Are lithium iron phosphate batteries environmentally friendly?

The production of batteries requires raw materials and energy.  Lithium iron phosphate batteries have multiple advantages over other technologies when it comes to the use of these raw materials, and in terms of safety.  And they contribute to reducing CO2 emissions when used in combination with renewable energy production from solar panels or windmills.

The production of solar and wind energy has become very efficient.  For example, the cost of a PV installation has fallen by more than 70% since 2010.  But unfortunately, the wind doesn’t blow all the time and the sun doesn’t always shine. This means that a form of storage is needed to balance supply and demand of electricity.  Lithium iron phosphate batteries have various practical and economic advantages compared to lead acid or other lithium battery technologies:

  • Maintenance-free; For example, it is not necessary to replenish the water level.
  • Much longer life than lead acid batteries (up to 10x longer), and thus a much lower ‘ total cost of ownership ‘.
  • Faster charging times.
  • More efficient loading process.
  • A much lower self-discharge, which reduces energy loss between charging cycles.
  • Very stable, and non-flammable.
  • Free of gases, vapours and leaks.

A recyclable alternative to lead acid batteries?

The disposal and recycling of batteries puts a heavy burden on the environment.  Some lead-acid batteries are safely recycled to reclaim the lead and other materials.  But a lot of lead acid batteries still end up on the garbage dump, especially in the developing countries.

Because the electrodes of lithium iron phosphate batteries are made from non-toxic materials, they pose a much smaller environmental risk than lead acid batteries.  They can also be recycled to reuse the materials of the electrodes, wiring, and casings.  Some of these materials can be used in new lithium batteries.  Currently, LiFePO4 batteries are available in which recycled materials have been processed.

Because of the long life of lithium batteries, a lot of batteries are still in use, so the recycling processes are still being developped.  As soon as more lithium batteries will come to the end of their lifespan, recycling will naturally become more efficient as engineers will continually improve the processes to regain the materials.

So there are great environmental benefits to use lithium iron phosphate batteries instead of lead acid batteries.

But how do LiFePO4 batteries perform compared to other lithium batteries when it comes to environmental friendliness?

Lithium by itself is non-toxic and does not stack up like lead or other heavy metals.  But most lithium technologies use nickel oxides, cobalt, or manganese in their electrodes.  An estimated 50% more energy is needed to produce these materials compared to the electrodes in lithium iron phosphate batteries.  A report from 2013 of the EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) showed that lithium batteries based on nickel or cobalt have the biggest impact on the environment of all types of lithium batteries.  Lithium iron phosphate technology as used by AlphaESS is therefore the most environmentally friendly.

In addition, LiFePO4 batteries have other major advantages over other lithium technologies:

  • They do not use rare or toxic metals, but contain abundant materials such as copper, iron and graphite.
  • There is much less energy used in the extraction and processing of the raw materials.
  • Phosphate salts are less soluble than metal oxides, so the risk of leaching out in the environment is much smaller.Especially when the batteries are collected correctly.
  • And of course, LiFePO4 batteries are chemically much more stable.There is much less risk of flaming or cracking.

So here too, lithium iron phosphate batteries come out better.


Aren’t salt water batteries much better for the environment?

Offcourse saltwater batteries contain very few toxic materials, but that doesn’t mean that they would be more environmentally friendly than lithium iron phosphate batteries.

To understand this, you should not only look at the use of materials, and energy over the whole life span, but also at the efficiency while using the battery.

You simply need much more saltwater battery than lithium iron phosphate battery to achieve the same result.

We are all concerned about the environment, and together we strive to reduce pollution and the use of scarce materials.  When it comes to choosing a battery technology, lithium iron phosphate is currently the right choice.