Choosing Between Lithium vs. Lead Acid Batteries? Read this First.
When electronic systems aren’t powered by electricity, they most likely run on batteries, but not all batteries are created equal. There are huge differences between lithium and lead acid that can be a game changer in how your business operates. For the last few decades, sealed lead acid batteries, or SLAs, were considered the most viable battery solution for powering systems such as kiosks, mobile workstations, and more.
Today, IT decision makers in warehouses and healthcare settings are pondering the difference between lithium (LiFePO4) batteries and SLAs, especially in terms of lifespan and safety. Weighing the pros and cons will help you make the best choice of battery that will give you the reliability you need to power your systems.
SLA Batteries Pros and Cons
Sealed lead acid batteries, which have been around since the 1800s, are perhaps the oldest type of battery design available. Despite the introduction of newer battery technologies, SLA batteries remain quite popular, accounting for about 40% of batteries sold globally. The main argument favoring the SLA is that it offers substantial benefits at a low cost. For example, a Group 31 size deep cycle SLA battery will cost $150-$300, depending on the type and quality.
Built to handle a lot of abuse, they’re especially favored in automotive applications where vibration can be a serious problem. In addition to their durability and affordability, they’re readily available; you can find a lead-acid battery just about anywhere you purchase auto parts.
Although they offer several advantages, SLA batteries have a few undeniable disadvantages. First and foremost, SLA batteries are heavy, compared to lithium batteries. Lead-acid batteries have a low energy-to-weight ratio, making the equipment they power even heavier. They also have a shorter cycle life than lithium batteries (about 1-3 years), especially when they’re deeply discharged. Discharging deep-cycle lead-acid batteries below 20% (and sometimes 50%) permanently reduces the battery’s capacity.
There are also concerns about gas discharge and acid leakage, which, although rare on newer maintenance-free batteries, can still pose a safety risk. Further, high-current load rapidly diminishes rated capacity. Most deep-cycle lead acid batteries are designed for slow, steady discharge over 20+ hours. If the timeframe is reduced, the capacity rating drops.
Lithium Batteries Pros and Cons
The lithium iron phosphate battery, invented in 1996, is also a popular choice due to its durability and stability. These batteries strike a good balance between energy storage and lifespan, and for that reason, you can depend on them for years. In contrast to SLA batteries, lithium batteries have a lifespan ten times longer, dramatically reducing the need for battery changes. They are also significantly lighter, weighing in at about ¼ less than SLAs and can operate with much lower resistance and they recharge faster.
With a longer life cycle, lithium batteries can last over 1,000 to 3,000 charge and discharge cycles, compared to 200-1000 cycles for similarly sized SLA batteries. Lithium batteries are also less susceptible to problems caused by depth of discharge. A lithium battery’s charge can drop to 20% without any long-term damage, whereas most SLA batteries lose cycle life capacity if they discharge more than 50%. Also, lithium batteries are applauded for their environmental friendliness and safety. The odds of a “thermal runaway” (battery fire) are very low, making for safe and secure operation.
While lithium batteries clearly have many positive qualities, no battery is perfect. Two drawbacks are that lithium batteries are costly and can be relatively hard to find. In many cases, LiFePO4 batteries must be purchased online. They are also susceptible to damage via overcharging. For this reason, it’s important to use a charging system that’s designed for lithium batteries to maximize their lifespan.
Total Cost of Ownership: Lithium Batteries Come Out on Top
Although lithium batteries are 3-10 times more costly than lead-acid batteries, — a 100ah or 125ah Group 21 size lithium battery costs between $1,000 and $3,000+ – but they’re more cost-effective overall. The short lifespan of SLA batteries requires you to replace them every few years, quickly adding up the cost of one premium lithium battery. Over eight years, you might end up buying four lead acids batteries to do the same job that one lithium battery does.
Even if lithium batteries seem beyond your budget at first glance, it’s crucial to consider what your needs are for powering your equipment over time. With their long lifespan and lower total cost of ownership, lithium batteries will serve your needs more efficiently and power your electronic systems with reliability compared to SLAs.
Are you looking to replace your aging batteries with lithium batteries? We offer an industry-leading five-year warranty. To learn more, contact our team of experts at DTG today.