Technical Information LiFePO4 Care Guide: Looking after your lithium batteries

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Technical Information LiFePO4 Care Guide: Looking after your lithium batteries

Technical Information LiFePO4 Care Guide: Looking after your lithium batteries Sep. 25, 2023

Technical Information LiFePO4 Care Guide: Looking after your lithium batteries

Introduction

LiFePO4 chemistry lithium cells have become popular for a range of applications in recent years due to being one of the most robust and long-lasting battery chemistries available. They will last ten years or more if cared for correctly. Please take a moment to read these tips to ensure you get the longest service from your battery investment.

 

Tip 1: Never over charge/discharge a cell!

The most common causes for premature failure of LiFePO4 cells are overcharging and over-discharging. Even a single occurrence can cause permanent damage to the cell, and such misuse voids the warranty. A Battery protection System is required to ensure it is not possible for any cell in your pack to go outside its nominal operating voltage range,
In the case of LiFePO4 chemistry, the absolute maximum is 4.2V per cell, though it is recommended that you charge to 3.5-3.6V per cell, there is less than 1% extra capacity between 3.5V and 4.2V.

Over charging causes heating within a cell and prolonged or extreme overcharging has the potential to cause a fire. EV Works Takes no responsibility for any damages caused as a result of a battery fire.

Over charging may occur as a result of.

Lack of a suitable battery protection system

Faulty of infective battery protection system

incorrect installation of the battery protection system

EV Works takes no responsibility for the choice or use of a battery protection system.

At the other end of the scale, over-discharging can also cause cell damage. The BMS must disconnect the load if any cells are approaching empty (less than 2.5V). Cells may suffer mild damage below 2.0V, but are usually recoverable. However, cells which get driven to negative voltages are damaged beyond recovery.

On 12v batteries the use of a low voltage cutoff takes the place of the BMS by preventing the overall battery voltage going under 11.5v no cell damage should occur. On the other end charging to no more than 14.2v no cell should be overcharged.

Tip 2: Clean your terminals before installation

The terminals on top of the batteries are made from aluminium and copper, which over time builds up an oxide layer when exposed to air. Before installing your cell interconnectors and BMS modules, clean the battery terminals thoroughly with a wire brush to remove oxidation. If using bare copper cell interconnectors, these should be cleaned too. Removing the oxide layer will greatly improve conduction and reduce heat buildup at the terminal. (In extreme cases, heat buildup on terminals due to poor conduction has been known to melt the plastic around the terminals and damage BMS modules!)

Tip 3: Use the right terminal mounting hardware

Winston cells using M8 terminals (90Ah and up) should use 20mm long bolts. Cells with M6 terminals (60Ah and under) should use 15mm bolts. If in doubt, measure the thread depth in your cells and ensure that the bolts will get close to but not hit the bottom of the hole. From top to bottom you should have a spring washer, flat washer then the cell interconnector.

A week or so after installation, check that all your terminal bolts are still tight. Loose terminal bolts can cause high-resistance connections, robbing your EV of power and causing undue heat generation.

 


 

Tip 4: Charge frequently and shallower cycles

With lithium batteries, you will get longer cell life if you avoid very deep discharges. We recommend sticking to 70-80% DoD (Depth of Discharge) maximum except in emergencies.

 

Swollen Cells

Swelling will only occur if a cell has been over-discharged or in some cases overcharged. Swelling does not necessarily mean the cell is no longer usable though it will likely lose some capacity as a result.

Do Lithium Iron Phosphate Batteries Save You Money Over Time?

Do lithium iron phosphate batteries Save You Money Over Time?

Do the higher up-front costs of LFP batteries save you money over time? RELiON’s lithium iron phosphate batteries offer several advantages over lead-acid such as zero maintenance, longer lifespan, and quicker charge time. Because of their long lifetime, you can count on fewer battery replacements. Read more about how we explain the total cost of ownership of a LiFePO4 battery compared to lead-acid technologies, and how this could save you more money in the long run.

