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GET THE LEAD OUT! Alternatives to Lead Acid Batteries

This wiki page addresses the alternatives to lead-based batteries for street electric vehicles. This subject area seems to not have a home anywhere else on this Wiki so here is a starter page.

1.0 Comparison of Alternates to Lead-Acid Batteries
The table below compares the basic lead acid batteries to other technologies below.

Battery TechnologyEnergy Density (Wh/Kg) Peak Power (W/Kg) Cycles @ DoD Cost $US per KWh Availability
Lead Acid30-40150-200 300 @ 80%100-250Yes
Lithium100-1502000-7000 1000-2000 @ 100%1000 - 1500Some...
LiFePo4100>1000 1000 @ 80%, 2000 @ 60%, 5000 @ 20%310 - 1200Several vendors of large prismatics and cylindrical
Ni-Mh50-80200-1000 600-1200 @ 100%1500-3000Small cells only
Ni-Cd20-50100-1000 800-3000 @ 100%800-1000Limited
Ni-Zn55-65500-800 300-500 @ 100%150-500Not yet

See this chart source and this source, and this source.
DoD = Depth of Discharge
2.0 Lithium (Li) Based Battery Technology
Lithium batteries are planned for all the commerical EVs in design. They are known for their high power to weight density, long cycle life and relatively high power output. They are currently at high cost, and have a reputation for safety issues. I believe the term 'Lithium-Ion' is any of the rechargeable lithium technologies listed below.

Lithium Iron Phosphase (LiFePo4):
Summary: Good for EV apps.
Phosphate based technology possesses superior thermal and chemical stability which provides better safety characteristics than those of Lithium-ion technology made with other cathode materials. Lithium phosphate cells are incombustible in the event of mishandling during charge or discharge, they are more stable under overcharge or short circuit conditions and they can withstand high temperatures without decomposing. When abuse does occur, the phosphate based cathode material will not burn and is not prone to thermal runaway

Some excellent test results of individual cells and Currently in production.

Lithium Cobalt Dioxide (LiCoO2), Nickel-cobalt-manganese, Nickel-cobalt-aluminum
Summary: Generally unsafe for EV apps due to thermal runaway issues. The cobalt maganese, and cobalt aluminum are slightly less prone to thermal runaway. The use of Cobalt is also associated with environmental and toxic hazards.
Lithium Manganese Oxide (LiMn2O4)
Summary: Generally unsafe for EV apps, although it may be managed.
Lithium Manganese provides a higher cell voltage than Cobalt based chemistries at 3.8 to 4 Volts but the energy density is about 20% less. It also provides additional benefits to Lithium-ion chemistry, including lower cost and higher temperature performance. This chemistry is more stable than Lithium Cobalt technology and thus inherently safer but the trade off is lower potential energy densities. Lithium Manganese cells are also widely available but they are not yet as common as Lithium Cobalt cells.
Manganese, unlike Cobalt, is a safe and more environmentally benign cathode material.
Lithium Titanate:
Summary: Future promising technology.
This seems to a promising technology that has been proposed by EnerDel with some successful testing. No near term production plans.
Battery Formats: Cylindrical, Prismatic (square), or polymer (flat packs):
Cylindrical seems to be the most popular with the standard being the 18650 which looks similar to a AA battery, but is slightly larger. 18650s have power up to about 2500 mAh. The Tesla EV has about 6500 of these 18650 cells. The next sizes up are 26650 and 38650, which look like bloated D cells. The larger sizes are probably more practical for EVs.

The numbers associated with the round lithium cells refer to the dimentions: 18650 = aabb0, where aa is the diameter in milimeters, bb is the height in milimeters.
Prismatic batteries are the tall square type are known to have the problem of low current rate like 3C, which may not be enough for EVs.

Lithium polymer are generally packaged in the flat-packs. LionEV previously used these types. Polymer flat packs seem to be the cheapest (near $1/Wh), but are generally limited to 5C.
Battery management systems for lithium:
Lithium batteries should have a battery management system to manage the charge into the battery and monitor the battery life.
Lithium batteries can not tolerate overcharging and hence should not be trickle charged.

