Over the past few years, I’ve written several articles about deep cycle batteries such as “RV Battery Types and The Power They Provide” in May of 2018, “Choosing The Right Battery For Your RV” in October 2020, and others along the way.
For the past 6 months, RV shows have started back up and I have been conducting seminars again and it seems that Lithium batteries are the rage! I would guess mostly due to the fact that the lead-acid batteries used in most of the new rigs for the past 20 years have been failing miserably in just a couple years. I ask attendees at the seminars about who has changed batteries every 3 years and once in a great while I’ll find an owner that has had the same batteries for over 3 years! Mostly because he has a multi-stage charger in his rig and they have not sulfated.
Is Lithium Worth The Money?
This is the most important question to ask yourself when it comes to upgrading to Lithium batteries and it really depends on how much dry camping you are planning to do and how long. A good friend of mine just bought a motorhome that has two Interstate batteries that will not hold a charge and had not been maintained very well if at all.
As you can see, the batteries are bloated, there is corrosion at the terminals, and a rat’s nest of wiring. These batteries are also 6-volt batteries as they only have 3 cells and so they are connected in series which means the positive cable of one battery is connected to the negative battery of the second battery which gives a 12-volt “bank”. This is not original equipment, rather someone that obviously did not maintain his batteries very well and when the original set went bad, they ran to an interstate distributor who set them up with these. I did a little research and this rig has a WFCO converter which is the charger and it provides a 13.6-volt charge when the battery is drained to 50% capacity and drops to a 13.2-volt maintenance charge when the batteries get to 12.6-volts. This will do nothing to break up the sulfur that will coat the plates during normal operation so it will get thicker and thicker with every cycle and eventually look like this. I also find it ironic that the fill caps have the quick-flick bar as I call it so you can just pinch the two bars together and take all three caps off at once. The problem is…the batteries have little or no water/acid so it was a waste of product!
The first question I asked was; “How often do you plan to boondock or dry camp?” Then I had to explain what that meant as he is really new! “How often are you going to camp where you will not have shoreline power to plug into so you can recharge your batteries?” “Never” was his answer, so buying a $1000 Lithium battery would be a waste of money! In his situation, a good set of Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) batteries would be the best as they require little maintenance and are not as affected by sulfation. He could get by with just one 12-volt deep cycle that would give him 100 amp hours but then since the Flooded Lead Acid batteries can only be drawn down about 50% he might want to go with two 12-volt FLA batteries just in case he wants to tailgate at a football game. The two 6-volt batteries that are currently in there only increase the voltage when connected in series, not the amp hours so he would need to go with four 6-volts instead. There are several advantages of 6-volt batteries that were covered in the previous articles, mostly longevity in cycles and years of use.
The History Of Lithium Batteries
Lithium batteries have been available for over 40 years and there is still some concern from owners about their safety. You hear stories about them catching on fire and even have to take them out of suitcases in checked luggage when flying. The Lithium batteries that are available for the RV market are not the same type, rather Lithium Iron Phosphate or LiFEPO4, and are very safe. Initially, these batteries were too expensive for the RV market but new technology and completion have brought the price down to a more manageable level if you consider $1000 manageable? However, the value of this type of battery price compared to FLA or AGM is a Lithium battery can last 3-5,000 cycles at which time it has a 75% capacity and can outperform the others for 10 or more years.
You Get What You Pay For!
This is so true in so many products and especially Lithium Batteries. I talked with several different manufacturers such as Go Power, Renogy, and a new one called Expion 360. For the past 7-8 years I have been working with Zamp Solar out of Bend OR with my seminars at shows and videos on RV Repair Club. I believe they make some of the best quality solar panels on the market and are rugged enough to withstand the brutal wear and tear of RV use. John Yozamp is the original founder of Zamp Solar and was an avid camper frustrated with poor-quality solar panels. I won’t bore you with all the quality details, however, he sold Zamp and has started another company to supply a superior Lithium battery to the market…Expion 360. I talked with John and their technical department and there are so many cut-rate batteries flooding the market that will not stand up to RV use. Many are made for the solar explosion in the residential and industrial market and the batteries are housed in a climate-controlled room and never move. These are made of thinner plastic, cells are divided by paper board or foam, and connections are soldered, all of which will not last in an RV.
And there is so much more. In part 2 we will discuss the importance of a smart Battery Management System incorporated into the actual battery, cold weather charging issues, and if your converter will properly charge a Lithium battery or ruin it!
About the author: Dave Solberg: Managing Editor, RV Repair Club
For the last 25 years, Dave has conducted RV maintenance and safety seminars, developed dealer and owner training programs, written RV safety and handyman articles authored an RV handbook reference guide, and logged over 100,000 miles on the road in an RV.
RV Repair Club is your go-to online resource for enthusiasts who want quality RV maintenance, repair, and upgrade information – a community where passionate RVers can come together to gather knowledge and share their experiences.
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