Fall 2014 and Spring 2015
While this may seem like a strange entry, a series of events happened that seemed to focus on the batteries. Therefore, I will explain everything that led up to the batteries being tested at our annual visit to the battery company. Hang in there with me on this series of events…
An Unusual Problem With Discharging
Sometime last Fall (2014), we started having a strange but consistent electrical problem. When I was parked, not hooked up (boondocking), BOTH the coach and chassis battery were discharging – equally and simultaneously. My coach is set up where the coach battery powers everything inside and the chassis battery powers the engine and generator. So, on Auto Generator Start, my chassis battery would NOT have enough juice to start the generator due to this simultaneous discharge.
I originally thought it was a battery issue. We return to Clearwater, Florida every year to have the batteries tested and therefore, I did not have the discharging issue looked at by any RV techs. I was just living with it until the batteries were tested.
Lithionics did their normal tests on my batteries in mid-March 2015. This is a serious effort to extract data by tearing the batteries apart, bench testing the cells, and ultimately putting the cells back into a battery case, ready for me to use again, once they have test data in hand (I don’t get a new battery each year, I get a new case.). The (nice) surprise was that my batteries tested perfectly. NO problems whatsoever. (More on this below.)
While they were testing my batteries, they put temporary LI batteries in my coach (remember, we were boondocking in their parking lot) and those batteries also both discharged simultaneously. This, plus the bench test, proved my simultaneous discharging was not a battery issue.
Early April 2015
With my batteries thoroughly checked, verified, and reinstalled BUT with the discharging problem verified and continuing, I went to Alliance Coach (the former Monaco Factory Service Center in Wildwood, Florida). Alliance changed the Intellitec control board (called the BIRD—Bi-Directional Relay Delay). No help. Monaco (in Coberg) told Alliance they had heard of the problem, but it was very unusual, and to change the Big Boy relay. Alliance changed the Big Boy. No help. Alliance even gathered all the “old” techs (that have been here since it was Monaco) and they were all stumped.
Alliance said that the contacts in the Big Boy were not releasing and this keeps both batteries “tied” together and thus, they discharge together. It just wasn’t supposed to do that.
Alliance was stumped, Monaco (in Coberg) was stumped. I posted the question and several members on the Monacoers group suggested I talk with Mark Bayus (M&M RV Electronics). As a last resort, I talked with Mark on a Monday afternoon and even though they were packing up and (for medical reasons) HAD to leave Florida later that week, he agreed to take a look if I could bring over my coach. From what I know now, Mark should have been my FIRST call!
So, on that Monday afternoon, after five days at Alliance, we bailed out of Alliance and drove the 60 miles to DeLand, FL and parked in the Intellitec Corporate parking lot (with a 30-amp hookup and view of the pond). Mark (M&M RV Electronics) and Chris (his son) looked at my coach a bit Monday evening. Tuesday morning, we unplugged the coach and turned on enough stuff to let the batteries discharge to learn the voltage on the chassis battery when the Big Boy releases. Initial testing indicated that the BIRD and Big Boy were working correctly.
After verifying some readings, Mark recommended this fix… He will add a BIRD 2 to my system so he can actually set (program) the “disengage” voltage. That will be set at 12.9 v so when I stop for the day to boondock…
- Both batteries are tied together (Big Boy is engaged) and both batteries start to discharge.
- With his recommended “fix,” the Big Boy will now disengage at 12.9v so the chassis battery will no longer discharge like it did when tied to the coach battery.
- The coach battery will continue to supply power to the coach and continue to discharge through normal use.
- When my AGS setting of 12.3 v is reached by the coach battery, the chassis battery still has ample charge to ensure the starting of the generator.
They also determined that the new Big Boy (installed by Alliance earlier that week) was not working correctly. M&M had another Big Boy in their shop and tried it. It worked.
Mark said the original BIRD was not programmable (could not be changed) but the BIRD-2 could be set (programed) by him. So, BIRD-2 will control the original BIRD.
He programmed and installed the new BIRD-2, connected everything, and we started the testing (using the coach on battery only—aka boondocking).