Do Lithium Iron Phosphate Batteries Cost More Than Lead- Acid Over Time?

LiFePO4 batteries have a much lower total cost of ownership compared to traditional lead-acid batteries, resulting in enhanced competitiveness and increased profitability. Lithium iron phosphate batteries are sealed units that do not require topping up of electrolyte or periodic acid adjustment, and no equalization charge or cooling periods are required. You simply charge, plugin and you are good to go. Considering lithium batteries last up to 10x longer and require zero maintenance, the money you save on upkeep costs and replacement batteries will make up for the larger upfront cost.

How long will LiFePO4 batteries last?

RELiON lithium iron phosphate batteries can last up to 6000 cycles at 80 percent depth of discharge, without a decrease in performance. The average lifetime of lead-acid batteries is just 500-1000 cycles. By life cycle, we mean the charging, discharging, and recharging of the lead-acid battery. LFP batteries do not require active maintenance to extend their service life. Also, the batteries show no memory effects and due to low self-discharge, you can store them for a longer period. Lead-acid batteries need special maintenance. If not, their life span will decrease even more. In real-world terms, this means a LiFePO4 battery will last you around 10 times longer than a lead-acid battery.

Total Cost Of Ownership: Lithium vs Lead-Acid

The total cost of ownership of each battery was calculated over a single lifecycle of the RELiON RB100 since it has the longest life of all four batteries. Each of the three lead-acid batteries requires multiple replacements over the life of the RELiON 100Ah LiFeP04 battery. For this calculation, we factored in purchase costs, electricity costs, battery maintenance costs, installation, replacement costs, and the cycle life associated with the 3 lead-acid battery types.

 

The table above shows each factor in the overall total cost of ownership for each battery. Based on the specified lifetime of each battery, their retail prices, and maintenance expenses that come with lead-acid, it’s clear the total cost of the RELiON RB100 battery is far less in terms of each cycle and in terms of the overall cost of ownership.

LFP Battery Cost Breakdown

These are the elements that make up the total cost of ownership for LFP batteries:

Retail cost of the battery, which is the largest cost of initial installation.

The cost of the labor needed to install the battery. This should be performed by a professional who in some cases must be scheduled and dispatched to the customer’s site. The labor cost for installing any battery type should be about the same, but with lead-acid batteries, the process must be repeated multiple times, compared to one single installation for the entire life cycle of a RELiON LiFePO4 battery.

The cost to maintain the battery. Lead-acid batteries require maintenance that includes checking and topping off water levels, cleaning acid residue off the battery and terminals, as well as cleaning or replacing nuts, bolts, and cables that have become corroded over time. LFP batteries require no maintenance over the entire life of the battery, making them a more cost-effective solution.

The cost of replacing batteries. Lead-acid batteries will need to be replaced multiple times before a lithium battery will need to be replaced.

Cost of charging. The nominal cost of electricity for charging the battery. It includes the need for overcharging lead-acid batteries to avoid stratification (the accumulation of lead sulfate on the battery’s plates). In our calculations, we assumed a DOD (depth-of-discharge) of 80% on all batteries before recharging was necessary.

Probably the most crucial factor in calculating how much money you can save by switching to lithium batteries is the number of cycles the battery will run until the end of its life. Check out how we compared the RB100 to other battery technologies and the costs associated with them.

How Can Lithium Batteries Save Your Business Money?

If your business operates with the help of electric-powered carts, material handling machines, or commercial cleaning machines, the advantages that come with lithium batteries can save you money in several ways.

Lithium iron phosphate batteries have 100% of their rated capacity available, meaning an LFP battery-powered vehicle can travel 1.5 times longer or further than the same vehicle fitted with a similar capacity lead-acid battery.

An LFP battery also charges up to 5x faster than a lead-acid battery. Additionally, their fast charge and discharge rates cause them to be a great fit for all sorts of applications. Fast charging reduces any downtime and increases efficiency.

