The humble uninterruptible power supply has taken a big step forward, but a surge in demand for electric cars means you may struggle to get your hands on the newest kit.
That’s the opinion of Herve Tardy, vice president and general manager for distributed power infrastructure and power management vendor Eaton.
Tardy told iTnews that uninterruptible power supplies (UPSes) have recently started to feature Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) batteries.
The good news for buyers is such devices can last for almost a decade, compared to the two or three year lifecycle of a lead-acid battery. Even though Li-ion-powered devices are more expensive to acquire, their long-term total cost of ownership beats other battery types. A longer working life for a UPS also means less work swapping them in and out.
The bad news is that the UPS industry is not alone in recognising Li-ion batteries’ many fine qualities: they’re also essential to the burgeoning electric car market. And that market, Tardy told iTnews, has attracted rather more investment than the UPS.
“The Li-ion battery market for UPS is a niche of a niche of a niche,” Tardy said. “When you knock on the door of a manufacturer, they laugh.”
While smaller suppliers were keen, Tardy said the quality they offer has not always been great.
That’s been trouble for Eaton because Tardy said “we had been pitching large Li-ions for large UPS and we were unable to satisfy they demand because we could not get the batteries.”
Tardy said Eaton has therefore spent a lot of time in Korea working with Li-ion battery-makers, and after explaining the opportunity has been able to secure a steady supply of batteries in the smaller sizes that make for good UPSes.
The burgeoning demand for electric cars also helps the UPS industry, he added, because some UPSes do need car-sized Li-ions.
So the question, as always in commodity markets, is who's prepared to pay the premium.