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Different Lithium Battery Types

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#1 Jerry Lodriguss

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 04:32 PM

It seems like a tower of babel when it comes to figuring out which lithium ion battery is best for astrophotography at a remote observing site.

 

I see a crazy number of different types listed at the Battery University.

 

But basically, it seems like there are four that I've heard of ...

  1. Lithium Ion - but many batteries don't specify exactly which kind they are.
  2. Lithium Ion Polymer (LiPo)
  3. Nickel-Manganese-Cobalt (NMC)
  4. Lithium-Iron-Phosphate (LiFePO4 or LFP)

So the question is, which is the best for our astrophotography needs?

  • Which can be discharged the most without damage?
  • Which maintains a 12v output the longest before the voltage drops?
  • Which is best for cold temperatures?
  • Which can be used in high-humidity environments?
  • Which ones are most likely to explode?

I just bought a Lithium Ion Polymer powerbank but I'm wondering if the LiFePO4 would not be better.

 

The NMC type seems to be used in the car starter powerbanks, so it must be something about it being able to deliver high current initially?

 

I've read that some drop below 12 volts almost immediately?

 

Assuming cost is no problem, is the LiFePO4 our best choice currently? What are it's strong points for our application?  What are its weak points?

 

For our use, is it better to get a high-tech battery with all of the over/under current shutoffs, or just a simple battery with positive and negative terminals?

 

Thanks,

Jerry


Edited by Jerry Lodriguss, 20 July 2019 - 04:37 PM.

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#2 Stelios

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 04:44 PM

Moving to Equipment for a better fit (it's a frequently discussed topic there).



#3 WadeH237

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 04:48 PM

I think that unless otherwise state, "lithium battery" usually means "lithium ion"

 

Lithium ion cells have a slightly higher voltage (and energy density) than LiFePO4.  As such, you can get more capacity for slightly less weight with lithium ion.  Also, lithium ion is quite a bit cheaper than lithium ion.

 

I'm researching lithium batteries and thinking about switching over.  When I do, it will be LiFePO4.  Given all the advantages of lithium ion vs LiFePO4 above, why is this?  Simple.  Lithium ion has a tendency to fail with a thermal runaway (ie. fire).  LiFePO4 is much less likely to do this.

 

We see the expense of lithium batteries and cringe.  The flip side of this is that, if you take care of them, they will support far more charge cycles over their lifetime than a lead based battery.  All lithium batteries can fail if over charged or over discharged (in either a boring no-longer-holds-a-charge kind of way or something more spectacular).  The thing that prevents this is that most battery packs contain some electronic circuitry called a "battery management system", or BMS.  It is responsible for preventing over charge or over discharge for each individual cell in the pack.  Among other things, there are better and less-better BMS's.  This is one of the reasons that I am very cautious regarding batteries where the source of all of the components is not listed, and the full specs are not provided.  This rules out the vast majority of cheap "cell phone charger" type battery packs for me.

 

When I go to lithium, it will be LiFePO4, and I will probably build my own packs.  It will be labor intensive, but I'll have more confidence in the packs.  Also, if I can get between 1000 and 2000 cycles on a pack, I won't need to make replacements for a very long time.

 

 

As for temperature, none of them are good for cold temperatures.  If you will be out when it's freezing, a lead based battery with a buck/boost converter to regulate the output voltage is the best thing.  


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#4 Salty_snack

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 05:24 PM

Lithium ion has a tendency to fail with a thermal runaway (ie. fire). LiFePO4 is much less likely to do this.


While lithium polymer batteries can fail and result in a fire this is very very rare. Of the hundreds of millions, probably billions of lithium ion batteries manufactured over the last decade or more the percentage of which has caused a fire is near zero.

That being said... you can basically do whatever you want to a LiPO4 battery and not much will happen.

#5 Starsareus

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 05:39 PM

Not to add wood to the "fire", but some BMS boards are made poorly!  Buy quality stuff. There is a high level of power density in these new batteries.  I once shorted out a NiCad Missile battery-it became hot, but slowly!!