See the related thread about Battery Management Systems for more information.
Safety issues:
The safety characteristics inherent to LiFePo4 technology result from the incorporation of phosphates as the cathode material. Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries (LiFePo4) are extremely stable in overcharge or short circuit conditions and have the ability to withstand high temperatures without decomposing. When abuse does occur, phosphates are not prone to thermal runaway and will not burn. As a result, LiFePo4 technology possesses safety characteristics that are fundamentally superior to those of Lithium-ion batteries made with other cathode materials.
Patent Issues:
{Any atttorneys want to refine this section?}
PHET & LiFeBATT used the LiFePO4 Phostech licenses which was initially developed at U of Tx. A123 LiFePO4 technolgoy has been developed from work from MIT. Valence and Phostech have exchanged lawsuits claiming patent infringement. {Outcome?} Thundersky and other Chinese brands do not use Phostech license.
Current vendors and cost:
A123 does not sell to the public, but Dewalt packs can be disassembled to obtain cells. GM favorite for the upcoming Volt EV.
Headway Unknown if there are direct sales channels to the public, buyer beware. There are no known distributors of A123. (Why not?)

Phoenix Silicon International (PSI) manufacturers cylindrical cells. These are resold by lifebatt in the US.
LiFeBATT Manufactures 40138 3.3V 10Ah cell and assembles then into modules, complete with BMS and retail pricing 14410-HPS = $3K 1440Wh ($21K/10KWh). The 144V 10Ah modules are connected in parallel to create any capacity required. For example, 7 X 14410-HPS connected in parallel = 144V 70Ah 10kWh pack. In order to
preserve the life, to in excess of 3,000 cycles, LiFeBATT recommend Max Continuous Discharge of the 70Ah pack be limited to 500A and 900A peak for 10 seconds. Of course, if you need higher Amps, increase the number of parallel modules. The warranty is 3 years or 3,000 cycles, whichever the sooner, for EV applications.

D Harmon Writes: LiFeBATT is currently testing a new Phostech mix that will be used in our new 12 Ah LiFeBATT Cells. This formula is available to us in an Energy mix and a Power mix which we will offer both for the new 12 Ah 40138 LiFeBATT cells. We have made 5,000 of each version and are in testing at the moment before we go into production of these in late December, 2008.

There is a group purchase of HUNDREDS of PSI 32138 10 Ah cells @ $19 each in process:
Thundersky batteries. Manfacturer of Prismatic cells. Current pricing is about $1.50 per AH or .50 per Wh. Which is probalby the best. Current rumors are that quality is improving.
EVComponents (declared bankruptcy in 2010) Distributor of Sky Energy, Thundersky and Headway LiFePo4 batteries located in Lacey, WA. They also sell chargers/BMS/controllers/motors and other EV parts.
Elite Power Solutions Distributor of Thundersky LiFePo4 batteries located in Phoenix, Arizona. Sell battery/charger/BMS packages.

International Battery Distributor of what is believed to be Thundersky batteries (source). Bad rumors here, see Thundersky discussion below.

LionEV Distributor. Believe these are Chinese made. Buyer beware, there are not a lot of known users of these batteries

HiPower, Shangdong China, produces li prismatic similar to Thundersky bricks. A Jun 2008 San Diego purchase group bought $50K for .$50/Wh. Will update here on their delivery & test status. Current pricing is about $1.50 per AH or .50 per Wh.
Tech files: SingleCellSpec DataCurves 200AhCell 144Vx200Ah

Shandomg HIHON Electric has a web site with prismatics. Believe this si the same as HIPOWER.

HuanYu also sells prismatics, but i think these are Hi-power prismatics.
PMI Manufacturers cylindrical cells. Need more info.

