14 February 2019: Generex, the battery monitoring specialist with headquarters in Germany and the US, has developed a Smart Battery with an integrated battery management system designed to work with uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) or other stationary applications that will close the gap in performance between lead-acid batteries and lithium-ion cells. Generex is so confident in its reliability that it will even issue an eight-year warranty on the product.
The battery, which Generex developed in partnership with Leoch International Technology and the University of Berlin, improves the performance of lead-acid batteries in UPS systems by 20%, closing the capacity gap in performance with lithium batteries, while delivering higher reliability and safety. The company says it will replace 7Ah batteries in most applications seamlessly.
Integrated into the Smart Battery is Generex’s patented integrated Battery Management and Care System (iBACS), which allows the user to control performance of each individual battery. In a first for lead-acid batteries used in this way, Generex offers an eight-year warranty on the 10-year design life of each battery as long as its iBACS system is installed and used correctly.
Generex says the key to both warranty and design life is in iBACS’ approach to charging, which respects the fact that individual cells have their own unique internal electrochemical properties and some batteries will charge at levels more quickly than others. iBACS eliminates over-charging and under-charging in a battery string and so extends battery life.
The Smart Battery is a VRLA battery — valve regulated lead-acid batteries are sealed meaning the electrolyte cannot escape, making the Smart Battery suitable for horizontal and vertical installation. Other key features of the Smart Battery include the fact that measurement data can be determined without contact so that even a 100% insulated system still allows access to measured data. This means historical battery monitoring data is collected at all times.
Generex has already manufactured prototypes of the battery and is conducting tests to verify its performance. In tandem with this process, Generex is seeking partners including battery manufacturers, UPS importers and OEM partners to help it commercialise the product and take it to market.
The product is designed to solve a long-term challenge for lead-acid batteries. While the chemistry has been the primary choice for use in UPS applications since the 1960s, due to its low cost and availability of materials, when used in UPS devices they typically only deliver a 50%-60% design life.
UPS technology is now so advanced, one of the few improvements that can still be made is on the performance of the battery. Generex and Schneider believe they can help develop UPS devices that are as close to being 100% maintenance free.
Over the past 10 years, the sector has increasingly been exploring the potential of other chemistries, mainly lithium-ion-based products, which, though more costly, can provide a longer service and, on the face of it, a comparable total cost of ownership.
Lithium-ion manufacturers promote a battery with a 10-15 year service life and a 10-year warranty. They also claim several other benefits including lower total cost of ownership, higher energy density, lighter weight, smaller footprint, high cycling, and built-in battery management.
But many of these claims are disputed by lead-acid battery manufacturers who point out that the materials used by lithium-ion batteries are greatly more expensive than lead and no meaningful recycling of these batteries exists, making their environmental impact problematic. Especially as lithium batteries cannot go into landfill.
They also point out that while the energy density and the weight are an advantage in comparison to lead-acid, a true comparison is more complex than that given that other factors may need to be included.
While lithium-ion batteries do have a higher charge/discharge cycle range as compared to lead-acid batteries, this offers no benefit in UPS applications in which batteries will rarely be deep cycled more than 8-10 times in their service lifespan.
All lithium-ion batteries have a built-in BMS; due to the high energy density and construction of the cells it is essential in this chemistry to keep the voltage of the cells from becoming imbalanced or overcharging.
Generex’s development of a BMS designed for lead-acid batteries therefore represents an important breakthrough in closing the performance gap between the two products. Generex also notes that there is evidence that the high-frequency RF noise present in most UPS systems can cause some BMS system instrumentation to not function. For lithium-ion batteries, this would be catastrophic.
Therefore, in the context of what is a complex landscape as manufacturers of the rival chemistries compete for market share, the development of Generex’s Smart Battery looks like a significant development, which should resolve some of the biggest concerns over the use of lead acid and close the gap in performance substantially.
Daniel Baileys, chief executive of Generex US, said: “Over the past 15 years, we have engineered and manufactured a battery management system for lead-acid batteries that provides a full state of health monitoring as well as balances the voltage across the string. The results are extended service life, higher capacity/runtime, and less premature failures.
“We are delighted to have also extended this innovation to develop the Smart Battery. This is a lead-acid battery with an integrated battery management system which equips the battery with onboard cradle-to-grave monitoring and management. Generex provides another first for the VRLA battery industry a design life of 10 years alongside an eight-year warranty.
Frank Blettenberger, chief executive of Generex, said: “UPS manufacturers see the battery as the Achilles heel of the technology and as they explore the use of other chemistries, the market share of lead acid batteries has started to fall. Yet a comparison between the two is often based on misconceptions and the perception that lead-acid batteries fail to reach their design life. With the Smart Battery, we can control the quality of every single battery and can grant the warranty the moment the user inserts our new iBACS.”