Let’s compare and contrast the features of a lead-acid battery and a lithium-ion battery in this blog.
In many applications, lead-acid batteries were the norm until the development of lithium-ion batteries in the 1970s. Due to their increased durability, lithium-ion batteries are starting to outpace lead-acid batteries in the market.
While lithium-ion batteries are more effective and efficient, lead-acid batteries are typically less expensive. Lead acid is a tried-and-true technology that costs less, but requires regular maintenance and doesn’t last as long. Lithium is a premium battery technology with a longer lifespan and higher efficiency, but you’ll pay more money for the boost in performance.
We will contrast lead-acid batteries with lithium-ion batteries — which are the two main lead acid battery types used for solar. We have compared Alkaline Battery and Lead Acid Battery, Gel Battery Vs Lead Acid Battery, and AGM Battery Vs. Lead-Acid Battery before.
Lithium-ion Vs. Lead Acid Batteries Overview
For solar energy systems, battery storage is a feature that is increasingly in demand. Lead acid and lithium-ion are two of the most popular battery chemistry types. Lead-acid batteries are made with the metal lead, while lithium-ion batteries are made with the metal lithium, as their names would suggest.
How Do Lithium-ion and Lead Acid Batteries Work?
Both batteries function by electrochemically storing a charge and releasing electrons. Positive and negative ions from the lithium material are discharged between electrodes in lithium-ion batteries to operate. Similar principles are used to make lead-acid batteries, but the substance is different.
- Can You Mix Lead-acid and Lithium Batteries?
- How Do Lead-acid Batteries Work?
- Can Lead-acid Batteries Explode?
- Can Lead-acid Batteries Be Recycled?
- How to Fill Lead Acid Battery? Lead Acid Battery Watering Tips
- Lead Acid Battery Care: How to Maintain Lead Acid Battery?
Lead-Acid Vs Lithium-Ion Batteries
Lead acid and lithium-ion batteries both have effective energy storage capabilities, but each has particular benefits and drawbacks. Here are some important comparison points to consider when deciding on a battery type:
The Materials Used
Both Lithium-ion and Lead-acid batteries work on the same principle. The substance used as the cathode, anode, and electrolyte is where the primary difference can be found. Lead serves as the anode and lead oxide serves as the cathode in a lead-acid battery. The anode (carbon) and cathode (lithium oxide) in a lithium-ion battery are both made of these materials.
Li-ion batteries use lithium salt as an electrolyte, whereas lead-acid batteries use sulfuric acid. Ions move through the electrolyte from anode to cathode during discharge, and vice versa during charging.
Compared to lithium-ion batteries, lead-acid batteries are less expensive and simpler to install. A lithium-ion battery costs twice as much as a lead-acid battery of equal capacity.
In contrast, a lithium-ion battery has a longer lifespan than a lead-acid battery. Therefore, lead-acid batteries are more affordable than lithium-ion batteries only for short-term uses.
The amount of energy that can be stored in a battery per unit volume is known as battery capacity. It provides a clear indication of the battery’s stored active material. The battery capacity of lithium batteries is greater than that of lead-acid batteries.
Energy Density Or Specific Energy
The kind of battery required for a given application depends heavily on energy density. It displays the relationship between battery capacity and battery weight.
Weight of Battery = (Nominal Battery Voltage (V) x Rated Battery Capacity (Ah)) / 2. When compared to lead-acid batteries, lithium batteries have a high specific energy. So, EV applications use Li-ion batteries.
Weight and Size
In comparison to lead-acid batteries, lithium batteries have higher energy densities and battery capacities. Lithium batteries are therefore much lighter and smaller than lead-acid batteries of the same capacity.
We have introduced many types of lead acid batteries before:
- AGM Battery
- Gel Battery
- Lead Acid Solar Battery
- Flooded Lead Acid Battery
- Sealed Lead Acid Battery
- Valve Regulated Lead Acid (VRLA) Battery
- Deep Cycle Lead Acid Battery
A lead-acid battery can take up to 10 hours to charge, whereas a lithium-ion battery can charge in 3 hours or even less time, depending on the size of the battery. Lead-acid batteries take longer to charge than lithium-ion batteries because the former can handle higher current rates. How Do You Charge a Lead-acid Battery?
