Lead-acid batteries have been the go-to for default backup power for uninterruptible power supplies (UPS). UPS work to ensure the availability and up-time or data centers, communications equipment and industrial processes. But the tides may be turning with the growing popularity of the lithion-ion battery.
Lead-acid batteries have provided power and reliability required for the aforementioned applications for years with good monitoring and maintenance, but a new report from Vertiv contends they have “traditionally been regarded as the weak link in the critical power chain,” touting high maintenance costs and requiring frequent replacement.
The new report explores how in recent years, lithium-ion batteries have emerged as a “viable alternative” to lead-acid batteries.
And the technology is increasingly being used for UPS applications in mission-critical environments.
Vertiv walks readers through a variety of potential benefits of lithium-ion batteries, including their life expectancy in a stationary application. According to the report, one of the factors helping lithium-ion batteries gain stream is the battery life being multiples of what is possible with lead-acid batteries.
That said, with limited operating data in UPS applications available today, potential users may still question how long lithium-ion systems will actually last.
To work through this question, Vertiv shares, “A lithium-ion battery cell can be tailored to different performance objectives by the manufacturer and one key trade-off is between how fast you can charge or discharge the battery and how much energy it holds.” The full report offers a chart to illustrate the extreme ends of these trade-offs.
Another key element to lithium-ion batteries is how few known conditions can lead them to ignite or release gases if the internal pressure gets too high.
“Knowing these risk conditions and controlling them is the purpose of the battery management system (BMS),” the report states.
The report also touches on a related potential challenge to lithium-ion batteries and their adoption.
New National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) fire standards focused on battery safety “seem to be based on the assumption that lithium-ion battery fires are inevitable and show little awareness of the means battery manufacturers have for making lithium-ion batteries more resilient to abusive operating conditions,” Vertiv asserts.
Again, the report explores in detail the BMS in a lithium-ion system that continuously monitoring numerous operating parameters to help ensure safety.
The report also highlights the logistics of installation, maintenance and disposal of lithium-ion batteries.
Some lithium-ion systems can be shipped mostly assembled, while others require assembly on site.
In general, according to Vertiv, maintenance frequency is lower for lithium-ion batteries compared to lead-acid batteries “because the remote monitoring capabilities of the BMS enable condition-based maintenance and replacement.” As for disposal, lithium-ion batteries are recyclable.
Download the new report from Vertiv explores how lithium-ion batteries have reached a stage of maturity when they can be considered as a viable replacement for lead-acid batteries in UPS applications.