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Hints, Tips and Solutions (Do NOT post requests for help here) If you have any useful general hints and tips for vintage technology repair and restoration, please share them here. PLEASE DO NOT POST REQUESTS FOR HELP HERE!

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Old 21st Feb 2020, 12:22 am   #1
emeritus
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Default Lithium batteries: dangers of low temp charging

Not something I was aware of until I received the March issue of "Camping and Caravanning" today, which has an article on leisure batteries. Apparently attempting to charge Lithium batteries below 0 degrees C will cause irrepairable damage, so for situations where charging at such temperatures is necessary, batteries are available that incorporate heaters to warm the battery before supplying charging current. Of course this does reduce the effective charging efficiency.

From a bit of internet searching it transpires that the consequence of low temperature charging is the irreversible plating-out of Lithium metal on the electrodes, resuting in loss of capacity. The creation of the highly reactive Lithium metal surely also has safety implications. I assume that automotive batteries would incororate heaters as they must be able to cope with on-street charging in sub-zero temperatures.

Only of academic interest to me, but I thought I would mention it as it is a disadvantage of Lithium batteries that I have not seen mentioned before.
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Old 21st Feb 2020, 12:53 am   #2
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Default Re: Lithium batteries: dangers of low temp charging

Lithium batteries are useless at low temperatures all the time.
I left a camera in a shed with plenty of charge in it and found that it could only be used after warming it in an inside pocket for a few minutes.
Just check the charging temperature range for the type you are using.
Electric cars just give an awful range in cold weather and may also refuse to charge up as well.
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Old 21st Feb 2020, 9:45 am   #3
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Default Re: Lithium batteries: dangers of low temp charging

Many years ago I had a small JVC video camera which used 3.6 volt Lithium Iron batteries and came with a warning that used in low temperatures the batteries will have a reduced performance. It suggested that you use 2 batteries and keep one warmed under your armpit.
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Old 21st Feb 2020, 11:57 am   #4
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Default Re: Lithium batteries: dangers of low temp charging

One day we will have the perfect battery. It's tiny, light, operates in 'all' temperatures, cheap to buy, charges quickly, has no charging foibles, lasts for ages on a charge.

I you can design one, let me know, I'll happily be your manager.
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Old 21st Feb 2020, 3:03 pm   #5
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Default Re: Lithium batteries: dangers of low temp charging

The large lithium batteries used in electric cars generally perform reasonably well in cold weather.
The small but real losses in the battery tend to keep it warm enough. Forced cooling is often used in mild weather.
Cold weather operation simply requires automatically turning off this cooling.

The cold weather reduction in range is primarily due to the energy used in heating the passenger compartment. Not any inherent failing of the battery.

A caravan battery, smaller in volume, and cycled less intensively could be more problematic.
It has been suggested that electric power for caravans could be produced from a methanol fuel cell. Stored in a lithium battery for peak demands. The waste heat from the fuel cell would warm the battery in cold conditions, and be automatically vented away from the battery in warmer conditions.
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Old 21st Feb 2020, 3:47 pm   #6
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Default Re: Lithium batteries: dangers of low temp charging

Quote:
Originally Posted by vidjoman View Post
Many years ago I had a small JVC video camera which used 3.6 volt Lithium Iron batteries and came with a warning that used in low temperatures the batteries will have a reduced performance. It suggested that you use 2 batteries and keep one warmed under your armpit.
I think the batteries are "lithium-ion" rather than "iron". According to an RI Christmas Lecture series that I watched some years ago, lithium-ion batteries can be quite small because lithium itself is a light (in terms of atomic weight) metal and its ions are therefore small.

Colin.
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Old 21st Feb 2020, 4:56 pm   #7
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Default Re: Lithium batteries: dangers of low temp charging

Some interesting points raised here. Perish the thought but Iím wondering about defibrillators that are located outside, say in ex-GPO phone boxes. We certainly get below zero temperatures in this country.

Eddie
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Old 21st Feb 2020, 5:00 pm   #8
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Default Re: Lithium batteries: dangers of low temp charging

My electric bicycle runs OK in the Winter, and it is kept in an unheated garage at night.
John
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Old 21st Feb 2020, 5:33 pm   #9
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Default Re: Lithium batteries: dangers of low temp charging

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Originally Posted by valvekits View Post
Some interesting points raised here. Perish the thought but Iím wondering about defibrillators that are located outside, say in ex-GPO phone boxes. We certainly get below zero temperatures in this country.

Eddie
Should be fine.
Defibrillators tend to use disposable lithium batteries. These perform excellently in very low temperatures.
I often suggest lithium primary cells for "everyday" applications that must work reliably in low temperatures.
I know someone who worked in the Antarctic, for portable lighting they used inexpensive industrial plastic torches, but fitted with lithium primary cells.
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Old 21st Feb 2020, 5:59 pm   #10
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Default Re: Lithium batteries: dangers of low temp charging

A few points to note:

Lithium-ion rechargeable and lithium primary cells are quite different.

Some lithium-ion batteries do tolerate being very cold, there are quite a few variations on the theme now.

All batteries perform badly when cold, but some are much worse than others.

Good battery management circuits would know about the problem when cold. They can be charged, but the maximum rate goes down exponentially with the coldness. The problem is that many leasure batteries are Chinese and some are not so good on managing themselves.
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Old 21st Feb 2020, 6:23 pm   #11
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Default Re: Lithium batteries: dangers of low temp charging

Also, I think the permanent damage done to llithium batteries is not by charging but by overcharging, which is easy to do since their capacity is lower when cold. If you charge the battery fully when warm, then store it cold, it would be in an overcharged state without even charging it. This might be one of multiple reasons for the advice to charge lithium cells to about 40-50 percent when storing.
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Old 21st Feb 2020, 7:29 pm   #12
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Default Re: Lithium batteries: dangers of low temp charging

I have a lithium battery on my motorcycle, it's fine at zero Centigrade*, this is a lithium phosphate thing and apparently much more forgiving than the ion types, although a smaller power to weight ratio.

