How Smart Lithium Batteries Can Boost 5G Bottom Lines
This year’s Nobel Prize in chemistry was a victory for lithium batteries as well as the three gifted scientists – John B Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham, and Akira Yoshino – who have greatly advanced the field – a field that’s crucial for our industry.
One of Goodenough’s discoveries, lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4 or LFP), is currently the safest cathode material for lithium batteries, making LFP batteries the best choice for various scenarios, including 5G base stations, data centers, and electric vehicles, a market that alone will be worth an estimated US$567.2 billion by 2026.
Lithium batteries aren’t just smaller and lighter than lead-acid batteries, they also boast higher energy density, higher availability, longer service life, and more cycle times. That said, they bring their own crop of problems. So, we developed our own 5G-ready lithium solutions: SmartLi and BoostLi.
5G evolution causes site power consumption to skyrocket. Traditional lead-acid batteries can’t support smooth capacity expansion to 5G because they’re too big and heavy, have a short service life, and perform badly when it comes to today’s ICT.
5G Base stations
Light and powerful, lithium batteries are the best choice for 5G sites, with more than 200 telcos already using them as an energy storage solution.
According to a global survey conducted by Uptime, 10% of data centers use lithium batteries as backup power. Data center operators are most concerned about optimal space utilization and minimizing OPEX, especially power costs of UPS cooling and battery maintenance and replacement costs.
Lithium batteries can meet all these requirements. And they’re also much safer. In data centers and base stations, LFP and lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) cells are most commonly used – they contain no heavy metals and are highly reliable.
The Benefits of LFP
- Stable structure
- High thermal stability and a low heat yield.
- They don’t release oxygen if they overcharge or overdischarge
Our Tests & Findings
What We Did
- Punctured the cell with a needle to check its stability if an internal short circuit occurs.
- Secured the fully charged battery,
- Used an 8 mm high-temperature-resistant steel needle to puncture the geometrical center of the cell in the direction vertical to the cell polarity plate at a speed of 25 mm/s. We then kept the needle in the cell and observed it for an hour.
What We Found
After an LFP battery is punctured with a needle (creating an internal short circuit), the heat of reaction inside the cell is minimal. The highest surface temperature of the cell is only 80° C. The cell didn’t catch ﬁre or leak electrolytes, and its shell remained intact.
After an NCM battery is punctured with a needle, the cell reacts violently and quickly generates a large amount of heat and oxygen. The battery burns in under a second, thermal runaway occurs within four seconds, the surface temperature reaches 458° C, and the shell melts.
Conclusion: LFP batteries are more reliable than NCM batteries.
Though the technology has improved significantly, lithium batteries aren’t problem-free:
- Connecting multiple battery cabinets in parallel causes current imbalance due to inconsistent cell resistance and capacity and power distribution differences, especially for short-time discharges of a large current. As a result, overcurrent protection is triggered in each battery cabinet.
- Partial failure is unavoidable in a lithium battery system. New and old battery cabinets may be connected in parallel, and if resistance and capacity are inconsistent, serious bias current can be caused. Battery cabinets can even disconnect if overcurrent occurs.
- Inconsistency in cell resistance and capacity in a battery can cause cell charge overvoltage, so that the entire battery system cannot be fully charged.
- If a battery module in a battery string is faulty, the entire battery string won’t work properly.
- It’s hard to control lithium battery fires in a modular data center and stop fires from spreading to nearby ICT equipment.
- Lithium batteries in base stations are attractive to thieves.
So, Huawei developed its new-generation data center lithium battery solution SmartLi. Reliable, efficient, and easy to expand, SmartLi helps customers reduce investment, simplify O&M, and build a stable and efficient data center power supply system.
- Long service life of up to 5,000 cycles.
- The highly stable LFP cell removes fire risks if thermal runaway occurs.
- Intelligent voltage balance control allows the system to work normally if a module fails.
- The three-layer BMS system ensures the reliability of lithium batteries by layers.
- High power density generates a 70% smaller footprint than lead-acid batteries.
- Intelligent battery management system cuts daily O&M costs by 80%.
- Modular swappable design means easy maintenance
- Active current balance technology allows new and old battery strings to be connected in parallel, enabling simple capacity expansion
Huawei has integrated intelligent technologies and lithium battery technologies in a second lithium solution BoostLi, an energy storage solution tailored for telecom base stations.
BoostLi delivers high density, intelligent hybrid use cases with intelligent voltage boosting and intelligent peak shaving. It enables smooth site capacity expansion to support 5G evolution, cutting costs and shortening 5G deployment time. Unlike traditional solutions, BoostLi not only serves as backup power – its smart features like peak shaving enable it to be fully utilized as a supplementary power supply if a 5G network requires extra power. The value of the energy storage system and the site can be maximized, boosting profits while ensuring the security of site backup power.
BoostLi works with the temperature control unit and monitoring system to slash site power consumption and improve site reliability. When used with the intelligent site management system, it also improves site O&M efficiency, and integrates multiple anti-theft technologies such as intelligent displacement detection and intelligent software lock. If a BoostLi is stolen from the site, it locks down and cannot be charged or discharged, greatly improving energy storage security and reducing losses caused by theft.
Currently, more than 400,000 BoostLi products have been delivered to over 100 operators in 90 countries.
Read more about Huawei’s lithium battery solutions for the data centers.