Wednesday, 28th October 2020

Lithium-ion batteries: The Future of Data Centre UPS Systems

By Rob Mather, Power Control Ltd.

It has taken decades for a breakthrough in battery technology and lithium-ion solutions have finally presented a more than credible alternative to standard VRLA batteries.


Lithium-ion batteries have been a key discussion point within the data centre industry for a number of years. Li-ion battery lifespan is far greater than VRLA, requiring far fewer battery replacements - a key driver for the adoption of the technology.

The promise of reducing power consumption and maintenance costs, with a more efficient energy storage system when utilising an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), has definitely gotten the market talking. However, there have been a lot of reservations voiced about its commercial viability.

When the technology was first introduced, it was priced out of the market with cost of lithium more than five times that of VRLA – until recently, users have found it difficult to justify the additional spend. Luckily though, increased li-ion manufacturing capacity is slowly driving down costs. New factories are being assembled to focus on the continual development of lithium-ion solutions with a predicted 603.8GWh expected to be achieved in the next five years.

Lithium is one of the smallest chemical elements after hydrogen and helium and as such lends itself to being a practical high energy density component. Not only this but its structure makes it the perfect material for managing battery current as lithium is highly reactive and rechargeable.

There are five main advantages for using lithium-ion batteries in UPS systems:

1) Extended lifespan of up to 10 years. As compared to standard VRLA batteries, li-ion solutions manage significantly more charge/discharge cycles, making the ROI a lot more advantageous.

2) Reduced service and maintenance requirements. Although lithium-ion batteries still requiring servicing, their longer lifecycle means they are able to have longer periods without intervention.

3) Smaller footprint. Lithium-ion batteries are much lighter weight than VRLA batteries and offer a 50% reduced footprint.

4) Improved charging capacity. Typical VRLA battery charge takes 6-12 hours as compared to lithium-ion batteries which only take 30 – 60 minutes.

5) Temperature range. The makeup of li-ion batteries makes them much more tolerant to wider temperature spans.

Li-ion technology offers a win, win for data centres. The industry is continuously making improvements and adding to its infrastructure, which means that there is little room for critical power requirements. Lithium-ion battery solutions are smaller, lighter and more temperature

tolerant, which will help keep the space required for power protection solutions to a minimum whilst reducing costs.

Not only is the technology far superior to that of standard VRLA but li-ion offers unparalleled TCO advantages thanks to minimum servicing requirements and extended lifecycle. With the cost of lithium solutions gradually becoming more palatable, the uptake of li-ion battery systems within UPS equipment and the data centre market is set to rise substantially over the next five years.

For more information about available lithium-ion UPS solutions please visit www.powercontrol.co.uk .

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