Pros and cons of Lithium-ion batteries in UPS

For decades now backup solutions have been powered almost exclusively by the tried-and-true veteran of the industry, valve-regulated lead acid (VRLA) batteries. But in recent years, a new player has been carving a niche in the market.

Lithium-Ion batteries, widely used in consumer electronics, including smartphones, and electric cars, have just started being adopted for energy storage in data center backup systems. But industry experts predict that this technology will take off in the coming years.

We have collected the most important facts you need to know about this technology:

Pros:

  • Total cost of ownership for lithium-ion batteries is less, especially as lithium-ion pricing has dropped significantly over the last two years.
  • Lithium-ion batteries last for 12 – 15 years compared with 7 – 8 years for valve regulated lead-acid (VRLA) types.
  • Lithium-ion batteries offer improved energy density, being up to 70% smaller and 60% lighter. This leads to a smaller general footprint: It is estimated that a lithium-ion battery system for a UPS will occupy 50 to 80 percent less floor space and weigh 60 to 80 percent less than a comparable lead-acid system.

Cons:

  • Lithium-ion batteries have a higher purchase price. Currently, the installed cost of a Li-ion system will run roughly 1.5 to 3 times higher than a comparable VRLA solution, but experts predict this gap will narrow considerably.
  • Li-ion batteries are not typically hot-swappable in UPS systems.
  • The physical differences between lead-acid and li-ion batteries mean that li-ion batteries are not necessarily a direct replacement for lead-acid batteries.
  • Deployment in UPSs remains relatively narrow. However, this is expected to change as the batteries’ manufacturing costs continue to decrease.

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