With the biggest market share in Australia and New Zealand, counting the Sydney Opera House, the MCG and Marvel Stadium among their clients, Clevertronics describes their product development journey and why lithium iron phosphate batteries are the future of emergency lighting.
Emergency lighting is one of those bedrock regulatory compliance activities you know you must do (and do well because lives depend on it), but with so many competing priorities battling for your attention, it can feel like a time-consuming, expensive and rather thankless chore.
So, what would make your life easier?
What about a 100% safe, stable and environmentally-friendly battery technology that won’t need replacing for 10-plus years? What about a fully automatic monitoring and testing system that enables you to generate maintenance and compliance reports from multiple locations, on demand via app? What about exceptional product care and customer service tailored to your needs?
For those involved in emergency lighting across the UK, you’re in luck. Clevertronics, the answer to all your emergency lighting concerns, has recently opened operations in the UK.
According to Michael Klarenaar, Clevertronics National Projects Manager, Australia’s stringent regulations and focus on emergency lighting as a standalone service, meant emergency lighting manufacturers entered a kind of arms-race of battery technology and monitoring system innovation. Clevertronics, he says, emerged as the hands-down winner.
“Every Clevertronics system has been designed from the ground up by world-class engineers and designers, with an overall mission to provide best-in-class emergency lighting functionality, usability and cost,” he says.
“Our success is best reflected by our market share. We deliver 70% of the project market in Australia, which means bespoke designs for large buildings such as stadiums, hospitals and shopping centres.”
The Etihad Stadium, now Marvel Stadium, is a prime example of how Clevertronics Lithium Nanophosphate technology has flipped the industry on its head.
“We partnered with facility manager Honeywell to replace their entire emergency lighting and monitoring system and have achieved an astonishing AUD$900,000 [£480,000] maintenance saving over the last seven years. Other clients include the Sydney Opera House, the MCG [Melbourne Cricket Ground], and major hospitals in every state and territory,” Klarenaar explains.
Clevertronics is the market leader in Australia for the design, supply and manufacture of emergency lighting and automated monitoring systems. As a specialist in emergency lighting for the last 18 years, the company has built a reputation for innovation and are global pioneers of Lithium Nanophosphate battery technology, which they launched in 2012.
Today this technology is delivering their very happy clients a massive 80% reduction in emergency lighting maintenance costs.
The first thing Michael Duce, the National Systems and Engineering Manager at Clevertronics, wants to do is set the record straight on lithium battery technology, which he says in the UK, and to some extent Europe, is still shrouded in misleading information and a certain amount of fear.
“This fear is beginning to subside as my colleagues in the emergency lighting space in Europe learn more about the benefits of the technology,” he says.
Duce has sat on national standards committees for emergency lighting in Australia and New Zealand for many years, and more recently became an International Electrotechnical Committee (IEC) drafting leader of the group responsible for emergency lighting standards in Europe, including the UK.
“I was invited to join the IEC in recognition of the fact that real expertise in lithium battery technology was lacking in the European context and I, along with other lithium experts, have been helping these standards with the proper application of lithium batteries for emergency lighting,” he explains.
“Clevertronics UK is also working with the UK’s Lighting Industry Association and the Industry Committee for Emergency Lighting (ICEL). Our mission is to offer independent evidence and unbiased advice on the appropriate application of lithium batteries for emergency lighting.”
As a core component of their products, Clevertronics is obviously keen to promote lithium battery technology, but Duce is keen to point out that they didn’t set out with any lithium preference. “Our focus has always been to develop safe, long-lasting, functional and cost-effective emergency lighting. Lithium iron phosphate is just where our extensive research journey ended up leading us,” he says.
This journey started roughly ten years ago when, along with many others, Clevertronics were using nickel-cadmium technology in their emergency lighting batteries. It was the LED revolution that changed things. Duce says he soon recognised LEDs as a huge opportunity to move beyond the four-year design life of existing products.
“We knew we could match the 10-year lifespan of LEDs with electronics, so the missing link was batteries. How could we make a battery that lasts 10 plus years?”
Duce says the company initiated a rigorous R&D process in 2009 to explore all the different types of batteries, including nickel-metal-hydride. “The more research we did, the more it became clear that lithium, and more specifically lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) was the solution we were looking for.”
Much of the fear surrounding lithium batteries has been fed by high-profile media stories about self-combusting mobile phones, laptops and hoverboards, but Duce says it is important to remember that lithium isn’t a catch-all term.
