Lithium Ion vs Lead-Acid Batteries – The Evolution of Backup Batteries


The Invention of the Lead Acid

In the year 1859, a young French physicist named Gaston Planté experimented with placing two sheets of pure lead together, separated by a linen cloth. He then immersed the lead in a glass jar of sulfuric acid. This was the birth of the rechargeable battery now known as the lead acid battery. Due to its cheap prices and it is high power to weight ratio, it’s in common use today in vehicles and other industrial locations around the world. In 1999, lead acid battery sales accounted for 40 – 45% of the entire battery market.

A New Concept is Born

In the 1970s, the concept of LIB (Lithium Ion Battery) was introduced and begin seeing widespread adoption during the 1990s. The new LIB is more environmentally friendly and can be fully charged and discharged. Their lifespan is 18% higher than lead acid in average climates and increase even more in warm weather. The lead acid also has a shorter discharge period, meaning the battery will last longer than their lead acid counterparts.

So, if the LIB has all the advantages over the lead acid, why doesn’t the entire world simply switch over? The answer is quite simple. Cost!

LIB batteries are more expensive. The manufacturing of the LIB cost 40% more than lead acid. In addition, shipment of large quantities of such batteries are subject to regulation. Both these factors mean that the purchasing price of such batteries is substantially more expensive than lead acid.

Batteries in Telecom Sites

Telecom sites use both battery types in order to provide power to their antennas. In certain cases, lead acid batteries are used in order to provide backup power in case the grid fails as a cheaper fallback than generators. Even then, generators are needed once the battery power falls lower than 50% as the batteries will need to go through an additional cycle. LIB, on the other hand, based on their high capacity and their ability to go through a completed discharge – charge cycle are used as a major power source for telecom sites and can even be used in remote locations as the main power source of the grid.

The Battery Theft Epidemic

As shown below, these batteries are very valuable and, as such, are an easy target for theft which is nearly an epidemic in certain area of the world. Only this past year, Galooli successfully thwarted 21 lead acid battery theft events using their Sparta battery tracker.

If a lead acid battery is worth somewhere between $150 – $400, a LIB battery comes within the range of $1000 – $5000. This makes LIB a very lucrative target. And while this is an opportunity for the thief, it’s a major headache for the site owner. As the LIB functions as a main power source, the impact of a stolen battery goes way beyond the cost of the battery itself. It can take up to 6 months for a LIB to be replaced and during this time, the entire service of the telecom site is either dependent on the grid power and the generator. This means extra fuel costs, low service levels and hefty fines if the power is cut off.

The Sparta LIB unit can easily be added to the battery on the site itself. Concealed from the eyes of the common thief, they will none the wiser when they remove the battery from its cabinet and travel with it to an unsuspecting site operator. All this time though, the location of the battery will be transmitted to our servers directly to the site owner, avoiding 6 months of constant aggravation and full of joy when the police safely return the battery to where it rightfully belongs.