The use of secondary batteries also known as rechargeable batteries to power different kinds of tools, devices, and equipment is one of the most crucial factors that manufacturers need to take care of all over the world. However, installing batteries to make something work is not as simple as it may sound. While there is no such thing as the perfect battery, manufacturers need to make sure that they have chosen the right type of battery that will not only power their products but that it also ticks all the boxes when it comes to factors that will provide the best battery performance.
Nowadays, as more systems are going mobile, battery design has become increasingly important more than ever. Newer technologies such as smartphones, portable power tools, and compact backup power sources like solar power generators require batteries that provide the biggest energy capacity but at the same time lightweight enough for ease of transport.
Lithium-Ion vs Lithium Iron Phosphate
Lithium-ion and lithium iron phosphate are two kinds of batteries currently available in the market. While both batteries are lithium-based, it is important to understand the key differences between the two so let’s dig a little deeper to understand what makes them different from each other and where they are best applied at the moment.
Charge rate or C-rate is the unit battery that experts use when measuring how fast a battery is fully charged or discharged. A C-rate of 1C means that it will take one hour for the battery to become fully charged from 0-100%. If a battery gets a C-rate higher than 1C, for example, 2C, this then means that the battery will achieve 100% full charge from 0% in just 30 minutes. Using the same logic, a lower C-rate would then mean a slower charge. For example, a battery with a C/5 (or 0.2C) C-rate would take a total of five hours for the battery to get fully charged from 0%.
Lithium-ion can either consist of lithium manganese oxide or lithium cobalt oxide for its cathode since both chemistries contain a graphite anode. Its specific energy is 150/200 Wh/kg and a nominal voltage of 3.6V. Its charge rate ranges from 0.7C up to 1.0C as higher charges may greatly damage the battery and its discharge rate is at 1C.
Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4)
Composed of a cathode of iron phosphate and an anode of graphite, lithium iron phosphate contains a specific energy of 90/120 Wh/kg and a nominal voltage of 3.20V or 3.30V. Its charge rate is at 1C and a discharge rate of 25C.
In terms of energy levels, lithium-ion is the preferred battery for power-hungry electronic devices that drain batteries at a high rate since it has a higher energy density compared to lithium-iron phosphate.
However, when it comes to discharge rate, lithium iron phosphate surpasses lithium ion. At 25C, lithium iron phosphate performs well in discharging in a high-temperature setting. The discharge rate has minimal effect on the battery degradation too as the capacity is reduced.
About 500-1000 cycles is what you will get from a lithium-ion battery life cycle. Also, when exposed to a higher operating temperature environment, lithium-ion batteries become unstable and may negatively impact other working components of the device.
As for lithium iron phosphate batteries, their typical life cycle is between 1,000-10,000 cycles and are known to handle high-temperature settings with minimal degradation, perfect for systems that need to run for long periods of time before their next charge.
There are times when we don’t really need or use a device or equipment and long-term storage has an effect on all kinds of batteries including lithium-ion and lithium-iron phosphate ones. This is why it is important to choose a battery type that can provide as close to the same charge performance as it provided when it was used more than a year ago. The good news is that both lithium-ion and lithium-iron phosphate batteries have satisfactory long-term storage life with the former having a shelf-life of around 300 days and the latter 350 days.
Safety is always a priority and choosing the right type of battery for an application is not an exception. While both lithium ion and lithium iron phosphate batteries are considered safe to use, it is crucial to take note that their safety is based on several factors. For example, in terms of exposure to different types of environments, lithium iron phosphate is known to have excellent thermal and chemical stability so it remains cool and operates just the same in higher temperatures. However, lithium-ion heats up and becomes unstable in a hot environment so it’s best to avoid using devices or electronics that run in lithium-ion batteries under direct sunlight or in a place where it is above normal room temperature for a long period of time.
Between the two types of batteries being discussed in this article, lithium iron phosphate is the obvious choice if one is looking for safety and longevity without the need for high energy density although it is not as portable as lithium-ion. They are commonly used in electric vehicles, medical devices, and mobile solar generators.
