The introduction of lithium batteries has been one of the most critical steps in the evolution of battery technology. Lithium batteries provide the opportunity to replace big bulky, leaky lead-acid batteries with compact Li-ion battery systems with significantly better capacity.
The lithium-ion battery industry has dominated over traditional options, such as lead-acid batteries. In fact, lithium battery technology is so popular that many different types of lithium batteries are available on the market for all applications and needs.
In this article, we will compare different types of lithium batteries, their advantages, disadvantages, and uses.
What is a Lithium Battery?
Lithium batteries are rechargeable batteries that create electric current due to the movement of lithium ions between the cathode material (negative electrode) and the anode material (positive electrode).
The materials used in a lithium-ion battery are lithium-based compounds for the anode and usually a graphite carbon cathode. The electrodes are separated by an electrolyte which varies based on the particular type of lithium battery technology.
The lithium ions move from the cathode to the anode during the charging process. During discharging of the lithium-ion battery, the lithium ions move from the anode to the cathode.
What Are the Different Types of Lithium Batteries?
Lithium-ion battery types differ based on the lithium compound used in the anode electrode. There are six different types of lithium batteries:
Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4 or LFP)
LFP batteries have Lithium Ferrous Phosphate (LiFePO4) as the anode material, and this is one of the most widely adopted battery technologies nowadays. The anode is made of Lithium Iron Phosphate, one of the most stable and non-toxic lithium compounds.
It results in greater thermal stability in fully charged conditions. Whereas other lithium-ion battery types tend to exhibit thermal runaway in these conditions.
Characteristics of LFP Batteries
- Nominal Voltage: 3.2V-3.3V
- Operating Voltage: 2.5V-3.65V
- Cycle Life: 2500
- Thermal Stability: up to 270°C
- Charge Rate (C-Rate): 1C, typically charges to 3.65V in 3 hours
- Discharge Rate (C-Rate): 1C, can be 25C in certain cells, cutoff varies between 2-2.5V
- Specific Energy: 90Wh/kg to 120 Wh/kg
- Longer cycle life: three to five times longer than other types of lithium batteries.
- High-quality cells: an Eco Tree Lithium battery gives you a minimum warranty of six years. With proper use, it is guaranteed that your LFP battery will last at least that long.
- Made with a very stable compound of phosphate and iron. No risk of explosions or the release of toxic gases.
- Wide operating range – an impressive Depth of Discharge (DoD) of about 98%-100% eliminates the danger that the battery will get damaged if discharged fully, unlike other lithium-ion batteries.
- High thermal stability: LFP is the most stable battery chemistry across the entire temperature range and is guaranteed to operate safely in any application.
Disadvantages of LFP batteries
- There are no particular disadvantages to LFP batteries. Some people consider the higher cost as a negative factor. However, when you evaluate the initial cost over the entire battery life cycle, LFP gives the best value for money.
Applications of LFP Batteries
- Electric vehicles
- Solar panels
- Motorhomes and caravans
- Marine batteries
- Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS)
Lithium Cobalt Oxide (LiCoO2 or LCO) Batteries
A Lithium Cobalt Oxide battery contains a Lithium Cobalt Oxide cathode and a graphite carbon anode. The unique selling point of lithium cobalt oxide batteries is their high energy density, which makes them the best choice for some particular applications with this requirement.
LCO batteries have a significantly low specific power. This means there is a limitation to their load capability, making them unsuitable for applications such as electric vehicles.
Characteristics of LCO Batteries
- Nominal Voltage: 3.6V
- Operating Voltage: 3V-4.2V
- Cycle Life: 500 to 1000 cycles
- Thermal Stability: up to 150°C. Fully charging or overcharging increases the possibility of thermal instability.
- Charge Rate (C-Rate): 0.7-1C, typically charges to 4.2V in 3 hours
- Discharge Rate (C-Rate): 1C, cutoff at 2.5V. A higher discharge current will lead to a shorter cycle life.
- Specific Energy: 150 Wh/kg to 200 Wh/kg
Advantages of LCO Batteries
- The high energy density of LCO batteries makes them useful in situations where size is a factor. LCO batteries provide a very high output considering their small size – ideal for portable electronic devices such as mobile phones, tablets, and similar devices.
Disadvantages of LCO Batteries
- LCO batteries have a low lifespan. A typical LCO battery has 1/3 -1/4 the battery life of an equivalent LFP battery.
- LCO batteries are not thermally stable, and this means that using these batteries at a high operating temperature is very dangerous.