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#6 ccs_hello

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 05:57 PM

The easiest/simplest way to think about these Lithium based recharables is

 Two most popular chemical types (positive electrode, specifically):

     Cobalt oxide type

        a) Lithium Cobalt Oxide: LCO or the later/more refined/slightly cheaper Lithium Nickel-Manganese-Cobalt Oxide: NMC (since expensive Cobalt is now mixed with Mn and Ni )

         or

        b) Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) or LFP

 

Former is the classic 3.7V (with fire hazard, since positive loop on thermal cycle) nominal cell, while

latter is the newer (but cost more and with less energy density) 3.2V nominal cell (negative thermal loop.)

 

============

 

Packaging and "how people in the industry name them"...

 

Lithium Ion: this is traditionally referring to Lithium-Cobalt type (most often, getting the NMC type)

This usually is seen as cylindrical shape (e.g., 18650 form factor.)

 

Lithium-Polymer (Li-Po): this usually shown as a rectangular shaped bag.

 

When the battery is LiFePO4, independent of the battery shape, it will be called as LFP.


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#7 ccs_hello

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 06:06 PM

More on LFP

https://www.cloudyni...iron-phosphate/

 

Lithium rechargable chemistry

https://batteryunive..._of_lithium_ion

 

re: Battery recharging cycle

There are rated cycles per mfg spec (generate info: see above link), so long as proper charge/discharge discipline (SoC: state of Charge) is followed.

 

12V out, by itself is a question by its own.  Do you need good voltage regulation?  How's the min and max voltage level acceptable?



#8 oldstargazer

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 06:32 PM

Lithium Ion is the kind you want to have. The most important thing about this type of battery is it should come with a specific charger designed to monitor voltage and temperature as it is charging. Typically this type of battery has a 1000 cycle life and will not usually discharge while sitting on the shelf. The down side of this type of battery is that it will provide you with power up till it is dead and needs to be recharged, in other words it won't just start to die, it will just quit when it has reached it minimum charge point.



#9 AstroGabe

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 09:35 PM

I chose a LiFePO4 battery for my needs over a Lithium ion battery for safety reasons.  I store most of my gear in the house, and don’t want anything that might catch fire if it’s handled improperly.  I got a 20Ah Bioenno battery which has served me well over the years, but am looking to upgrade to a 50Ah or more battery so I can do a full remote imaging session on one charge - this would include everything like the dew heaters, PC stick, mount, etc.

 

Gabe


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#10 Jerry Lodriguss

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 08:55 PM

So no one knows which type maintains a 12v output the longest before the voltage drops?

 

Jerry



#11 ccs_hello

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 09:11 PM

Re: maintaining 12V output

 

My earlier questions still stand: Do you need good voltage regulation?  How's the min and max voltage level acceptable?

 

Can max of 14.4V and lowest 11.2V (aftrer that, immediate cut off) acceptable?

This is the common spec for 4-series connected LFP with BMS looks like.



#12 Phil Sherman

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 09:26 PM

Unfortunately, the description of the power pack doesn't describe how it's internally wired. This means that we need to figure out its internals using the information available. As specified, this is a 185WH power bank. If we assume using just over 90% of its capacity, we around 170W of power available. At 12V, this is just over 14AH. Lithium cells ate 3.7V (nominal) per cell with a charging voltage of around 4.2V. The 19V charger will charge four cells in series but isn't enough to charge five cells in series.

 

The listed different voltage outputs are an indication that the unit probably contains a buck/boost regulator for the DC outputs. The listed safety features are common for an included battery management system (BMS) that will protect the cells and assure you of the unit's meeting the specified cycle life.

 

Lithium cells are usable until temperatures drop a bit below freezing. I believe the limit is either 25F or 20F. Charging must be done at temperatures above freezing. The BMS should prevent charging the battery if it's too cold.

 

The closest equivalent to this in a lead acid battery would be a 17-18AH AGM battery. This would give you 9-10AH of power if you follow the 50% of capacity rule for long battery life. These batteries run around $50 which I'd say makes your purchase a good buy. With the AGM's  200 cycle life, your lithium battery has five times the cycle life of the AGM while providing 1.5x as much power per discharge cycle. Your lithium battery will also hold the output voltage through its entire discharge cycle. something the AGM doesn't do. While the lithium battery isn't usable at very low temperatures, a lead acid battery at the same temperature has significantly decreased capacity.