Nature’s Generator Eco-Intelligent Lithium Iron Phosphate
Speaking of solar generators, the use of lithium iron phosphate in the solar generator industry is becoming increasingly popular over the past few years. In fact, Nature’s Generator, one of the leading and trusted solar generator brands in the US, has just recently launched its latest offering called Eco-Intelligent Li. What makes this battery special is that thru its high-performance smart Battery Management System (BMS), old lithium and lead acid batteries can be combined and used in tandem with the Eco-Intelligent Li batteries.
Going back, now that we know where lithium iron phosphate is best used, what about lithium-ion then?
Weight is probably the main advantage of lithium-ion batteries making them suitable for portable devices such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets.
Frequently asked questions and facts about Lithium Iron Phosphate vs Lithium Ion:
What are the advantages of Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) verses Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) batteries?
The LiFePO4 is a comparatively newer battery chemistry that has important improvements over the Li-ion batteries. LiFePO4 batteries boast an expanded lifespan and increased safety, plus they provide a more desirable operating temperature-range than do Li-ion batteries. This makes LiFePO4 batteries a better, safer choice for home-based renewable-energy solar generator systems than Li-ion systems.
Both LiFePO4 and Li-ion batteries are rechargeable batteries that use lithium ions for harnessing electricity, so what makes the LiFePO4 batteries safer than the Lithium-Ion batteries?
It is the chemistry of the LiFePO4 batteries which makes them safer. Strong covalent bonds are formed because the LiFePO4 batteries have a chemical composition that includes iron, phosphorous, and oxygen atoms in their cathodes. These strong chemical bonds are established by the sharing or transfer of electrons between atoms, relying on the electrostatic attraction between the protons in the nuclei and the electrons in the orbitals. What this means is LifePO4 batteries are more stable than Li-ion batteries and less prone to overheating or thermal runaway (fire).
LiFePO4 batteries give homeowners greater peace of mind for home safety.
There are battery fire issues with Li-ion batteries that do not plague the thermally stable LiFePO4 batteries, making them a better, more desirable choice for home solar-powered generators because homeowners don’t have to be as concerned about battery fire safety when introducing a generator with LiFePO4 batteries to their home as they might with a Li-ion battery system.
Plus, LiFePO4 batteries simply last longer than Li-ion batteries do.
When considering battery lifespan, recognize that while a Lithium-Ion battery can perform approximately 500 charge and discharge cycles before there is any reduction in performance, by comparison a Lithium Iron Phosphate battery will go through thousands of charge and discharge cycles before there is any sign of decline to optimal performance levels.
The increased longer lifespan of LiFePO4 batteries is a key reason that Nature’s Generator held off adding a Lithium-based battery to our solar generator product line -- we were waiting for this kind of industry innovation. The over five-times longer average cycle life of the LiFePO4 battery chemistry also means that the environmental impact for e-waste / recycling will be greatly reduced given that they last so much longer than Li-ion based batteries.
LiFePO4 batteries have broad temperature range.
Whereas Li-ion batteries operate well from 0 degrees Celsius to 45 degrees Celsius, LiFePO4 batteries have a more-expansive temperature operating range. LiFePO4 batteries can run well in temperatures ranging from -20 to 60 degrees Celsius or, for the more Fahrenheit-minded, that’s -4 degrees to as high as 140 degrees Fahrenheit!
Because LiFePO4 batteries possess this wider temperature operating range they do not require as much special storage treatment as do the Li-ion batteries which need to be stored in temperature-controlled spaces during cold winter or hot summers days. Because of this, LiFePO4 batteries give home-users more flexibility in where to locate their solar generators. It is safe to store LiFePO4 batteries in spaces such as an unconditioned garage without reducing performance efficiency or risking potential product damage.
LiFePO4 batteries improves solar powered technologies.
