Lithium batteries have been a staple of consumer electronics for decades. However, as larger implementations have been attempted, the risks associated with lithium-ion technology have become apparent. A phenomenon known as thermal runaway is the most well-known issue. Thermal runaway happens when chemical reactions inside the cell are triggered by heat or overcharging. Because of these risks, the benefits of lithium batteries were difficult to harness in renewable energy systems, until now.
Lithium Iron Phosphate:
Lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) was first introduced as a potential alternative to lithium cobalt oxide chemistries as far back as 1996. Making the new design as competitive as traditional lithium batteries has taken several years. This is primarily due to the inherently non-conductive nature of the mineral. With advances in nanotechnology, scientists have been able to overcome these shortfalls and the manufacturing practices are evolving daily. Consequently, LiFePO4 batteries are steadily becoming cheaper and more commercially available.
Advantages over Lithium Counterparts:
Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries are the safer option due to the superior thermal stability compared to their lithium cobalt oxide counterparts. When short-circuited, over or under charged, the compound does not break down and generate heat as easily. LiFePO4 batteries have a built-in battery management system (BMS), resulting in a safer battery. This active system prevents the battery from ever experiencing a compromising event. The BMS also performs battery maintenance by keeping all the cells balanced. This contributes to a cycle life double that of traditional lithium-ion batteries.
The Best Choice:
The only barrier this technology faces now is cost. Typical LiFePO4 batteries cost around $0.75 per watt-hour versus the traditional sealed lead acid batteries which go for around $0.30 per watt-hour. However, with the continued growth of electric vehicles and other renewable energy technologies, the cost will continue to come down. The construction of cathodes from this naturally occurring mineral make it one of the most environmentally friendly battery chemistries to date. Combined with its proven safety, excellent performance, and durability, the lithium iron phosphate batteries are the top choice for us here at Colite Technologies.