The Runaway Review

Join Product Manager, JJ Hocken, as he reviews batteries and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of various chemistries impacting the UPS industry.

The Runaway Review

Join Product Manager, JJ Hocken, as he reviews batteries and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of various chemistries impacting the UPS industry.

How to Select the Best Battery Chemistry
for UPS Battery Backup Applications

A simple approach to complicated metrics

 

JULY 28, 2023

 

by J.J. Hocken, Product Manager Batteries & DC Technologies

Between all the different types and various chemistries, determining the best UPS battery for your application can feel like a daunting task. In this edition of The Runaway Review, we will take a simple approach to a few complicated metrics that are routinely discussed in battery technology: Safety, Sustainability, Purchase Price, and TCO. 

 

We will score six different batteries against these four key metrics.

 

Safety

 

 

This has to do with how well the battery chemistry maintains stability under cycling (charge & discharge) and keeps the battery in a thermal condition that does not promote thermal runaway or cause any safety issues.

 

This metric is based on a UPS stand-by battery system that is well maintained, properly used, and correctly installed and operated. Most safety issues or thermal runaway events are caused by poor maintenance, improper installation, or a use case that does not suit the actual chemistry of the battery.

 

Safety is scored from 1-10 with a lower score being less favorable. 

 

 

Sustainability

 

 

There are many metrics to Sustainability, such as GHG Emissions, Carbon Return on Purchase (CROP), Recyclability, Carbon Payback, Energy Footprint, Water Footprint, and many others. We will focus on GHG emissions, Carbon Payback, and Recyclability. 

 

There have been many efforts to make recycling Lithium Ion batteries a process that yields a more favorable positive return. With NMC and LFP Lithium Ion batteries taking such a strong presence in EV’s and other common household and commercial electronics, the need for recycling of Lithium Ion batteries is urgent. 

 

Sustainability also involves reducing the negative environmental impacts caused by mining, refining, processing hazardous materials, compounds, and chemicals. Many battery chemistries such as Nickel Zinc, LFP, and Sodium Ion contribute to a safer alternative and create less or no harmful impact to the environment.

 

Sustainability is scored from 1-10 with a lower score being less favorable

 

 

Purchase Price

 

 

The Purchase Price is an estimation of the battery system price that has a design of fair and equal runtime and power rating (Example: 1MW system with a 5min runtime). A simple CAPEX purchase price evaluation is based on a general understanding of pricing of each battery chemistry as it relates to energy density.

 

Essentially, we want to quickly determine: which battery chemistry the owner/operator get the most value from initially? 

 

Purchase Price is scored from 1-10 with a lower score being less favorable (higher price overall).

 

 

Total Cost of Ownership

 

 

Total Cost of Ownership is a metric that considers overall life of the battery and initial price, but also replacement costs, recyclability, maintenance costs, and sustainability payback. 

 

TCO is typically an OPEX related metric, but as more companies think farther ahead and want to present their operations as being efficient and clean energy-focused, the TCO metric is now becoming a CAPEX variable for many financial and operational decision makers.

 

TCO is scored from 1-10 with a lower score being less favorable (higher TCO overall).

 

 

 

Conclusions & Important Notes on Battery Chemistries Reviewed

 

Choosing the best battery chemistry for UPS battery backup is dependent on the use case, the overall financial goal of the operator/owner, and the safety standards needed to meet the project requirements.

 

Please note that all battery chemistries, including VRLA Pure lead, are prone to safety hazards given poor operating conditions, improper installation, and inadequate maintenance. 

 

Lithium Ion

  • A Lithium Ion battery system from a top-tier battery manufacturer meets UL9540A testing methods, and UL1973 certification. Most Lithium Ion battery systems have critical battery management systems that are tailored to the specific product and use case.
  • LMO/NMC and NMC are very cost efficient, energy dense, and if used and controlled properly, are well suited for UPS applications. LFP Lithium Ion has a favorable lifespan and is very safe if used and controlled properly. The overall issue is power density vs. price - and this opens the floor for an initial investment discussion of safety over price.
  • LFP uses a lead-based chemistry, and while lead is more abundant, the way it is mined and processed can lead to lower sustainability than newer chemistries like Nickel Zinc or Sodium Ion.

VRLA

  • Like LFP, the traditional VRLA battery or VRLA Pure Lead does have recyclable materials, but the way the lead is smelted and processed can increase the carbon footprint dramatically, which in turn reduces the sustainability of the product.
  • VRLA and VRLA Pure Lead are relatively inexpensive initial purchases, but to meet the longer lifespan of Lithium Ion and other new chemistries, VRLA would have to be replaced several times. This results in a lower TCO score. 

New Chemistries (Nickel Zinc and Sodium Ion)

  • New chemistries like Nickel Zinc and Sodium Ion incorporate attributes of higher safety, sustainability, overall cycle life, and total cost of ownership. A higher score in these attributes typically comes with a higher initial price tag.

Overall Conclusion

The best battery design for UPS battery backup applications is one that satisfies the financial, technical, and safety goals of the owner/operator. There are a large variety of UPS battery backup solutions to choose from, and we hope the scoring shown here today helps in some way. An important note we would like to make is that a battery must be used, operated, and maintained properly regardless of what chemistry is chosen.

 

A Battery is Not Just a Battery. 

Edited by Nicole Kristof, Digital Marketing Specialist and MarySandra Do, Content Marketing Specialist

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