In this blog, we highlight all of the reasons why lithium iron phosphate batteries (LFP batteries) are the best choice available for so many rechargeable applications, and why DTG uses LFP battery technology in the MPower battery systems that power our mobile workstations.
A Brief History of Lithium Battery Technology
In the 1970s, as oil prices rose sharply around the world, top scientists were working to develop rechargeable batteries that could power the next generation of sustainable technologies, help commercial organizations lower their energy costs, and reduce human dependence on fossil fuels.
One of those scientists was M. Stanley Whittingham, a British-American chemist who invented the first rechargeable lithium metal battery in 1977. The development of lithium batteries continued with Japanese chemist Akira Yoshino, who expanded on Whittingham’s work and created the first commercially viable lithium-ion battery in 1983.
Since then, scientists have learned to produce different types of lithium-ion batteries by changing the chemical composition of the cathode. The six most common types of battery chemistry in lithium-ion rechargeables today are:
- Lithium Cobalt Oxide (LCO)
- Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP)
- Lithium Manganese Oxide (LMO)
- Lithium Nickel Cobalt Aluminum Oxide (NCA)
- Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (NMC)
- Lithium Titanium Oxide (LTO)
Each type of lithium-ion battery has unique advantages and drawbacks, but there’s one battery type that stands out in a variety of use cases, thanks to its excellent life span, low environmental toxicity and production costs, high energy density, industry-leading safety profile, and overall performance: the Lithium-Iron-Phosphate, or LFP battery.
What are Lithium Iron Phosphate Batteries?
Lithium iron phosphate batteries (most commonly known as LFP batteries) are a type of rechargeable lithium-ion battery made with a graphite anode and lithium-iron-phosphate as the cathode material.
The first LFP battery was invented by John B. Goodenough and Akshaya Padhi at the University of Texas in 1996. Since then, the favorable properties of these batteries (e.g. safety characteristics, long cycle life, low environmental toxicity, etc.) have made this LFP battery chemistry the top choice for a variety of use cases including home energy storage systems, electric vehicles, and battery-powered mobile workstations.
LFP batteries have had such an impact that the three scientists whose collective efforts made the technology possible (Goodenough, Whittingham, and Yoshino) were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2019 for their work in the development of lithium-ion batteries.
6 Reasons Why LFP Batteries are the Best
Many different types of lithium-ion batteries have been discovered in the past 30 years, but LFP batteries stand out among the rest due to their unique combination of safety, sustainability, and performance.
Here are six reasons why LFP batteries are at the forefront of battery technology:
1. Performance and Efficiency
LFP batteries outperform other lithium-ion battery chemistries across a range of metrics:
- Energy Density – LFP batteries can store and deliver more energy relative to their size than many other types of rechargeable batteries.
- Long Cycle Life – A battery’s cycle life is the number of charge/discharge cycles it can complete before its performance declines. While long-lasting alternatives like NiCd, LCO, and NMC batteries rarely last more than 1,000 cycles, LFP batteries are extremely long-lasting with a useful life of 10,000 charge/discharge cycles under optimal conditions.
- Fast Charging Capabilities – Another great performance feature of LFP batteries is their ability to fast-charge from fully discharged to 100% charged in less than an hour. That’s at least four times faster than LCO batteries, which can take between 2-4 hours to charge completely.
- Low Self-Discharge – Self-discharge is a chemical reaction that depletes energy storage while a battery is not in use. While other types of rechargeables can lose 15-30% of their charge per month while in storage, LFP batteries self-discharge just 2% of their charge every month. Some lose even less of their charge when in hibernation mode. LFP batteries can hold a charge for a very long time, even while not in use.
2. High Energy Density
Energy density measures how much power can be stored in a battery relative to its size or weight. A higher energy density means that we’re able to deliver a longer supply of power in a smaller package that’s lightweight and easier to handle.
With an energy density between 90-120 Wh/kg, LFP batteries outperform many other types of rechargeable batteries, including lead-acid batteries (30-50Wh/kg), Nickel-Cadmium batteries (45-80Wh/kg), Nickel Metal Hydride batteries (60-120Wh/kg), and LTO batteries (50-80Wh/kg).
The high energy density of LFP batteries allows manufacturers to develop high-capacity, lightweight power systems that are more ergonomic and easier to manage than battery systems made with other chemistries.
3. Ultra-Safe Battery Chemistry
The LFP technology built into our MPower battery systems offers a high level of chemical and thermal stability, making LFP batteries much safer to own, operate, and store when compared to other lithium-ion batteries.
Some lithium-ion batteries can overheat while charging, creating a fire hazard. But the inherent structural stability of LFP results in less heat generation than other battery chemistries. During overcharge, an LFP battery generates ~5% of the heat that a lithium-ion cobalt (LCO) battery would under the same conditions. In fact, LFP batteries are incombustible and won’t decompose unless exposed to high temperatures above 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
The cathodes in LFP batteries also have stronger chemical bonds than those found in LCO or lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt-Oxide (NMC) batteries. This property means that LFP batteries are better at keeping their physical structure under overcharge or short-circuit conditions, while an LCO or NMC battery under the same conditions would overheat, initiate a thermal runaway feed-forward loop, and possibly catch fire.
4. Environmental Safety & Sustainability
LFP batteries have excellent environmental safety and sustainability characteristics compared to other types of lithium-ion batteries.
