Lead-acid batteries are the most widely used of all the battery chemistry families today. Worldwide there are around $35 billion produced every year. They are used extensively from engine starting in cars and trucks, powering industrial equipment, and for providing critical backup power in many applications – including data centers.
A debate is taking place in the market about the role of the latest battery chemistry, lithium, and how it compares to lead-acid. The argument is valid and one that is important for the customer to understand. Each system has its merits.
At FIAMM, an international producer of batteries for industrial and automotive, and part of the global Japanese Showa Denko Group, we have chosen to maintain our focus on lead-acid.
Like most major international battery producers, we continually research new technologies in our effort to provide value for our customers. We evaluated Lithium as a battery chemistry and concluded that we want to keep lead-acid as our core chemistry. This is why.
A modern lead-acid battery is the culmination of years of experience. In the data center world, FIAMM makes batteries that provide the vital link to protect power continuity. We have supplied thousands of applications, supplying big-name customers across the world.
Every data center power requirement is unique. Our experience indicates that valve regulated, maintenance free lead-acid batteries will continue to be the major choice for years to come.
A modern UPS system in a data center is complex. There are many factors to be considered, such as its location in the world, power quality and the unique nature of the application itself. FIAMM approaches each project as unique. We examine all the factors that the customer requests and advise on best practices, such as layout and how to improve an environment that maximizes the life of the system. There are no standard off-the-shelf solutions.
Data centers are energy-hungry and, without power, they fail. The quality of their service is critical. A major push in the data center industry, at the moment, is to ensure that data centers use ‘greener’ power. The industry is setting an impressive record and some of the major operators already operate on 100 percent renewable energy.
All FIAMM batteries are recyclable. Lead, which is to say that the core of the battery can be reclaimed, reprocessed, and recycled. This fits well with the growing concern to protect and re-use precious resources. In Europe, in particular, there is a major push towards products that fit a circular economy. Lead-acid batteries meet this requirement well as they can be 99 percent recycled. All lead batteries have a residual end-of-life value…usually between ten and 15 percent of the initial cost.
Lead-acid batteries are also safe and offer good life. Like all products, they must be used within the guidelines provided by producers. FIAMM batteries operate in a temperature range of 25-30 Celsius.
In the end, the deciding factor often comes down to money. The focus is on operating costs and payback. FIAMM batteries fit well on these criteria. Lead batteries cost considerably less than a lithium solution. An equivalent lithium solution can cost 300 percent more than lead. This represents a significant premium. Furthermore, there is still no effective solution for recycling lithium batteries, and disposal can be costly.