Translate This Page


Updated : 10/09/2017.  


   Battery charger repairs, most makes catered for. EBL 99 repairs at £130

                    

                          WE DO NOT SELL ANY BATTERIES, THIS IS INDEPENDENT ADVICE


LITHIUM ION Batteries - The way we see it, without the marketing hype.

Lithium batteries come in several technological flavours. The more common ones are  :

Lithium Cobalt oxide (LiCoO2

Lithium Manganese oxide (LiMn2O4)

Lithium Nickel oxide (LiNiO2)


The above Lithium Ion technologies have beeen around a while, with notable reports of Lithium Ion Cobalt technology bursting into flames. Suggest if you think about using this technology in the Motorhome, you first check your Insurance covers the fitment?

 

The Lithium technology being promoted as the technology, is Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePo4) with claimed cycle life of up to 2,000 Charge/Discharge cycles. Around four times the life of previous Lithium Ion technology, which has a claim of 500 cycles. However note that LiFePo4 batteries, while safer with longer cycle life, are heavier than previous Lithium technology. They have less capacity than Lithium Cobalt batteries so the batteries need to be physically bigger/heavier.


Take with a 'Pinch of Salt' radical claims of weight savings. Some 'marketing' uses the false premise that a Lithium battery pack is lighter weight because it's capacity is double therefore you need only 'Half' the battery.

They claim a Lithium can discharge to 100% (not true) and because Lead Acid batteries can only discharge to 40% DOD (also not true) their false argument suggests a 10kg 75Ah Lithium 'fully discharged' is the equivalant of two 75Ah Lead batteries at 25kg each, discharged to 40%.

However, they don't seem to realise that Lead battery technology has moved on a lot in the last 5 years?


There are now advanced technology Lead batteries with a 12 year life and 4,500 cycles that will repeatedly discharge to 80% and still give 1,500 cycles.

So the reality is that the best 75Ah Lead batteriy is only a little heavier than a LiFePo4. 

Add on all the extra weight from the specialised charging and Electronics required for Lithium and the real weight difference is less than a couple of bags of Sugar. Not the 50kg versus 10kg that one seller claims!!!.

 


Note the LiFePo4 'claimed' cycle life of 2,000 cycles is the best you will achieve under ideal conditions, not the average life a Motorhome Owner might achieve. 

Exactly like Lead Acid batteries, Lithium battery life is dependent on how they are used :

The current drawn and for how long.

The charging rate current and time.

The depth to which they are discharged.

The charger voltage.


Generally the lighter the Lithium battery use the more likely they are to achieve their cycle life. Using anything except a Lithium optimised charger is generally accepted to result in shortened life.



Do Any Motorhome Manufacturers Either Fit Lithium as Standard Or Recommend Them? 

Not up to mid 2017. 

We know of no Motorhomes that currently support Lithium batteries, which require specialist electronics to achieve the claimed cycle life. 


We do know of several Motorhomes that will fry their Lithiums if they are not integrated properly and many more that may become a fire risk.


Before you get absorbed into the huge expense of Lithium batteries with their claimed 10 year life, specialist supporting electronics and unknown real world performance in a Motorhome environment, take a look at Victrons 12 year life Gel batteries. 

Victron Energy's Long Life Gel's have a claimed 4,500 cycles and a 12 year design life, yet are compatible with almost all Motorhomes without complications or installation issues.These Gel batteries have a World Wide reputation for quality and long life. One of the highest regarded battery companies in the world. 

While expensive for a Gel battery, they are a bargain compared to Lithium. 

This performance makes a mockery of the majority of Lithium retailers comparison claims. See the evidence of these Gel batteries for yourself  : https://www.victronenergy.com/batteries/gel-and-agm-batteries


We would advise caution when researching the Lithium 'Marketing', as history shows the batteries are unlikely to achieve half the claimed potential in a Motorhome. 
Most of the information on the web on Lithium batteries comes from someone wanting to sell them. It isn't always honest.
They sometimes make comparisons against the very worst of Lead Acid battery technology, when there are Lead Acid batteries, at much lower cost than Lithium, that either come close to Lithium capability or exceed it. Just like the longer life Victron batteriy examples above.


In my experience every Lithium technology to date has failed to live up to the promises of long life. Every Lithium battery I have ever had : Phone, laptop, Drill, etc. has had much shorter life than the 'claimed' cycle life. I know this is different technology to LiFePo4, but they all failed to live up to the marketing promise.


