Lithium batteries are a cornerstone of modern technology, powering everything from our smartphones to electric vehicles. However, not all batteries are created equal, and one crucial aspect that sets them apart is their packaging. Battery cells can be encased in hard shells or soft shells, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we will be exploring battery packaging, and dissecting the pros and cons of hard shell and soft shell options.
Exploring Battery Packaging
Square Cell: This category claimed the lion’s share, occupying a staggering 77.37% of the market. Square cells are favored for their simplicity in group structure, efficient heat dissipation, and good energy density.
Cylindrical Cell: Cylindrical lithium batteries, with their extensive commercial history, made up 16.97% of the market. Known for their maturity in manufacturing processes, high yield, and remarkable consistency, cylindrical cells excel in thermal performance. However, they are also known for their complex grouping processes and slightly lower energy density compared to square cells of the same size.
Soft Pack Cell: Soft packs represented a smaller portion, accounting for only 5.66% of the market. Soft pack batteries are renowned for their high energy density, but their weak mechanical strength poses challenges. These batteries require intricate sealing processes, complex grouping, and the addition of explosion-proof mechanisms, making safety a primary concern.
Cylindrical Hard Shell Packaging
Cylindrical lithium batteries have the longest history of commercialization and enjoy widespread use across various industries. Their manufacturing processes are the most mature, boasting high product yields and unmatched consistency. The smaller size of cylindrical cells allows for better heat dissipation, making them superior to square cells in this regard.
However, cylindrical batteries do have their drawbacks. Their small size leads to complex grouping processes, and their energy density falls slightly behind that of square cells with equivalent volumes. Additionally, due to the presence of numerous cells in a battery pack, even in the case of super-large 4680 cells, managing them can be daunting. Battery Management Systems (BMS) must oversee each individual cell, demanding higher computing power and management capabilities.
One notable advantage of cylindrical lithium batteries is their uniform distribution, which makes them more resistant to internal pressure compared to square batteries. This characteristic is why certain chemistries, such as NCA, which produce gas during charging and discharging, opt for cylindrical cells to avoid potential safety hazards.
Square Hard Shell Cell
Square lithium batteries come encased in aluminum alloy shells, known for their high structural strength and excellent mechanical load-bearing capacity. These batteries feature a simple group structure and offer a relatively high energy density. However, if steel is used for the shell, it can add weight to the cell, affecting its energy density. The production process for square cells is relatively complex, with yields and consistency not matching up to cylindrical lithium batteries.
Square cells excel in heat dissipation, have straightforward grouping methods, and are easy to design. Moreover, they allow for the convenient installation of explosion-proof valves, enhancing safety.
Soft Pack Cell
Soft-packed cells employ common aluminum-plastic films as their shell, providing flexibility in size and cost-effectiveness. These cells are known for their high energy density per unit, surpassing that of cylindrical and square cells. However, their soft shell poses mechanical strength challenges, intricate sealing processes, complex grouping, and difficulty in adding explosion-proof mechanisms. This makes safety a significant concern in the soft pack battery segment.
Furthermore, soft packs demand higher production requirements and exhibit poor consistency, resulting in higher manufacturing costs when used as power batteries. Soft-packed cells are better suited for future solid-state batteries, which are inherently safer due to their improved thermal stability and reduced flammability.
The choice between hard shell and soft shell packaging for lithium batteries involves a careful consideration of the application’s specific requirements. While hard shell packaging offers simplicity, good heat dissipation, and safety, soft shell packaging excels in energy density but demands meticulous attention to safety measures. The decision ultimately depends on the desired balance between energy density, mechanical strength, safety, and thermal performance in the context of the intended application.
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