PowerFilm Solar Inc

Which Battery Chemistry Is Best?

Posted on 03/29/2019 at 09:17 AM by Seth Hansen

 

Batteries are everywhere. They’re in a seemingly endless number of devices we use from cell phones, remotes, Bluetooth speakers, GoPro cameras and everything in between.

 

While batteries are nothing new, advancements and the race for the “best battery chemistry” is as ferocious as ever.

 

It’s important to consider that while the thrill of this competition is intriguing, it might be operating on a flawed premise.

 

Certain battery advancements promise dramatically improved performance but what if there didn’t have to be a winner take all end to this race?

 

What if specific battery chemistries excel in some areas and are poor in others?

 

Those are the questions we will answer by comparing five common battery chemistries’ lifetime, cost, power/weight, temperature range, storability and ease of disposal.

 

*Cost/Wh is based on wholesale pricing.

*Calculations are general and based on widely available information.

*Battery lifetime can vary based on environment and the depth of discharge.

 

Lithium-ion (Li-ion)

 

Lifetime: 600-1,000 cycles. Integrated safety circuits limit overcharge and undercharge to protect the battery and maximize lifetime.

 

Cost: $0.20/Wh

 

Power/Weight: 0.209Wh/gram (cylindrical cell) 0.130-0.150Wh/gram (foil pouch)

 

Temperature Range: 0°C to 45°C (Charge) –20°C to 60°C (Discharge)

 

Storability: Loses 1-2% charge/month

 

Disposal: Not hazardous and designed to be recycled.

 

General Advantages: Power/Weight, lifetime and manufacturing accessibility.

 

General Disadvantages: Cost, charge circuitry is more complex and expensive, safety in the event of mechanical damage to the battery or charge circuitry (could result in a fire) and heavily regulated shipping.

 

Ideal Use Case: Portable electronics.

 

Lithium-iron Phosphate (LiFePO)

 

Lifetime: 2,000+ cycles. Integrated safety circuits limit overcharge and undercharge to protect the battery and maximize lifetime.

 

Cost: $0.30/Wh

 

Power/Weight: 0.106Wh/g (cylindrical) 0.111Wh/g (foil pouch)

 

Storability: Loses 0.3% charge/month

 

Temperature Range: 0°C to 45°C (Charge) –20°C to 60°C (Discharge)

 

Disposal: Not hazardous and designed to be recycled.

 

General Advantages: Lifetime, safer than lithium-ion but haven’t received their own rating yet, temperature range and power/weight.

 

General Disadvantages: Heavily regulated shipping and cost.

 

Ideal Use Case: Smaller stationary applications like a weather station and portable electronics for extreme environments.

 

Lead-acid

 

Lifetime: 500-2,000 cycles.

 

Cost: $0.08-$0.12/Wh

 

Power/Weight: 0.041Wh/g (cylindrical cell)

 

Storability: Loses 5-20% charge/month

 

Temperature Range: –20°C to 50°C (Charge) –20°C to 50°C (Discharge)

 

Disposal: Hazardous but designed to be recycled.

 

General Advantages: Basic charge circuitry, low cost and few shipping regulations.

 

General Disadvantages: Power/Weight, hazardous material.

 

Ideal Use Case: Large stationary applications, such as boat lift motors, electric fences and large sensor/communication arrays.

 

Nickel-cadmium (NiCad)

 

Lifetime: 1,000 cycles. Optimum performance when fully charged and fully discharged each cycle. Store fully discharged.

 

Cost: $0.40/Wh

 

Power/Weight: 0.057Wh/g (cylindrical)

 

Storability: Loses 10-15% charge/month

 

Temperature Range: 0°C to 45°C (Charge) –20°C to 65°C (Discharge)

 

Disposal: Hazardous but designed to be recycled.

 

General Advantages: Ultra-low resistance for high discharge rates (important in specific applications ex. battery backup systems and radio controlled electronics).

 

General Disadvantages: Hazardous material, charging (memory effect), charge circuitry is more complex and expensive, heavily regulated shipping and cost/Wh.

 

Ideal Use Case: Mostly deprecated, occasionally still used in high draw applications such as RC vehicles or camera flashes.

 

Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH)

 

Lifetime: 2,000 cycles. Eneloop style NiMH batteries have a very low self-discharge, the standard style NiMH has a very high self-discharge and needs to be charged frequently. Optimum performance when fully charging each time they are completely discharged.

 

Cost: $0.40/Wh

 

Power/Weight: 0.088Wh/g (cylindrical)

 

Storability: Loses 10-15% charge/month / Eneloop loses less than 1% charge/month

 

Temperature Range: 0°C to 45°C (Charge) –20°C to 65°C (Discharge)

 

Disposal: Not hazardous and designed to be recycled.

 

General Advantages: Eneloops are a great rechargeable option for anything requiring AA, AAA or 9V batteries when compared to alkaline and long lifetime (low self-discharge).

 

General Disadvantages: Charge circuitry is expensive, heavily regulated shipping and cost/Wh.

 

Ideal Use Case: Small stationary applications (low self-discharge) such as door locks.

 

Battery Comparison Graphic

Table 1: Summary of Battery Chemistries

 

Batteries are crucial components of a total power solution. Understanding how each technology compares can illuminate what chemistries work best in which applications.

 

If you are concerned with weight, lithium-ion or lithium-iron phosphate are great options.

 

If cost is your primary driver and weight/size isn’t crucial, lead acid is a tried and true solution.

 

If maximum storability and low discharge rate are important, then Eneloop NiMHs are perfect.

 

In the end, there is no perfect battery chemistry.

 

What’s most important is understanding your application completely and utilizing the best battery chemistry for you.

 

Are you interested in learning more about our custom solution capabilities? Contact us and let’s start a conversation today.

 

Sources:

Battery University

ZBattery.com

 

Categories: Solar Education

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