Need A Lithium Or Lead Acid Battery? 6 Things To Consider

Posted May 18, 2015

Relion-Blog-Need-A-Lithium-Or-Lead-Acid-Battery-6-Things-To-Consider.jpg#asset:1315A good battery is more than just a power supply; it’s an investment. Choose the right battery for the job to get more out of your shiny new application. 

Lithium and lead acid batteries are the two most popular options for consumers. While many people are familiar with lead acid – the traditional battery design – lithium’s popularity is more recent, with mobile technology and electric vehicles spurring market growth. Now, consumers are looking at a wider range of lithium applications: everything from medical technology to personal watercraft. 

If you’re in the market for a battery, consider these six important usage, safety and performance factors. Then, weigh lithium vs. lead acid and determine which solution best matches your chosen application. 

1) Life Span And Cost

First, assess your application’s longevity. If you’re powering technology that only lasts a year, don’t pay a premium for battery life span. Lithium batteries typically perform better than lead acid in the long term and require fewer replacements, but command a higher upfront cost. 

Accordingly, if you need a short-term solution, think about the cheaper, lead acid alternative. Conversely, if you need to power an application over several years and don’t want performance to suffer, lithium is the way to go. 

2) Maintenance And Disposal

Lead acid batteries require considerable maintenance. Users need to ensure the batteries are sufficiently filled with water to avoid costly structural damage and reduce fire risk. Lithium batteries typically require no maintenance, as they don’t need water to operate. If you’re able to check and adjust water levels and want to reduce costs, choose lead acid. If you’re unable (or unwilling) to check in on your system routinely, lithium is your solution. 

If you’re environmentally conscious and want to minimize your battery’s footprint after disposal, select lithium. As the name implies, lead acid batteries are filled with corrosive compounds that harm the environment when handled improperly. 

3) Performance

You should consider performance factors when shopping for your battery. 

Start by considering capacity. How much raw power do you need between charges? If you’re powering a small application over a short period, your capacity needs are small. On the other hand, if you’re taking a watercraft down the coast, you’ll want big capacity and infrequent charging sessions. While lead acid and lithium batteries are both suitable for different capacity needs, keep in mind that lithium loses less power to natural discharge, improving efficiency. 

Also think about deep cycling. Lead acid batteries’ performance suffers as charge decreases, while lithium maintains performance until near the point of exhaustion. As a result, lithium batteries excel at expending energy until close to empty and then charging to full (i.e., deep cycling). 

4) Safety

No battery is completely problem-free. However, most rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are designed to rupture and release energy when overloading or chemical instability occurs, mitigating risk. Lead acid batteries rarely include sophisticated safeguards and carry a higher fire and explosion risk (especially when water levels are low). 

5) Charging

Finally, weigh your application’s charging needs against potential power sources. Some systems, such as solar panel installations, favor lithium or lead-acid batteries given the rate of charge, maintenance requirements or other factors. Carefully review your application’s specifications and try to determine if lithium or lead acid provides better storage. If you’re unsure, consider talking to a provider able to help you arrive at your system’s optimal solution. 

The bottom line is that while several applications use low-cost lead acid batteries effectively, lithium batteries generally provide better long-term benefits. Carefully weigh your needs, factor your budget and make the choice that’s right for you.