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Lithium Battery Overview

Lithium Based batteries are quickly becoming a reasonable replacement for the 150 year old technology of Lead-Acid batteries

In applications where weight is a consideration, Lithium batteries are among the lightest options available. In recent years Lithium has become available in several chemistries; Lithium-Ion, Lithium Iron Phosphate, Lithium Polymer and a few more exotic variations.

Lithium-Iron-Phosphate particleLithium-Iron-Phosphate particle

LiFePO4 (also known as Lithium Iron Phosphate) batteries are a huge improvement over lead acid in weight, capacity and shelf life. The LiFePO4 batteries are the safest type of Lithium batteries as they will not overheat, and even if punctured they will not catch on fire. The cathode material in LiFePO4 batteries is not hazardous, and so poses no negative health hazards or environmental hazards. Due to the oxygen being bonded tightly to the molecule, there is no danger of the battery erupting into flames like there is with Lithium-Ion. The chemistry is so stable that LiFePO4 batteries will accept a charge from a lead-acid configured battery charger. Though less energy-dense than the Lithium-Ion and Lithium Polymer, Iron and Phosphate are abundant and cheaper to extract so costs are much more reasonable. LiFePO4 life expectancy is approximately 5-7 years.

Lithium-Ion batteries and Lithium Polymer batteries are the most energy dense of the Lithium batteries, but they are lacking in safety. The most common type of Lithium-Ion is LiCoO2, or Lithium Cobalt Oxide. In this chemistry, the oxygen is not strongly bonded to the cobalt, so when the battery heats up, such as in rapid charging or discharging, or just heavy use, the battery can catch fire. This could be especially disastrous in high pressure environments such as airplanes, or in large applications such as electric vehicles. To help counteract this problem, devices that use Lithium-Ion and Lithium Polymer batteries are required to have extremely sensitive and often expensive electronics to monitor them. While Lithium Ion batteries have an intrinsically high energy density, after one year of use the capacity of the Lithium Ion will have fallen so much that the LiFePO4 will have the same energy density, and after two years LiFePO4 will have significantly greater energy density. Another disadvantage of these types is that Cobalt can be hazardous, raising both health concerns and environmental disposal costs. The projected life of a Lithium-Ion battery is approximately 3 years from production.

Lead Acid is a proven technology and can be relatively cheap. Because of this they are still used in the majority of electric vehicle applications and starting applications. Compared to Lead-Acid batteries the only disadvantage of the LiFePO4 batteries is that they really do not perform well below about 0 degrees Celsius. However, since capacity, weight, operating temperatures and CO2 reduction are large factors in many applications, LiFePO4 batteries are quickly becoming an industry standard. Although the initial purchase price of LiFePO4 is higher than lead acid, the longer cycle life can make it a financially sound choice.

Choose Your Lithium LiFePO4 Battery

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8 people commented, Tech, Ralph, Yogesh, Collin, and 4 others
This article is rated 5.0 out of 5
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  • Ralph
    Thanks for your article. I understand it is important to avoid letting the LifePO batteries discharge beyond 50%. New Safety/transport law forces to bring the charge under 30% before shipping on Express mode (only?). How (if any) this impact the life/performance of a LiFePO battery we just bought ? Which I just did…LFX14A1-BS12 for my motorcycle. Thank you.

    Reply  •  Rated article 5  •  May 26, 2016 at 6:35 pm
    • BatteryStuff Tech
      Good question Ralph! The Lithium Powersport batteries we sell are able to be safely discharged down to 30% of capacity without harm to the battery. This is why we also advised that they need to be charged prior to installation, as any further discharge could harm the battery.

      Reply  •  Rated article 5  •  May 27, 2016 at 9:31 am
  • Yogesh
    Sir, I need guidance regarding which battery Ah should I use to run a motor of 1250W, 48V?
    I am thinking to use 12V, 100Ah lithium ion batteries for working min 2.5hrs. What you suggest?

    Reply  •  May 22, 2016 at 11:09 am
    • BatteryStuff Tech
      We don’t carry any Lithium deep cycle batteries that size, so I don’t have a recommendation, but I can offer a little advise in regards to your search. According to the 48v load I estimate that you will be pulling approximately 25 amps an hour out of the battery pack, so first off you need to make sure your lithium battery can withstand a constant amp draw that high. Second you need to verify the Lithium battery pack can be put in series to 48 volts, as some of our smaller lithium deep cycles can only be put in series to 36 volts due to their internal board restrictions. And, lastly you need to ask what depth of discharge you can take the battery, as you are going beyond 50%. Most lithium can go beyond that point, but it is a good idea to know for sure how far you can safely discharge the battery.

      Reply  •  Rated article 5  •  May 26, 2016 at 9:56 am
  • Collin
    I would like to add that my university managed to set LiFePO4 cells on fire by shorting fully-charged 20Ah cells. In my experience, and under similar conditions, they have gotten hot and bloated. While significantly more stable than other lithium-based batteries, it would be unwise to consider LiFePO4 batteries ‘fail-proof’.


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    Reply  •  October 1, 2014 at 11:12 am
  • Martin
    I sell smartphone battery cases for all type of smart phones and lots of my costumers com back to me after a short period of time and tell me that the battery cases charge the phone slower then in the beginning.
    I think that the batters them selves in side the cases ore just not good enough. I have sum experience in electanices and I am thinking to pirchece batters seppretly and weld them in.
    Do you know what type lithium battery is the most reliebull and lasts the longest.
    Thank you

    Reply  •  April 2, 2014 at 8:15 am
  • Frank
    My cell phone has a 3.8 VDC,1730 mAh, 6.57 Whr lithium ion battery. I charge it with an 800 mA 5 VDC USB-mini AC charger and it takes FOREVER to charge. Am I damaging the battery with such a long slow charge? Can I use a 5 VDC 1.8 A charger to speed it up and not cause damage or fire? What‘s the safe upper limit charger I can use that minimizes the charge time?

    Reply  •  December 9, 2012 at 11:54 pm
    • BatteryStuff Tech
      At a rate of 800 mA, it should only take 3 hours or less for the battery to re-charge. I would not recommend using a 1.8 A charge rate, as this is higher than the capacity of the battery itself. We recommend no more then 25% of the battery capacity as the maximum charge rate.

      Reply  •  December 10, 2012 at 10:13 am