Why are LiFe batteries so expensive?

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deronmoped
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Why are LiFe batteries so expensive?

Anyone have any idea how much it cost to build a LiFe cell?

1) Are the batteries just plain expensive to build?

2) Is there not enough batteries to meet demand?

3) Are they artificially keeping prices high?

4) Are they just pricing them on their value compared to other battery technology?

I know right now I can get replacement batteries for my camera for like $10.00. Which I think is a good deal for a rechargeable high power battery that will last me years.

When it comes to a bicycle battery, they just seem to be very high priced. Anywhere from 85 cents for the cheaper batteries a watt to maybe $2.00 a watt for the better batteries.

Deron.

reikiman
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Re: Why are LiFe batteries so expensive?

For a first stab at your question ... Here's a sample of camera batteries and sure enough one of them is $10, for a 7.2v .9ah

http://www.batteryspace.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWCATS&Category=801

The battery pack on my motorcycle is 60v50ah so for convenience of calculations let's say the target pack for a vehicle is 72v90ah. To build that pack out of camera batteries requires 1000 of them and would cost $10,000 .. not to mention all the intricate wiring required to get 1000 small cells wired up.

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andys
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Re: Why are LiFe batteries so expensive?

Very good question, and one that would take a huge amount of research to answer accurately. I know there is the cost of mining and transport of the raw materials, and manufacturing costs of course, and what these are in percentage of retail price is anyone's guess. Then there is the cost of the science and engineering that went into actually designing the batteries. Distribution costs, etc, etc. Probably if we could see all that went into making these available on the market today, we'd be asking how come they were so cheap.

eped
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Re: Why are LiFe batteries so expensive?

Another way to look at it is the LFP40 is 3.2V nominal at 40aH for $68 so 53cents per wH; a decent value (about a factor of 2.5X more than SLA but less in the long run figuring usable life of LFP being 5X).

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deronmoped
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Re: Why are LiFe batteries so expensive?

David

I hear what you are saying, I was thinking the same thing at first. Then I started to think that a bicycle battery is like buying in camera batteries in bulk and there should be a quantity discount. Keeping this in mind, if a web site like yours could get a buying group together, a power buy could be done. I have seen this done before on AVS (audio video science).

It could go like this, contact PingPing and ask when his slow time of the year is. Put out on your web site that you are organizing a powerbuy, get enough people together and they could all get discounts and you could get a free battery. I have seen this done with people that organize groups for travel, concerts and other events, the organizer does his job, but in the end gets to fly for free.

I noticed Ping puts some of his batteries out to auction and lets the bidding begin. Just lets the market set the price. Someone could use this to their advantage if they could predict when there will be less interest.

Deron.

dogman
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Re: Why are LiFe batteries so expensive?

Or you could just email Ping for a direct buy and the best price. I paid about $100 less than the auction that ended the same week. The main difference is you get the item shipped quicker if you buy at the auction. If you buy direct, you have to wait 2 weeks for the battery to arrive at his place.

If you look at what lifepo4 is expected to last, it is much cheaper than any other component on an ebike. My very conservative estimate of my ping 36v-20ah battery is 15000 miles. No way do I expect to have any motors or controllers go that far. Nor the bikes the stuff is mounted on. Maybe 3-5000 miles on that stuff, tires at least every 2000 miles, brake pads, peadles, etc etc. The only thing not expected to break down fast is the battery. So far 1200 miles no problems. I figure at 5000 miles I will have broken even on the same ammount of money I could have spent on sla's. So 10000 miles of free riding.

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36 volt sla schwinn beach cruiser
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dogman
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Re: Why are LiFe batteries so expensive?

On my commuter bike, sla's = .083 per mile cost of battery

Lifepo4= .03 per mile cost of battery.

think of lifepo4 as $1.50 per gallon gasoline.

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deronmoped
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Re: Why are LiFe batteries so expensive?

My first LiFe battery was from Ping, it was custom made so I did not go through e-bay. I think I saved a little bit, not as much as you did dogman.

Yeah, I broke it down to cost versus lead and it comes out ahead. I just have a hard time parting with $600.00 for a battery :(

Deron.

dogman
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Re: Why are LiFe batteries so expensive?

Me too! Unfortunately I went and bought a 36v, which was $450 then, and by the time it arrived was wishing I'd bought the 48. I won't have the cash to fix that mistake for a long time. But at the moment, I just couldn't go $600 for the 48v.

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mcstar
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Re: Why are LiFe batteries so expensive?

I just have a hard time parting with $600.00 for a battery

I thought the same thing until I had put over a thousand miles on my bike in 6 months. Now I'm looking at real world numbers that I can use to justify the cost . Compared to the fuel my truck uses, at 1000miles/15mpg * $3.70/gal == $246 every 6 months. So in about 2 years I save the cost of the battery. With a GOOD BMI LIFEPO4 pack, you can expect 5000 cyles at 20miles or so each, so that's 100,000 miles or $24,000 in fuel saved over the life of the battery. That's not a bad ROI if you're thinking about it rationally. Dogman's right though. You'll replace many other parts on the bike before you have to buy another battery if you package it up right.

jdh2550_1
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Re: Why are LiFe batteries so expensive?

