Advantages of Lithium Iron Phosphate Batteries
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As the fossil fuel crisis continues, consumers are trying to find alternatives to gas generators and other power sources. Lithium ion batteries are the most plentiful sources of portable energy, but many people don’t realize there are different battery types.
One type of battery that is growing in popularity is lithium iron phosphate batteries. Also known as LiFEPO4 and LFP, lithium iron phosphate batteries have many advantages. These advantages might be less obvious, but they can make the difference in price and performance between LLFP and standard lithium ion batteries.
Lithium Ion Batteries vs. LFP Batteries
Both standard lithium ion batteries and LFP achieve the same functionality — they use lithium ions to generate electricity. What makes the difference is the chemical composition.
Lithium iron phosphate batteries are lithium ion batteries that use lithium iron phosphate or LiFeP04 as the primary cathode material. Conventional lithium ion batteries use nickel or cobalt as their cathode materials.
When compared to lithium ion batteries, there are numerous advantages of lithium iron batteries.
Greater Stability and Safety
The iron phosphate cathodes give FLP batteries stronger covalent bonds. This gives them more excellent resistance to thermal runaway, which causes overheating — the number one cause of battery fires in lithium ion.
This stability is why LFPs have become the standard in solar power applications. Energy stored in LFPs installed in residential structures has a much lower chance of causing battery related accidents such as electrical fires.
Longer Life Cycle
While lithium ion batteries have greater energy levels, they do not live as long as LFP batteries. While conventional lithium ion batteries go through about 500 charge and discharge cycles before degrading, LFP batteries can complete thousands of processes before the performance starts to decay.
This is because lithium iron cathodes are much more stable than cobalt and nickel ones. While cobalt and nickel cathode batteries have a more powerful discharge, they come at the cost of being highly unstable when performing tasks requiring continuous usage.
This is especially true when lithium ion batteries are forced to operate under high temperatures. The temperature range for lithium ion is 32 degrees Fahrenheit — or 45 degree Celsius. Because of this, lithium ion batteries must be stored in temperature-controlled areas during summer and winter.
In comparison, LFP batteries have a much more comprehensive range. The increased stability of lithium iron cathodes allows them to continue functioning in extremely high and low temperatures without any signs of destabilizing or degradation.
While the cost of purchasing batteries depends on the price set by the manufacturer, on average, LFP batteries are cheaper than lithium ion batteries. This is because mining and refining nickel and cobalt costs more than iron.
In contrast, phosphate and iron are much more abundant, so they don’t have to spend as much time and resources mining them. Since manufacturers have to spend less to make the batteries viable, they can profit from them by selling them cheaply.
Environmental and Humanitarian Impact of LFP Batteries
Replacing nickel and cobalt with lithium iron phosphate is one of the major advantages of lithium iron phosphate batteries. Demand for electric vehicles has dramatically increased as world governments push initiatives to combat climate change. While this is helpful in curbing harmful emissions, it has also caused a worldwide shortage of nickel and cobalt.
This is because the standard for batteries used in electric vehicles is lithium ion based. As production for EVs ramps up, the need for these metals has skyrocketed.
Furthermore, nickel and cobalt mining operations have notorious reputations for being harmful to the planet in their own right. The process of mining and refining these metals are highly labor intensive and use chemical compounds that are harmful to the environment.
In addition, the blasting methods used to form the mines are extremely dangerous and damage the surrounding area, destroying the surrounding ecosystem.
Not to mention, these mining operations are also known for being hazardous to the miners that work there. Workers take minimal safety precautions, resulting in them developing various health problems.
One of the most significant humanitarian concerns regarding cobalt mines is the reports of child labor used for mining. A report from the International Labor Organization found that the Democratic Republic of Congo uses at least 400,000 children to work in cobalt mines. The DRC supplies over 70% of the world’s cobalt.
As cobalt becomes rarer, the working conditions of these mines become more punishing as they struggle to keep up with demand. Using lithium iron batteries can reduce or eliminate the dependence on cobalt — potentially saving both the environment and human lives.
Uses of Lithium Iron Phosphate Batteries
The advantages of lithium iron phosphate batteries make them perfect for powering EVs. Many electric vehicle companies all around the world are beginning to adopt LFP batteries as replacements for lithium ion batteries.
Electric vehicle manufacturers are the most prolific consumers of lithium ion batteries — yet mining for the minerals to create these batteries is becoming harmful to the environment. Switching to LFP batteries can help reduce the negative effects of mining because the minerals used to make them are more plentiful.
In 2022, Tesla and BYD accounted for 68% of all LFP batteries in EVs worldwide. Other auto manufacturers such as GAC, MG and Geely made up the remaining 32%.
Furthermore, more than 85% of LFP batteries used in EVs were from Chinese companies. This makes China the most prolific user of LFP batteries to date. Behind China is the U.S., which is ramping up the production of lithium iron phosphate batteries.
Canadian tech firm Phostech Lithium plans to open many new factories in U.S. territory. These factories will give the U.S. their own supply of lithium iron, making the country less dependent on foreign nations. This will also raise the adoption rate of LFP batteries by both companies and the consumer market.
The advantages of lithium iron phosphate batteries — lower cost, greater stability and longer lifespan — are perfect for the EV market. Although they are less powerful, EVs that use LFP batteries can stay on the road for longer periods of time. The stability of LFP batteries also makes EVs safer to ride.
LFP Batteries are the Future of Portable Energy
While conventional ion phosphate batteries are still the standard, LFP batteries are a proven alternative. LFP batteries last longer and have greater stability than conventional batteries. In addition, they can have a positive impact on the environment by reducing the need for nickel and cobalt — shutting down hazardous mining operations.
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About the author
Starting from an early age, Jane Marsh loved all animals and became a budding environmentalist. Now, Jane works as the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co where she covers topics related to climate policy, renewable energy, the food industry, and more.