The Lithium Difference

- Jun 06, 2018-

Lead acid batteries are made from (not surprisingly) a mixture of lead plates and sulfuric acid. This was the first type of rechargeable battery, invented way back in 1859.

Lithium ion batteries on the other hand are a much newer invention, and have only been around in a commercially viable form since the 1980′s.

Lithium technology has become well proven and understood for powering small electronics like laptops or cordless tools, and has become increasingly common in these applications – edging out the older NiCad (Nickel-Cadmium) rechargeable battery chemistry due to lithium’s many advantages.

But as you might recall from the many news stories a few years ago around defective laptop batteries bursting into flame – lithium ion batteries also earned a reputation for catching fire in a very dramatic fashion.

The commonly used lithium ion battery formulation had been Lithium-Cobalt-Oxide (LiCoO2), and this battery chemistry is prone to thermal runaway if the battery is ever accidentally overcharged. This could lead to the battery setting itself on fire – and a lithium fire burns hot and fast.

This is one of the reasons that up until recently, lithium was rarely used to create large battery banks.

But in 1996 a new formula for mixing lithium ion batteries was developed – Lithium Iron Phosphate. Known as LiFePO4 or LFP, these batteries have a slightly lower energy density but are intrinsically non-combustable, and thus vastly safer than Lithium-Cobalt-Oxide. And once you consider the advantages, Lithium-Ion batteries becomes exceedingly tempting.