VRLA vs. Li-ion Batteries for Single Phase UPS Systems

White paper - VRLA vs. Li-ion Batteries for UPS Systems

Improvements and innovations in battery technology over the past decade have been astounding. There has been a significant reduction in both battery size and cost. According to data from Bloomberg, the average price of lithium-ion batteries has dropped by 88%. The cost of a typical lithium ion battery has reduced from $1191 in 2010 to $137 in 2020[1].

The drastic reduction in price has made li-ion batteries a viable option for systems like single-phase UPSs. This white paper by Schneider Electric, compares VRLA batteries and li-ion batters for application in UPS systems. It includes an analysis of a 10-year total cost of ownership. A sensitivity analysis also explores the TCO drivers.

See also: Why Cloud Computing is Requiring us to Rethink Resiliency at the Edge

What are single-phase UPS systems?

A single-phase Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) has one conductor and one neutral. It has a single input and output to the electrical equipment. This type of UPS is typically used in homes and small businesses. They are able to meet lower kVA (kilovolt-ampere) requirements, typically below 20 kVA. For applications that require high kVA a three-phase UPS system may be used. Three-phase systems are generally used in large installations like data centers, industries, etc. UPS systems are used to provide backup power if the regular source of power fails or if the voltage drops to an unacceptable level. 

What are VRLA batteries?

VRLA stands for valve-regulated lead-acid battery. They are a type of rechargeable battery that is also known as maintenance-free batteries. This type of battery is used very often in UPS systems and for telecom applications. A big disadvantage of lead-acid batteries is that they require a very long recharge cycle as compared to other battery types. They also have a shorter life cycle.

What are Li-ion batteries?

Li-ion i.e lithium-ion batteries use the movements of lithium ions to generate power. They are used extensively in consumer electronics like cell phones, are a popular choice for electric vehicles, and are seeing increased use for military and aerospace applications. There is a safety risk associated with this type of battery as it contains flammable electrolytes. If the batteries are damaged or used incorrectly, they can explode or cause fires.

The cost of lithium-ion batteries used to be very high. The cost of the batteries was prohibitive for UPS systems. However, over the past decade that cost has significantly reduced and an increasing number of businesses are considering li-ion batteries for their UPS systems instead of VRLA batteries. Despite the lower cost, li-ion batteries are still more expensive than VRLA alternatives. Why would businesses choose li-ion over VRLA. This white paper explores these reasons. The 10-year TCO analysis reveals that li-ion batteries are 53% cheaper than VRLA batteries. However, the initial capital cost for li-ion batteries is greater. Download this white paper to learn more.

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1. Dec 2020, 'Lithium Battery Prices Plunge', Statista [available online] available from: https://www.statista.com/chart/23807/lithium-ion-battery-prices/