The two most common battery types for energy storage are lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries. Both have been used in a variety of applications based on their effectiveness. In this blog, we’ll compare lead-acid vs lithium-ion batteries considering several factors such as cost, environmental impact, safety, and charging methods. Understanding these points will help you select the best battery per your needs.

Lead-Acid Vs Lithium-Ion Batteries – Which is Better?

Lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries use similar energy storage and delivery technology, can both be recharged and have a significant lifespan. This comparison aims to contrast their characteristics, to help in battery selection by looking at various aspects to consider:

1. Constituent Materials

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The key difference between lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries is the material utilized for the cathode, anode, and electrolyte.

  • In a lead-acid battery, lead serves as the anode while lead oxide serves as the cathode. In contrast, in a lithium-ion battery, carbon serves as the anode, and lithium oxide serves as the cathode.
  • Lead-acid batteries use sulphuric acid as the electrolyte, whereas lithium-ion batteries use lithium salt.

Here, ions travel from the anode to the cathode via the electrolyte during discharging, and the inverse process occurs while charging.

2. Weight and Size

Lithium batteries outperform lead-acid batteries in terms of energy density and battery capacity. As a result, lithium batteries are far lighter as well as compact than comparable capacity lead-acid batteries.

Also See: AC Vs DC Coupled: Battery Storage, Oscilloscope, and Termination

3. Depth of Discharge (DOD)

The depth of discharge of a battery represents the percentage of the battery’s entire capacity that can be securely expended without causing damage to the battery. Lead-acid batteries have a depth of discharge of 50%, while lithium batteries have a depth of discharge of 80%, meaning that lithium-ion batteries can be used for extended periods before needing to be recharged.

Because of the superior depth of discharge of lithium-ion technology, lithium-ion batteries possess a higher efficient capacity than lead-acid batteries, especially when considering the higher energy density found in lithium-ion batteries. Moreover, modern batteries made with lithium-ion have a DOD of 100%.

4. Battery Capacity

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In the lead-acid vs lithium-ion batteries comparison, let us learn which has better battery capacity. A battery’s capacity is a measurement of the amount of energy it can retain and later release. Despite capacity specifications differing between the battery models and companies, lithium-ion batteries are known to have far better energy efficiency compared to lead-acid batteries. Because of their higher energy storage capacity, lithium-ion batteries can store more energy in the same volume as a standard battery. This allows gadgets powered by this battery to run for longer periods because of the increased amount of energy that can be released.

Also Read: How to Calculate Battery Capacity for Solar System?

5. Charging Time

Lithium-ion batteries charge substantially faster than lead-acid batteries. For example, if a lead-acid battery requires eight hours to charge, a lithium-ion battery with the same capacity will most likely charge in less than two hours. The comparison of time taken for charging lithium-ion batteries vs lead acid is significant since lithium-ion batteries recharge eight times faster than lead-acid batteries. One of the reasons that lithium-ion batteries are selected for most electric vehicles is their ability to charge quickly.

6. Energy Density or Specific Energy

When choosing a battery for a certain application, energy density is a critical factor to consider. It denotes the relationship between battery capacity and weight. Lithium batteries offer higher energy density than lead-acid batteries, making them a better option for EV applications.

7. Expense

Lead-acid batteries are less expensive and easier to install compared to lithium-ion batteries. However, lithium-ion batteries, costing nearly twice as much, outshine them in terms of longevity. Hence, comparing the cost of lithium-ion batteries vs lead acid, the lead-acid batteries may seem cost-effective initially, considering the lifespan, lithium-ion batteries may prove to be more economical in the long run, despite their higher upfront and installation costs.

8. Cycle Life

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Cycle life typically defines as the amount of charge and discharge cycles a battery can go through without losing substantial efficiency is critical in determining its longevity. Lithium-ion batteries display superior cycle life with up to 5,000 cycles and are unaffected by discharge factors. On the other hand, lead-acid batteries last between 300 to 500 cycles and are significantly impacted by total discharge. In the comparison of lead-acid vs lithium-ion batteries, the capability of lithium-ion batteries to tolerate more cycles translates to a longer operational lifespan, underlining their enhanced durability in contrast to lead-acid batteries.

