Lithium-ion batteries are in most of the devices we use nowadays including phones, laptops and even scooters. This is owing to the batteries lightweight, faster charging and efficiency. Lithium batteries have also led to the growing Electric Vehicles industries and Hybrids that mostly use Li-Ion batteries.
So can you use Lithium batteries on your non-electric car? Yes, you can. Lithium batteries have been made into standard sizes used in cars and you can actually replace your Lead acid battery with Lithium. However this battery will not be similar to the ones used by Electric vehicles.
Replacing your Lead Acid Battery with a Lithium Battery
If you go into the market looking to replace your lead acid batteries with Lithium batteries you will most likely come across LiFePO4 Batteries like the Antigravity Batteries. Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries are actually more common in renewable energy applications and energy storage as deep cycle batteries.
However they can be more affordable and safer compared to other types of Lithium ion batteries. They are used in race car batteries owing to the lighter weight and pulse discharge it can provide. The ratings may differ from the conventional car battery for example Car batteries usually have a CCA rating which you won’t find in these batteries. CCA or Cold Cranking Amps refers to the amperes a car battery can support for 30 secs at 0°F. They use a PHCA rating which uses a shorter during (around 3 to 5 sec)
What Lithium Batteries do Electric Vehicles like Tesla Use?
Lithium Ion batteries in EVs use various lithium chemistry combinations to tweak performances. They are designed to provide high energy density while providing high power to weight ratio. Tesla batteries have some additions in their designs to increases the battery’s capacity.
Research and development is still being done to improve on these batteries for safer and better performance and also price which we discuss later on.
But Generally Lithium battery technology is truly advanced compared to the older Lead acid batteries.
Let’s look at why.
Advantages of Lithium Batteries
High Energy Density
Lithium batteries can store more energy than Lead acid batteries. Up to 4 times and a lead acid battery with the same capacity can take up more than 10 times the space. Not only does this save space but it gives an electric car more range when running on Lithium batteries that it would on Lead Acid batteries. This is why most electric cars and even hybrids use lithium batteries.
You can discharge a lithium battery up to 90% without damaging the battery while you can only safely discharge a Lead Acid battery up to 50%. This means that a 100 ah Lithium battery is almost equal to a 200 ah Lead Acid battery in terms of draw.
Battery lifespan is not measured in term of lifespan but rather the number of cycles it can handle before it expires. A cycle is when you discharge a battery and then charge it back again. While Lead acid batteries can last up to 1000 cycles Lithium batteries last up to 3000 cycles. This loosely translates to 3 years and 8 years but this can be less or higher depending on the number of cycles you use.
Lithium batteries with the same capacity as Lead Acid batteries can weigh up to 30% less. This is why they are used in portable devices like phones and laptops and bigger applications such as power stations for camping.
Lithium batteries can be mounted in any direction as they do not have an electrolyte to spill. They can also withstand vibrations.
Lithium batteries can be quickly recharged as they do not go to absorption stage of charging like lead acid batteries and jump from bulk to float. While a typical 12V Lead acid battery can take up 10 hours to charge. It will take only 3 hours for a lithium battery to fully charge.
Lithium batteries maintain a high voltage even when highly discharged providing constant power throughout the charge cycle.
Lithium batteries are quite efficient when charging. They won’t heat up and can take up 99% of the charge from a charger.
Lead Acid batteries will go dead even when left in storage as they discharge very quickly (up to 30%). You will need to maintain the charge with a trickle charger or make sure to recharge every month. This is not an issue with Lithium batteries as it can hold a full charge for even up to 1 year as it only experiences a 3% monthly discharge.
The downside to Lithium Batteries
Lithium batteries do not perform well in low temperatures. Discharging Lithium batteries in temperatures below freezing can cause issues. You may need to warm up the batteries in order to discharge them.
As stated before CCA or Cold Cranking Amps is the amps you can draw from a battery for 30 seconds at 0°F. Lithium batteries will not have these rating and these may cause an issue when replacing your starting batteries. However this does not mean it will not support starting as lithium batteries can support a bigger draw that lead acid in less time.
The biggest impediment to upgrading to Li-Ion Batteries is the price. A H7 Lead Acid batteries can cost less than $300 but this can be up to triple the amount when you go for Lithium.
Lithium batteries are better batteries that Lead Acid in more ways than one. They reduce weight of your car and take up less space. They charge faster, provide more power and last longer. However price is the biggest impediment when it comes to using Lithium batteries for starting especially on Diesel vehicles where it does not power the running of the vehicle.
These batteries however will work great for RVs and solar and this is where the cost can be competitive with lead-acid. Because they last longer and you can discharge more you can replace a Lead Acid bank with a Lithium battery bank 50% less in capacity and get the same power.