Li-ion Rechargeable versus SLA Batteries in Handheld Hunting Lights

Handheld hunting devices, including rechargeable spotlights, rely on batteries for power on the field. Below highlights the difference between li-ion and sealed lead acid(SLA) batteries, as well as the applications of portable batteries in the hunting industry.

Li-ion Rechargeable Batteries

Currently, li-ion batteries dominate the global consumer electronics sector with a projected value of $23.5 billion. Discovered in 1817, lithium-ion batteries are manufactured using lithium: a rare, reactive alkali metal element. The metal is considered to be the lightest in its category, and the least dense solid element. On an industrial level, lithium is used to lubricate airplane engines, support the production of other metals (including steel), and create highly resistant glass and ceramic. From a cost perspective, li-ion batteries are priced higher than other variants in the market. But taking performance, maintenance and lifespan into consideration, the product has been proven to be more sustainable and reliable in remote environments.

Li-ion batteries are often compared with SLA batteries. The latter utilizes lead, which is also the heaviest non-radioactive metal, to generate power. When it comes to weight, lithium-ion batteries are up to 66 percent lighter, compared to SLA-type cells. Furthermore, they support up to 5,000 more cycles than SLAs at 400-500 cycles. This is mainly due to discharge levels of the unit, with li-ion batteries able to discharge 100 percent. Lead acid batteries discharge less than 80 percent, usually not lower than 50 percent Depth of Discharge (DOD). Portable devices that require constant voltages may benefit from li-ion batteries, because they do not fluctuate or decrease during usage. Environmentally, this type of unit is less harmful to one’s natural surroundings, making recycling easier to manage.

In application, below are some benefits of using li-ion batteries:

  • Powersports: better reaction times, minimizes drag, increases acceleration
  • Military: decreases risk of jeopardizing mission due to power failure
  • UPS and switchgear: increases reliability through consistent voltage delivery
  • Solar powered devices: streamlines power storage processes
  • Marine: reduces weight on boat, more time on the water due to better power management

The future of li-ion rechargeable batteries looks bright, based on recent developments from leading research institutions. Scientists from the University of Maryland’s U.S. Army Research Laboratory uncovered a new configuration using salt that can significantly increase the unit’s energy capacity. The implementation of the robust technology would allow producers to transition to cleaner battery designs in the future. Researchers from the University of Texas are advancing the development of li-ion batteries through the discovery of soluble catalyst compounds for greener lithium-air batteries.New trends in the li-ion battery space, including the ones mentioned above, suggest that, like LEDs, the units have not reached their full potential.

SLA Batteries

SLA batteries first surfaced on the market around 1860 (invented in 1859 by Gaston Plante, a French physicist). The units are extremely sturdy (but less sturdy than nickel and lithium-based batteries), and are useful for powering appliances found in rough environments. Lead-acid cells are compromised of the following: a lead-dioxide cathode, sulfuric acid solution electrolyte and a sponge metallic lead anode. The heavy metal components found in the battery makes them toxic and harmful to the environment.

It is important to consider that this type of battery does not support fast charging features. Moreover, it is crucial to keep the unit stored at a full state-of-charge when not in use. This is because at low charge levels, sulfationsets in, which is the leading cause of premature failure in lead-acid batteries. As a solution, users must adhere to periodic “full charging” to reach maximum saturation levels, or simply switch to a li-ion battery that can handle partial charging.

The performance of SLA batteries can remain constant in subzero temperatures (as low as -45 degrees Celsius), and can withstand cold environments better than li-ion based units. Butunfortunately, this type of battery is prone to corrosion, which could also contribute to its rapidly decreasing lifespan. Excessive charging or cycling may also lead to shedding, wherein components from the plate succumb to degradation. During such occurrences, pieces of lead accumulates at the bottom of the cell, and holes can be found in the plates.

Portable Hunting Applications

For portable hunting devices, such as hunting lights and communication radios, li-ion rechargeable batteries offer better support, compared to SLA variants. The application of li-ion cells could decrease the weight of the hunter’s gear, allowing him or her to move around freely for longer periods of time without getting tired. Additionally, li-ion batteries are easier to maintain and are more predictable, making them easier to work with in remote locations, where constant power may not be available. With more sustainable power, hunters could also use the applicable device longer before running out of juice.