#13 Jerry Lodriguss

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 09:38 PM

Re: maintaining 12V output

 

My earlier questions still stand: Do you need good voltage regulation?  How's the min and max voltage level acceptable?

 

Can max of 14.4V and lowest 11.2V (aftrer that, immediate cut off) acceptable?

This is the common spec for 4-series connected LFP with BMS looks like.

I think the computer can take 14.4 volts. I don't know about the mount. The Kendrick DigiFire controller has an 11.6 volt cutoff, so it can't go down to 11.4.

 

I was using a Krisdonia powerbank Lithium Ion Poly at 12v to power everything. After about 4 hours, the Kendrick gave the low voltage warning. I put a meter in line, and it said 11.3 volts. The Krisdonia said it had 52% left. 

 

I have a vague recollection that someone here once said there was a type of lithium battery that would maintain its stated voltage until it reached a level where you should stop using it at something like 15% capacity left.

 

I thought one of the advantages of the lithium batteries was that you didn't have to stop using them when they were 50% discharged, like a deep-cycle lead-acid battery.

 

Maybe I misunderstood, or misremembered. I certainly admit that I am electricity-knowledge challenged.

 

Jerry



#14 Jerry Lodriguss

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 09:50 PM

Unfortunately, the description of the power pack doesn't describe how it's internally wired. This means that we need to figure out its internals using the information available. As specified, this is a 185WH power bank. If we assume using just over 90% of its capacity, we around 170W of power available. At 12V, this is just over 14AH. Lithium cells ate 3.7V (nominal) per cell with a charging voltage of around 4.2V. The 19V charger will charge four cells in series but isn't enough to charge five cells in series.

 

The listed different voltage outputs are an indication that the unit probably contains a buck/boost regulator for the DC outputs. The listed safety features are common for an included battery management system (BMS) that will protect the cells and assure you of the unit's meeting the specified cycle life.

 

Lithium cells are usable until temperatures drop a bit below freezing. I believe the limit is either 25F or 20F. Charging must be done at temperatures above freezing. The BMS should prevent charging the battery if it's too cold.

 

The closest equivalent to this in a lead acid battery would be a 17-18AH AGM battery. This would give you 9-10AH of power if you follow the 50% of capacity rule for long battery life. These batteries run around $50 which I'd say makes your purchase a good buy. With the AGM's  200 cycle life, your lithium battery has five times the cycle life of the AGM while providing 1.5x as much power per discharge cycle. Your lithium battery will also hold the output voltage through its entire discharge cycle. something the AGM doesn't do. While the lithium battery isn't usable at very low temperatures, a lead acid battery at the same temperature has significantly decreased capacity.

Hi Phil,

 

Thank you very much for this simple (which I need) and detailed explanation.

 

I'm going to run some power consumption measurements again, maybe later tonight even, to get some exact numbers on the total draw I have.

 

As far as an AGM battery, that's what I'm trying to replace. I had a Duracell AGM deep-cycle 35ah battery that I used to use. But the last time I took it out, when I went to charge it when I got home, I couldn't even get the cooler lid open in the small igloo cooler that I keep it in because the battery had expanded like it was ready to blow up.

 

I read up on causes for that, and the most common is overcharging. But I had charged it for years on a $110 high-tech CTEK charger recommended by an electrical engineer expert with no previous problems. Yes, I know, stuff breaks. 

 

So I specifically went to the lithium poly battery because I thought it would hold the 12v output voltage as you mentioned.

 

But after 4 hours of use (not in cold, it was 75F last night outside), the LiPo battery reported 53% charge left, but an in-line meter reported that it was only putting out 11.3 volts.

 

So I'm trying to figure out if this is normal expected LiPo battery performance, or if something is wrong.

 

Thanks,

 

Jerry


Edited by Jerry Lodriguss, 21 July 2019 - 09:53 PM.


#15 ccs_hello

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Posted 22 July 2019 - 06:11 AM

re: ... only putting out 11.3 volts.

 

This means its the basic 3-cell Lithium-Cobalt type (most likely NMC) with no output regulation.

This type of build has max  voltage of 12.6V, nominal voltage of 11.1V, and cut of about 9.5V.

It is very basic, but is the most inexpensive type with higher capacity (compare with LFP) if mfg claims is not exaggerated.