Batteryspace sells a pack 30V 20Ah (10x2R Pack, 600Wh, 45A rate ) for $864 (10.2KWh @ $14688)

Ebay Ping is only selling on ebay, but offers a pack with BMS: 48V 20AH for $840, incl shipping. (10 packs = 9.6KWh @ $8400). Ping doesn't recommend series/paralleling of pack. Not sure of who manufacturers the cells, and no cell data. Here is a testimonial on a bike.

EV-Power (Australia) sells packs of 18650s

Free International Limited has a web site with prismatics

HuanYu Manufactures and sells cells to the public

DLG batteries in Shanghai make cells.
K2 Energy (made by DLG batteries in Shanghai) offers a LFP200ES 12.8V 16Ahr module for $249 (10KWh @ $12.2K)
Lithium Technology, Germany, has cylindrical cells, high power

PHET Manufactures and sells cells to the public

SAFT sell several cell and packs via this retailer

Tenergy sells a pack of cells: 18.5 volt 6000mAh 15C - 90+ amp Brick Style for $281 ($25/10KWh)

Valence Technology now has large formats w/ 4 month lead time: data sheet 12V100Ah @ $1900 12V42Ah @ $860. pricing. ($15k/10KWh) 130 A continuous = $15K. And, I don't think 130A will keep me at 65 mph.

YESA sells 48V 20 AH packs. I don't have pricing yet...

Here is another list ... and another list

What happened to Thundersky (China) Lithium battery?
Thundersky produced large prismatic batteries, and sold to the public at competitive prices. There were a few buyers that complained of quality issues. Rumor is that they have been prohibited from exporting to the US due to Patent issues. There has been no discussion recently in the Yahoo groups for Thundersky batteries.
There are several vehicles that use the TS batteries, including the CityEL and several on the Austin EV site. There were some unhappy customers too.
Everspring in Australia wrote me to say the TS rumors are false, they sent pricing: LFP90 AH @ $216 ea (45 cells = 13KWh = $6885), 3C discharge.
3.0 Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-Mh)
See this Ni-Mh tutorial, and this pack design guide.

Patent Issues - Fact or Fiction
Cobasys owns the patents associated with the dominate type of large-scale EV style NiMH battery. Also known as Ovanic in GM's EV-1. Cobasys remains unwilling to produce and sell their variation of the NiMH battery in smaller quantities to individuals interested in building or retrofitting their own PHEVs. (source), see also "Who Killed the Electric Car".
Current vendors and cost
There are four major suppliers of automotive Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries; Japan’s Panasonic and Sanyo, China’s GP Industries (Goldpeak), Johnson Controls-SAFT (france mfg), and Cobasys. Goldpeak supplies buses in Asia and Europe. Ford uses Sanyo’s batteries, Toyota uses Panasonics. Honda uses both. Johnson Controls is just starting a pilot operation at their Hanover, Germany facility.
Cobasys has a joint venture with Energy Conversion Devices (ECD) and Chevron Texaco on their NiMH batteries. Cobasys is not selling to EV owners.

Panasonic: HHR-900DA01, Slow charge C/10 @15 Hrs. Specs. Digikey has 175 in stock, and can assemble 10 packs to your specs. ElectronicsAndMore sells a 9AH 1.2V for 10.95 ea. ($10K/10KWh). This appears to trace via Dantona to Panasonic-- not sure about this trace.

Sanyo: Digikey sells the DU high output Sanyo D cell for $25 ea. Specs. Digikey offers a 10 pack of Sanyos D cells for ~$200 in quantites. 8.4 AH x 12V = 100 Wh. ($20K / 10 KWh).

SAFT: Retails their D cell 9.7Ah for $27. Yikes.

