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The Nickel Iron Battery Association
-dedicated to clean energy storage for renewable energy systems.
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|Charge/discharge efficiency||65% - 85%|
|Self-discharge rate||10-15% /month|
|Time durability||30– 100 years|
|Cycle durability||Repeated deep discharge does not reduce life significantly.|
|Nominal cell voltage||1.2 V|
|Charge temperature interval||min.-40°C
The nickel-iron battery (NiFe battery)
is a storage battery having a nickel(III)
and an iron
with an electrolyte of potassium hydroxide. The active
materials are held in nickel-plated steel tubes or perforated
pockets. It is a very robust battery which is tolerant of abuse,
(overcharge, overdischarge, and short-circuiting) and can have
very long life even if so treated. 
It is often used in backup situations where it can be continuously
charged and can last for more than 40 years. Due
to its high cost of manufacture, other types of rechargeable
batteries have displaced the nickel-iron battery in most
applications. Because of their long life NiFe batteries are
ideal for backing up renewable energy applications. The
reason for their disappearance in the North American market is
largely due to the Exide Corporation's decision to abandon the
technology in 1975 after purchasing it from the Edison Storage
Battery company for several million dollars. The
reason for acquiring the manufacturing process to make NiFe
batteries and then simply abandoning the technology is
unknown. Exide remains the second largest manufacturer
of lead acid batteries in the world.
|(If anyone knows more about why Nickel Iron batteries went out of production in North America please contact us and we will update this website.)|
The ability of these batteries to survive frequent cycling is due to the low solubility of the reactants in the electrolyte. The formation of metallic iron during charge is slow because of the low solubility of the Fe3O4. While the slow formation of iron crystals preserves the electrodes, it also limits the high rate performance: these cells charge slowly, and are only able to discharge slowly.  Nickel-iron cells should not be charged from a constant voltage supply since they can be damaged by thermal runaway; the cell internal voltage drops as gassing begins, raising temperature, which increases current drawn and so further increases gassing and temperature.
Nickel-iron batteries have long been used in European mining operations because of their ability to withstand vibrations, high temperatures and other physical stress. They are being examined again for use in wind and solar power systems and for modern electric vehicle applications.
The half-cell reaction at the cathode:
and at the anode:
(Discharging is read left to right, charging is from right to left.)
The open-circuit voltage is 1.4 volts,
dropping to 1.2 volts during discharge. 
The electrolyte mixture of potassium hydroxide and lithium
hydroxide is not consumed in charging or discharging, so unlike a
lead-acid battery the electrolyte specific gravity does not
indicate state of charge. 
Lithium hydroxide improves the performance of the cell. the
voltage required to charge the cells is between 1.6 and 1.7
volts. Most people use 1.65 volts.
Swedish inventor Waldemar Jungner had invented the nickel-cadmium battery in 1899. Jungner experimented with substituting iron for the cadmium in varying proportions, including 100% iron. Jungner had already discovered that the main advantage over the nickel-cadmium chemistry was cost, but due to the poorer efficiency of the charging reaction, Jungner never patented the iron version of his battery.
The nickel iron battery was developed
by Thomas Edison in 1901, and used as the
energy source for electric vehicles, such as the Detroit Electric and Baker Electric. Edison claimed
the nickel-iron design to be, "far superior to batteries using
lead plates and acid" (lead-acid battery).
and Ford worked together on electric cars prior to the World War
Jungner's work was largely unknown in
the US until the 1940s, when nickel-cadmium batteries went into
production there. A 50 volt nickel-iron battery was the main power
supply in the World War II German V2 rocket (together with two 16 volt
accumulators which powered the four gyroscopes),
smaller version used in the V1 flying bomb. (viz. 1946
Operation Backfire blueprints.)
Edison's batteries were made from
about 1903 to 1972 by the Edison Battery Storage Company located
in East Orange, NJ. They were quite profitable for the company. In
1972 the battery company was sold to the Exide Battery
Corporation, which discontinued making the battery in
1975. The Eagle-Picher Company of the UK advertised in
1970 a nickel iron car battery that would "last as long as all the
cars you own in a lifetime". They purchased the cells for
their battery from Edison's company. They also
proposed their application in all electric vehicles in the early
1990s. Perhaps this was the stimulus to bury the Edison
Storage Battery Company. No one really knows why the
Exide Battery Company killed the technology in North America by
It is interesting to note that all
railways from 1910 to 1965 or so used nickel iron batteries in the
caboose to run all the lights on the train. Yet technical
literature on batteries such as Audel's New Electric Library only
mention lead acid batteries starting in 1945. It is even
erased in Audel's guide from the section on the history of
batteries. So it would appear that nickel iron battery
knowledge was no longer being published in technical guildebooks
by the end of the second world war. Yet V2
rockets during the second world war were nickel iron battery
powered. The reason for this disappearance from the
technical literature is a mystery.
Edison was disappointed that his
battery was not adopted for starting internal combustion engines
and that electric vehicles went out of production only a few years
after his battery was introduced. He actually developed the
battery to be the battery of choice for electric vehicles which
were the preferred transportation mode in the early 1900s
(followed by gasoline and steam). Edison's batteries had a
significantly higher energy density than the lead acid batteries
in use at the time, and could be charged in half the time, however
they performed poorly at low ambient temperatures. The
battery enjoyed wide use for railroad signalling, fork lift, and
standby power applications. By simply changing the
electrolyte to a higher concentration of KOH the modern
manufacturers have achieved low temperature operation.
In situations where a lead acid uncharged battery might suffer
freezing damage, a nickel iron battery will not be damaged at all.
There are now USA, Chinese and Russian manufacturers of NiFe batteries. Nickel-iron cells are currently made with capacities from 5 Ah to 1000 Ah. Many of the original manufacturers no longer make nickel iron cells but new manufacturers started appearing in the last 20 years.
Nickel-iron batteries do not have the
lead or cadmium of the lead-acid and nickel-cadmium batteries,
which makes them a lesser burden on human and ecological health. There are in
use for solar homes today mainly in Australia.
Example Canadian Solar Home with Nickel Iron Storage
-Ian Soutar of Victoria BC Canada holds the copyright (April 2010) for these ideas to be distributed for free public use subject to the restrictions of the GPL3.
These concepts are presented in the spirit of the General Public Licence or GPL3 that is usually applied to software. Below is a link to the licencing concept to be used for the above ideas.
Everyone is encouraged to add to this collection of research ideas for the improvement of the Edison Cell.The reason for this public disclosure is evident in the new Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries, where the chemical patent is owned by A123Systems (http://www.a123systems.com/). The ownership of this amazing chemical invention remains locked into ownership by one group and the result is a very expensive battery that will remain expensive for 20 years. This inhibits the adoption of alternate energy technologies at a time when their adoption is critical.
Nickel Iron Battery Supplier Homepages
http://nickelcells.com German Company Selling Nickel Iron Cells
www.changhongbatteries.com Changhong Battery Manufacturer in China
USA supplier of NiFe batteries
USA manufacturer and
supplier of NiFe batteries in Montana
http://www.microsec.net Canadian Supplier of ChangHong batteries, Victoria BC
AGO Environmental Electronics in Canada (custom orders,
also sells hydrogen fuel cells)
Plant NiFe Manufacturer in Russia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nickel-iron_battery Wikipedia Article on NiFe Batteries