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Advantages and Limitations of the Lithium-Ion Battery

Advantages and Limitations of the Lithium-Ion Battery

Lithium-ion batteries have been among the most widely used power sources globally. These power packs support smartphones, laptops, and many other devices that require a reliable battery. The advantages of lithium-ion batteries have propelled them to be a staple in many households for day-to-day activities, whether it’s for powering your favourite gadgets or larger devices like power tools. 

While several other batteries have emerged over the years far superior to lithium-ion batteries, their benefits remain carved in the field of alternative energy. Many electronics still rely on these batteries, including the famous electric vehicles. 

What Are Lithium-ion Batteries?

Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable batteries predominantly used in communication services, portable electronics and electrified transportation. They are characterised by being lightweight and compact, their fast charging capability compared to nickel batteries, and their wide operating temperatures, making them a versatile choice for several applications. 

Now, let’s get on to the battery components. A lithium-ion battery has four main components:

  1. Electrodes - conductors that carry electric current into the non-metallic part of a circuit.
  2. Cathode - the positive electrode, where the gain of electrons occurs.
  3. Anode - the negative electrode where the oxidation or loss of electrons occurs.
  4. Separator - a porous membrane that prevents contact between the anode and cathode lithium-ions from one side to another.

A lithium-ion battery consists of layers, including one or more cells. The central layers are the negative graphite and positive lithium metal oxide electrodes, separated by a separator. A liquid electrolyte conducts ions.

So, how do lithium-ion batteries work?

A metal contact connects the positive and negative poles during charging, and an electrical voltage is applied. This causes positive lithium ions to move from the lithium metal oxide to the anode. Negative electrons move from the cathode to the negative electrode to balance the positive charge. The process reverses during unloading.

To prevent a short circuit, a porous plastic separator separates the anode and cathode. This separator allows the movement of lithium ions during charging and is made by heating, mixing, and drying permeable plastics.

A functional battery cell is created by assembling all components and enclosing them in a moisture-impermeable envelope. This can be a hard case or a flexible pouch made of aluminium foil. The electrolyte is added at this stage, allowing lithium-ions to move freely between electrodes. Manufacturers test the voltage curve in laboratories by discharging and recharging the battery.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Lithium-ion Batteries

As with all battery types, there are pros and cons in using li-ion batteries. Let's start with the pros first - here's a little guide on the best lithium-ion battery advantages to help you determine where to use them best.

High Energy Density

This is a li-ion battery's main edge over other battery chemistries. A high energy density translates to longer power duration between charges, enabling it to fit in different sizes to accommodate varying setups. 

Low Self-Discharge

Lithium-ion batteries have a low self-discharge of around 1-2% monthly, meaning you can use up your power pack for much longer. This is one of the best advantages of lithium-ion batteries, especially in camping or off-grid setups. 

High Voltage

Unlike lead-acid batteries requiring a periodic discharge, li-ion power packs require little to no active maintenance, allowing more convenience on the part of the user. 

Easy Maintenance

Li-ion batteries provide a constant 3.6V during discharge, significantly higher than other batteries, providing 1.5 to 2V per cell. This allows it to cater better to increased energy demands, perfect for several applications like providing backup power. 

Now, for the disadvantages, you need to consider these limitations of lithium-ion batteries.

Ageing

Given the advancements in battery technology over the years, an integrated battery management system is a must to ensure optimal power pack performance. The BMS is also responsible for providing additional protection from common battery issues such as overcharging or over-discharging. Unfortunately, the structure of lithium-ion batteries does not include this. 

Lack of BMS

The more you use your lithium-ion battery, the faster it will age. The number of charge-discharge cycles plays a huge factor in its longevity, so this may not be your best choice if you need a battery for everyday use. 

Environmental Impact

It's well-known that lithium-ion batteries contain harmful substances like nickel, cobalt, and magnesium, which can harm the environment. While this has nothing to do with performance, it’s considered one of the limitations of lithium-ion batteries, since most power packs nowadays are designed to be safe for the environment. 

Risk of Explosion

As mentioned earlier, lacking BMS in a li-ion's component leaves it vulnerable to battery problems. These include overheating, which can then lead to an explosion. Lithium is also a flammable metal, so exposure to high temperatures makes it particularly prone to exposure, especially when mishandled. 

Lithium-ion Batteries Vs. Lithium Iron Phosphate Batteries

Lithium batteries have several types, and among the most prominent ones at present are lithium iron phosphate batteries or LiFePO4 batteries. 

While the advantages of lithium-ion batteries are clear, this newer innovation has transformed the battery technology space by 360 degrees. The rise of LiFePO4 batteries addressed the long-standing issues in li-ion power packs, including user safety, portability, and lifespan. 

Perhaps the biggest edge of LiFePO4 power packs over lithium-ion batteries is the presence of a built-in BMS. This allows for automatic cell optimisation of every cell inside the battery and automatic protection against overcharging, over-discharging, overheating, and short circuits. 

Safe and significantly lighter with increased capacity, it's no surprise that LiFePO4 batteries have been dominating the battery market lately, with more people switching to it for recreational, home backup, and off-grid purposes.

Advantages of LiFePO4 Batteries 

While lithium-ion battery advantages are great, the pros of LiFePO4 batteries have surpassed them with continuous development over the years. Here are some of the best things about this power pack:

Safety

LiFePO4 batteries are well-known for their superior safety features. They are more thermally and chemically stable than other lithium-ion chemistries, which reduces the risk of thermal runaway and fire.

Longer Life Cycle

 They can sustain more charge-discharge cycles, making them ideal for endurance applications like electric vehicles and renewable energy storage systems.

Stability

The LiFePO4 chemistry maintains a steady voltage profile during discharge, resulting in more constant power output throughout the discharge cycle. This stability is helpful for applications that require a continuous power source, such as solar energy storage systems.

Wide Operating Temperature Range

LiFePO4 batteries can work effectively over a wide temperature range, from sub-zero to high temperatures, without significantly reducing performance. This makes them appropriate for a variety of environmental circumstances.

Fast Charging

LiFePO4 batteries charge faster than other lithium-ion chemistries, lowering setting time and increasing efficiency.

Environmental Friendliness

LiFePO4 chemistry lacks heavy elements like cobalt found in other lithium-ion chemistries. 

Overall, LiFePO4 batteries offer a compelling combination of safety, longevity, stability, and environmental sustainability, making them a preferred choice for many applications, including electric vehicles, solar energy storage, and portable electronics.

Speaking of LiFePO4 batteries, check out our range at Outbax. We house some of the most renowned lithium battery brands including VoltX and offer power packs at unbeatable price tags to make them more accessible. We’re talking about premium lithium deep cycle batteries here, so don’t miss out, get yours today, and see how well it addresses the limitations of lithium-ion batteries in all aspects.

Last Updated on April 5, 2024