Tenergy makes several cells, including a 10AH Dcell, for $7 in quantities. Impedience is 12mΩ. The maximum discharging current is about 1C-2C, around 10A-20A. Packs at 33.6 KWh @ $22.90 ($6.8K / 10KWh)

Nilar, sweeden, can produce royalty-free large format Ni-Mh. May be obtained via PlugInconversions. Specs are a 24V 9AH 5C/10Cmax 10s for $250. (46 cells = 10WHh @$11500)
Batteryspace sells NiMh Packs 48V 13Ah (624Wh 40 x F) for $629 (10KWh @ $10000)
Electro Energy May have a product offering but there's no current data.
Harding Energy has no distributor or pricing information.
Thomas Dist, who sells Maha MH-D1000, 10AH, 1.2v for $10.97. (10KWh @ $9141)
EVB Technology HK is a supplyer who offers a MiMH pack that may be suitable for an EV with these GP90EVH Pack specifications. A guy on EVDL got a 'used' 144V/100Ah (14.4KWh) pack for $6192 + $1200 shipping = $7392. 400A Max, 280A nom. Whole pack weighs 528 lbs.

GoldPeak has a us distribution office in San Diego. They sell the Ovanic battery without the EV license restriction. Their current cost is $1/Wh. without BMS. Which may be more than Li-ion.

BatterySpace Is selling 26Ah M cells for $29.95 each... ~1.04 Wh/$... ~79 Wh/kg

is selling 12Ah D Cells for as low as $5.50 each when you buy in 480+ piece quantities... ~2.61 Wh/$ or ~$382/kWh ... ~90Wh/kg
4.0 Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd)
These were the first popular recharable, and had the "memory" problem of needing periodic complete discharge. The toxicity of cadmium, became an environmental issue. European Union banned Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries for several years. This is assumed to be un-viable technology.

Electro Energy May have a product offering but there's no current data.

SR Batteries sells high performance NiCd batteries. Cells are 1.2V up to 5Ah (Unmatched $19.50, $22.50 Matched). Guarantee no memory effects with their batteries. (Author has personally used this company for electric remote-controlled aircraft and can vouch for their product and customer service.) Although excellent cells, the price is extremely high for a pack large enough to power an electric vehicle.
5.0 Toshiba SCiB
Another holy grail battery? . There has been no mention in the news in quite some time....
6.0 Nickel-Zinc (Ni-Zn) Batteries
Ni-Zn batterys offer 500-1000 cycle charges and about half the weight of lead batteries. Enercel seems to be out of the business of selling batteries, two new companies have promising product offerings, with large scale production in 2009?
7.0 Hydrogen Fuel Cell
Any potential availability or is this really "Fool Sales" (quote from Bill Hammons).

Still Extremely expensive. ~$12 per Watt for the fuel cell itself + additional costs for H2 storage etc.

A system can be built up from smaller modules ~500Watt output each For ~$6,000 each... or you can contact one of the many fuel cell manufactures to find out how many hundred are needed for a minimum order of larger modules.

Another good place to get the pieces is at The Hydrogen Company. They even sell the Metal Hydride storage system if you have a grossly large budget.

Honda's hydrogen fuel cell/electric Clarity limited production, with a three-year $600/month lease, shows there is some promise for going this direction.
8.0 Super Capacitors
High current, low storage, very high cycle life (up to 1 million cycles). May be best as a supplement to a low-current high storage, like a fuel cell or lithium-ion prismatic. Capacitors, unlike batteries, decrease their voltage to 0 as they are discharged requiring advanced DC to DC converters and/or controllers.

Maxwell sells supercapacitor packs in varying size.

EEStor claims to be developing a new super capacitor cell capable of orders of magnitude increases in energy density for reduced costs. No products are offered yet and the company has been very secretive with their prototypes.
9.0 Lead-Acid/Carbon Hybrid Battery (PbC)
Several companies including Firefly Energy, Axion, British maker Elecso and Japanese battery maker Furukawa are developing this new technology.
A conventional lead-acid battery is made up of a series of cells each containing a positive electrode made of lead dioxide and a negative electrode of metallic lead. These are immersed in an electrolyte of dilute sulfuric acid. Car starter batteries tend to have thin electrode plates, and lead-acid batteries with thicker electrodes for EVs can tolerate such “deep” discharges better than those with thin ones, but are heavier.

