12V Guru

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David Bayliss shares his low­down on lithium bat­ter­ies

I am con­sid­er­ing buy­ing a new BMPRO lithium charger and 2 x 100A lithium bat­ter­ies as I find our cur­rent sin­gle 120A AGM car­a­van bat­tery just keeps run­ning out of power on cloudy days. I am con­fused by the price of lithium bat­ter­ies as a sin­gle 100A lithium can range from $500 to $2000. Why? How much should I spend on a lithium bat­tery to meet my needs of per­for­mance, safety and re­li­a­bil­ity?

Hi David,

This is a great ques­tion and ex­tremely topi­cal now, es­pe­cially as we are see­ing more and more dis­cus­sion in re­gard to the use of lithium bat­ter­ies. Lithium bat­ter­ies are a hot topic with the likes of Tesla prop­ping up the South Aus­tralian power grid and do­mes­tic power stor­age be­com­ing a more preva­lent op­tion. The RV in­dus­try is now see­ing a surge in the use of lithium bat­ter­ies with RVERS keen to be able to ex­pand how far they can roam with­out 240V power.

A good so­lar setup and a re­li­able DC AUX sup­ply from your car’s al­ter­na­tor gives you the abil­ity to gen­er­ate a vast amount of en­ergy and this needs to be stored within a re­li­able en­ergy stor­age sys­tem. Lithium bat­ter­ies pro­vide this!

How­ever, the key to any great sys­tem is ex­actly the three points which you raise in your ques­tion: per­for­mance, safety and re­li­a­bil­ity. With­out these fac­tors, any lithium bat­tery will not be a qual­ity in­vest­ment.

In many ways it is like most things you in­vest in – do your home­work. One of the most im­por­tant fac­tors to look at when pur­chas­ing these lat­est tech­nol­ogy bat­ter­ies is to re­search the brand and also the qual­ity cer­ti­fi­ca­tions or test­ing of the bat­tery and its man­u­fac­turer. And only buy from a trusted source.

You may pay a higher price for these branded bat­ter­ies, but you can be guar­an­teed that they have the qual­ity sys­tems im­ple­mented through the man­u­fac­tur­ing process which will en­sure the longevity of such an in­vest­ment.

As the in­side of a 12V lithium bat­tery con­tains mul­ti­ple cells, it is there­fore even more im­por­tant to buy only qual­ity as across the top of all these cells is a set of elec­tron­ics called a Bat­tery Man­age­ment Sys­tem (BMS).

The BMS, which is also in­ter­nal to the bat­tery, con­trols the in­put and out­put volt­age and cur­rent of each in­ter­nal cell and keeps these cells bal­anced to en­sure the bat­tery charges and dis­charges prop­erly.

Like every­thing in this world, cheaper bat­ter­ies will not have in­vested in qual­ity tech­nol­ogy and man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses for ei­ther the BMS or in­di­vid­ual cells and there­fore will be more likely to mal­func­tion, es­pe­cially in tough Aus­tralian con­di­tions. These com­pa­nies won’t be around in the longer term and then, if there is a prob­lem, you will have nowhere to go to have your warranty hon­oured.

Re­cently, I phoned a com­pany that ad­ver­tised lithium bat­ter­ies for the RV in­dus­try and asked what test­ing they had done on the bat­ter­ies, what cer­ti­fi­ca­tions did the fac­tory have etc and the re­sponse was: “I have been told they have them but no, I haven’t seen them my­self.” Re­ally, can you trust a source such as this? Es­pe­cially with such a large in­vest­ment and po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous source of stored en­ergy. In my opin­ion, eBay or a fancy on­line web­site with im­ages of melt­ing po­lar ice caps is not a rec­om­men­da­tion as a high­qual­ity source of re­li­able lithium bat­ter­ies.

Bat­ter­ies such as the BMPRO Sen­try range, are in fact not just cer­ti­fied at in­di­vid­ual cell level but also as a com­plete as­sem­bled bat­tery thus of­fer­ing an even higher level of guar­an­teed qual­ity. Also check if the bat­ter­ies can be con­nected in par­al­lel.

At BMPRO head­quar­ters we have ex­ten­sively tested a range of lithium bat­ter­ies across a range of price points and man­u­fac­tur­ers. Gen­er­ally, those bat­ter­ies which were slightly above the av­er­age price point per­formed ex­cep­tion­ally and as per the man­u­fac­turer’s claims.

Whilst lithium prices are fall­ing as they be­come more ac­cepted in the mar­ket, we would ex­pect that a bat­tery priced be­tween $1000 and $1400 will rep­re­sent great value for money for a 100Ah setup. If you feel the price is too high, bet­ter to ei­ther wait for the price to ease back or save for a bit longer.

Be warned – don’t buy cheap lithium! You’ll get what you pay for!

With D av i d b ay l i s s

Write to: Car­a­van World Postbag, 125 Hawthorn Road, Caulfield North, Vic­to­ria 3161 or email: sub­mis­[email protected] em­prisegroup.com.au Please in­clude your full ad­dress (not for publi­ca­tion). Let­ters cho­sen will be edited for publi­ca­tion, may be short­ened, and may ap­pear on­line.

David Sa­j­far Keilor, VIC

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