Not all Lithium batteries are created Equal
Uncovering the Truth:
Not all Lithium batteries are created Equal
Lithium batteries have been making waves in the automotive world for their high energy density, higher cycle performance and long lifespan compared to traditional lead-acid batteries. But with so many options available, it can be tough to differentiate between batteries that vary in price between $300 and $1600.
Our Club Assist Quality Assurance Centre have been busy testing and investigating several Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries. And what we’ve found is a broad range of batteries that fall short in safety and quality. With the emergence of this market, there is a growing need for standards to regulate the quality of these batteries. In Australia, standards are currently being considered to ensure the safety and reliability of lithium batteries. However, in the meantime, there are varying levels of quality in the market, making it important for consumers to exercise caution when purchasing lithium batteries.
LiFePO4 batteries require precision manufacturing processes to ensure the proper alignment and connection of the battery cells, which is critical for their performance and safety. Our engineer noticed that certain low-cost batteries were poorly constructed with inferior cells and BMS (battery management system) in use.
A well designed and constructed lithium battery minimizes the risk of the battery cells coming loose even with minor vibrations. We noticed that some batteries use an excessive amount of silicone or spray foam. This can cause heat to be trapped inside the battery, which in turn can lead to a decrease in battery performance and life, and pose a potential safety hazard.
See an example below.
Excessive use of spray foam.
A temperature sensor plays a crucial role in a lithium battery. It informs the Battery Management System of the battery’s temperature, enabling it to shut down the battery if the safe operating temperature range is exceeded. Without this sensor and functionality, the battery cells could be permanently damaged, with an increased risk of safety hazards such as a fire in the event that the battery suffers an internal cell defect or is used in harsh conditions.
See image below.
Battery missing temperature sensor.
Cables connecting the cells and BMS should ideally be tied and insulated appropriately. This will mitigate the risk of short circuits if there is an excessive amount of vibration or movement within the battery. The gauge of the wires and cables used also matters. The thinner the wire, the more likely it is to heat up during continuous high current discharge and charge, potentially leading to premature failure or causing safety hazards.
See images below.
Poor wire management.
Battery terminals should be properly insulated. This helps minimise the risk of short circuits should there be any movement inside the battery.
Battery performance specifications
The performance specifications of a battery listed on the label tell the consumer about the capability of the battery in use. If the label indicates a 100 Amp-hour (Ah) capacity, the battery should be delivering this level of energy. Performance accuracy is important, so a consumer knows the battery they’ve purchased is fit for purpose. Some of the batteries we tested fell short of the performance advertised on the battery label by a significant amount.
Battery tested only achieved 75% of its advertised capacity.
It is important to ensure that your battery has been certified to the relevant standards, to ensure safe operation and suitable performance. However, the standard environment for lithium batteries is still maturing, making it even more important to look for a high-quality battery that meets the necessary certifications. At a minimum, you should expect to see certification to IEC 62133 and UN38.3, as well as production in a facility accredited to ISO 9001.
Why choose Club Assist’s Lithium Batteries?Battery construction matters to battery performance. The cables we use are neatly managed using cable ties and conduits, and heat shrinks are applied to the terminals. A custom moulded plastic spacer and casing are used to hold the battery cells, which is more durable. The terminals are bolted firmly and sufficiently protected. The cables connected to the printed circuit board (PCB) don’t have any excess silicone, indicating good quality construction and quality control processes in place for our battery. Rest assured that our batteries adhere to the IEC and UN standards, so you can be confident in their safety and performance.
What to look for when purchasing Lithium LiFePO4 Batteries
Before purchasing a lithium battery, it’s important to do your research and homework.
There are several things to consider, these include:
• Battery application
What do you want to power with your battery? Assess the amount of power you require and the duration for which you need it, whether it’s for your vehicle, or equipment. If your power needs are over a prolonged period, it’s recommended to consider investing in a battery that can consistently deliver the required power supply.
Most camping batteries sold in Australia have a voltage of 12V, as this is usually enough to power most applications, including those for camping and boating.
• Cell quality
Choose a battery with high-quality cells that are reliable and long-lasting.
A lithium battery is much lighter than lead-acid, but if it is too light then it could be due to use of undersized or lower capacity cells. For example, if 100Ah Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) battery is less than 10kg, there is a possibility that it is not a genuine 100Ah battery.
• Maximum continuous discharge and charge currents
The rated maximum continuous discharge and charge current determines how powerful the battery is and it is a key indicator of quality and performance. The cheaper batteries have a maximum discharge and charge limit of 0.5C (50A for 100Ah battery), whereas the pricier options typically run at 1C (100A for 100Ah battery) or higher.
Not all lithium batteries are made to the quality standards consumers expect. A good lithium battery should have a high-quality cell, a dependable Battery Management System, an acceptable guarantee, and sound construction. It is worth noting that Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) is considered to be a safe and reliable technology, however poorly designed or manufactured LFP batteries can still pose a risk to safety, despite the inherent safety advantages of the LFP chemistry.
If you are in the market for a Lithium battery, we encourage you to take the time to do your research and make an informed decision. Remember to look beyond the price tag and consider the battery’s overall quality and safety features. At Club Assist, we take pride in supplying high-quality lithium batteries that are well-constructed and meet performance specifications.
We offer an extensive range of lithium batteries that cater to the needs of motorhomes & RVs, caravans, camper trailers, boats, 4x4 dual battery systems, recreational vehicles, and mobility vehicles.
Contact us to learn more about our Lithium battery options.