Nowadays everyone should be an ardent environmentalist. Scientists tell us we have a short window (less than a decade) to stop spewing so much manmade greenhouse gas (from burning fossil fuels) into our atmosphere or we will reach a global-warming climate change tipping point that we won’t be able to easily reverse. We need to do everything possible to avoid reaching that critical tipping point. The Union of Concerned Scientists’ website (ucsusa.org) clearly states:
“Climate change is one of the most devastating problems that humanity has ever faced -- and the clock is running out.”
Solar technology to harness the clean, free, renewable energy of the sun is a technology that’s widely available and is mankind’s best hope in the fight against climate change.
Solar power can help move us to a cleaner more sustainable future, but we all must do our part to help. We need to step away from burning fossil fuels and embrace cleaner renewable energy -- our children and grandchildren will thank us.
Aren’t LiFePO4 batteries expensive? What about cost?
Here maybe we can help you. Nature’s Generator is a company that was founded on the principle of making solar power systems affordable and available for everyone. We work hard to keep the price of our clean solar and/or wind powered renewable energy generator systems affordable for everyone. We know that if the renewable-energy technology is affordable to people, then it will be used, and if it is used, then it can help save the planet’s ecosystems -- so, you can bet we are doing as much as possible to keep our products high-quality and state-of-the-art, but also affordable.
We have smaller portable systems with portable panels for people who are on the go or who simply do not use a lot of energy in their day-to-day life. We also have the larger Powerhouse whole-home systems with state-of-the-art rooftop solar panels that can take on the energy demands of an entire house. We even have a hybrid Powerhouse system that combines the best of two different solar generator battery technologies -- SLA and LiFePO4. This hybrid system is an industry first and can save consumers money.
Jump on our environmental bandwagon and, at the same time, save money on harvesting free solar energy.
The amount of solar energy striking the Earth is approximately 500 exajoules of power every hour. For those of us not used to conversing in exajoules, former Director of Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, physicist Steven Chu, simplified it: The Earth absorbs more solar energy each hour than the human occupants of the planet use in an entire year! Solar is clearly a clean, renewable energy source that we must use to our advantage.
The positive decisions we make now about renewable energy will have huge affirmative impacts on the long-term health of our world’s ecosystems. With decisions that we make today, we can spare future generations more droughts, hotter temperatures, and more extreme weather events. We can spare them from having to witness things like loss of species and loss of livable areas whether due to the extreme weather changes or sea level rise.
Save the planet while saving money.
The thing is this shouldn’t be a hard choice for any of us. We can make choices that will have a beneficial effect on the environment while still saving money through harvesting the abundant free energy from the sun. It truly is a win-win situation – we really can save the planet while saving money.
You can have an immediate impact in helping fight climate change. You will not only reduce your family’s carbon footprint, but you will also help reduce the demand on the grid. Your home state may even have a net metering program where you can sell excess solar power back to the grid. Or, with the many different systems offered by Nature’s Generator, you can store that excess power in your generator for your family to use later. Either way, it helps remove demand on the grid.
Additionally, now (through 2030) U.S homeowners can take advantage of the 30% federal solar tax credit -- a credit offered against your federal income taxes owed. Plus, additional state tax credits, rebates, or incentives could be offered in your area -- search the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency to find special programs in your local area.
Even without these generous federal solar tax credits and other incentives, installing a home solar system will generally pay for itself in reduced energy costs in 6 to 10 years, depending on your system.
So, if you are thinking about investing in solar energy, we urge you to go to our website and browse the many different affordable renewable-energy systems that we’ve carefully put together to help everyone climb on our environmental bandwagon. We have systems that use SLA batteries, systems that use LiFePO4 batteries, and hybrid systems that give you the benefits of both technologies. We have something for every lifestyle, and we encourage you to take that first step toward renewable energy and toward a cleaner more sustainable future.
* We want to give credit where credit is due. Professional writer, Ann Matthew, worked with author Diane Underhill and contributed research and content to this blog titled: Lithium Iron Phosphate vs Lithium Ion Thank you, Ann, for your contributions!