energy storage suffers (usually every two years).
More specifically, the average lithium battery survives 5,000 cycles at 100% depth of discharge (DOD), compared to lead acid’s 500 cycles at 80% DOD. A cycle is defined as a full charge and discharge: charging the battery to full or near full, then draining it to empty or near empty. Depth of discharge is defined as how close to empty the battery gets. If the battery’s energy dips to 20% of its maximum capacity, it has reached 80% DOD.
It’s worth noting that lead acid’s rate of discharge slows down considerably as it approaches depletion, whereas lithium maintains performance right up until it is drained, another efficiency benefit – especially in situations where you may need to tax your battery harder and longer.
In fact, lead acid batteries sometimes lose up to 30% ampere-hours as energy levels deplete. Imagine buying a box of chocolates and losing a third of them just by opening the box: hardly a worthwhile investment. While lead acid batteries are useful for certain applications, consumers looking for efficiency should consider lithium first.
Finally, improper maintenance also affects lead acid performance, as internal water levels must be maintained to avoid structural damage and fire risk. Lithium batteries don’t require active maintenance.
Charging And Discharging
Lithium batteries charge and discharge more rapidly than lead acid batteries. To perform optimally, lithium only needs to be charged to full once. Lead acid performs optimally when charging is staggered over multiple sessions, reducing ease of use and consuming more fuel. Lithium batteries also lose less energy to self-discharge, meaning if they sit idle for extended periods of time, they’ll lose less energy to natural attrition.
Because they charge fast, lithium batteries are the preferred energy storage unit for several types of energy-generating technologies – most notably, solar panels.
Weight And Size
At half lead acid’s average size and a third the average weight, lithium batteries make installation and transportation relatively easy. Their compact nature is especially impressive considering that lithium features a higher usable capacity, generally 80% or higher, vs. lead acid’s average 30-50%. That means you get more power and less size per purchase: a winning combination.
Although lithium comes with noticeable perks, remember that the most important part of battery selection is knowing which solution is optimal for your given application. If you’re researching options and run into roadblocks, work with an expert to determine what’s best for your specifications and budget.