In the world of battery technology, there have been very significant advances over the past 30 years. With all the craziness surrounding the push for EV, questions are forming about what battery is best.
In this article, I want to talk about what I know about the lithium family and what I believe is best for now.
Lithium-Ion, Lithium-Polymer, Lithium-Iron-Phosphate
We will start with LiPo or lithium polymer. LiPo tech gets a bad rap for a couple reasons. The lithium-polymer in this trio is the hot-headed one.
Under extreme circumstances (like if the batteries were to rupture in a vehicle crash), thermal runaway would and can consume the surroundings' entirety.
Lithium-Ion, which has been found in many electric vehicles and hybrids, also has its dirty little secret. When I say dirty, I mean harmful.
Cobalt that is used in the manufacturing process is incredibly hard on the environment when mined. Cobalt mining is one reason why lithium is getting such a bad rap and has many people shaming electric vehicles.
Lithium mines are hard on the environment, no doubt, but so is oil production. When it comes down to it, we are trading one form of pollution for another. We can make transportation advancements to find a way to get more energy more cleanly.
Lithium-Iron-Phospate is not as energy-dense and has a lower operating voltage and either of the two mentioned siblings. While it seems to be the calm and cool one, that does come with advantages.
Being fair means that under pressure, LiFePO is a far safer battery. Under extreme burst testing, LiFePo had the least thermal runaway; in fact, it hardly caught fire. In terms of safety, it is king.
LiFePo does not use cobalt either, making it a cleaner battery to produce and use in an automotive application.
Depending on what you want out of a battery, LiFePo is a great battery. LiPo batteries are really great for things like RC cars and smaller applications. Li-ion, while a well-researched battery, still makes me nervous.
Now obviously, car manufactures do not want car fires, so do not think that lithium-ion terrible. The technology is safe, but LiFePo is a safer choice.
Thank you for reading. I look forward to seeing you in the next article. Is a Gen 3 or Gen 4 a better car?
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Peter Neilson is an automotive consultant specializing in electric cars and hybrid battery technologies. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Service Technology from Weber State University. Peter can be reached on Linkedin and you can tweet him at The_hybrid_guy on Twitter. Find his page on Facebook at Certified Auto Consulting. Read more of Peter's stories at Toyota news coverage on Torque News. Search Toyota Prius Torque News for more in depth Prius coverage from our reporters.