In Axion’s battery the negative electrode is replaced with one made from activated carbon, a material used in supercapacitors. Normal capacitors—those that power the flashguns in cameras for instance—can be charged and discharged rapidly, but cannot store much energy. Supercapacitors are meatier versions that are able to hold a reasonable amount of energy as well as taking it in and releasing it quickly. Some, are already used in tandem with the lithium-ion batteries in electric cars to boost acceleration and recapture energy during so-called “regenerative” braking.
The carbon in the hybrid, which is protected within a sandwich of other materials, is more effective than metallic lead at releasing and absorbing protons to and from the acid during charging and discharging.

According to Axion's site....

Standard Lead Acid Reactions are

  • Positive Electrode
    PbO2 + 4H+ + SO42- + 2e- D PbSO4 + 2H2O (+1.685 V)
  • Negative Electrode
    Pb + SO42-D PbSO4 + 2e- (-0.365 V)

  • Overall Reaction
    PbO2 + 2H2SO4 + PbD 2PbSO4 + 2H2O (+2.050 V)
During charge and discharge, the positive electrode undergoes the same chemical reaction that occurs in a conventional lead acid battery, i.e. lead dioxide reacts with acid and sulphate ions to form lead sulphate and water. The main difference in the PbC® battery is the replacement of the lead negative electrode with an activated carbon electrode that does not undergo a chemical reaction at all. Instead, the very high surface area activated carbon electrode stores the protons (H+) from the acid in a layer on the surface of the electrode.
Lead Carbon negative half reaction

  • Negative Electrode in the PbC® battery technology
    nC6x-(H+)x D nC6(x-2)-.(H+)x-2 + 2H+ + 2e- (discharged)
In conventional lead acid batteries the concentration of acid changes from being very concentrated in the charged state to somewhat dilute in the discharged state as the acid is converted to water. In contrast, the lead carbonbattery stores H+ in the negative electrode in the fully charges state which move to the positive electrode during discharge where they are neutralized to form water. The result is reduced acid concentration swings from the charged to discharged state which reduces grid corrosion on the positive electrode and leads to longer life of the positive electrode.
Axion says, its PbCs have withstood more than 1,600 charges and deep discharges before they failed.
Elecso Specifications for their AMP EL125: 125 amphour Weight: 28.5kg. (63 pounds) Cycle life: 1000 cycles to 80% dod. Guarantee: full 5 year, maintenence free. Cost $167​
Exide and East Penn Manufacturing are also looking into this technology with these PbC companies.


Premium Member
882 Posts
Re: Battery Technology 201

Wow, very comprehensive and well researched article, well done! The only thing I can think of is making the title a little more obvious like "Alternatives to Lead Acid" to try and distinguish it from our myriad of Battery Articles.

54 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
With regard to International Battery and Thundersky ... Believe you are correct. Not only are the cell very similar in capability, I found this reference at TS, listing IB as a partner. I've updated the Wiki.

Premium Member
882 Posts

8,123 Posts
I wonder if that is still the case, as they state on their website:
IB recently opened the first large format rechargeable Lithium-ion cell and battery manufacturing facility located in the United States. This facility, in Allentown, PA, houses cell chemistry engineering and lab capabilities, cell manufacturing and battery assembly. IB now provides our US customers a domestic source of supply for this unique technology.

The Company's manufacturing approach is to apply the automation, production quality systems, process management and conditioned environment needed to support the stringent manufacturing and quality requirements of International Battery and our customers.
This is the address they give for the manufacturing facility:
International Battery, Inc.
6845 Snowdrift Road
Allentown, PA 18106


1 Posts
What about Ni-Fe bateries?, They are also called "Edison's batteries", and they are suppoused to be a deep cycle batt...

Also I've been reading about a lead-acid to lead-alkali conversion, it claims that they have a very close performance to commercial ones: acid_to_Alkaline.pdf


Also here in forum are a very intresting thread :
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