“There are literally dozens of lithium metal-based chemistries that can be used in batteries. We explored a lot of them and chose lithium iron phosphate because it has several important characteristics that suit the emergency lighting context.”
Firstly, lithium iron phosphate batteries are safe, reliable and stable when in a charged state, even at elevated temperatures. The battery technology underpinning Clevertronics L10 range releases only a small amount of heat and oxygen under abusive conditions and the chemistry used in the battery cells mean they do not exhibit the energetic thermal runaway that other metal oxide lithium ion cells experience.
Secondly, lithium iron phosphate batteries have incredible longevity and can outlive their nickel-cadmium and nickel-metal-hydride counterparts by two- or threefold depending on the product.
“For those who query the longevity, or say the jury is still out, we’ve got hard evidence of the performance of our batteries over thousands of cycles going back as early as 2012. We also have test data from our supplier going back to 2009. Our results far exceed anything that we’ve seen from nickel-cadmium and nickel-metal-hydride batteries,” explains Duce.
Thirdly, the alternatives – nickel-cadmium, lead-acid and nickel-metal-hydride batteries – are all dangerous for the environment. Lead, nickel and cadmium are toxic heavy metals. Cadmium and lead are dangerous carcinogens. “No matter how good Europe’s recycling scheme is, the majority of these batteries will end up in landfill,” Duce continues.
“Our journey to lithium iron phosphate was lengthy and thorough, but once we made that decision we have not looked back. Our growth as a company, the trust of our clients and our expansion into Europe are all proof that we are on the right track.”
In addition to the significant benefits mentioned above – safety, reliability, stability, longevity and environmentally – there are another two to add: cost and compliance.
Steve Saville is the Technical and Project Support Manager for Clevertronics new operation in the UK. He sits on the ICEL technical committee and says anyone involved in emergency lighting in the UK stands to gain significantly by being open-minded as the tide turns away from traditional battery technologies and towards lithium as the alternative, particularly in terms of reduced cost.
By far the biggest outlay for facilities management when it comes to emergency lighting is maintenance. Most nickel-cadmium and nickel-metal-hydride batteries will start needing to be manually replaced every three to four years. In comparison, Clevertronics most economical range of products (Economy Lithium) doubles that, while their top range (L10 Lithium Nanophosphate) triples it.
“This is why we are able to say with confidence that our products save our clients up to 80% of their maintenance costs,” says Saville. “And this doesn’t take into account the time savings for the team when they start using our monitoring and system options, such as Zoneworks, for reporting and compliance.”
Saville gives the example of a facilities team for a university who oversee compliance and maintenance for 30 buildings with thousands of emergency light fittings. “It is a requirement in the UK to undertake monthly emergency light testing, which for a facility of that size becomes a never-ending task,” he says.
“But using our Zoneworks testing system eliminates the need to traipse around the facility manually checking LEDs. Diagnostic data for each and every light is sent via controller to a centralised PC and is accessible via app. If there’s a problem, you can access all the information you need to achieve a first-time fix.”
Saville says emergency lighting can be one of those bottom-of-the-list items in terms of importance or priority, but the implications of not being compliant can be serious.
“The UK Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 puts onus on the responsible person to ensure their systems are compliant. Sites can be audited at any time and, if found non-compliant, penalties including fines, or even imprisonment may be issued; so it’s very important that people do this.”
As a dedicated emergency lighting manufacturer with excellent pedigree, Clevertronics is very well placed to get traction in the UK. “It is our aim to be the go-to company for emergency lighting,” continues Saville.
Case Study - Marvel Stadium, Melbourne Australia
Marvel Stadium is a 52,000-seat stadium located in Melbourne. Since opening on March 9, 2000, over 32 million people have passed through the venue’s turnstiles. When the facility required an emergency and exit lighting upgrade in 2012, facility manager Honeywell crunched the numbers and chose to install the Clevertronics L10 range and the Zoneworks monitoring system.
Of the 2,700 Clevertronics fittings on site, in situ now for seven years, the average capacity loss for each battery is just 5%. This indicates the batteries are well on track to outlast the 100,000-hour LEDs and exceed the 83.5% (AUD$900K) in maintenance and energy savings estimated at the time of installation. By comparison, if Honeywell had installed nickel-cadmium or nickel-metal-hydride technology, they would already have had to replace 100% of the batteries.
- Contractor: Honeywell
- Fitting type: Clevertronics L10 Nanophosphate Lithium
- Installation: 2012
- Monitoring system: Zoneworks
- No. of fittings: 2,756