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Nickle-Iron Edison Cell, now available (merged topic)

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I've been a fan of Ni-Fe batteries (Edison Cells) for quite a while. Back in the 70's I read about a guy who went off-grid after buying up a surplus set of WWII submarine batteries.

Edison cells, of course.

The last forever. All you ever have to do is add a little distilled water from time to time, and maybe a pinch of potash.

They don't create hydrogen gas, either.

And they are really rugged. You can't kill them by over-charging them, undercharging them, or bouncing them around a bit.

One major advantage they have is that you can make them yourself. They are really pretty simple internally, while modern lead-acid batteries are not.

I just found a link to a company selling them--at very high prices.

They've got some good info about the batteries, as does Wikipedia.

Edison cells are not wimpy: they were used in electric automobiles, forklifts, and heavy mine equipment.

As far as I know there is presently only one factory (located in China) that makes them.

Edison cells fell out of favor primarily because they lacked one critical ability: the ability to wear out. A 100-year service life at 100% efficiency meant you didn't have to buy a whole new set of batteries every four years.

That doesn't sit well with battery companies, so they mostly push lead-acid batteries instead.

Unfortunately, they have a couple other problems:  one, they have pretty poor charge retention (you more or less *have* to constantly float-charge NiFe cells when not using them, or they drift low) and two, their low-temperature performance is even worse than lead-acid.  They're bulky, too, with a much lower specific energy than modern lead-acid cells.  Of course, if you're using them for power at the house, that's less important than other considerations.  They are also hideously expensive per amp-hour, compared to lead-acid.

That being said, I'd totally forgotten about the existence of the things; we touched briefly on them when I was in electrician's mate school, mostly to talk about why they'd been abandoned in favor of lead-acid cells for submarine use.  It's definitely worth looking into once my current job ends (which gives me a more-or-less unending stream of VRLA batteries), because although the initial capital costs are significant, the lifetime costs are much, much lower than a lead-acid set-up.  Thanks for reminding me, that's something I'll put on my list.

Try this--I think it is very interesting.

Edison Battery Construction Nickel Iron

Steve W:
Have posed the Edison Cell to one of Europe's Well Known Battery & Uninterruptible Power pundits.  He said he'd get me some information and email it.

Sounded like a case of the measure of "appropriate technology" having changed over time, perhaps making it a good time to revisit the Nickel-Iron battery.

More when he comes back to me.

It sounds like the perfect mate for solar p/v and/or a small windmill generator...

Ok, they've been out of favor for some time... does anyone have any actual experience with them?


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