 

BTW, a good battery capacity meter is hard to come by and needs calibration occasionally.  Output voltage is never a good indication of its SOC (state of Charge.)

 

BTW 2, a 4-cell LFP with no output regulation, has the max voltage of 14.4V, 12.8V nominal, and 11V min/cut-off voltage.

(Caveat: execution is important, but it's behind the scene hidden.)


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#16 mclewis1

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Posted 22 July 2019 - 07:40 AM

a) with any 12v battery source, if you need the certainty of at least 12v then I'd consider an inexpensive and efficient voltage regulator (often sold for automotive use). The fixed voltage versions will guarantee 12v even when your battery choice is running well but the voltage is down in the mid to low 11s. Having an adjustable regulated voltage can also be helpful as many mounts run better (more responsive during higher speed slews) when running on 13-14v. Many folks are now building DIY power boxes that offer output voltage regulation in the higher ranges, this way they can substitute different battery technologies without the concern about specific voltage levels.

 

b) LFP while expensive seems to be the technology of choice going forward for larger scale commercial use in the telescope market. Notice that Celestron has used LFP internally in one telescope line (the Evolution) for 3 years now, plus it's PowerTank products are now LFP based as well. They did not embrace LiPo, going directly from lead acid to LFP instead.



#17 t_image

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Posted 22 July 2019 - 08:04 AM

Thanks for your input ccs_hello! Always a competent and trustworthy add!

The other CN linked discussion on LiFePO was a bit frustrating as some contradictory posts were not challenged.

I figure the new type isn't used widely enough yet to have a clear understanding of concepts.

 

Seems like a conservative approach in discipline(care in treatment, use, charging),

attention to detail in quality, correct charging devices, discharge monitoring,

and a healthy respect that any type could be dangerous,

would be the best.

 

My only add without a further rant on the muddiness of the issues,

 

is I've found diversification to be beneficial. I have a reasonably priced LiFePO sportsmotorcycle battery that I've been please to use for powering a specific set of gear,

but I also have the trusted deep cycle marine lead-acid to be the workhorse, with additional supplemental sources.

 

Stands to reason with the intelligent community on this thread,

but I guess there's no 'perfect battery' to go along with the mythological 'perfect scope' and 'perfect camera'...........undecided.gif



#18 WadeH237

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Posted 22 July 2019 - 08:59 AM

But after 4 hours of use (not in cold, it was 75F last night outside), the LiPo battery reported 53% charge left, but an in-line meter reported that it was only putting out 11.3 volts.

Regardless of battery type, I would recommend a buck/boost converter between the battery and your power distribution.  Every battery chemistry is subject to variation in voltage, depending on state of charge, current draw and temperature.  I like to have consistent voltage going to my gear, regardless of this.

 

Here is the specific buck/boost converter that I use.  It handles up to 150 watts, allows you to dial in a specific output voltage that it will maintain with an input voltage anywhere from 5 volts to 20 volts.  It also runs nice and cool.  I've been using mine for at least 6 or 7 years now with no problems at all.

 

Once you are supplying consistent voltage to your gear, you can pick whatever battery chemistry you want.  Charge it properly, store it properly, and ensure that you have sufficient usable capacity for your needs, and you won't worry about batteries again.


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#19 NMCN

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Posted 22 July 2019 - 09:49 AM

According to the manuals for the Bioenno LiFePO4 batteries, they will maintain a nominal 12.8V output until very little capacity remains.  While they don't give a specific number, these are deep cycle type batteries and so should last quite a while. 

 

Their manuals also says they should be good to use down to -10C.



#20 CharlesW

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Posted 22 July 2019 - 10:02 AM

If you want actual information, call this company up https://battlebornbatteries.com . Folks with multi-hundred thousand dollar RVs use them for power. 



#21 Jerry Lodriguss

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Posted 22 July 2019 - 12:18 PM

Regardless of battery type, I would recommend a buck/boost converter between the battery and your power distribution.  Every battery chemistry is subject to variation in voltage, depending on state of charge, current draw and temperature.  I like to have consistent voltage going to my gear, regardless of this.

 

Here is the specific buck/boost converter that I use.  It handles up to 150 watts, allows you to dial in a specific output voltage that it will maintain with an input voltage anywhere from 5 volts to 20 volts.  It also runs nice and cool.  I've been using mine for at least 6 or 7 years now with no problems at all.

