Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt (Li-NMC) and Lithium Ferrous Phosphate (LiFePO4 or LFP) – sound like two batteries that should be more or less the same. After all, they both have lithium in them.
However, there is a vast difference between these two battery technologies, enough to make you think for a while before investing in one of them.
No doubt lithium-based battery technology is a significantly better choice than traditional lead acid batteries. However, when the decision lies between two lithium batteries like Lithium MNC and LiFePO4, which one would you choose?
This article gives an in-depth comparison between these two battery technologies competing for your money. After reading the information provided here, you will know how each battery performs under various operating parameters and which will suit you the most.
What is the Difference Between Lithium NMC and LFP Batteries?
These new technologies, Lithium NMC and Lithium Iron Phosphate are both types of lithium batteries, but the working principle of each differs.
Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Batteries
Li-NMC, LMNC, or NMC batteries use Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (LiNiMnCoO2) as cathode material.
Lithium-ion batteries differ from other lithium batteries, such as LFP batteries, due to the properties of the cathode materials.
Lithium Ferrous Phosphate Batteries
LFP or LiFePO4 batteries are lithium-based and use Lithium Ferrous Phosphate as the cathode material.
What are the Similarities Between LFP Batteries and Li-NMC Batteries?
NMC and LFP battery chemistries have many common factors. For one, both are lithium-ion batteries, which means that the flow of lithium ions generates the power stored in each battery.
Although both use different types of cathode materials, the anode is always carbon-based, usually graphite. The rest of the construction of the battery pack is also very similar.
How Do LiFePO4 Batteries and Lithium NMC Batteries Compare?
Let’s explore the various factors that affect how each battery performs to understand the differences between these two technologies:
The energy density of a battery pack is also referred to as embodied energy. Energy density is the amount of energy a battery holds relative to its weight. A higher energy density is preferred because a smaller high-power battery can provide a higher output.
Energy density is calculated by the formula:
Energy Density = Battery Watt Hours ÷ Battery Weight
The best thing about NMC batteries is their high energy density. Generally, NMC battery energy is 150-200 Wh/Kg.
LFP batteries also have a high energy density, 100-150 Wh/Kg. They are a better choice than some, but not the best.
Verdict: NMC batteries have better energy density than LFP batteries. This makes NMC batteries better for applications that need small batteries with moderate power capacity.
Cycle Life and Lifespan
Cycle life is the number of charge-discharge-charge cycles a battery can sustain without any performance degradation. A single charge cycle is when the battery is discharged from its fully charged state and is then charged again.
A longer cycle life indicates a better battery lifespan. It is an important consideration as it directly reflects the value for money factor.
An NMC battery has an expected cycle life of about 2000-2500 cycles. It can provide full power for about three to four years but then suffers fast degradation.
An LFP battery has a typical cycle life of about 5000 cycles. It can perform optimally for seven to ten years, followed by slow degradation. In fact, high-quality Eco Tree Lithium LFP batteries come with a 6-year warranty.
Verdict: LFP technology produces a significantly better battery cycle life than NMC batteries and can last twice as long.
Depth of Discharge
The depth of discharge (DoD) is the level to which a battery can be discharged without damaging it. For example, if a battery has a DoD of 80%, battery health will deteriorate if discharged below 20%.
Therefore, a higher DoD indicates a better operational range of a battery.
NMC batteries, like other Lithium-ion batteries, have a DoD in the range of 80% to 90%. This is much better compared to lead-acid batteries (50%).
The depth of discharge for a typical LFP battery is an astonishing 100%. This means you can use all the stored power in the battery without any worry about damaging it.
Verdict: Both batteries have a good depth of discharge, but LFP batteries are the winner. A 100% depth of discharge also reduces the oversight required by the battery owner.
Cost per KWh
The cost per KWh is the price paid for the battery divided by the total kilowatt hours (KWh) it can provide.
For example, if you buy a 100 Ah battery for £100 and it can provide 1000 watt-hours of power, then the cost per KWh is £0.10.
The cost per KWh can be an important consideration for people with budget constraints.
NMC batteries are expensive because of the materials used in the battery. NMC batteries require Nickel, Manganese, and Cobalt in considerable quantity for the cathode material.
LFP batteries are cheaper than NMC batteries because they use iron and phosphate as cathode materials, which are abundant and cheap.
Verdict: LFP batteries have a significant edge over NMC batteries when considering the cost per KWh of each battery type. Couple this with the longer lifespan LFP technology offers, and LFP batteries are clearly the winner, offering the best value for money.
Since a battery operates at high voltage and can reach a high temperature, safety is vital. Battery safety includes both high thermal stability and chemical stability.
NMC batteries have stable chemistry. However, the battery chemistry results in the release of Oxygen. Therefore, improper construction or inappropriate battery use can make it catch fire or explode.
LFP batteries have stable chemistry and can handle high temperatures quite well. They don’t overheat, so there is no need to worry about the temperature threshold at all.
Additionally, there is no oxygen release from LFP batteries. So there is no concern about flammability even at a high temperature.
Verdict: LFP batteries win again on safety criteria. One thing to note is that all lithium batteries have high safety compared to lead-acid batteries.
Self Discharge Rate
Even when a battery is not supplying power to a load, the internal chemical reactions cause it to lose some of the power stored. The self-discharge rate of a battery is the percentage of the rated capacity that gets discharged when not connected to a load.
