Blame Elon Musk if you can’t sell UPSes right now

Demand for the humble uninterruptible power supply is strong, but electric cars are making it hard for the channel to satisfy buyers. That’s the opinion …

Demand for the humble uninterruptible power supply is strong, but electric cars are making it hard for the channel to satisfy buyers.

That’s the opinion of Herve Tardy, Eaton’s vice president and general manager for distributed power infrastructure.

Tardy told CRN the demand for new uninterruptible power supplies (UPSes) comes from the availability of new models that use Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) batteries. Such devices can last for almost a decade, compared to the two or three year lifecycle of a lead-acid battery. While Li-ion-powered devices are more expensive to acquire, their long-term total cost of ownership beats other battery technologies. A longer working life for a UPS also means less work swapping them in and out.

But 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 CRN, 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 on offer has not always been great.

That’s made 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.

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