Also Read: Do AGM Batteries Need to be Vented?

9. Durability

The durability of a battery is often gauged by its lifespan. A well-maintained lead-acid battery can last up to two years if recharged after 50% of consumption. However, the life expectancy drops to about a year or approximately 350 cycles when it’s completely depleted or used above 80%.  Lithium-ion batteries offer durability of up to 10,000 cycles. Nevertheless, as batteries age, similar to solar panels, they degrade and lose efficiency. So, do lithium batteries last longer than lead acid? Yes, they do last longer than lead-acid batteries. Check out the upcoming segment for a better understanding.

10. Safety

Battery failures can happen for a variety of causes. Lead-acid batteries contain highly corrosive sulfuric acid and, if overcharged, can leak, releasing hydrogen and oxygen gases that can cause explosions. Moreover, Lithium-ion batteries are at risk of thermal runaway, a condition in which internal heat generation exceeds heat dissipation, which could give rise to an explosion. As a result, it’s critical to use high-voltage batteries with caution. Overcharging could result in explosions in both lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries.

Therefore, this comparison determines whether you should choose lead-acid vs lithium-ion batteries depending on your application. Lithium-ion batteries are appropriate for you if you want for electric car applications and long-term power supply needs, but lead-acid batteries are more cost-effective for power backup applications such as computer UPS and inverters. However, both types of batteries pose concerns while in use.

Also See: Alkaline Battery vs Lithium Battery-Which is Better?

Do Lithium Batteries Last Longer than Lead Acid?

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Lithium-ion batteries are well-known for their extended life, often outlasting lead-acid batteries by 3 to 4 times while remaining efficient for a long time. Despite their higher initial cost, lithium-ion batteries provide better long-term value due to their extended lifespan and larger useable capacity. In fact, a single lithium battery can often last up to 10 times longer than a lead-acid counterpart, resulting in better cost-effectiveness in long-term savings.

When discharged up to 80%, lithium-ion batteries have a cycle life of roughly 3,500 cycles. When discharged to the same level, flooded lead-acid and valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) batteries usually provide just 300 to 500 cycles. This means that a lithium battery cycled once daily might last for more than 14 years, whereas a standard lead-acid battery typically lasts no more than two years. Moreover, when the batteries get discharged the process of charging lithium-ion batteries vs lead-acid batteries greatly differs due to their distinct electrochemical compositions.

Also See: Revolutionizing Energy Storage: A Comprehensive Review of BYD Batteries

What is the Cost of Lithium-Ion Batteries Vs Lead Acid?

After learning whether lithium batteries last longer than lead acid, let us compare the cost of the batteries. When comparing the pricing of Lithium-ion and Lead-acid batteries involves various factors. It includes installed capacity, usable capacity, depth of discharge, efficiency, and charge/discharge rate limitations.

Given that a Lithium-ion system occupies only one-sixth the volume of a lead-acid system due to its 3.5 times greater energy density, it can be fully discharged, unlike AGM batteries which can only be discharged to 50%. In the lead-acid vs lithium-ion batteries comparison, let us go through the costs break down which is as follows:

FactorsLEAD-ACID AGM (Absorbent Glass Mat)LITHIUM-ION
Installed capacity100 kWh50 kWh
Usable capacity50 kWh50 kWh
Lifespan500 cycles at 50% DOD (Depth of Discharge)3000 cycles at 100% DOD
Number of installations6 (1 + 5 replacements)1
Battery expenses60 000€ (100€/ kWh x 100 x 6)20 000€ (400€/ kWh x 50 x 1)
Installation expenses12 000 € (2000 € per install x 6)2000 € (one-shot install)
Transportation expenses6 000€ (1 000€ per transport x 6)1 000€ (one-shot install)
Total expenses78,000 €23,000 €
Cost per usable kWh per cycle0.42€ / usable kWh (78 000 / 3000 / 50)0.15€ / usable kWh (23 000 / 3000 / 50)

Note: It is crucial to remember that the cost of lithium ion batteries vs lead acid is subject to change due to supply chain interruptions, fluctuation in raw material pricing, and advances in battery technology. So before making a purchase, reach out to the nearest seller for current data.

