Nickel Iron Battery vs Lithium Ion-Energy, Protection...

Sep 12, 2019   Pageview:168

Nickel-iron (NiFe) and Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) battery technologies are the two most common rechargeable battery technologies in the world. They are found in most consumer electronic devices like mobile phones and laptops. However, they have some characteristics that separate them from each other. 

Understanding the Chemistries

Nickel-iron Battery

The NiFe has Nickel III oxide-hydroxide in the positive plates. The negative plates, on the other hand, contain ion. The electrolyte is made of potassium hydroxide. The batteries have active materials that are held together with nickel-plated steel tubes. Sometimes perforated pockets are used to hold the materials together as well. 

One of the major advantages of Nickel-iron batteries is the tolerance of abuse. They are very robust can withstand overcharging and over-discharging better than other battery technologies. If treated well, the batteries can last for up to 20 years. 

They have low solubility of the reactants inside the electrolyte. This gives them the ability to survive frequent cycling. 

Their cells charge and discharge very slowly. This is affected by the slow formation of ion crystals, which preserves the electrolytes though. But it limits high rate performance. 

However, they have very low specific energy, poor charge retention, and are expensive to manufacture. This is why other rechargeable batteries like Li-Ion have overtaken them. 


Lithium-ion Battery

Li-Ion batteries or simply LIB is a group of rechargeable batteries common in consumer devices. They are complimented by their high energy density. They contain lithium ions that move from the anode to the cathode during discharging and cathode to anode during charging. 

The biggest advantage of LIBs is its high storage capacities. They can carry up to 159 watt-hours per kg. Apart from this, they hold charge better than NiFes. 

You don’t need to completely discharge LIBs. This is because they don’t have a charge memory, which affects many battery chemistries. This is why they can handle more charge/recharge cycles. 

They have some disadvantages as well a though. For instance, they start to degrade the moment they leave the factory. Even on the shelf, they still lose a charge. They can only last for about two or three years from the date of manufacture, compared to NiFe that can go to 20 years. Apart from that, they are quite sensitive to high temperatures and can get damaged if fully discharged. 

Energy Storage-Nickel Iron Battery vs. Lithium-ion

Both Nickel-iron and lithium-ion batteries are storage batteries. However, they have different capacities and storage abilities. 

Nickel-iron Batteries

This battery was introduced on the market in 1900 by Thomas Edison. There have been several developments focused on higher energy and better performance. They have open-circuit voltage of 1.4V. The discharge voltage is about 1.2 V. 

They have an energy density of 20 to 45 Watt-hour per kg. This is echoed by a density of 65 to 90 watt per kg and life cycles of 2000 to 5000. They have long life properties, and that is why they are sometimes used for traction purposes. 

Despite this, they have since ceded their market. The major reasons for this are their cost of manufacture. They low specific energy and very poor charge retention. 

Main Characteristics:

Energy per weight

30-50 Watt-hour/kg

Energy per size

30-watt hour/l


100Watt /kg

Charge efficiency    65% 

Discharge efficiency          

Energy/consumer-price    85%

1.5– 6.6Wh/US$

The batteries have a self-discharge rate of 10 to 15% per month. Apart from that, their life duration can go up to 100 years. The repeated deep discharge does not reduce life in any major way. 

The nominal cell voltage is 1.2V. As stated above, the deep discharge does not destroy the batteries. 

NiFe batteries are used in many storage systems because of this ability to endure abuse. And since they can last for years, they give back the value of your investment. 

li-ion batteries 

Modern power storage systems are relying more and more on LIBs. One of the major reasons for this is their high capacity. They can store more power than nickel-iron batteries.

The batteries were first discussed in the 1970s. But it was not untill1991 that they were released commercially. Ever since they have become a favorite among many electronic device users. 

They are most preferred for Battery Energy Storage Systems. Since these systems need to respond quickly to calls to discharge, Li-Ion batteries make it easy. 


Specific energy    100- 265 Watt-hour/kg

Energy density     250- 693-watt-hour/l

Specific Power/weight

250 – 340 Watt /kg

Charge efficiency    80% 

Discharge efficiency          

Energy/consumer-price    90%

3.6 Watt hour /US$

LIBs have a low discharge rate of 0.35% to 2.5% per month. This depends on the state of the charge. Apart from this, they give a cycle duration of 400 – 1200 cycles. 

Protection of Nickel-iron Battery and Lithium-ion

There have been several safety issues with lithium-ion batteries. Even though they are powerful, one of the problems they have is that they can easily explode and cause a fire. Due to the instability of lithium metals, modern batteries use lithium ions. 

Lithium ions are safer provided you follow user instruction properly. Certain things affect them. For instance, they are quite reactive to high temperatures. Apart from that, deep discharge and overcharging affect their capacity. Ensure, therefore, that you keep them far from such things and physical damages. 

NiFes are much easier to handle. They can withstand abuse. Besides, they are not much affected by deep discharge. However, you still must keep them in good condition to serve you for a long period.  


Applications of Nickel-iron Battery and Lithium-ion

Both lithium-ion and nickel-iron batteries are used in:

· Portable devices. These include phones, laptops, tablets, digital cameras, flashlights, and many others. 

· Power tools. Tools such as cordless drills, sanders, and saws, among others depend on these batteries as well. 

· Electric automobile. There has been an increasing number of electric vehicles on the market today. Electric cars, hybrid vehicles, e-bikes, scooter, wheelchairs, and many other similar appliances are fitted with these batteries. 

Nickel ion batteries are not very popular today compared to LIBs. There are however some trains, for instance in the US that still uses them. LIBs, on the other hand, keeps growing in popularity. They are used in almost every electronic device. 

Final Thought

Increasing demand for battery power has led to the production and adoption of lithium-ion batteries across the globe. Different manufacturers are coming up with better products in terms of performance. NiFe batteries are expensive to manufacture and not as powerful, a reason they are not very popular. But since they last much longer, they are used in many high-end devices. The bottom line is, both batteries are great, depending on the application.

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