Lithium batteries for caravans: Are they right for you?

Lithium batteries for caravans are the latest and greatest in battery technology. They have lots of impressive advantages for the travelling set over AGM batteries.  Lithium batteries are increasingly common in new off road caravans. The higher performance of lithium batteries make them well suited to the task of powering a caravan with lots of appliances on long stays away from mains power. Take a look at lithium batteries for caravans and compare them to AGM batteries to see whether upgrading to lithium caravan batteries is worthwhile for you. 

What are they?

The lithium batteries we are talking about are Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries (abbreviated to LiFE or LiFEP04) and not to be confused with Lithium Ion batteries (abbreviated to Li-ion) which are the type that power your mobile phone and camera.

Lithium batteries are different to lead acid or AGM batteries in their cell structure and power output. They have greater efficiency, are smaller, lighter and they release charge and recharge in different ways. The RV Service Centre offer a range of lithium batteries in a complete system that features inbuilt battery monitoring and management.

What are the advantages?
  • More energy efficient = Smaller size and weight. Lithium batteries are less than half the size and about one quarter of the weight of the lead acid or AGM equivalent sized batteries. Batteries are usually the heaviest item that you carry in your caravan with the standard 2 battery set up weighing over 70kg. Lithium batteries are more compact and lighter meaning reduced fuel consumption with every trip.
  • More power available. Lithium batteries are highly efficient and you can discharge a lithium battery safely to as little as 20% of its capacity without degrading the battery or shortening the battery life. This means that for a 125 amp hour lithium battery there are 100 amp hours of power available before a recharge is needed. If you compare this to a 120 amp hour AGM battery there are only 60 amp hours of power available as it is recommended to never discharge the battery more than 50% of capacity so as not to degrade the battery.

    As a guide:

    Lithium v AGM Capacities;

    100Ah Lithium = 160Ah AGM

    125Ah Lithium = 200Ah AGM

    200Ah Lithium = 360Ah AGM

    (Based on standard depth of discharge for both Lithium (80%) and AGM (50%).

  • Fast recharge and greater efficiency of lithium batteries means that solar panels can quickly recharge the batteries. This is ideal for long stays away from mains power with continued use of power hungry appliances. Being able to quickly and efficiently recharge lithium batteries with solar power reduces the need to run a generator to top up the batteries.
  • Lithium batteries have a longer cycle life than AGM batteries. The B-tec lithium batteries from Enerdrive feature a cycle life specification of greater than 2000 cycles with an 80% depth of discharge. An AGM battery regularly discharged to 50% of capacity has an approximate cycle life of 1000 cycles or around 3 years.
  • We stock and install Enerdrive’s B-tec lithium battery range which includes a built in Battery Management System that has wireless connection to a smartphone app so that you can view detailed information about the state of your batteries from your smartphone or tablet. The Battery Management System also works to protect the battery from overcharge, over discharge and short circuit. This is a very convenient feature that means that the batteries are managing themselves without you having to continually check and monitor them.
Monitoring is SOOOOO important! 

Let’s repeat that. Monitoring is sooooo important. Most caravans do not have adequate battery monitoring systems fitted. Many vans don’t even have a voltmeter. A voltage meter gives you the vaguest of indications about your battery condition. To properly monitor you batteries you need a shunt based meter that calculates usage as a percentage (%).

Without proper monitoring, you have no idea about the health of your batteries. This leads to excessive discharging, and therefore shorter life of your batteries, and reduced capacity day-to-day. The single best investment in your battery system is a PROPER monitoring system. For an AGM type system, this is normally a budget of around $700, but will pay for itself with extended battery life. However, because our Lithium battery systems have BUILT-IN monitoring, straight to an app on your smart phone – you are straight up saving this cost. This is a MASSIVE benefit and cannot be understated.

What are the drawbacks?

Lithium batteries are more expensive initially than a comparable AGM battery solution and in this way they are an investment. In the long-term, with proper usage, lithium batteries will outlast AGM batteries and you would expect to offset the initial cost of a lithium caravan battery with longer battery life. While lithium batteries are new technology to consumers, based on the manufacturer’s specifications, we would expect to see a lithium battery in a caravan last at least twice as long as an AGM battery.

Are they right for you?

Lithium batteries for caravans are best suited to those travelers that like to spend several days or weeks at a time away from mains power in national parks or free camps with the ability to run power hungry appliances. For those travelers that are more often in caravan parks with mains power available and only spending the occasional night away from power then AGM batteries will be suitable and a less expensive outlay.

Lithium batteries for your caravan are worthy of consideration if you are upgrading or replacing your caravan batteries. If lithium caravan batteries are excessive for your situation but you are looking to increase your power supply then an additional solar panel may be what you require. At the RV Service Centre our professional team can answer all your power questions. We can determine your caravan power requirements and give you a “power prescription” for your touring style and budget. If you would like more information about caravan batteries and power solutions give us a call or visit our showroom.

The table below compares the ePower B-tec 125 amp hour lithium battery to a 120 amp hour AGM battery from Ritar. A common caravan setup would include 2 x 120 amp hour AGM batteries and a separate battery monitor. 

 

BATTERY TYPEWEIGHTSIZEPOWER OUTPUTCYCLE LIFEBATTERY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
Lithium Battery
ePOWER B-TEC 125Ah
15kg318mm (L) x 165mm (W) x 215mm (H)12 volt supply
125 amp hours with 100 amp hours available with an 80% depth of discharge
< 2000 Cycle life
with a maximum 80% depth of discharge
Supplied with Battery Management System which helps to ensure safe and accurate operation of the battery.
Connects to smartphone or tablet app.
AGM battery
Ritar 120Ah Sealed
35kg328mm (L) x 172mm (W) x 222mm (H)12 volt supply
120 amp hours with 60 amp hours available with a 50% depth of discharge
1000 approx cycle life
with a 50% depth of discharge
Manual battery checks and management required. Battery monitor sold separately.
No smartphone app connectivity.

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