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Author Topic: Nickel Iron Batteries  (Read 53561 times)
Heinz
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« on: January 10, 2012, 08:24:23 PM »

I've only recently 'discovered' these batteries.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nickel%E2%80%93iron_battery
They look ideal for solar/wind/hydro use as they seem to last pretty much forever, yet everyone uses lead acid batteries. Why??

Heinz
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Philip R
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« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2012, 08:49:05 PM »

NiFe batteries been around for donkeys years. Seen them in my former workplace get replaced with Lead Acid.

One of the reasons for their decline in popularity is the 1.2V per cell versus 2.0 V per cell from lead acid. Although way more sturdy and robust than lead acid, they can be recoverred after deep discharge, no sulphation choking the plates. However, memory effect was a problem, as with Nickel Cadmium.

The main factor was the two marketting dept of the two then UK industrial battery manufacturers, Chloride (Clifton Junction) & Tungstone (Market Harborough), preferred selling Lead acid, so the major users, Telecoms, Electricity Supply Industry and the Railways, moved more so to Lead acid. (Plante then VRLA).  Batteries for Diesel Electric submarines were always lead acid.

PhilipR.
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Heinz
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« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2012, 08:57:46 PM »

I haven't found any mention of memory effect for NiFe on the net anywhere?
Interesting that Exide bought the profitable Edison NiFe plant in the USA and closed it in three years. I wonder  Roll Eyes if there is just more profit in making/selling short lifespan lead acid.....
I can see the point of lead acid in submarines, max power is vital and cost matters not.
I've got my contacts trying to find me some ex Telecom NiFe cells to play with, not holding out much hope though.

Heinz
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johnrae
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« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2012, 09:15:39 PM »

Couple of points to bear in mind regarding NIFE cells:-
a) Electrolyte SG does not change with state of charge so forget about estimating SOC by using a hydrometer
b) NEVER use a hydrometer that has been used in a lead acid battery - the resultant chemical reaction is quite dramatic
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martin
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« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2012, 09:17:35 PM »

They've been discussed before - they have grave shortcomings -  Wink

http://www.navitron.org.uk/forum/index.php/topic,4343.0.html

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Heinz
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« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2012, 09:52:51 PM »

They've been discussed before - they have grave shortcomings -  Wink

http://www.navitron.org.uk/forum/index.php/topic,4343.0.html

I'd still like to play with some, seem to be a bit thin on the ground though....

H
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camillitech
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« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2012, 09:58:16 PM »

I've got some Heinz, you can have them if you want  Grin Charging characteristics all wrong for inverter/chargers and voltage too low, OK you can up the cells (10 instead of 6 ) but they're still very inefficient. Great on ships, in nuclear bunkers and for standby systems that have unlimited power until the  sh*tfan but for renewable energy they're pants.

Cheers, Paul
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Heinz
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« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2012, 10:01:14 PM »

I've got some Heinz, you can have them if you want  Grin Charging characteristics all wrong for inverter/chargers and voltage too low, OK you can up the cells (10 instead of 6 ) but they're still very inefficient. Great on ships, in nuclear bunkers and for standby systems that have unlimited power until the  sh*tfan but for renewable energy they're pants.

Cheers, Paul

How many? specs? what do you want for them? Are you 'in' tomorrow?  Grin
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camillitech
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« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2012, 11:00:47 PM »

email and pics on the way Heinz  Grin

but I'm not in tomorrow  Sad

Cheers, Paul
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'Off grid' since 1985,  Proven 2.5kW, Proven 6kW direct heating, SI6.OH, 800ah Rolls, 4.75kW PV ,4xTS45, Lister HR2 12kW, , Powerspout pelton, Stream Engine turgo, 60 x Navitron toobs and a 1500lt store. Outback VFX3048 and 950ah forklifts for backup,
Jeremy
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« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2012, 09:17:42 AM »

I've used NiFe cells many years ago.  The ones I had were WWII vintage, in wooden crates, originally intended as ground start packs for aircraft, I believe. 

Their good points were their exceptionally long life (certainly in excess of 30 years) and virtual indestructibility.  Even if a cell died it seemed to come back to life OK after being emptied, rinsed out and refilled with fresh electrolyte.

Their bad points were the use of potassium hydroxide solution as electrolyte (but this is probably no worse than sulphuric acid in a lead acid battery), the fairly poor charge/discharge efficiency if deep cycled (maybe only 60 to 70%), the voltage variation between full charged and discharged, of around 15% or so and the large size and weight for the capacity.

These cells would still be my first choice for an off-grid system, because I believe their very long life and general robustness outweighs the other problems.  Once installed, a big NiFe bank would be very reliable and only need an occassional top up and terminal clean to last for decades.  To make such a system work well would need a much larger capacity battery bank than with lead acid though, maybe double or three times the capacity.  This would then minimise the voltage fluctuation with state of charge (by only needing to discharge the pack to maybe 60%), it would improve charge/discharge efficiency (which seems to get far worse with depth of discharge) and would also overcome the higher internal resistance these cells have compared to lead acid (which would mean lower voltage drops under load).