Applications of LCO Batteries
- Digital cameras
- Laptop computers
- And other portable electronic devices
Lithium Manganese Oxide (LiMn2O4 or LMO) Batteries
In LMO batteries, the cathode is made of Lithium Manganese Oxide (LiMn2O4). This results in a three-dimensional spinel structure, enabling a better movement of lithium ions. This structure also makes it thermally more stable and safer. But it lowers the life span of the battery.
Lithium manganese oxide batteries have design flexibility and can be modified by adding other materials to improve their chemical properties. The specific energy of these batteries is low.
Characteristics of LMO Batteries
- Nominal Voltage: 3.7V
- Operating Voltage: 3V to 4.2V
- Cycle Life: 300 to 800 cycles
- Thermal stability: up to 250 °C. Decreases at a higher charging level.
- Charge Rate (C-Rate): 0.7C to 1C, max charge rate 3C, individual cells charge to 4.2V.
- Discharge Rate (C-Rate): 1C. Some batteries have a discharge rate of 10C and cutoff at 2.5V.
- Specific Energy: 100 Wh/kg to 150 Wh/kg
Advantages of LMO Batteries
- LMO batteries are very flexible in design. Battery manufacturers can customise LMO batteries based on particular requirements, such as long battery life, reasonably good specific power, high specific energy density, fast charging phase, etc.
- These batteries have excellent thermal stability.
Disadvantages of LMO Batteries
- Their battery life is not something to brag about. An average of 500 cycles makes them incomparable to options such as LFP batteries in terms of longevity.
- While any one particular aspect of these batteries can be optimised for improved performance, the overall characteristics of lithium manganese oxide batteries are mediocre at best.
- Portable power tools
- Medical devices and equipment
- Hybrid and electric cars, electric motorcycles
Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (NMC, LiNiMnCoO2, or Li-NMC) Batteries
Li-NMC batteries are second only to LFP batteries. These batteries contain a cathode made of Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (LiNiMnCoO2). Due to the presence of Manganese and Cobalt, Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt batteries offer the best benefits of LMO and LCO batteries.
The two common ratios of nickel, cobalt, and manganese are 1:1:1 or 5:3:2. Cobalt, being a rare element, is the major driving factor in the cost of these batteries.
Characteristics of Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide Batteries
- Nominal Voltage: 3.7V
- Operating Voltage: 3V to 4.2V
- Cycle Life: 1500 cycles
- Thermal stability: up to 210°C. Decreases at a higher charge level.
- Charge Rate (C-Rate): 0.7C to 1C, charging up to 4.2V in 3 hours. Higher charging currents lead to short battery life.
- Discharge Rate (C-Rate): 1C, with a cutoff at 2.5V.
- Specific Energy: 150 KWh/kg to 220 KWh/kg
Advantages of Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide Batteries
- These batteries have a longer cycle life than lithium-ion batteries like LMO and LCO batteries.
- They have a high energy density.
- Li-NMC batteries are customisable by adjusting the nickel, magnesium, and cobalt ratio for the cathode materials.
Disadvantages of NMC Batteries
- The cost of NMC batteries is almost as much as LFP batteries but without the benefit of the longer operating life of LFP battery chemistry. This means that NMC batteries are less cost-effective than LFP batteries.
- Electric Vehicles
- Medical devices
- Power tools
Lithium Titanate Batteries (Li2TiO3 or LTO)
LTO batteries are different from the other lithium-ion batteries mentioned previously. These batteries use Lithium Titanate (Li2TiO3) as the anode material instead of a graphite anode. The cathode materials are Li-NMC or Lithium Manganese Oxide.
Characteristics of LTO Batteries
- Nominal Voltage: 2.4V
- Operating Voltage: 1.8Vto 2.85V
- Cycle Life: 3000 to 7000 cycles
- Thermal Runaway: 175°C to 225°C
- Charge Rate (C-Rate): 1-5C, charges up to 2.85V
- Discharge Rate (C-Rate): 10C, cutoff at 1.8V
- Specific Energy: 50 KWh/kg to 80 KWh/kg
Advantages of LTO Batteries
- The life cycle of LTO batteries is one of the longest.
- They are thermally stable.
Disadvantages of LTO Batteries
- LTO batteries usually cost twice as much as LFP batteries.
- The lower energy density of these batteries provides little energy when their size is taken into account.