How many reading this have had a phone whose battery slowly lost capacity, starting off at a once a week charge, but dropped to needing a 'charge each day' before 2 years had passed? 
When you think about that in detail, your battery has gone from 5 days of usefulness to just one day usability, that is 80% lost capacity. 
Equate that to a Lithium battery working in your Motorhome habitation area, starts off giving five days  'off grid' but half way through it's '2,000 cycles' it is lasting less than a a day?


One of the issues is that the 'International standards' for Lithium do not define what a charge/discharge cycle is. Clearly 1,000 cycles of your "2,000 expectation", at just 30% capacity is of little value in a Motorhome.

Ask your Lithium retailer, exactly what is his definition of a 'cycle' is. Many won't understand the question let alone be able to give an honest answer. 
You need to be very optimistic to believe you really will get 100% battery performance for 2,000 cycles, given Lithium's previous track record.
Just like the lithium technology before it, nearer to 50% of the claim is likely to be optimistic for 'full' cycles.



The only real area in which Lithium exceeds the best of Lead habitation batteries is in the area of very high discharge/charge current. 
LiFePo4 batteries handle discharge currents up to 100amps per 100Ah battery, without battery damage.
Whereas 100AH Lead acid battery will start to suffer degradation above a 30amp discharge/charge rate.      

For a good read on Lithium, try Wiki's : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium_iron_phosphate



While LiFePo4 batteries can tolerate discharges to very low levels like 80% DOD with only shortened life, if you take them down below 95% discharge (like forget to charge them over winter or leave something on by mistake) they can be destroyed.

Those are seriously expensive consequences for a mistake which is easily made.


May I point out the obvious that while a Lithium battery has a claimed 10 year life it is 10 times more expensive than the best Lead Acid batteries? For just a little bit more weight and less money, you could install 10 Varta LFD90's, a new battery fitted each year for 10 years, for half the cost of a single LiFePo4 battery plus installation/integration costs. 



LiFePo4 batteries are not easy to integrate with many modern Motorhomes because all of the power/charging systems are designed with the battery at the centre. But a Lithium battery has to have it's own specialised power supplies and, usually, it's own built in Power controller.
Some Lithium Iron battery professional installers create a bodge that effectively isolates the battery from the Motorhome Charger/controller so things no longer work as they should. One complication can be the wet acid Starter battery getting a charge that it is not designed for, from the LiFePo4 charger.

Modern Motorhome setups usually include the Starter battery as a beneficiary of the mains charger. 
If you 'deactivate' the mains charger because it is not Lithium optimised use lose charging of the Starter battery.
If you find some way of utilising the new Lithium charger for the Starter battery, it will get a 'Lithium' charge profile, not one for wet acid.

Long term reliability and usability will, in our opinion, be compromised. Trying to get anyone to look at any issues 6 months down the line will be a challenge, even assuming they understand both batteries and Schaudt/Hymers.




We have now seen 3 Lithium installs that were a real mess. 
One had been fitted into an Autotrail with a Sarget EC328 Charger/power controller, yet it is universally known that this charger puts out 18v to boost charge it's Lead Acid batteries. 
You can guess what the cycle life of the LiFePo4 battery became after being fried with 18v? Yet this install was done by a major National company. 



In all cases the owners were disappointed with the actual amount of useable power they got from the battery. In our limited testing, all three batteries had lost significant capacity, yet were all less than 2 years old.

The worst was an EZA130 which gave back less than half it's 'rated' capacity.


Lithium might be the future, but Motorhomes are not ready for them yet. 



Just because some techno wizzkid has fitted Lithium with great results in his Motorhome, doesn't mean your 'Professional' fit install will be as successful. Nor does it mean he is on target for 10 year life when it has only been 2 years into his 'project'.
Those people a fitting Lithium pack themselves generally have a huge amount of background knowledge that enables them to both integrate it correctly AND get the best from it in use.  





Where a Lithium pack might work well is on an old motorhome that has a very basic electrical set-up serving the habitation area.
That would allow a Lithium pack to be introduced as a total entity to become the new central hub of the infrastructure along with all new high capacity, fire resistant wiring. Plus a  new high powered 200+ amp Alternator variable voltage controller to match the demands of a Lithium pack, etc.


Even then, the best of modern 12 year life Lead batteries will probably perform just as well for most people, at less than a 1/4 of the cost?


.