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Lithium-ion batteries are changing the UPS game

February 21, 2023
Read Time 3 mins

By Sascha Schmidt-Ries, Product Manager

Lithium-ion is changing the game when it comes to battery technology for uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems. Although valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) batteries did the job for many years, the benefits of using lithium-ion batteries for UPS systems are simply too many to ignore.

When compared to lead acid batteries, there’s not a lot not to like about lithium-ion batteries:

  • Longer useful life – up to two times
  • They weigh a lot less while being easier to install
  • They are smaller in size, take up less space, yet offer the same, if not better, performance and power
  • They recharge more rapidly, meaning they are always ready for a power failure
  • A total cost of ownership (TCO) savings of up to 50%
  • They have the ability to withstand higher operating temperatures and are suited to more rugged environments
  • They are more sustainable and are therefore better for the environment

Longevity, less maintenance

One compelling benefit of lithium-ion batteries is that they last up to twice as long as their lead-acid counterparts. While the expected lifespan of a typical VRLA battery is between three and five years, lithium-ion UPS batteries are able to last between eight and 10 years, and often as long as the lifespan of the UPS itself.

Moreover, lithium-ion batteries are able to withstand a greater number of charge and discharge cycles in comparison to VRLA batteries. In fact, looking at the numbers, lithium-ion batteries last for 3,000 to 5,000 cycles, while VRLA batteries last for only 200 to 500 cycles.

Not having to replace the battery for the duration of the UPS’s lifespan saves a fortune on running costs and lowers the risk of downtime while maintenance takes place. This is because lithium-ion batteries are extremely low maintenance and can be pretty much plugged in and forgotten about.

Higher temperature, zero performance degradation

Another benefit that sets lithium-ion batteries apart, is their ability to withstand higher temperatures than VRLA batteries with no impact on performance at all. For every half a degree temperature increase above 25°C, VRLA batteries lose approximately 50% of their life expectancy, which results in a dramatic loss of performance.

On the other hand, lithium-ion batteries are able to function at temperatures of up to 40°C with no performance degradation at all. This means that UPSes with lithium-ion batteries are able to be used in harsher, more rugged environments, such as industrial set ups and edge applications.

Size and flexibility

Another area where lithium-ion batteries come out on top is size, weight, and flexibility. They are between 40 and 60% lighter than their VRLA cousins, and some 40% smaller in total size.

These benefits make the UPS and its batteries much easier to install in racks or wherever it is needed, giving users more flexibility in terms of where it can be installed.

Furthermore, the smaller size of lithium-ion UPS batteries also allows organisations to get more ‘bang for their buck’, and gain a lot more runtime while using the same amount of space, or equal runtime in a much smaller space.

Faster recharging, lower TCO

When a UPS is needed to provide backup power, the battery needs to be recharged, as rapidly as possible, and to its full capacity. VRLA batteries sometimes take more than 12 hours to charge from zero to 90% of full runtime capacity, while lithium-ion ones take merely two to four hours.

This reduces the overall risk that the user will be plagued with another outage before their UPS batteries have been fully charged and can be used again.

Moreover, lithium-ion batteries promise dramatic TCO savings of up to 50% over their lifetime. This is due to a range of factors:

  • Their longer lifespan in comparison to VRLA batteries
  • Their ability to cope with a greater number of charge and discharge cycles
  • Their ability to withstand higher temperatures
  • Maintenance costs are slashed to a minimum, and no battery replacements are necessary except under exceptional circumstances
  • Greater sustainability, as they have fewer space requirements and cost less to install

APC, now with lithium-ion

APC, brought to South Africa by Tarsus Distribution, boasts the world’s most popular network and server UPSes, which now feature lithium-ion batteries. APC’s batteries last three times longer than VRLA batteries and don’t need to be replaced for eight to ten years.

In addition, these devices come with built-in remote management, built-in secure cloud monitoring with the EcoStruxure Ready Smart-UPS Ethernet Port, and offer a wide range of power options.

They are also ideal for many different applications, including small edge environments, retail back offices, and store networks. They can also be used in healthcare organisations, education, larger retail locations, financial services entities, and retail stores.

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