We are often asked, “What kind of batteries do you use?” Mi-Grid systems are offered with 3 choices:
- High-Quality Absorb Glass Mat (AGM) batteries
- Advanced Lead Acid – Nano Carbon batteries
Our standard offering uses high-quality AGM batteries. For a system where the batteries are a backup, or are not cycled very often, our standard AGM is the most cost-effective. AGM batteries are a form of lead acid battery. Instead of liquid sulphuric acid, the battery is filled with fiberglass mat and the mat is made “wet.” This allows the battery to be mounted in any direction, and there is no chance of spilling. If the battery case were damaged, it may dry out, but the acid fluid cannot leak. These are considered, “non-hazardous”.
For Mi-Grid systems connected to utility power, the batteries are kept full. Only when the utility power fails will the batteries be cycled. These batteries are also used wherever the system is set up for up to 80% depth of discharge (what percent of the total battery is used). AGM batteries, if treated properly should last a minimum of 5 years, possibly as long as 10 years.
Nano Carbon batteries are called “Advanced Lead Acid.” The ones we use are also an AGM battery with all of the benefits. The internal parts of the battery are covered with a nanoparticle carbon coating. This increases the life of the battery in places where it cycles a lot. The batteries operate best in a “partial state of charge.” The controls are reprogrammed to operate the battery in the middle of its range and the usable portion is about 50-60% of “full” capacity. This is how they are able to achieve 3000 cycles.
These are great in high-cycling applications, where the batteries are charged and discharged every day, possibly more than once a day. They cost about 30% more than the regular AGM batteries. Great applications for these are off-grid, grid-connected cycling and mobile applications, such as food trucks and RVs.
Lithium batteries, depending on the type, offer light-weight, smaller batteries with very high-cycle life. There are many types of lithium batteries. The type in your phone is typically Lithium Cobalt, due to the very high energy density. They are limited to about 500 charge-discharge cycles before losing significant capacity.
We use Lithium Ferro Phosphate batteries. They have a lower energy density (size vs. charge), but much higher cycle life. When used correctly, they may exceed 10,000 cycles! Typical is 5000-7000 cycles. For the same usable charge, they are about 2.5 times the cost of nano-carbon batteries. With the higher cycle life, they are comparative to the nano-carbon. You may never have to replace these batteries! They are also smaller and weigh about 60-70% less than either AGM battery.
These are best in high-cycle, mobile and applications in places where you do not want to change the batteries often. The prices are coming down, so these will probably be the best replacement battery, when the time comes.
Every type of battery has its place. I would say the Lithium batteries are “best.” But you may not want to pay that much at the beginning. If the batteries are in a grid-tied type system, the regular AGM batteries are best. The nano-carbons are the most cost-effective in a cycling application.
Update: The lithium batteries continue to fall in price, including LiFePo4. If you take into account the life of the battery, LiFePo4 is now cheaper than any form of lead-acid.