The inverter would need to be able to accept the 1.4V per cell from a fully charged bank and also continue to work well at the 1.2V per cell that the bank would sit at when not being charged.  To allow for voltage drops the inverter shouldn't drop out until about 1 to 1.1V per cell.  It seems that the inverters designed for use with PV panels often have a very wide input voltage range, so it might be worth looking to see if one of those could be adapted.  There would be complications from higher battery bank voltage and the need to get the charging system matched to that, but it might offer a good solution.
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martin
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« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2012, 09:25:14 AM »

Simple question, if they are so good, how come all the very bright minds who have looked at them down the years as being suitable for off-grid use have dismissed them as too inefficient/expensive/leaky (of charge), and gone for the infinitely superior in all ways flooded lead acid?
I would think "To make such a system work well would need a much larger capacity battery bank than with lead acid though, maybe double or three times the capacity" is sufficient on it's own to render them totally unsuitable...
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Heinz
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« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2012, 09:44:48 AM »

Jeremy -  Thanks, interesting post.

Martin - Come on man, stop sitting on the fence. Do you like NiFe batteries or not ??  hysteria

Update on Pauls NiFe batteries which he very kindly offered me. These have 'Nickel Cadmium' printed on the side in large, friendly letters so Pauls description of NiFe batteries as 'pants' ain't valid because he can't read...  facepalm

Still looking for some.

H
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camillitech
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« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2012, 10:19:45 AM »

Jeremy -  Thanks, interesting post.

Martin - Come on man, stop sitting on the fence. Do you like NiFe batteries or not ??  hysteria

Update on Pauls NiFe batteries which he very kindly offered me. These have 'Nickel Cadmium' printed on the side in large, friendly letters so Pauls description of NiFe batteries as 'pants' ain't valid because he can't read...  facepalm

Still looking for some.

H

I gave the NiFe cells to someonelse  Wink they're still pants  Grin Seriously though, if you get them cheap enough, you're charging them with a hydro turbine or oversized wind turbine they're probably OK. If you have them on constant float for the odd power cut they'll last for donkeys years and are the 'dogs danglies'. If you have bottomless pits of money for the diesel required to charge these babies when the PV can't cope they're probably the best money can buy. If you want to fly them anywhere there's nothing better. However if you to sit them in a shed as part of a diesel/renewable hybrid system they're hardly ideal, unless of course they're free  Grin

Cheers, Paul
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Jeremy
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« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2012, 10:51:49 AM »

Simple question, if they are so good, how come all the very bright minds who have looked at them down the years as being suitable for off-grid use have dismissed them as too inefficient/expensive/leaky (of charge), and gone for the infinitely superior in all ways flooded lead acid?
I would think "To make such a system work well would need a much larger capacity battery bank than with lead acid though, maybe double or three times the capacity" is sufficient on it's own to render them totally unsuitable...

Thanks, nice to have such a constructive bit of rubbishing with some useful input to the debate..............

Remind me again how long flooded lead acid cells last?  Oh, and while we're at it chuck in the issues associated with the disposal of several sets of flooded lead acids banks during the lifetime of a single bank of NiFe cells.

The problem is that there isn't much choice when it comes to long life high capacity batteries for off-grid systems, and lead acid have been far more readily available for the past 80 years or so, primarily because they have been manufactured in volume for fork lifts, standby systems etc.  I'm not for a moment denying the performance attributes of lead acid, but I do at least have a sufficiently open mind as to rationally consider the use of other types of cell.

The availability of NiFe cells has been poor, because the original Edison cells (which were produced almost exclusively for off-grid use around 100 years ago) became hard to get hold of - the market for them dried up as mains electricity became widely available and Exide (who took over Edison) stopped making them around 35 years ago.  Since then new NiFe cells have been either unavailable or at least pretty difficult to get hold of.  NiFe cells are pretty useless for any of the high-volume secondary battery requirements, like electric vehicles, etc, for the reasons I gave earlier.  However, in the past few years the Chinese have started making large capacity NiFe cells at reasonable prices (for exactly the same domestic reason as Edison made them - off grid supplies in rural China) and they are now available, albeit at a price.

There is no automatically right or wrong answer when it comes to battery chemistry choice; it will be a compromise based on circumstances and personal preference.  The trade off is between the very long life and relatively "green" chemistry (when compared to lead or cadmium, for example) of NiFe cells in return for a bigger capital investment for a larger bank size.  It will be a personal decision for anyone going off grid as to whether they are able, or wish to, invest in NiFe "for life" or accept a lower capital cost initially and budget for replacement cells every 6 to 10 years, bearing in mind that a second hand bank of NiFe cells has a relatively high resale value, even after 20 years use.  If I was, say, 40 years old and investing in an off-grid system to last me until the end of my days I'd almost certainly invest in NiFe cells.  On the other hand, if I was 70 years old and doing the same I'd probably opt for flooded lead acid.
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« Reply #14 on: January 11, 2012, 11:00:51 AM »

As was pointed out in the earlier thread, proper flooded lead-acid batteries will do the job better and cheaper than NIFE cells  (realistic 25 year life is eminently possible)- there have been many very clever people in governments and private industry who have all come to the same conclusion - that except for very specialist uses, NIFE are ludicrously expensive, hopelessly inefficient, and eclipsed by lead/acids for "our" sort of use - as Camillitech says, if you can get some for free, they might just make sense (but give me a set of FIAMM lead-acids or a fork lift battery any day!) Smiley

"cells in return for a bigger capital investment for a larger bank size" - kills them stone dead in realistic terms - a proper battery bank is going to cost a small fortune anyway, why pay three times as much for something that will waste gobbets of your precious power?

-an impartial summation - http://www.mpoweruk.com/nickel_iron.htm

Which rather says to me that "life" is about the same as a good lead/acid, and the NIFE cells have all their many shortcomings as well............
« Last Edit: January 11, 2012, 11:08:07 AM by martin » Logged

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