*Much lower than that I don't bother riding, too slippery for comfort.
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Old 21st Feb 2020, 7:46 pm   #13
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Default Re: Lithium batteries: dangers of low temp charging

Am I missing something here, some are saying that Lithium batteries are 'useless' in cold weather, others that they they perform well in cold weather. For (at least) confused 'me', can someone please clarify the facts? Thanks.
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Old 21st Feb 2020, 8:07 pm   #14
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Default Re: Lithium batteries: dangers of low temp charging

"Lithium" *primary* batteries can work well in low temperature situations.

Use them to exhaustion then throw them away. They're not designed to be rechargeable.

Lithium *secondary* batteries - the type you can repeatedly recharge - don't really handle low-temperature situations well.

It's all about the chemistry.
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Old 21st Feb 2020, 8:10 pm   #15
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Default Re: Lithium batteries: dangers of low temp charging

Quote:
Originally Posted by G6Tanuki View Post
"Lithium" *primary* batteries can work well in low temperature situations.

Use them to exhaustion then throw them away. They're not designed to be rechargeable.

Lithium *secondary* batteries - the type you can repeatedly recharge - don't really handle low-temperature situations well.

It's all about the chemistry.
Thanks. So can you explain a bit more about primary and secondary Lithium batteries and where they're used etc? Cheers
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Old 21st Feb 2020, 8:20 pm   #16
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Default Re: Lithium batteries: dangers of low temp charging

As far as I know, 'primary' and 'secondary' apply to all types of cells/batteries and have the same meanings in all cases.

Primary cells are the non-rechargeable ones. Like zinc-carbon cells, Duracell type alkaline cells, the lithium 'coin cells' (CR2032, etc) and so on

Secondary cells are rechargeable ones. Like lead-acid car batteries. NiCd cells (and nickel metal hydride, nickel iron), Lithium-ion cells (as in laptop computer batteries, smartphone batteries, cordless tool batteries), etc.

Other than the fact that they both use lithium (compounds?), there is considerable difference in the chemisty between a CR2032 and a smartphone battery.
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Old 21st Feb 2020, 9:32 pm   #17
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Default Re: Lithium batteries: dangers of low temp charging

PRIMARY lithium cells work fine in cold conditions, they are not rechargeable and should be discarded after use, preferably recycled.

There are several different types of lithium primary cell.

Lithium manganese dioxide, popular in a small size CR123 for cameras and high performance torches. Only very recently available in a D size. 3 volts per cell.

Lithium thionyl chloride available in numerous sizes. Extreme shelf life and long term operation. Used in memory back up and instruments especially when reliability is more important than cost.
Most types are very low drain only, but SAFT have introduced a high drain D cell that can supply an amp continually. 3.7 volts per cell. These are good for torches in polar regions, or in ships lifeboats.

Lithium IRON disulphide. (yes IRON and not ION) patented by Energiser and available in AAA and in AA sizes. Voltage about 1.6 volts per cell.
20 year shelf life. Excellent high current operation, can supply 2 amps.
Only contain a little more energy than an alkaline AA cell, but still worth it for high drain applications, or when long stable storage is required.

All the above will have slightly reduced performance in the cold, but still greatly out-perform alkaline cells.

Transport by air is restricted.
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Old 21st Feb 2020, 9:44 pm   #18
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Default Re: Lithium batteries: dangers of low temp charging

There are two common types of rechargeable Lithium cell.

Lithium ion, hugely popular from cellphones up to electric cars. Acceptable discharge in cold conditions, but charging may be restricted.
Safe if well manufactured and correctly used, but can explode and catch fire if defective or misused. Cant be connected in series without a battery management circuit, which is often built into the battery.

Lithium IRON phosphate. Somewhat safer under fault or failure conditions.
A 12 volt lithium iron phosphate battery can often replace a 12 volt lead acid battery, the voltage is higher but only very slightly, about 12.5 or 12.6 volts.
The main advantage is much reduced weight, popular applications include motorcycles, especially when ridden competitively, and mobility scooters.

Both types are restricted for air transport.
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Old 22nd Feb 2020, 12:38 am   #19
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Default Re: Lithium batteries: dangers of low temp charging

Just to be clear, a lithium iron phosphate battery is one member of the lithium-ion class of batteries.

There are several chemistries of the lithium-ion system, all of which store energy by the diffusion of lithium ions into a substrate. The variations are all trying to minimise a big problem which is the mechanical change in size that happens when a lot of lithium ions are stored this way, leading to the destruction of the battery. It is a very different kind of system to other rechargeable batteries.
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Old 22nd Feb 2020, 2:38 pm   #20
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Default Re: Lithium batteries: dangers of low temp charging

Quote:
Originally Posted by stevehertz View Post
One day we will have the perfect battery. It's tiny, light, operates in 'all' temperatures, cheap to buy, charges quickly, has no charging foibles, lasts for ages on a charge.
There is some progress on this front, solid state batteries.

John Goodenough was a co-inventor of lithium ion batteries as we know them and seems to have done it again, at 94 years old!

https://www.protoolreviews.com/news/...hnology/30038/

Benefits are said to include great stability, fast charging, low temperature (sub-zero) operation, improved power density, and cheapness. Based on sodium this time.

Don’t buy your new electric car just yet!

Peter
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