Lithium batteries, in general, provide a wide range of advantages that are difficult, if not impossible, to duplicate in any other way. They’re also known as lithium-metal batteries because they use lithium as an anode. They’re normally capable of providing a far higher charge density (read: longer lifespan) than other options on the market today.
Lithium batteries have a wide range of uses in our daily lives for this reason alone, especially for those crucial that we don’t spend enough time thinking about.
However, regardless of the use, you will have two major alternatives when it comes to selecting a lithium battery for your usage. In today’s modern, tech-driven world, cylindrical and prismatic lithium batteries are fairly widespread, and each has its own set of advantages and best practices that are well worth investigating.
What Are Cylindrical Lithium Batteries?
As the name implies, cylindrical lithium batteries have electrodes contained in a cylindrical cell that is twisted very tightly within a specifically constructed metal casing. Even under the most extreme use conditions, this unique design helps to reduce the risks of the electrode material breaking up.
Mechanical vibrations, heat cycling from charging and discharging, and mechanical expansion of current conductors are all factors that can shorten the life of a battery. As a result, the cylindrical units’ design is intended to assist limit risk from these and other factors to the greatest extent possible.
For these reasons, cylindrical batteries are commonly encountered in the medical device systems indicated above. Portable electronics, including laptop computers, use smaller, more specifically constructed cylindrical cells. Tesla, for example, recently made news by choosing cylindrical lithium batteries to power its popular electric vehicles.
What Are Prismatic Lithium Batteries?
A prismatic lithium battery, on the other hand, has a cell that has been encased in either aluminum or steel, mostly for added stability. As a result, there are several crucial advantages right once. Prismatic lithium batteries are thin, light, and allow efficient space utilization due to their unique structure and content.
Because the rectangular shape of a prismatic Li-battery allows for significantly greater stacking than other possibilities, engineers have more freedom when creating products that will use prismatic batteries as power sources in the future. As a result, prismatic batteries are commonly found in smartphones, tablets, and other electronic gadgets where mobility is a top requirement.
Because of these characteristics, prismatic batteries are now widely used in more important applications such as energy storage systems and electric powertrains.
Cylindrical Versus Prismatic Batteries: Breaking Things Down
Cylindrical lithium batteries are the most widely available (and used) variety nowadays for a reason. When compared to prismatic equivalents, they may often be made faster while also having a cheaper cost-per-KWh (kilowatt-hour). The design itself, for example, better accommodates the types of automated processes that are ubiquitous in factories and other production environments around the country, which only help to improve product consistency and keep final prices as low as possible.
However, one of the main reasons prismatic cells have become more popular in recent years is because of their huge capacity. This, combined with their inherently prismatic structure, makes connecting four separate cells to produce something akin to a 12-volt battery pack a breeze.
However, the prismatic design has its own set of difficulties, notably in terms of what happens if something goes wrong. If one cell in a prismatic battery fails for any reason, the entire battery pack in which it is a part is harmed.
These are the types of issues that designers and other engineers don’t have to worry about because the cells in a cylindrical battery are connected in series and parallel.
Cylindrical Li batteries also tend to radiate heat (and so manage their temperature) more easily than their prismatic counterparts due to their design. Because of the way prismatic cells are arranged, this increases capacity, but it also increases the risk of design inconsistencies and short-circuiting. The prismatic cell’s bigger size may be appealing in some settings, but it also reduces the likelihood of such a battery being employed in a heavily automated system.
The higher capacity makes it significantly more difficult for the battery management system to appropriately regulate heat and prevent the battery from overcharging, which is likely the largest disadvantage for prismatic batteries.
As previously noted, the tiny form factor of a prismatic battery gives product designers more flexibility; yet, this comes with its own set of drawbacks. That same architecture makes prismatic batteries more difficult and expensive to design and produce, expenses that will almost surely be passed on to customers. This versatility has resulted in a finite number of cell sizes, which just adds to the problem.
It’s worth noting, though, that the subject of expenses also comes with a few key caveats. Because prismatic cells are frequently larger than their cylindrical counterparts and so cost more initially, experts agree that they provide more opportunities for cost reduction in the long run. As a result, you could wish to consider the cost element this way: is it more vital to saving money now by going cylindrical, or can you rely on your ability to innovate and perhaps save a larger amount of money over time? Of course, the answer to that question is one that only you can give based on whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish.