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Old 21-05-2011, 14:55   #1
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Nickel-Iron Batteries - Anyone Using Them Onboard ?

I'm curious to see if anyone's tried using nickel-iron batteries as a house bank.

From a technical standpoint, they appear to have some advantages:
- Near infinite cycle life (there are early 1900s NiFe packs still in use that still test at 100% of their original capacity)
- Not damaged by overcharging or deep discharging
- Electrolyte (potassium hydroxide) may be less nasty than sulphuric acid, and off-gassing products apparently don't include anything that would damage or wear out a hydrocap

But there are also notable downsides:
- They boil off electrolyte faster than Pb-acid cells, so need to be topped up more often
- Charging efficiency might not be all that great
- They are awfully pricey (about $4000 for a 12 V, 400 to 500 Ah bank, and that'll weigh something like 250 kg)

And there seem to be only a handful of commercial suppliers, with little active development (most seem to be using drawings from an old Edison patent):
- Changhong (China), Nickel-lron(Ni-Fe)
- ZappWorks (Montana), Zapp Works - Nickel-Iron Batteries
- BeUtilityFree (which might be a rebranded Changhong), Nickel Iron Batteries - A Lifetime Battery For Your Off-Grid System (or On-Grid Backup)!
- Iron Edison (Colorado), Nickel-Iron Batteries at IronEdison.com
- Like most niche technologies, Ni-Fe cells have a fan club, nickel iron battery information

So... has anyone tried these on a boat, and with what results? Are there any more suppliers? Would there be much interest in them if they were more readily available?
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Old 21-05-2011, 17:31   #2
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Re: Nickel-iron batteries: anyone using them on board?

NiFe (Nickel-Iron) batteries do have a very long life, but very poor energy efficiency (60-70%), and poor low-temperature performance,. Due to low specific energy, poor charge retention, and its high cost of manufacture (nickel is about ten times the cost of lead), other types of rechargeable batteries have displaced the nickel-iron battery in most applications. I doubt there'd be much interest in resurrecting the NiFe battery for marine applications.
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Old 21-05-2011, 17:38   #3
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Re: Nickel-iron batteries: anyone using them on board?

Gordy, are nic-iron batteries the same as used in subs and the navy many years ago?
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Old 21-05-2011, 17:49   #4
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Re: Nickel-iron batteries: anyone using them on board?

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Originally Posted by brutb View Post
Gordy, are nic-iron batteries the same as used in subs and the navy many years ago?
I'd very much doubt that, as NiFe batteries are only useful in near-constant charge situations, such as /w solar or wind arrays.

WWII submarines used conventional Lead-Acid batteries.
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Old 11-08-2013, 23:55   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brutb View Post
Gordy, are nic-iron batteries the same as used in subs and the navy many years ago?
Some World War II subs used Nickle Iron batteries because they absorb carbon dioxide and convert it into carbonate. The carbonate stays in the electrolyte. Sort of like a free carbon dioxide scrubber. The rest of us need to clean the electrolyte every few years but for subs it was cool.
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