We field a lot of questions relating to the difference between lithium batteries and Vanadium Redox Batteries (or VRB’s as they are commonly known), and rightly so. Lithium has taken the spotlight over the past few years while VRB’s maintain a lower profile.
In short, lithium batteries and Vanadium Redox Batteries are very different.
Lithium batteries are a cell design energy storage unit of varying shapes, relatively small, self-contained devices that can become very hot. They are used in everyday electrical goods like our mobile phones and computers.
Vanadium Redox Batteries store their energy in a tank, relying on fluid transfer from the tank, through the system and back to the tank.
As lithium batteries are little, self-contained units, to adopt them as a grid scale storage system, you would require hundreds of thousands of them.
On the other hand, Vanadium Redox Batteries are designed perfectly for large scale storage as you simply increase the size of the tank, making their scalability infinite.
By 2020, it has been touted that lithium batteries would cost approximately $500 per megawatt hour.
Vanadium Redox Batteries are already approximately $300 per megawatt hour with this figure dropping to $150 per megawatt hour by 2020.
Lithium batteries have a cycle typically around the 1,200 – 1,500 range, with performance degrading over time due to temperature, application and how deep and often they have been discharged.
Vanadium redox batteries can cycle generally around the 20,000 range and can also be easily upgraded after long periods of time.
In short, what this demonstrates is that each battery have their place – lithium batteries are designed for use in small electronic devices where Vanadium in large scale, regular and variable grid storage applications – such as, for the storage of energy generated from renewable and sustainable sources.
The Future of Vanadium
Vanadium and its use in Redox Flow Batteries has a massive future.
As we focus our energy into the production of vanadium for large scale industrial applications, we can facilitate the development of large renewable energy projects the world over. The issue with solar and wind energy projects is the unreliability of power supply due to weather conditions, a commercial scale storage solution changes the energy mix, and makes renewables a large part of a lower carbon future.
The emerging renewable energy storage industry (VRB’s) and expanding global infrastructure spending will see the demand for vanadium continue to significantly grow over the coming years.
There are already concerns over vanadium supply availability for the growing VRB industry. For example, the VRB installation in Dalian, China was approximately 3.8% of current global demand.
Significant new vanadium production will be required to maintain supply to this new energy industry application as it continues to develop throughout China, India, HK and USA.