nmc lfp batteries

LFP or NMC batteries – which solution is better for maritime? 

The NMC battery has become a standard in maritime today, but the LFP battery has grown to be a strong contender in recent years because of its increased safety and better affordability. Do you know which solution best suits your needs?

Common denominators

In terms of behaviour, the NMC and LFP battery chemistries are similar to each other with the same performance characteristics, and they fulfill their task in the same way. Both are part of the Lithium ion family, but the cathode material differs between the two. NMC uses a Lithium, Manganese, and Cobalt oxide as cathode material while LFP uses a Lithium Iron Phosphate chemistry. Both battery types utilize a graphite anode. A more correct definition of these battery types is thus G/NMC and G/LFP respectively.

NMC and LFP batteries build their stability around a protective layer that forms between the graphite anode and electrolyte, known as the solid-electrolyte interphase (SEI). The collapse of this buffer layer is the first stage of a chain reaction, often referred to as thermal runaway.
Read more about the importance of SEI for the safety of graphite anode-based batteries.

In short: The NMC or G/NMC battery

Graphite/Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide, or simply G/NMC, was the first battery technology introduced for maritime use. A battery with high energy density but with a low cycle life and low power density. The batteries typically have a lower upfront cost but may need to be replaced over the lifetime of the vessel depending on the operational profile. G/NMC batteries have been the subject of a number of investigations around fires on both land-based and marine installations, leading some companies, such as Tesla, to completely switch over to the use of G/LFP chemistry for the EVs.

In short: The LFP battery or G/LFP battery

As previously mentioned, the cathode material in LFP batteries is Lithium Iron Phosphate. G/LFP batteries have a lower energy density than NMC batteries and are safer than the G/NMC chemistry due to the chemical structure of LFP which hinders the release of oxygen, in addition to making it more temperature stable. The temperature threshold for thermal runaway is also higher than that of an NMC battery. Additionally, G/LFP based batteries are cheaper than G/NMC.

Which way to go?

The NMC battery chemistry is undoubtedly more well-known and we tend to feel comfortable with what we’re familiar with. However, LFP batteries are increasingly becoming recognized, and it probably won’t be long until we see them making inroads in the maritime industry.

If you look at the ESS market, LFP batteries are beginning to make their mark. In a report by Wood Mackenzie in 2020, they state that LFP is expected to overtake NMC batteries by 2030. Just like the maritime industry, the ESS market overall has primarily deployed NMC batteries, but by the end of 2018, demand for LFP grew swiftly.

If you are choosing between NMC and LFP, LFP is a better investment. The price of LFP batteries has been decreasing for a couple of years and will continue to do so. In short, LFP
can handle more cycles, is cheaper, and safer.

However, it is worth reiterating that both G/LFP and G/NMC batteries contain graphite anodes. Under multiple cycles or heavy-duty use, the breakdown of the SEI (solid electrolyte interphase) on which the safety of LFP or NMC batteries is based, and subsequent failure of the cell leading to thermal runaway is a significant risk for both cell types.

Are there other options out there?

If you’re looking for durability, which we assume you are, there is another option that many haven’t even considered – The LTO battery (lithium-titanium-oxide). The lifetime of batteries has historically not been long. A vessel operates for around 30-40 years, but an NMC battery usually only lasts for about 6 years. LFP offers up to 10 years – LTO batteries up to 20 years and in some cases even longer.

In an LTO battery, the anode is made of Li-Titanate (Lithium Titanium Oxide, LTO) instead of graphite. LTO batteries are mechanically stable under rapid charge and discharge, can be cycled heavily, and eliminate the risks mentioned with graphite anodes. This durability makes it an excellent choice for vessels and maritime use. Read more about LTO batteries and the possibilities it comes with.

Guide Evaluating heavy-duty batteries for maritime: Here's what you should look for Download guide

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