 

Once you are supplying consistent voltage to your gear, you can pick whatever battery chemistry you want.  Charge it properly, store it properly, and ensure that you have sufficient usable capacity for your needs, and you won't worry about batteries again.

 

That would have been the ticket, but unfortunately, Amazon shows the converter as unavailable. 

 

Any other similar ones to recommend? (I'm electricity challenged)

 

Thanks,

 

Jerry



#22 Jerry Lodriguss

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Posted 22 July 2019 - 12:19 PM

According to the manuals for the Bioenno LiFePO4 batteries, they will maintain a nominal 12.8V output until very little capacity remains.  While they don't give a specific number, these are deep cycle type batteries and so should last quite a while. 

 

Their manuals also says they should be good to use down to -10C.

 

That is what I was looking for.

 

Thanks!

 

Jerry



#23 Jerry Lodriguss

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Posted 22 July 2019 - 12:37 PM

re: ... only putting out 11.3 volts.

 

This means its the basic 3-cell Lithium-Cobalt type (most likely NMC) with no output regulation.

This type of build has max  voltage of 12.6V, nominal voltage of 11.1V, and cut of about 9.5V.

It is very basic, but is the most inexpensive type with higher capacity (compare with LFP) if mfg claims is not exaggerated.

 

BTW, a good battery capacity meter is hard to come by and needs calibration occasionally.  Output voltage is never a good indication of its SOC (state of Charge.)

 

BTW 2, a 4-cell LFP with no output regulation, has the max voltage of 14.4V, 12.8V nominal, and 11V min/cut-off voltage.

(Caveat: execution is important, but it's behind the scene hidden.)

They are advertising the battery I bought as "Lithium-ion Polymer".

 

The voltage is 12.87 volts when completely charged. And when the battery itself says is 50% charge left, the in-line meter says 11.3 volts under load.

 

You say output voltage is not a good indication of SOC?  What about under a load?

 

As if things weren't complicated enough.

 

What specific good battery capacity meter would you recommend?

 

Thanks,

 

Jerry


Edited by Jerry Lodriguss, 22 July 2019 - 03:47 PM.


#24 entilza

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Posted 22 July 2019 - 03:33 PM

Jerry I recently switched to LiFePO4 batteries, these particular batteries have a BMS (Battery Management system) built into them. Which is great because they allow to be charged with a regular 12V charger and it will handle the rest. Also protects from over discharging.

I've been using full battery exclusively since April. Even while at home, I run full off battery. I got 2x20AH in parallel but they have different combos.

This is a graph of my initial test at home pulling 4A with the entire setup running indoors, this test was only with a SINGLE 20AH battery.

After around the 6th hour things really start to drop fast and I wouldn't use it at those volts anymore.

I've been using 2x20AH since, and have very nice volts throughout the night. Even at 13v or just 12.9 when packing up after a full night.

They are rated to run well below zero but the important note is they cannot be charged while below zero so something to be aware of.

I got them at a local solar power place. So far so good, very happy with them.

lipo_chart.png

Edited by entilza, 22 July 2019 - 03:34 PM.


#25 Jerry Lodriguss

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Posted 22 July 2019 - 03:56 PM

Jerry I recently switched to LiFePO4 batteries, these particular batteries have a BMS (Battery Management system) built into them. Which is great because they allow to be charged with a regular 12V charger and it will handle the rest. Also protects from over discharging.

I've been using full battery exclusively since April. Even while at home, I run full off battery. I got 2x20AH in parallel but they have different combos.

This is a graph of my initial test at home pulling 4A with the entire setup running indoors, this test was only with a SINGLE 20AH battery.

After around the 6th hour things really start to drop fast and I wouldn't use it at those volts anymore.

I've been using 2x20AH since, and have very nice volts throughout the night. Even at 13v or just 12.9 when packing up after a full night.

They are rated to run well below zero but the important note is they cannot be charged while below zero so something to be aware of.

I got them at a local solar power place. So far so good, very happy with them.

attachicon.gif lipo_chart.png

Hi Martin,

 

Thanks for the info and the chart!

 

Exactly what brand of battery are you using?

 

And can you explain in more detail about which charger, and how to charge them?

 

Thanks,

 

Jerry




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