Opportunity Charging, in turn, eliminates the need for multiple batteries and battery changeovers, as batteries can be boosted during breaks or idle times. This reduces the risk of any accidents during battery changeovers and eliminates the need for battery bays with forced ventilation and battery attendants, saving money and freeing up valuable space.

LFP batteries are still not the cheapest option on the market, and they do tend to have higher up-front costs than other battery systems. However, LFP batteries last much longer and perform better than lead-acid, saving you or your business money overall. If you want to learn more about how the advantages of RELiON lithium batteries can help benefit you, contact us and we will help you get started.

 

Things You Should Know About LFP Batteries

Lithium Iron Phosphate battery chemistry (also known as LFP or LiFePO4) is an advanced subtype of Lithium Ion battery commonly used in backup battery and Electric Vehicle (EV) applications. They are especially prevalent in the field of solar energy. 

Li-ion batteries of all types — including Lithium Iron Phosphate, Lithium Cobalt Oxide, and Lithium Manganese Oxide — offer vast improvements over traditional lead-acid options. They are lightweight, energy-efficient, and require virtually no maintenance. 

These qualities make LFPs an ideal choice for whole home generators and backup power solutions, but that’s not all there is to know. 

Here’s a quick guide to the most crucial facts about LFP (LiFePO4) batteries.

What Is an LFP (LiFePO4) Battery?

An LFP battery is a type of lithium-ion battery known for its added safety features, high energy density, and extended life span. The LFP batteries found in EcoFlow’s portable power station are quickly becoming the leading choice in off-grid solar systems. 

LiFePO4 first found widespread commercial use in the 1990s. Since then, prices have dropped enough for the average consumer to use the technology in most of their battery-powered devices. LFPs are less prone to fires and thermal runaway when compared to Li-ion batteries. Unlike lithium-ion, Lithium ferrous phosphate batteries are also free of unethically sourced nickel and cobalt, making it the go-to choice for many energy storage applications.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of LFP Batteries?

Advantages

Enhanced Safety: Compared to Li-ion and lead-acid battery chemistries, LiFePO4 is a much safer technology. Standard Lithium-ion batteries are prone to overheating and thermal runaway, issues that raise safety concerns for energy storage. LFPs don’t have the same risks. They also don’t have off-gassing issues like lead-acid batteries and are suitable for in-home use.

Longer Lifespan: LFPs are usually rated for over 2,500-5,000 cycles before their performance degrades to 80% of the original capacity. Lead acid batteries are only rated for around 300-500 cycles, which leads to frequent replacements and added costs. Some batteries, like the LFP in the EcoFlow DELTA Pro Portable Power Station, have an even longer lifespan, lasting 6500 cycles before reaching 50% of their original capacity.

High Energy Density: LFPs pack a lot of power into a small space. Compared to lead-acid storage solutions, they’re around 50% smaller and lighter. 

Temperature Range: LiFePO4 offers a wide optimal temperature range. They can operate well at temperatures between -4°F (-20°C) and 140°F (60°C). 

Compatible with Solar Charging: LFPs in modern portable power stations, such as the EcoFlow RIVER 2 Series, combine the benefits of LiFePO4 power storage with clean, renewable solar energy. Just connect a solar panel to harness the power of the sun.

Disadvantages

Higher Initial Costs: LFPs have a higher initial cost than lead-acid and less advanced Lithium Ion batteries. That said, their lifespan is much longer than other battery technologies, so they need less frequent replacement. An LFP battery can stay in service for over ten years in optimal conditions.

Lower Efficiency at Extreme Temperatures: If used in extreme temperatures (below freezing or high heat), the performance of your LFP may begin to degrade. However, this is true for all batteries. They’ll be slower to charge and may have trouble providing their full power when subjected to extreme weather. It’s best to practice battery storage safety to avoid battery hazards for energy storage systems. That means keeping your batteries in a sheltered, dry, cool place like a garage or shed. 

