How Do Lithium Batteries Work?

Lithium Battery, Solar Battery, Deep Cycle Battery, How Lithium Batteries Work


Did you know that lithium, the primary component of lithium batteries, is the lightest metal? But don’t be deceived by its lightweight quality! Because of its high chemical activity, lithium is transformed into batteries that are used in many consumer products like portable electronics and even in electric vehicles, military vehicles, and aerospace applications. Lithium batteries are also widely used as one of the batteries that help power up solar panels.

Lithium Battery and Lithium-ion Battery 101

Lithium battery is a primary type of battery that contains metallic lithium as an anode. Lithium batteries have a high charge density and high cost per unit. Lithium cells can generate voltages from 1.5 V to about 3.7 V depending on their design and chemical compounds used. 

While lithium batteries are considered primary or non-rechargeable batteries, there is also the secondary or rechargeable type called lithium-ion batteries. Lithium is largely valuable, as its ions can move between the anode and the cathode by using intercalated lithium compound as cathode material. Pure lithium found in primary lithium batteries can instantly react with water or moisture, while lithium in lithium-ion batteries is in a less reactive compound. 

Lithium batteries are ideal to use in portable, outdoor devices. Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are commonly used in different types of consumer electronics like cell phones, laptops, tablets, scooters, hoverboards, e-bikes, and solar panel systems backup storage.  

Types of Lithium Batteries

Types of Battery, Solar Battery, How Lithium Batteries Work

There are 6 main types of lithium batteries:

  1. Lithium iron phosphate– LFP or LiFePO4

These batteries use a graphitic carbon electrode as anode and phosphate as cathode material. They have a nominal voltage of 3.2 volts and are the most common lithium battery type for replacing lead-acid deep-cycle batteries.

Lithium iron phosphate battery has good thermal stability and electrochemical performance which makes it durable and long-lasting. These batteries are safe and highly stable because the materials used to make them have low resistance. However, compared to other lithium-type batteries, lithium iron phosphate batteries have a comparatively low specific energy. They may not work well in low temperatures.

  1. Lithium cobalt oxide or lithium cobaltate/cobaltite – LiCoO2

These batteries have high specific energy but low specific power. While they can give power over a long period, they have low performance in high-load applications. They are usually used in small consumer electronics like tablets, mobile phones, cameras, and laptops. 

Aside from being fairly expensive, lithium cobalt phosphate batteries have a short lifespan. They also have low thermal stability which could be a safety concern.

  1. Lithium manganese oxide – LMO

These batteries have manganese oxide as cathode material thus creating a three-dimensional structure that produces improved ion flow, low internal resistance, and increased current handling. They are typically used in medical instruments, hybrid and electric vehicles, as well as portable power tools. 

Lithium manganese oxide batteries have high specific power and can charge quickly. They can perform safely at higher temperatures. These batteries are also highly flexible, making them ideal to handle long-life or high-load applications. However, they have a short lifespan. They last only 300-700 charge cycles. 

  1. Lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide – NMC

These batteries contain the benefits of nickel, manganese, and cobalt in their cathode. The combination produces stable chemistry and high specific energy. They are commonly used in scooters, electric vehicles, e-bikes, and even some power tools.

Lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide batteries have a high energy density and a long life cycle. They also have high thermal stability. However, they have slightly lower voltage compared to cobalt-based batteries. 

  1. Lithium nickel cobalt aluminum oxide – NCA

These batteries have high specific energy with a good amount of specific power and a long life cycle too. Since they can deliver a high amount of current for long periods, they are typically popular in the electric vehicle market. They are used to power up Tesla cars.

While lithium nickel cobalt aluminum oxide is known for its great life span and high energy, they are not that safe compared to other lithium batteries. They are quite expensive too.

  1. Lithium titanate or lithium-titanium oxide – LTO

These batteries have lithium titanate in the anode and use lithium-ion manganese oxide or nickel manganese cobalt as a cathode. This makes them an extremely safe battery with a long life span. It also charges quicker than other lithium batteries. Lithium titanate is used to power up or support wind energy, solar panel kits, electric vehicles and charging stations, solar street lights, telecommunications systems, uninterrupted power supplies, as well as aerospace and military equipment.

They can work in extremely wide operating temperatures and can charge quickly. They are safe, stable, and can also last long. However, they have low energy density and are very expensive.

How Lithium and Lithium-ion Batteries Work

Solar Panel Connected to a Solar Battery for Backup, Deep Cycle Battery

What is a battery and how does it work?

Before we take a close look at how lithium batteries work, let’s find out how batteries in general work first. Essentially, a battery is a device that can store chemical energy which can be transformed into electricity, a process known as electrochemistry. A battery is made up of many electrochemical cells and each cell has two electrodes separated by an electrolyte. The electrolyte transports ions between the chemical reactions that happen at the two electrodes. 

To generate electricity, electrons must flow from the negative electrode or anode to the positive electrode or cathode. They are typically made of two different types of metal or a combination of two different chemical compounds. A chemical reaction will form within the battery where the anode builds up a surplus of electrons and will in turn cause an electrical difference between the cathode and anode. The electrons will arrange themselves and displace surplus electrons in the cathode. The electrolyte, in turn, will see to it that the electrons will not go back directly to the cathode. 

The path between the anode and cathode points and where the electrical current is carried is called a circuit. Once the circuit is closed, the electrons can travel smoothly to the cathode and provide power to any appliance or device. As time goes by, the whole process eventually alters the chemical composition in the anode and cathode points and they will gradually stop giving electrons. This is when the battery dies.

What are lithium and lithium-ion batteries?

Lithium batteries are primary batteries that are typically used only once and cannot be recharged. They can give off a strong energy surge after a long period of low discharge, which cannot be done by alkaline batteries. Lithium batteries can provide stable, long-term power.