Yep - the price per mile compared to lead-acid makes LiFe good value for money.

However, I still wonder how the cost of manufacturing LiFe compares to lead? In other words if there was a price war how low could LiFe go?

What are the raw material price comparisons between lead and lithium?
How difficult / expensive is it to build a LiFe battery manufacturing plant?
How difficult is the process? Is there a lot of waste? Is there a quality control concern?
Are there licensing costs? (I once heard that Cobasys makes money off of every single NiMH battery sold - I don't know if that's true or not) If so, how big are those costs?

Anyone know the answers to these questions?

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mcstar
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Re: Why are LiFe batteries so expensive?

Wow, you really are interested in this stuff. Funny, because today I recieved an email from the BMI distributor in AU that is purchasing them for me from BMI. He's been to their plant several times and has direct communication with the company president. Rather than try to paraphrase his comments, here they are right from the email he sent me...

I received a DVD of the brand new fully automated plant where the cells are manufactured showing some of the machinery and equipment involved including the laser welding of the cells. It is unbelievable!!!!
People complain about how much the cells cost but if you saw the factory and equipment and what it actually takes to make a quality cell like these BMI cells you are about to pick up from your PO you would be thinking to yourself how cheap the cells really are!!

I'll also address a few of your questions directly...

What are the raw material price comparisons between lead and lithium?

Lead is definately more abundant than lithium. It's also easier to refine and prepare for use in batteries. Some of this difference however may be because there is so much competition in the lead acid battery market. Right now there are just a handful of LiFePO4 manufactures in the entire world. Since lead acid's been around so long, there are hundreds and hundreds of suppliers so competition has driven the price down to just above the cost. Just to give you an idea of the scale of lead one use of lead acid, at the company I work (we service scooters and power chairs), we recycle 50-100 pallets of used lead acid batteries a month!

How difficult / expensive is it to build a LiFe battery manufacturing plant?

From what I understand, LiFePo4 batteries are made in climate controlled facilities or clean rooms. This is because impurities are detrimental to their creation. The Lithium powder is really nano technology and purity is absolutely essential. In fact, if expose the powder to air (via a crack in the case for instance) even momemtarily, it will die in hours.

Are there licensing costs? (I once heard that Cobasys makes money off of every single NiMH battery sold - I don't know if that's true or not) If so, how big are those costs?

There are definately licensing costs for the cathode material.
It was developed by the University of Texas. All LiFePO4 cells are legally supposed to be licenced by Phostech Canada. BMI cells do pay this royalty so this adds to the cost. Some(all?) of the Chinese cells do not pay this royalty fee. I suppose you could say that makes them illegal, but since they are made in China who knows which laws actually apply??

dogman
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Re: Why are LiFe batteries so expensive?

I think we are about to see a bit of a price war on lifepo4, especially if the factories tool up for electric cars that get delayed a year or more. But the price won't get cheaper than sla's. Really good high discharge rate cells will hold their price though, I think.

Be the pack leader.
36 volt sla schwinn beach cruiser
36 volt lifepo4 mongoose mtb
24 volt sla + nicad EV Global

mcstar
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Re: Why are LiFe batteries so expensive?

That would be awesome! I hope we see more companies producing high quality cells. I know we can use the heck out of them. I've got people standing in line for high quality battery packs. Some want to replace the lead in their boats (trolling motor batteries) and others want to replace their golf cart batteries. Lead acid only last a year or two in many applications. We are now talking about batteries that can last far longer than the life of any one machine it's used to power. This means we will be needing battery packs that can be used in different machines and maybe even at different voltages (using dc-dc convertors for instance). Every day I see or hear of new electric powered devices coming out (scooters, tykes, boats, you name it).

deronmoped
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Re: Why are LiFe batteries so expensive?

BYD might be a big player too. They produce 400 million cell phone batteries every year. Now they have a car battery pack that is good for 300km (185 miles), can be recharged in 15 minutes to 80%.

That's a idea I just had, how about cell phone batteries for our EV's? Just have to know someone that works at a cell phone recycling center, all the free batteries you want!

Deron.

mcstar
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Re: Why are LiFe batteries so expensive?

Just in time too, Dodge just announced 3 new models of plug-in electrics for 2010!
http://www.popularmechanics.com/blogs/automotive_news/4284293.html

deronmoped
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Re: Why are LiFe batteries so expensive?

Yeah, that is exciting, we will soon be pulling our batteries from junk yard vehicles :)

They are also saying by 2020 half the cars on the road will be at least partially powered by a battery. That is just right around the corner.

Deron.

dogman
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Re: Why are LiFe batteries so expensive?

Since lifepo4 can be just dumpstered, it will be fun times when they are in general use in golf carts. Ebikers might be able to get dead 12v batteries and crack em for a few good pouches inside. Of course, you might have to wait years before they start replacing batteries.

Be the pack leader.
36 volt sla schwinn beach cruiser
36 volt lifepo4 mongoose mtb
24 volt sla + nicad EV Global

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