Lithium Ion Battery Advantages & Disadvantages

- summary of the advantages and disadvantages of lithium ion or li-ion cells and batteries.

Like any other technology, lithium ion or li-ion cells and batteries have their advantages and disadvantages.

While there are many different types of lithium ion cell, it is possible to describe some of the generic advantages and disadvantages.

It is then possible to look at the different variants to see their own advantages and disadvantages.

Obviously the choice of whether to sue a lithium ion battery or cell is dependent upon analysing and weighing up the different advantages and disadvantages to see whether they give a real benefit. A decision can then be made about the correct type or format to use.


Lithium ion battery advantages

There are many advantages to using a li-ion cell of battery. These li-ion battery advantages include:

  • High energy density:   The much greater energy density is one of the chief advantages of a lithium ion battery or cell. With electronic equipment such as mobile phones needing to operate longer between charges while still consuming more power, there is always a need to batteries with a much higher energy density. In addition to this, there are many power applications from power tools to electric vehicles. The much higher power density offered by lithium ion batteries is a distinct advantage.
  • Self-discharge:   One issue with batteries and ells is that they lose their charge over time. This self-discharge can be a major issue. One advantage of lithium ion cells is that their rate of self-discharge is much lower than that of other rechargeable cells such as Ni-Cad and NiMH forms.
  • No requirement for priming:   Some rechargeable cells need to be primed when they receive their first charge. There is no requirement for this with lithium ion cells and batteries.
  • Low maintenance:   One major lithium ion battery advantage is that they do not require and maintenance to ensure their performance. Ni-Cad cells required a periodic discharge to ensure that they did not exhibit the memory effect. As this does not affect lithium ion cells, this process or other similar maintenance procedures are not required.
  • Variety of types available:   There are several types of lithium ion cell available. This advantage of lithium ion batteries can mean that the right technology can be used for the particular application needed. Some forms of lithium ion battery provide a high current density and are ideal for consumer mobile electronic equipment. Others are able to provide much higher current levels and are ideal for power tools and electric vehicles.

Lithium ion battery disadvantages

Like the use of any technology, there are some disadvantages that need to be balanced against the benefits. The li-ion battery disadvantages include:

  • Protection required:   lithium ion cells and batteries are not as robust as some other rechargeable technologies. They require protection from being over charged and discharged too far. In addition to this, they need to have the current maintained within safe limits. Accordingly one lithium ion battery disadvantage is that they require protection circuitry incorporated to ensure they are kept within their safe operating limits. Fortunately with modern integrated circuit technology, this can be relatively easily incorporated into the battery, or within the equipment if the battery is not interchangeable.
  • Ageing :   One of the major lithium ion battery disadvantages for consumer electronics is that lithium ion batteries suffer from ageing. Not only is this time or calendar dependent, but it is also dependent upon the number of charge discharge cycles that the battery has undergone. When a typical consumer lithium cobalt oxide, LCO battery or cell needs to be stored it should be partially charged - around 40% to 50% and kept in a cool storage area. Storage under these conditions will help increase the life.
  • Transportation:   Another disadvantage of lithium ion batteries is that there can be certain restrictions placed on their transportation, especially by air. Although the batteries that could be taken in aircraft carry-on luggage are unlikely to be affected, care should be taken not to carry any more lithium ion batteries than are needed. Any carried separately must be protected against short circuits by protective covers, etc.
  • Cost:   A major lithium ion battery disadvantage is their cost. Typically they are around 40% more costly to manufacture than Nickel cadmium cells. This is a major factor when considering their use in mass produced consumer items where any additional costs are a major issue.
  • Immature technology:   Lithium ion battery technology is a developing area. This can be a disadvantage in terms of the fact that the technology does not remain constant. However as new lithium ion technologies are being developed all the time, it can also be an advantage as better solutions are coming available.

All technologies have their advantages and disadvantages. Lithium ion technology is no different. By understanding the various positive and negative issues, it is possible to be able to work around them and utilise the correct technology for the particular application.

By Ian Poole


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