- Electric powertrains
- Medical equipment
- Industrial tools
Lithium Nickel Cobalt Aluminium Oxide Battery (LiNiCoAlO2 or NCA) Batteries
NCA batteries replace the Manganese in NMC batteries with Aluminium. Due to the similar materials used and cell construction, NCA and NMC batteries share some common features. The addition of Aluminium to Lithium Nickel Cobalt Oxide adds the element of chemical stability to an NCA battery.
Characteristics of NCA Batteries
- Nominal Voltage: 3.6V
- Operating Voltage: 3V to 4.2V
- Cycle Life: 500 cycles
- Thermal Runaway: 150°C – Greater chance of instability when fully charged
- Charge Rate (C-Rate): 0.7C, charges up to 4.2V
- Discharge Rate (C-Rate): 1C, cutoff at 3V
- Specific Energy: 200 KWh/kg to 260 KWh/kg
Advantages of NCA Batteries
- The specific energy of NCA batteries is high, making this lithium-ion battery technology useful for applications with a moderate to high load over a long time.
Disadvantages of NCA Batteries
- NCA batteries have a relatively short life span compared to other lithium-ion battery types.
- The thermal stability of these batteries is poor, and there is a high risk of thermal runaway in outdoor use.
- The cost of NCA batteries is high, considering their short lifespan. This makes them the least cost-effective lithium-ion battery.
Cell Form Classification of Lithium Ion Batteries
Besides the classification based on electrode materials, there is another way to classify lithium-ion battery systems. There are three types of lithium-ion batteries based on this classification:
These are the most widely used commercial lithium-ion cells. They form the batteries used in toys, medical devices, gadgets, and more. Cylindrical lithium-ion battery cells differ from conventional batteries, as the former are rechargeable lithium batteries with a higher capacity.
This type of cell features sealed electrodes and electrolytes in a protective cylindrical metal can. A cylindrical lithium-ion battery offers excellent safety and the best protection against thermal elements. Cylindrical Li-ion batteries are also the cheapest ones to manufacture.
Unlike a cylindrical or prismatic cell, a lithium pouch cell is physically flexible. The battery cell is sealed in flexible foil or plastic film for protection. A lithium pouch cell is very lightweight and can be made into batteries of any shape or size. These batteries are used in drones, RC vehicles, jump starters, etc.
Pouch cells tend to swell when used. Therefore, when integrating these cells into any application, it is important to allocate extra space to account for the swelling of the cell.
Prismatic cells are cubic lithium batteries that contain electrode sheets and separators in a sturdy plastic housing. Prismatic cells are made in a single-row or two-row module of four cells, with arrestors having the same polarity. Prismatic cells are more expensive batteries than cylindrical cells but provide much greater storage.
Lithium batteries in cell phones and laptops are all prismatic energy cell batteries. While lightweight and thin, these batteries are prone to heating due to the metal casing used.
How Do Different Types of Lithium-ion Batteries Compare?
The table below gives an overview of the comparison between different types of lithium-ion batteries:
There are many different types of lithium-ion batteries, and as is evident from the information above, lithium batteries vary drastically in terms of their characteristics. This makes different lithium-ion batteries suitable for different purposes and requirements.
Even among any particular lithium-ion battery type, the properties of the battery can vary significantly among different battery manufacturers.
For instance, while most lithium iron phosphate batteries last for about five to six years, LiFePO4 batteries from Eco Tree Lithium last at least eight to ten years. The manufacturer provides a six-year warranty policy so that you know your battery will last at least that long.
Eco Tree Lithium’s LFP batteries also come with an integrated Battery Management System (BMS). This system provides protection from elements such as overcharging, overheating, operation in cold temperatures, etc.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions regarding lithium batteries:
Are all lithium batteries the same?
No, all lithium batteries are not the same. In fact, the difference between two lithium-ion batteries can be that of night and day due to their technological complexity. The characteristics of a lithium-ion battery depend on the particular lithium-based compound used at the electrodes.
How many different types of cells are used for lithium batteries?
Based on electrode materials, there are six different types of lithium cells: LFP, NMC, LCO, NCA, LTO, and LMO. Based on the cell shape, there are three types of lithium-ion batteries- cylindrical, pouch, and prismatic, each with distinct battery performance parameters.
Which type of lithium battery is safest?
Lithium iron phosphate batteries (LFP batteries) are the safest among current lithium-ion batteries on the market. LFP batteries do not contain toxic substances like cobalt and have excellent thermal and chemical stability characteristics.
Lithium iron phosphate batteries (LFP batteries) are considered to be the safest batteries out there. These batteries do not contain toxic substances like cobalt and have very good thermal and chemical stability.