NMC batteries have a self-discharge rate of 4% per month. This means that a fully charged NMC battery in proper storage conditions will retain about 96% of its charge after a month.
LFP batteries have a self-discharge rate of just 3% per month. Therefore, a fully charged LFP battery in proper battery storage conditions will retain 97% of its charge after a month.
Verdict: These two technologies have admirable self-discharge rates, with LFP batteries offering slightly better performance.
Operation in Sub-Zero Temperature
Although high temperatures are dangerous for battery health, low temperatures also pose a risk to battery operation. At freezing temperatures, a battery often ceases to function since the necessary chemical reactions inside it can’t continue.
A Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide battery has poor performance in sub-zero temperatures. It can stop functioning and won’t start again until you find a way to raise the battery’s temperature.
Lithium-ion chemistry in batteries is affected by cold temperatures, similar to an NMC battery. However, high-quality Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries, like the ones provided by Eco Tree Lithium, come with a Battery Management System (BMS).
The battery management system regulates all vital parameters of the battery for optimal operation. One of its advantages is that it can heat the battery in low temperatures, leading to uninterrupted operation.
Verdict: The performance of all batteries in the lithium-ion battery family is poor at sub-zero temperatures. However, the BMS of LFP batteries makes them a better choice for such conditions.
Thermal runaway happens when the battery chemistry becomes uncontrollable at a high temperature. It is not only dangerous for battery operation but also for the safety of surrounding property and people.
The lithium-ion battery family is known for thermal runaway. In fact, thermal runaway is the exclusive property of this battery class. At high temperatures, overheating occurs, which can cause them to explode.
Since LFP batteries do not overheat, there is no thermal runaway. Even at high temperatures, the Lithium Iron Phosphate compound is stable, which eliminates the possibility of thermal runaway.
Verdict: Comparing the risk of thermal runaway for NMC vs LFP, LFP is the clear winner, as it eliminates any concern about thermal runaway in the battery.
More and more people and manufacturers are moving towards green initiatives that do not have a negative environmental impact. The environmental impact of battery manufacture and use are important factors to consider.
NMC batteries use cobalt as the cathode material, which poses a considerable environmental risk. Using cobalt cathode materials creates toxic fumes throughout the battery’s lifetime and even after disposal.
LFP batteries are cobalt-free, so there is no negative environmental impact at all. In fact, LFP batteries are one of the most environmentally friendly battery technologies.
Verdict: An LFP battery is the best choice for people who want a green battery. Additionally, the longer lifespan of LFP batteries means fewer battery changes are needed.
Stable Power and Voltage Delivery
Comparing Lithium NMC vs LiFePO4 in terms of power and voltage delivery: how do these two battery technologies compare?
Lithium NMC batteries offer stable power delivery, with little variation in voltage output even as the battery discharges. This makes them ideal for applications where consistent power delivery is crucial, such as medical devices or electronic cigarettes.
In terms of voltage delivery, lithium NMC outperforms LFP. The average voltage output of a lithium NMC battery is about 3.7V, compared to 3.2V for a LiFePO4 battery. This higher voltage makes lithium NMC batteries better suited to high-power output applications, such as electric vehicles.
LFP batteries also offer stable power delivery, but their voltage output may drop rapidly as the battery discharges. However, this decrease in voltage is much less pronounced than with other types of Lithium-ion batteries, making LiFePO4 a good choice for applications where stable power delivery is important.
Verdict: LiFePO4 lithium iron phosphate batteries are the clear winner on stability. However, lithium NMC batteries may be a better option if you need a battery with high power output.
Choosing Between LiFePO4 and Li-NMC Battery
Overall, considering all the factors above, LFP batteries are the better choice by a significant margin. However, which battery will be better for you can vary depending on what you require from a battery power supply.
For applications where space is the primary concern, NMC batteries are beneficial because of their high energy density. Therefore, NMC batteries are the better choice for applications such as electronics, mobile phones, laptops, etc.
In the case of applications that demand high performance, better battery storage, long cycle life, thermal stability, or higher quality, LFP batteries are the best option. LFP batteries are used extensively in electric vehicles, solar systems, leisure vehicles such as caravans, motorhomes, boats, and similar applications.
The Best LiFePO4 Battery
If you have decided to buy a Lithium Iron Phosphate battery, Eco Tree Lithium is the best choice.
Eco Tree Lithium manufactures some of the leading LFP batteries in the UK, providing unparalleled performance at the best price possible.
These Lithium Iron LiFePO4 Batteries excel in performance, features, and build quality. Eco Tree Lithium batteries come with a 6-year warranty on any battery you buy.
Buying a new battery can be a tough decision since there are so many options on the market today.
Of the countless alternatives, NMC batteries and LFP batteries are two of the top performers out there. Now that you have read this article, you can make better decisions about which type of battery will be the right fit for you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are the answers to some frequent questions that people have regarding these common lithium battery types.
Is LFP better than NMC?
Yes. An LFP battery pack is a better overall choice than an NMC battery. Not only does it represent higher value for money, but it also has greater stability, a longer lifespan, and is environment-friendly.
Is LFP cheaper than NMC?
LFP is considerably cheaper than NMC because an NMC battery pack contains scarce elements like Cobalt, which are very expensive.