Comparing Work Truck Auxiliary Battery Options

As municipalities and states implement anti-idling laws to reduce emissions and promote sustainability, fleet managers are exploring solutions to meet compliance such as incorporating auxiliary power storage. One common question fleets ask is what kind of battery to use for their auxiliary power storage as there are many types of batteries that can be installed onto a work truck. As not all battery types are created equal, it is important for decision makers to be informed on the different popular battery types and chemistries available.

Lead Acid Batteries:

Lead-acid batteries have been used in the automotive industry for many years and considered as the cost-effective solution for many years for many installers and upfitters. However, their benefits pale in comparison to modern batteries. Lead-acid batteries are heavy, have limited energy density, cannot deep cycle, and require regular maintenance. These drawbacks make them less suitable for the demands of modern work truck fleets.

Nickel Metal Hydride Batteries:

Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries emerged as a more advanced alternative to lead-acid batteries. Offering improved energy density, longer cycle life, and reduced maintenance requirements, NiMH batteries gained popularity in hybrid vehicles due to their ability to provide sustained power. A lot of electric vehicles use NiMH for their battery source simply because it was an early alternative to lead acid battery. Their energy density and overall performance still fall short when compared to lithium batteries.

Lithium Batteries:

Lithium batteries have revolutionized the world of portable power. They come in various chemistries, including lithium-ion (Li-ion) used in consumer electronics and lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4). Most of the fears regarding Lithium batteries catching fire and exploding are caused by Li-ion batteries which have high energy density. Their prone to thermal runaway and are considered less safe compared to LiFePO4 batteries.

LiFePO4 batteries on the other hand offer several safety advantages over other battery chemistries with one key factor being their superior thermal stability. Thermal runaway, a phenomenon that can lead to battery fires or explosions, is significantly reduced in LiFePO4 batteries with the phosphate-based cathode material in LiFePO4 batteries being more chemically stable and less reactive. Furthermore, LiFePO4 batteries have a higher thermal runaway temperature, making them less likely to ignite even under extreme conditions. This characteristic ensures a higher level of safety during transportation, storage, and operation. In the event of an electrical short circuit, LiFePO4 batteries are more resistant to thermal runaway, thereby minimizing the risk of accidents and damage.

Another safety advantage of LiFePO4 batteries is their reduced risk of thermal propagation. Unlike Li-ion batteries, which are prone to experiencing a chain reaction of thermal runaway from one cell to another, LiFePO4 batteries have a lower tendency for thermal propagation based on the design and chemical makeup. This property helps contain any potential battery incidents, limiting the extent of damage and improving overall safety.

Moreover, LiFePO4 batteries exhibit a longer cycle life compared to other lithium chemistries. This means they can endure a greater number of charge and discharge cycles before experiencing significant capacity loss. With a longer lifespan, fleet managers can expect reduced battery replacements and increased cost savings in the long run with lithium iron batteries on their work trucks.


While concerns over battery safety are valid, it’s important to recognize that not all lithium batteries are created equal. LiFePO4 batteries offer distinct advantages in terms of safety, thermal stability, and longevity. As anti-idling laws become more prevalent in the US, work truck fleet managers can confidently consider incorporating lithium iron batteries into their auxiliary power systems, knowing that they have chosen a safer and more reliable solution for their fleet’s needs.

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