We tested three times by boondocking (living normally) and literally letting the batteries discharge. The Big Boy would release at 12.9 v and the coach battery would continue discharging down to 12.3v (the “start” setting for my AutoGenStart). We would watch and listen to ensure the generator started correctly, and shut down when the batteries are charged. Each of the three tests was successful so we left DeLand and returned to Alliance.
Pay Attention Here
It must be noted that while the problem of both batteries discharging simultaneously was not found or fixed, M&M RV Electronics developed a workaround that solved the issue.
Also, it must be noted that my lithium ion batteries were not at fault in any way. This was NOT a battery issue.
Current Battery Status
What follows are the results of the battery tests completed during our annual stop March 2015, in Clearwater, Florida. One of the things we are tracking is annual battery Loss of Life and from that, we can extrapolate overall battery life. Our daily usage changes to some degree (not much) as a result of normal “living” in our RV. As many of you know, we live and travel fulltime in our motorhome therefore, it does not sit for long periods of time. It is never in storage. We also boondock more than the average RVer.
Chassis Battery (Engine/Generator Starting)
Test Results showed 76.3 remaining Amp Hours.
- The original (State of Initial Capacity) was 80 amp hours.
- The battery has lost 4.6% of its life. This is normal since lithium batteries that see a shallow depth of discharge can easily last 10,000 cycles.
Some Discussion… Two things must be noted here. (A) Each battery is protected by the “NeverDie” system (I wrote about this earlier in the blog and won’t repeat it here). This system simply won’t allow the battery to destroy itself. (B) Is how strong that chassis battery was during the times it cranked the engine and generator from a very low state of charge, i.e., a weakened position, thus surviving an unexpected over-stressed condition due to the unusual discharging.
Coach Battery (House)
- Next, compare the Year 3 (36 months) report to the current 48-month report [338.13 amp hours minus 329.30 amp hours = Loss of 8.83 Amp Hours, or, a loss of 2.3% SOIC after the additional one year of use.]
- This puts the battery at 329.30 divided by 380.00 original SOIC = 86.66% State of Capacity at 48 months.
How do we interpret this?
- I was on-grid (not boondocking and plugged in) more than usual. Therefore, I reduced my depth of discharges and slowed down (changed) the rate of wear.
- At this rate of wear, I should have stable capacity wear or loss rates for another 3 years calculated as follows… 86.66% – 80.00% = 6.66% / 2.3% = about 3 years. After that point, we should begin to notice the capacity dropping.
- BUT, it must be noted that the “leak” in my solenoid system (the simultaneous discharge) was stressing the battery and it was being cycled incessantly. Even so, the battery wear was really quite minimal.
Note: We are using Gen1 cells from 5 years ago and these were tested to 1,800 discharge cycles back then. The Gen2 cells are now tested and certified to over 2,200 cycles before they begin to show noticeable capacity “fading.” Lithionics Battery now also offers their Gen3 cells in a series called the “GT Series” and they have been 3rd-party tested to over 3,000 cycles! We will continue to run our original Gen1 batteries until they need to be replaced, but current generation batteries shipping today should be significantly better than what I am reporting today on the “old” product line.
My real “use” of the batteries changes each year depending on where we are traveling. When we went to Alaska, we boondocked 50% of the time. Our batteries got a LOT of use. When we went to New England, our boondocking time was greatly reduced and this is simply due to the area you are traveling in. Therefore, the long term testing (over many years) will provide an accurate look at the batteries. It’s difficult to skew long-term test results.
However, aside from the testing and test data, I have said consistently that these batteries must work for me and my lifestyle—and they do—I did not change my lifestyle to “fit” the batteries. I am still happy with them and now we are into our fifth year of testing. This year will be another excellent test as we plan to go back to Alaska (again, for the third time in our RV).
Try this… Send an email to Lithionics Battery or go to our website lithionicsbattery.com and fill in a request for information and obtain the pictures, or, e-mail Phil at Lithionics Battery to obtain the documentation of the battery aging!
I’ll keep you posted.
Contact me for any questions or comments at… firstname.lastname@example.org