We’ve already mentioned that LFP batteries are rechargeable with 10,000 charge cycles of usable life span, which means you can store and deliver a lot of power without generating much waste. LFP batteries are also non-toxic (unlike LCO and NMC batteries which contain Cobalt) and won’t leak harmful chemicals into the environment.
At the end of its usable life cycle, a spent LFP battery can be recycled to recover valued materials like lithium, phosphorus, and graphite, and divert the remaining waste away from landfill and into industrial manufacturing.
5. Ethical Material Sourcing
Human rights advocates have raised concerns about how materials are sourced for lithium-ion batteries, especially the LCO, NMC, and NCA types that contain Cobalt.
More than 50% of the world’s Cobalt reserves are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where “freelance miners” (including child laborers, victims of human trafficking, and other exploited workers) are paid just one or two dollars a day to harvest the toxic metal in conditions akin to modern slavery.
Cobalt mining is accelerating deforestation throughout the DRC, and Cobalt miners work long hours in dangerous conditions, use low-quality improvised tools, and have no equipment (e.g. gloves, masks, etc.) to protect them from touching or inhaling fumes from the toxic Cobalt.
In contrast, the materials needed to produce LFP batteries – iron ore and phosphate rock – are abundant in the Earth’s crust and can be acquired from ethical suppliers who maintain high safety standards, treat workers fairly, and don’t use child labor.
LFP batteries are cheaper to produce and more affordable to purchase than other types of lithium-ion batteries. While the elements needed to produce LFP cathodes (Iron and Phosphate) are relatively abundant in the Earth’s crust, the precious metals found in lithium-ion batteries with other chemistries (e.g. Nickel, Cobalt, Titanium) are less abundant and considerably more expensive.
In today’s metal commodities market, one ton of Cobalt costs ~300 times as much as a ton of 62% iron ore, and a ton of Nickel costs ~60 times as much as the same amount of Phosphate rock.
3 Applications for LFP Batteries in 2023
1. Home Energy Storage Systems
Home energy storage systems are used to trap and retain the excess energy collected from solar panels, wind turbines, and other renewable energy sources. LFP battery systems are the ideal choice for home energy storage, thanks to their low cost, long life span, and excellent safety characteristics.
2. Electric Vehicles
Electric vehicles (EVs) are powered by large banks of lithium-ion batteries that deplete as the car is driven and can be recharged by plugging into an electric vehicle charging station.
NMC batteries have been a popular choice for EV manufacturers in the past, but the affordability, stability, energy density, and long life span of LFP batteries is leading EV manufacturers to integrate LFP battery systems into their products. The high capacity of LFP batteries translates into a longer driving range on a full charge, while the LFP fast-charging capabilities make it faster and more convenient to recharge EV batteries.
Nearly 50% of newly released Tesla vehicles are powered by LFP battery systems, and Ford is building an LFP battery plant in Michigan that will supply battery systems for its electric vehicles by 2026.
3. Battery-powered Mobile Workstations
Battery-powered mobile workstations are deployed in a variety of commercial applications, including warehousing, concessions, retail, industrial manufacturing, and healthcare. Mobile workstations bring people and technology to the point of task, eliminating wasted steps and giving workers the flexibility they need to maximize the efficiency of any job.
At DTG, our ergonomic and versatile mobile workstations are powered by MPower Battery Systems using LFP battery chemistry. With LFP battery technology, we’re delivering ultra-safe and sustainable battery systems that can power your electronics for up to 24 hours, recharge to 100% capacity in under two hours, and last for 10,000 charge cycles.
MPower battery systems also offer hot-swapping capabilities so you can achieve 100% uptime by switching battery packs without turning off your machines.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about LFP Batteries
Are LFP Batteries Safe?
LFP batteries are the safest lithium-ion rechargeable batteries due to their chemical stability and low heat production. They are also non-toxic.
Are LFP Batteries Flammable?
LFP batteries are incombustible and don’t experience thermal runaway like other kinds of lithium-ion batteries.
How to Store LFP Batteries?
LFP batteries should be stored in a dry area at room temperature. LFP batteries in storage self-discharge 2% of their charge per month. To avoid damage from over-discharge, you should always charge LFP batteries before storing them.
How Long Do LFP Batteries Last?
The LFP batteries powering our mobile computer carts can run for up to 24 hours depending on your configuration. After depletion, it takes just 2 hours to recharge these batteries to 100% capacity. This cycle can be repeated 10,000 times before performance degrades.
Can LFP Batteries be Connected in Series?
Yes. Connecting LFP batteries in series creates a battery bank with increased voltage that can be used to power larger devices.
Can LFP Batteries be Connected in Parallel?
Yes. Connecting LFP batteries in parallel creates a higher-capacity battery system that can provide more runtime before needing to be recharged.
DTG’s MPower Battery Systems Use LFP Battery Technology
At DTG, we build battery-powered mobile workstations for the most demanding professional environments. That’s why we rely on the exceptional performance, safety, and sustainability of LFP battery chemistry for our industry-leading MPower battery systems.
LFP batteries provide greater energy density than most other rechargeable battery types with double the lifespan of the next-best lithium-ion battery. They charge quickly, self-discharge slowly, and can provide hours of runtime between charges. Finally, LFP batteries are made from inexpensive, non-toxic materials with an inherently stable chemical structure, making them more sustainable, affordable, and safer than other lithium-ion batteries.
Ready to learn more?
Contact us to request a demo and learn more about mobilizing your business with battery-powered workstations and our safe, sustainable LFP battery systems.