Lithium-ion batteries are secondary batteries that can be recharged. They are usually used to power up electronics, gadgets, small and large appliances, portable power tools, and electric vehicles. They are lighter, charge faster, have high power density, and last longer. 

How do lithium-ion batteries charge and discharge?

Lithium ions move one way when the battery charges or when it’s absorbing power. And then move the opposite way when it discharges, or when it provides power. Lithium ions flow from cathode to anode through the electrolyte during charging. The battery is fully charged the moment ions are done flowing.

Lithium ions travel back through the electrolyte from the anode to the cathode during discharge. They flow through the outer circuit as they power any device. Lithium is deposited when the ions and electrons combine at the cathode. Once all ions have traveled back, the battery gets discharged and needs to be charged up again.

How are lithium ions stored?

Once a battery is fully charged, lithium ions are kept between graphene layers in the graphite electrode. Graphene layers alternate with lithium-ion layers in this charged upstate. When the battery discharges, ions travel from the graphite electrode to the cobalt-oxide electrode.

During its fully discharged state, all the lithium ions have transferred to the cobalt-oxide electrode. So, the lithium ions sit in layers between cobalt ions and oxide ions. When the battery charges and discharges, lithium ions go back and forth from one electrode to another.

Advantages of Lithium Batteries

There are many advantages to using lithium and lithium-ion batteries:

  1. Self-discharge capacity

Lithium-ion cells’ self-discharge rate is significantly lower than other rechargeable cells like those in nickel-cadmium and nickel-metal hydride batteries. 

  1. High energy density

Lithium and lithium-ion batteries have considerably higher energy density than other kinds of batteries like nickel-metal hydride. That’s why they’re ideal to use in portable electronic products and electric vehicles. They last longer than other batteries.

  1. High cell voltage

A single lithium-ion cell can produce 3.6 volts which makes its voltage higher than those of standard cells like alkaline, nickel-cadmium, and nickel-metal hydride. This means that there are only a few cells needed for each battery application. A smartphone only requires a single lithium-ion cell.

  1. Low maintenance 

Lithium-ion batteries do not require active maintenance to guarantee performance unlike those of nickel-cadmium cells which need periodic discharge to ensure that they do not show the exhibit memory effect. Lead-acid cells also need periodic maintenance. 

  1. Available in different varieties 

Different types of lithium and lithium-ion cells available can support different types of technologies.

Some can power up consumer electronics while some can support electric vehicles and even solar panel kits.

  1. Good load characteristic

Load characteristic pertains to the load or power requirement consumed within a certain period. The load characteristic of lithium-ion batteries is good because they provide constant 3.6 volts per cell before falling off. Also, they don’t need to be primed before receiving the first charge, unlike other rechargeable cells.

Rich Solar Lithium Iron Phosphate Battery

Investing in Rich Solar lithium iron phosphate battery is the best decision you’ll make because it has a longer cycle capacity and is easier to maintain compared to other batteries. It has 5,000 cycles and a 10+ year lifespan. Since it is thermally and chemically stable, battery safety is improved significantly. It is small and lightweight but packed with power. It can replace lead acid or gel battery applications in RVs, commercial vehicles, boats, and grid backup power

Main Features:

  • Built-in smart battery management system
  • Wide operating temperature range
  • Unsurpassed high-temperature performance
  • Green energy without metal contaminant
  • Low maintenance
  • High amp capacity
  • Stable output voltage
  • Little self-discharge
  • Lifetime customer support
  • Overcharging or discharging protection.
  • Overcurrent and short circuit protection.
  • High and low-temperature disconnects
  • Charge voltage: 14.6V
  • Max charge current: 50 A
  • Max discharge current: 100 A
  • Battery dimensions: 12.8″L x 6.6″W x 8.5″H
  • Weight: 21.8 lb
  • Connect in series for 24V or 36V or 48V battery bank, or connect in parallel for larger capacity
  • Convenient removable carry handle
  • Lightweight
  • Short circuit protected
  • Physical damage to battery case will not cause fire
  • Excessive thermal exposure will not cause a fire
  • Able to withstand over-charge/over-discharge without damage to the battery
  • Sophisticated Battery Management System (BMS)
  • 12V 100Ah LiFePO4 deep cycle lithium iron phosphate battery

Electrical Specifications:

  • Nominal voltage: 12.8V
  • Nominal capacity (at .5C, 77°F): 100Ah
  • Minimum capacity (at .5C, 77°F): 95Ah
  • Expected cycle Life: >5000 cycles w/1C charge and discharge rate, at 77°F, 80% DOD

Operating Specifications:

  • Charge method: Smart charger, constant current, constant voltage
  • Operating voltage: 12.8 V
  • Capacity: 100 Ah
  • Energy: 1280-watt hours
  • Charge voltage range (max 14.6V): 14.4 -14.6V
  • Continuous charge current: 50A
  • Continuous discharge current: 100A
  • Over voltage shutdown: 15.6 +/-0.2V
  • Discharge cut-off voltage: 8V =/- 0.5V
  • Self-discharge (stored at 50% SOC): < 3%/month
  • Waterproof: IP65

Temperature Performance:

  • Charge temperature: 32° F to 140° F
  • Discharge temperature: -4° F to 140° F
  • Storage temperature: -4° F to 140° F
  • BMS high-temperature cut-off: 149°F
  • BMS low-temperature cut-off: 32°F

Lithium batteries are the way to go!

Going for lithium and lithium-ion batteries to help power up the solar panels for your home, RVs, and even marine vehicles is definitely a smart move. They are worth every penny you spend. If you’re looking for more options for RV batteries, solar panels, solar kits, marine batteries, or generators, visit Rich Solar for more information.