This is essential in applications that require quick responses and involve heavily used vehicles with infrequent breaks. The fleet owner of a terminal tractor must quickly charge the battery during breaks in order to load the ship because every minute the ship is docked at the port has an impact on the fleet owner’s bottom line.
Depth of Discharge
The amount of a battery that can be safely discharged without causing harm is known as the depth of discharge. Lithium-ion batteries can typically be discharged to 85% or more of their total capacity in a single cycle, but lead acid batteries should not be discharged past 50% because doing so shortens their lifespan.
The superior depth of discharge possible with lithium-ion technology means that lithium-ion batteries have an even higher effective capacity than lead acid options, especially considering the higher energy density in lithium-ion technology mentioned above.
Batteries’ efficiency is a crucial factor to take into account when contrasting various options, just like the efficiency of solar panels. Most lithium-ion batteries have an efficiency of 95 percent or higher, which means that 95 percent or more of the energy they store can actually be put to use.
Lead acid batteries, on the other hand, experience efficiencies closer to 80 to 85 percent. In a manner similar to the depth of discharge, batteries with higher efficiency charge more quickly and have a larger effective battery capacity.
In that they deteriorate over time and lose efficiency as they get older, batteries and solar panels share some similarities. Discharging a battery to power your home or appliances and then recharging it with solar energy or the grid counts as one “cycle”. Read How Long Do Lead-acid Batteries Last?
Lithium-ion batteries typically last for several times as many cycles as lead acid batteries, with numbers varying from study to study. This results in a longer useful lifespan for lithium-ion products.
When Should You Install a Lead Acid Battery Vs. a Lithium-ion Battery?
Both lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries are viable options if you require a battery backup system. Nevertheless, installing a lithium-ion battery is typically the right choice given the many benefits of the technology, including a longer lifespan, higher efficiencies, and a higher energy density. Lithium-ion batteries are typically more valuable than lead-acid alternatives, despite having higher initial costs.
In a scenario with an off-grid solar installation that isn’t used frequently, lead-acid batteries might be a better option. For instance, maintaining a lead-acid battery on a boat or RV as a backup power source that is only used once or twice a month is less expensive than using a lithium-ion battery, and because of the lower usage rate, you will avoid many of the disadvantages of lead-acid technology, such as their shorter lifespan.
Risks and Challenges
Both battery types, though, conceal hazards when in use. For example, in both lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries, overcharging may lead to an explosion. Additionally, there is a chance of leakage and the lead-acid battery’s sulfuric acid is very corrosive. An explosion could result from the evolution of hydrogen and oxygen gases under excessive charge.
Thermal runaway has a high probability of occurring in lithium-ion batteries. When the heat generated inside the battery is greater than the heat dissipated to the surroundings, thermal runaway is the result. A battery explosion could also be brought on by the thermal runaway.
Regulations generally call for the use of batteries on board for emergency situations. The choice of battery to be used in order to meet the requirements is made by ship operators. In any case, there should be effective planning and assessment taking into account Safety, Purpose of Use, Support, Performance, and Cost while weighing all factors related to battery use.
Conclusion: Lead Acid Battery Vs Lithium-ion
Over the course of ownership, the costs of lithium and lead-acid batteries are comparable, but the initial cost of lithium is significantly higher. Unless you regularly use your system, we wouldn’t advise it.
Cold climates are the only environment where lead acid batteries outperform lithium-ion batteries. Storage capacity can be significantly reduced by low temperatures, and beyond. The lithium-ion batteries are not sensitive to capacity reduction however they may face problems recharging in sub-zero temperatures.
Do Lead-acid Batteries Last Longer Than Lithium-ion?
Lithium-ion batteries last 3-4 times longer than lead-acid batteries, without losing effectiveness over time.
Why Are Lead-acid Batteries Better Than Lithium?
Lead-acid batteries are cheaper and easier to install when compared to Lithium-ion batteries. A lithium-ion battery costs twice as much as a lead-acid battery of equivalent capacity. Lithium-ion batteries, however, have a longer lifespan than lead-acid batteries when compared.
Can Lead-acid Battery Last for 10 Years?
Sealed lead acid batteries can have a design life of anywhere from 3 – 5 years all the way up to 12+ years depending on the manufacturing process of the battery.