Lower Voltage: LFPs have a lower nominal voltage (typically 3.2V per cell) than other Li-ion battery chemistries. It means they require more cells to achieve the same voltage as other batteries, making them more complex to design and manufacture. However, their longer lifespan and greater efficiency typically offset marginally lower density.

Applications of LFP Batteries

Solar and Energy Storage Systems

LiFePO4 batteries are well-known for their use in modern solar energy storage systems. As the price of lithium-based battery technology has come down, they have almost completely replaced lead-acid batteries for this application. 

Portable power stations like EcoFlow’s DELTA series are examples of energy storage systems that utilize LFPs. They’re lightweight, long-lived, and safe to operate indoors. Depending on the power station, you can add solar panels plus a DELTA Pro Smart Extra Battery or DELTA Max Smart Extra Battery to upgrade a standard power station into a whole-home backup solar generator. 

Plug-and-play battery systems — such as the EcoFlow Power Kits — integrate with existing wiring and also use LFPs. They’re suitable for off-grid builds in RVs, vans, campers, and tiny homes. Users can store solar panel produced electricity in LiFePO4 batteries and expand storage capacity by adding more batteries.

Even smaller storage systems can use LFPs. Compact options like the RIVER 2 Series offer lightweight power on the go that won’t weigh you down.

UPS Systems

A UPS, or Uninterruptible Power Supply system, is an electrical device that provides emergency power to essential devices when the grid fails. The main application of UPS systems is to protect equipment such as computers, servers, and other critical systems from power outages, surges, and other electrical disturbances.

LFP batteries are increasingly popular in UPS systems due to their high energy density, longer cycle life, and safety features.

Compared to traditional lead-acid batteries in UPS systems, LFP batteries are more efficient and reliable, providing a more stable power supply with fewer maintenance requirements. They also have faster charge and discharge rates, making them ideal for UPS backup power systems.

Electric Vehicles

LFP batteries are increasingly popular in electric vehicles (EVs). They’re ideal for EV systems for the same reasons as other power systems — long lifespan, high energy density, and safety.

In EVs, LFP batteries are typically the primary power source, providing energy to the electric motor that drives the vehicle. The batteries are usually arranged in a pack to supply the required voltage and capacity. The size and number of batteries vary depending on the vehicle’s specific requirements, such as range and power output.

One of the benefits of LFP batteries in EVs is their ability to deliver the high power output necessary for acceleration and optimal performance. LFPs are highly efficient — meaning they can store and release energy with minimal self-discharge — helping to extend the vehicle’s range.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does LFP Mean in Batteries?

LFP is an abbreviation for lithium ferrous phosphate or lithium iron phosphate, a lithium-ion battery technology popular in solar, off-grid, and other energy storage applications. Also known as LiFePO4 or Lithium iron phosphate, these batteries are known for their safety, long lifespan, and high energy density.

Are LFP Batteries Better Than Lithium-ion?

LFP batteries provide numerous advantages over lithium-ion technologies like Lithium Cobalt Oxide (LCO) and Lithium Manganese Oxide (LMO). The benefits of LFP batteries included enhanced safety, a longer lifespan, and a wider operating temperature range. They’re also less prone to fires and thermal runaway.

What Is the Downside of LFP Batteries?

Potential downsides of LFP batteries include a higher cost and lower voltage than comparable batteries. The technology’s price has decreased in recent years with the widespread adoption of LFP batteries. LFP batteries usually operate at a lower voltage, making them less suitable for large commercial applications. But their long lifespan makes them ideal for residential solar applications.

Final Thoughts

Lithium iron phosphate batteries provide clear advantages over other battery types, especially when used as storage for renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines. 

LFP batteries make the most of off-grid energy storage systems. When combined with solar panels, they offer a renewable off-grid energy solution.

EcoFlow is a leading off-grid electricity manufacturer that utilizes cutting LiFePO4 batteries. 

Check out our website today to find out how we’re making renewable energy more accessible to people worldwide. 

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