June 17, 2017

NiFe Cells, Nickel Iron Batteries or the Edison cell, call them what you want, they are potentially a life time battery cell. Here are some reasons why.

Let's start with the most common batteries and the reasons they are used.

First, let me explain some ‘geek speak’ about batteries and cells. A battery is a group of cells which are combined, which is then called a battery. A cell is an individual plate- which for Lead Acid produces 2 Volts per cell, a Nickel Iron cell produces 1.2 Volts, and a Lithium cell 3.2 Volts. For example, your 12 Volt Lead Acid car battery is a group of 6 cells- 2 volts x 6 cells equals 12volts. These are known as nominal voltages. You will have a peak voltage which you cannot charge above, and then a low voltage with which the cell will stop working.

Lead Acid type cells would be the most common cell on the planet- nearly every car has one. A Lead Acid cell is unfortunately DESIGNED to be a consumable product. Lead Acid cells decay to create sulfate of the cells, which starts the chemical reaction necessary for energy creation. Lead, being a soft material, decays and rots like a bit of Swiss cheese- the quicker you take a load out of it, the quicker it decays. For example, if you used a Lead Acid battery bank to power just your home’s lights, computers/ TVs and light loads, they will last a lot longer than if you use them to power your items with heavy motors that need lots of power fast to work. Some examples of heavy motors include washing machines, dishwashers, vacuums, standard ovens, irons, air cons/ heaters, and electric hot water systems- basically anything that requires more than about 300 watts to get going. Also, if you have a large load you want to run when your Lead Acid battery is low you can collapse the cell. If you end up with one dead cell, your system will work during the day, but as soon as the sun starts going down you will have no power. 

Lead Acid batteries have worked well in cars because they have the ability to give large bursts of power to start the car, then the alternator charges the battery very quickly and it stays full. The majority of the time you drive, using lights and other accessories whilst driving, those items are run directly from the alternator of the car.

Lithium cells are unlike lead acid batteries in the regard that don’t like to be discharged or depleted of energy. A Lithium cell can be run flat. They are light and can be run flat, which is the reason they are used in a lot of our electronics.  When charging a Lithium Ion Cell, the electrons travel from the positive terminal to the negative terminal- when the electrons stop flowing the cell is fully charged. Without the correct charger this can be a problem as it will continue to charge and your battery could explode! Google it- you will be entertained, I promise!

Nickel Iron cells have been namedNiFe Cells orEdison cells. Jay Leno owns Thomas Edison’s 1912 electric car, and it is still functional on the original batteries! Yes, 1912- you do the math it’s over 100 years! There are stories of them lasting forever- one thing I cannot find on the internet despite researching, or stories from anyone that has used them, is a story of a Nickel Iron cell battery that doesn't work anymore. If you do find one, or know of someone, please share with us.

NiFe cells create energy from a transfer of oxygen from one cell to another. This is possibly the reason for the long life span. The electrolyte is merely a conveyor and has no chemical reaction. Over time it will be required to be changed- Edison recommended changing every seven years.

They can be overcharged and discharged very deeply without affecting the cell. Personally, I installed mine at the start of 2015 and in the 8 months of having them, we have been more and more amazed every day with them. I do run them very hard, as we are testing them to see what they can handle. To do this, we are using an electric kettle, aircons, etc-  everything that I have talked about not to use and that really is not meant for battery systems.

I have also installed quite a few Lead Acid batteries in vehicle solar setups over the years, which was the reason I stumbled ontoNiFe cells. I was not planning to go off grid and be required to replace my batteries every few years- if I was going Off-Grid I planned to do it with lifetime batteries.

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Thanks for reading and have a Yabba Yabba day.