Evaluating the Safety of Lithium-Ion Batteries in Critical Facilities

While every data center operator is eager to optimize space, efficiency, and operating resources, none are willing to sacrifice safety to make these improvements. Although most operators still choose lead acid batteries in data center applications today, interest in (and adoption of) lithium ion in the data center and other critical facilities appears to be building momentum.

The main driver of interest is the extended service life lithium-ion batteries deliver. With a service life of 10 to 15 years in critical facility applications, using lithium-ion batteries can mean eliminating anywhere from two to four replacements that would be required with lead acid batteries over the same period. Fewer replacements means lower total cost of ownership as well as the benefit of fewer technicians going into and out of security-conscious data centers.

The business case is further enhanced by the environmental and physical characteristics of some lithium-ion alternatives. Lithium-ion batteries can safely operate at temperatures 7°F to 9°F higher than lead acid batteries, significantly reducing the demand for dedicated cooling in battery rooms. Plus, they have density and weight advantages that are important in some applications.

Although difficult to quantify at this stage of their development, lithium-ion batteries might also contribute to enhanced data center reliability. Batteries are the acknowledged weak link in the critical power system —one of the main reasons of which is the tendency for lead acid battery performance to decline sharply in a short period of time. Lithium-ion batteries generally degrade more gradually and predictably.

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