A Lithium-Ion Battery Primer

A Lithium-Ion Battery Primer

Lithium batteries are on a lot of people’s minds these days. Lithium battery technology allows for smaller and lighter battery banks, very low maintenance, greater depth of discharge compared to lead acid batteries, and much longer cycle life. Backwoods Solar has been investigating and testing lithium batteries for several years now and we want to share what we have learned with our readers.

Lithium is the lightest of all elemental metals, has the greatest electrochemical potential and provides the largest specific energy (storage capacity) by weight of any metal. Early tests with lithium discovered inherent instabilities with the lithium metals. Lithium ions replaced the metals and after improvements to stability and safety, experiments using various materials as anodes and cathodes strengthened performance qualities for higher specific energy (capacity), higher specific power (current flow) and longer cycle life. Lithium-ion batteries are currently manufactured using a number of different chemistries to optimize different attributes such as low cost and high capacity.

Lithium Cobalt Oxide (LiCoO2, LCO) is a Li-Ion battery with very high specific energy. This battery type is a popular choice for mobile electronics. It is less stable, has less specific power and shorter life span than other lithium-ion chemistries. NMC Battery ProfileLithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (LiNiMnCoO2, NMC), is one of the most successful Li-ion systems with a cathode combination of nickel-manganese-cobalt. These chemistries can be tailored to provide higher specific energy (capacity) or higher specific power (current). The secret to NMC style batteries is the combination of nickel and manganese. Analogous to table salt, in which sodium and chloride are toxic on their own but can season and preserve food when blended, the nickel and manganese complement each other’s strengths for a more powerful battery. These batteries are typically used in Electric Vehicles and E-bikes. They are generally less stable than other lithium battery systems.

The latest battery chemistry to hit the renewable energy market is Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePo4, LFP). LiFePo4 systems tout more cycles for longer life along with greater stability and safety. This chemistry is shown to create higher specific power (current) than other types of LI-Ion batteries. LiFePo4s have a very flat voltage discharge curve. LiFePO4 batteries are more tolerant to full charge conditions and are less stressed than other Li-Ion systems if kept at high voltage for a prolonged time. LiFePO4 Battery ProfileEven compared to Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (NMC), LiFePo4 batteries have been shown to tolerate somewhat higher charging current and provide more charge/discharge cycles at a lower price point.

All Li-Ion battery systems suffer performance loss in colder temperatures (<40°F) while elevated storage temperature (>85°F) shortens the service life of the battery. LiFePo4 batteries have a somewhat higher self-discharge rate than other Li-ions, however all Li-ion systems have greatly reduced self-discharge rates compared to lead acid batteries. Moisture is detrimental to most Li-Ion cells, but LiFePo4s are especially susceptible to a dramatically decreased life span when subjected to moisture. While most battery cells are sealed from moisture, Backwoods Solar encourages moisture mitigation when using LiFePo4 batteries in damp environments.

Lithium-ion battery technology continues to evolve as new chemical compounds are evaluated in an attempt to increase the performance characteristics of Li-Ion batteries. Backwoods Solar is enthusiastic about recent improvements to LiFePO4 batteries and recommends that everyone looking for a new or replacement battery bank takes a look at lithium batteries and the benefits they provide. With over 40 years of experience, Backwoods Solar can help you find the right battery bank for your renewable energy needs. Call us today at 208-263-4290 or email info@backwoodssolar.com.

*Thanks to the Battery University website (among others) for reference and graphics:

Eclipse 12V Lithium Battery Sale

Backwoods Solar continues to offer 20% off our regular retail price on the remaining stock of Eclipse 12V-100Ah and Eclipse 12V-400Ah Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePo4) batteries through the month of June. That’s a $192 savings on each Eclipse 12V-100Ah battery and a $768 savings on each Eclipse 12V-400Ah battery. This sale is limited to stock on hand so hurry before the deals are gone!

Breaking News: Very Limited Stock Remaining! Order Now!
Eclipse 12V 100Ah LiFePo4 | Backwoods SolarEclipse 12V 400Ah LiFePo4 | Backwoods Solar

Eclipse batteries offer a longer life span with more charging cycles, greater depth of discharge and decreased size and weight over conventional lead acid batteries. The sophisticated Eclipse Battery Management System (BMS) provides active cell management for impressive efficiency and high discharge and recharge rates. Eclipse  batteries do not off-gas so active venting is not required. There is no need to maintain water levels or take hydrometer readings. Eclipse 12V models also include an easy to read State Of Charge (SOC) LCD display. Ease of installation and operation make the Eclipse battery as close to a zero maintenance lithium battery that we have come across.

The Eclipse 12V 100Ah or 400Ah battery is a great "drop-in" replacement for any aging 12 volt battery bank, whether used in an off-grid tiny home, RV or marine installation. Even after 7000 cycles at a 50% Depth Of Discharge (DOD), this battery will still have 80% of it's capacity left. This may be the last battery you'll ever need to buy! (Cycle life will vary based on application and operation).

With over 40 years of experience, Backwoods Solar has the knowledge to help you choose the correct system components for your solar electric system needs. Give Backwoods Solar a call today at 208-263-4290 to speak with one of our system designers.
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Photo Submissions Requested

Have you purchased and installed Heliene solar modules for your residence? If so, Heliene is asking for photo submissions of your residential install for new residential marketing materials they are creating. Heliene is offering a $100 gift card of your choice for any submissions that they use. Contact Backwoods Solar here for details on how to submit your Heliene residential install photos.
Update to Backwoods Solar
Business Operation and Procedures

For the continued health and safety of our customers and staff, Backwoods Solar continues to suspend all walk-in system design consultations and informational visits. As always, Backwoods Solar will continue our top-quality sales and support via phone and email. We're on the phones from 8:30 to 4:30 PDT Monday through Friday.

Local prepaid orders may be picked up at the front garage door of our facility adjacent to the Pack River Store. Please phone us ahead for details on your pre-paid local pick-up.

Backwoods Solar understands that these temporary policies and procedures may be an inconvenience and we regret if that is the case. Please call us at 208-263-4290 or email customerservice@backwoodssolar.com if you have any questions or concerns. 

Backwoods Solar wishes the best of health and safety to our solar energy family and friends and we look forward to resuming normal business operations as soon as possible. We appreciate your understanding during these unprecedented times.

Request a 2020 Planning Guide & Catalog

Our 160-page Planning Guide & Catalog is free and has the information you need to make smart choices in the design of your renewable energy solution. The first 30 pages consist of a planning guide that acts as a road map to help you navigate your path to energy independence. Learn about the design elements of off-grid, grid-tie and critical-load systems, among other topics of interest. Determine appropriate system size with included worksheets and system examples while reviewing over 120 pages of recommended product information in one compact volume.

Click here to request a free catalog today.You may also download a PDF version here.
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