Outlining the Advantages of Lithium-ion Batteries for UPSs (and Dispelling One Myth)

As compared to VRLA batteries, there’s a lot to like about Lithium-ion batteries:
  • Longer useful life – up to 2x
  • Less weight – easier to install
  • Smaller size – same performance [power] in a smaller package
  • Faster recharge time – less time to be ready for another power failure
  • Up to 50% Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) savings
  • Able to withstand higher operating temperatures
  • Integrated Battery Management System (BMS) – remote monitoring
  • Green – Safer for the Environment

Lithium-ion is game-changing battery technology when it comes to uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems. While valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) batteries have served the industry well for decades, the benefits of using lithium-ion batteries for UPS systems are simply too great to ignore.

Longer-lasting, less maintenance

Lithium-ion batteries last up to twice as long as VRLA batteries. Whereas the typical lifespan of a VRLA battery is 3 to 5 years, lithium-ion UPS batteries can last 8 to 10 years (or more) – often as long as the UPS itself. That may mean you never have to replace the battery throughout the life of the UPS, which saves on operational costs and reduces the risk of downtime during maintenance. Additionally, lithium-ion can withstand more charge/discharge cycles vs. VRLA batteries, 3,000 to 5,000 cycles vs. 200 to 500 cycles – which again adds up to 8 to 10 years of life for lithium-ion batteries.

Higher temps, no performance degradation

Lithium-ion batteries can also withstand higher temperatures than VRLA batteries with no performance degradation. For every 15°F temperature increase above 77°F, VRLA batteries lose about half their life expectancy, leading to a significant loss of performance. Lithium-ion batteries can function at temperatures of up to 104°F with no performance problems. This translates into being able to use UPS’ with Lithium Ion batteries in more non-traditional, harsher, environments (e.g., industrial and Edge applications).

Smaller, lighter, more flexible

Lithium-ion batteries are also 40% to 60% lighter than their VRLA counterparts and about 40% smaller in size. That makes the UPS and its batteries far easier to install in racks or elsewhere, providing flexibility in terms of installation options. The smaller size of lithium-ion UPS batteries also enables companies to get far more runtime in the same amount of space – or the same runtime in a smaller space. With edge computing and smaller data center space at a premium, this can make a significant difference in the protection of these applications.

Faster recharge

Once it is called upon to provide backup power, the UPS battery needs to be recharged, as quick as possible, to full capacity. While VRLA batteries can take over 12 hours to charge from 0% to 90% of full runtime capacity, lithium-ion batteries take only 2 to 4 hours. That reduces the overall risk that you’ll suffer another outage before your UPS batteries have been fully charged.

Integrated battery management system (BMS)

Unlike VRLA batteries, lithium-ion batteries have an integrated battery management system (BMS) that protects battery cells against temperature, current, and over- or under-charging issues. The BMS optimizes battery charging on an ongoing basis, to maximize performance and increase the life of the battery.

Lower Total Cost of Ownership

Lithium-ion batteries can deliver a total cost of ownership savings of up to 50% over their lifetime due to a number of factors:

  • Longer lifespan vs. traditional VRLA batteries
  • Ability to withstand more charge/discharge cycles, and higher temperatures
  • Reduced maintenance costs – no battery replacements under normal circumstances
  • Smaller footprint – drives down space requirements and installation costs
Dispelling the Myth:
Yes, lithium-ion batteries are safe!

Perhaps you’ve heard concerns about lithium-ion batteries spontaneously catching fire and are concerned about the safety of the technology. The type of batteries that had those sorts of overheating problems, known as thermal runway, are mainly used in mobile phones and electric scooters, and they’re quite different from those used in UPS systems.

One big difference is in the battery cell packaging used in lithium-ion batteries for UPS’. The packaging is intended to provide an additional layer of safety by being able to contain any excessive heat caused by thermal runway. Various standards and certifications exist to ensure a given battery system includes such safety features.

In North America, UL1973 applies to battery chemistry and enclosures used in systems for use in UPS’ and other “stationary” applications. Similarly, the UL1642 Standard for Lithium Batteries defines specifications to reduce the risk of fire or explosion.

Other international standards include IEC62133, an International Electrotechnical Commission standard, which covers the testing and operation of lithium-ion batteries, and UN38.3, a United Nations standard that covers transportation of the batteries.

Vertiv: Your Choice for Lithium-ion UPSs

The point is, there’s no shortage of standards and best practices to ensure the safe construction and use of lithium-ion batteries for UPS systems. Just ensure your UPS supplier is up to speed on all the standards and that its products are in compliance.

Vertiv, for example, is fully compliant with all of the specifications named above – and more.

To learn more about the Vertiv lineup of UPSs with lithium-ion batteries, visit: https://www.vertiv.com/en-us/products-catalog/critical-power/uninterruptible-power-supplies-ups/vertiv-liebert-psi5-lithium-ion-ups/

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