Despite the initial higher cost, lithium-ion technology is approximately 2.8 times more affordable per usable kWh than Lead-acid due to its inherent advantages, longer lifespan, and lower transportation expenses. An essential aspect to remember is that usable capacity, efficiency, and other factors have an impact on the levelized cost of storage, referred to as the total cost per kWh that a battery may deliver over its estimated lifespan.

To get the same useable capacity as a smaller number of lithium batteries, you’d have to buy a lot more lead-acid batteries, potentially twice, three times, or even four times. This highlights the importance of taking into account the overall lifecycle cost and useful capacity of batteries rather than just comparing initial purchase pricing.

Also Read: How to Recharge Solar Light Batteries: 13 Easy Techniques

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Lead-Acid Vs Lithium-Ion Batteries?

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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Lead-Acid Vs Lithium-Ion Batteries are listed below:

1. Lithium-Ion Batteries

The advantages of Lithium-ion Batteries are as follows:

  • Higher Energy Density: It offers a higher energy density that can store more energy while being more compact and lightweight.
  • Longer Lifespan: It has a longer lifespan that lasts up to 5 years or more, with proper usage and care.
  • Faster Charging: It can be charged significantly faster than lead-acid batteries in just 30 minutes, they may be charged to 80%.
  • Low Maintenance: It requires extremely less maintenance and does not require electrolyte replenishment or equalization charges regularly.
  • Eco-Friendly: These are significantly more environmentally friendly than lead-acid batteries since they do not include any toxic chemicals such as lead or acid, that are potentially harmful to the ecosystem.

The disadvantages of Lithium-ion Batteries are as follows:

  • High Cost: Due to the high cost of raw materials required in the production process, lithium-ion batteries are priced higher than lead-acid batteries.
  • Safety Concerns: These are vulnerable to thermal runaway, which can result in an explosion or fire caused by excessive charging, overheating, or physical damage to the battery.
  • Limited Temperature Range: These have a restricted temperature range and perform poorly in severe temperatures, in both cold and hot conditions.

Cross-Reference: Comparison of lead-acid and lithium ion batteries for stationary storage in off-grid energy systems

2. Lead-Acid Batteries

The advantages of lead-acid batteries are as follows:

  • Low Cost: Due to their low price, lead-acid batteries are substantially less expensive than lithium-ion batteries, which are used extensively in many applications.
  • High Power Output: These batteries have a high power output, therefore becoming ideal for applications such as starting a car or powering heavy machinery.
  • Wide Temperature Range: Since lead-acid batteries can run in a wide temperature range, they are suited for usage in adverse weather conditions.
  • Proven Technology: These batteries have been available for many years making it a dependable and effective technology used in a wide range of applications.

The disadvantages of Lead-acid Batteries are as follows:

  • Heavy and Bulky: These are heavier and bulkier than lithium-ion batteries, making them inappropriate for uses where weight and size are crucial.
  • Shorter Lifespan: These have a shorter lifespan than lithium-ion batteries, which normally last between 2-3 years and require regular upkeep.
  • Maintenance: These require periodic electrolyte replenishment and equalization charges. Failure to do so can lead to poor performance and a shorter lifespan.
  • Environmental Concerns: These contain toxic chemicals such as lead and acid, that are potentially harmful to the environment if not disposed of appropriately.

To sum up, the ultimate choice in the lead-acid vs lithium-ion batteries comparison can be determined based on your requirements. If cost and power output are key considerations, lead-acid batteries can be used. However, if you value energy density, longevity, and environmental sustainability, then you can choose lithium-ion batteries. For more comparison docs, keep exploring our website.

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Olivia is committed to green energy and works to help ensure our planet's long-term habitability. She takes part in environmental conservation by recycling and avoiding single-use plastic.

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