I recently returned to the battery company (Lithionics Battery) for which I am testing the lithium ion batteries. A quick review of the information above will bring you up to date. This most recent visit was at the conclusion of two years of my using one lithium ion chassis battery and one lithium ion coach battery in my 2007 Monaco Dynasty. We fulltime and are into our eleventh year of this lifestyle.
We boondock regularly (about 12 nights per month on average) and have maintained this average for several years including the last two while I was testing these lithium ion batteries. During summer 2012 (our second year of testing these batteries), we made our second major trip to Alaska (the first was in 2008) and spent 96 days north of the USA/Canadian border. During that time, we averaged boondocking 50% of the time (48 days). Therefore, we regularly use and absolutely rely on our batteries for living normally when boondocking.
While I cannot prove this, I firmly believe that we boondock much more than the average RVer. My guess is more than twice as much. So when I say that we “absolutely rely on our batteries for living normally,” we really do and it is through ongoing and regular usage.
Upon my return to Lithionics Battery, in February 2013, they removed my coach battery, took the original cells out of the case, and ran those cells through a series of bench tests. It must be noted that during 2012, Lithionics Battery also developed and built various specialized test equipment for these batteries.
Regarding the recent news stories about the lithium battery fires on the Boeing 787, Lithionics Battery explained that their batteries use a “lithium iron phosphate” compound that simply will not burn. Therefore, fires in the types of batteries in my coach are simply impossible. However, Boeing did not use this same compound and one result was a battery fire.
Lithionics Battery had previously obtained international UN DOT certifications in November of 2009… two months before they opened their new factory. It must be noted that after the Boeing fire, Lithionics Battery was re-certified and retained their “UN DOT” certification that allows them to ship lithium ion batteries all over the world via air freight. Boeing was “grandfathered out” of the same testing.
Lithionics Battery focuses on safety first. This was critically important to me when we first tried the batteries two years ago. After all, we put those lithium ion batteries into the only home we have!
What “Size” is My Battery?
While my coach battery has been considered a “400 AmpHr” battery from the first day, utilizing the new test equipment plus the ability to test other batches of lithium cells (the same as mine), it was determined that my original battery was actually rated at 385 “net” AmpHrs. (The originally stated “400 AmpHr” was the figure provided by the cell manufacturer, however, we now know that we actually started this ongoing test with a 385 AmpHr battery. We also know that with the NeverDie Power-Reserve, the battery will always retain some of that capacity for engine starting.
How Long Will This Battery Last?
After two years of use, testing indicated that my coach battery has lost only 5.5% of its capacity and is now rated at 364 AmpHrs—this is a drop of 21 AmpHrs. To extrapolate, this means that after 8 years of use at the same loss rate, I would still have a battery with approximately 80% (calculated at 79.7%) capacity.
The management at Lithionics Battery mentioned that other OEM RV companies using the 8D AGM batteries would experience about a 2 year life when deep cycling these batteries. That’s about the usage my wife and I experienced… so, here we are after 2 years, with batteries operating just over 95% efficiency with about 6 more good years left. With that, throughout that six-year period, we are definitely ahead of the game with lithium over lead-acid batteries. We also have the benefit of not hauling an extra 600+ pounds around the country—forever.
Concerning battery life, it has been determined by Lithionics Battery during the past year that the type of lithium ion batteries in my coach can actually be rebuilt. Therefore, I could be looking at a “20-year” battery life! One can only hope that I will be around to write about that!
What Did They Do?
After a thorough testing of my lithium cells, Lithionics Battery did a number of improvements to the battery including upgrading the “Never Die” control to a more rugged one (I had had no problems with the previous one but they installed a “standard” production model) and they increased the size of the terminals from 7/16″ to 1/2″ inch on my coach battery. Finally, my original lithium cells were put into a new battery case as the old case was destroyed when they removed the cells for testing. Therefore, I continue to test the original battery cells even though the case looks new.
They also tested the chassis battery using the same process. They also replaced the “Never Die” controller in this battery due to an upgrade. The battery tested perfectly and also got a new case. However, you should note that I have never had a single problem with this chassis battery. My engine and generator have started perfectly.
On the coach battery, the “Never Die” control is a separate, small box and is not inside the battery case. On the chassis battery, the “Never Die” control is built inside the battery case.
When is a Battery a Brick?
There is a process in the battery industry called “bricking” a battery. This means that a battery has been discharged to a point that it cannot be salvaged—that is, it is totally ruined. In the totally ruined state, it becomes simply a useless lump and thus, called a “brick” in the industry. Therefore, “bricking” a battery means that you have destroyed it by totally discharging it. This can happen to any battery—until now.
Lithionics Battery has developed a process whereby their batteries cannot be totally discharged. It is simply impossible to do that. Their battery will discharge 98% leaving only a 2% charge. Up to now, that would be “bricking.” Lithionics has also developed and recently patented a new battery charger designed to recover that 98%-discharged battery! Again, up to now, that would have been impossible.
This means you (or maybe a questionable employee) cannot ruin one of the Lithionics batteries through normal usage from mistakes, misuse, or even sabotage.
Inverters—A Related Issue
The other change that took place was that I upgraded my inverter remote. I have a Magnum MS2812 inverter and was using the MS–RC Remote. I upgraded that remote to the MS–ARC Remote. Doing so gave me more control, some new readings, and a higher level of accuracy.
Note that this upgrade was NOT mandatory for the batteries.
We have left Florida and will live our regular lifestyle as we meander this year—we are in our eleventh year of fulltiming. Our crude plans indicate we will head toward New England this summer to visit lots of friends and family plus get our fill of good seafood. I have been asked to present seminars at the Hershey RV show in Pennsylvania this September so that will keep us east.
I mention this because boondocking is simply harder to do in the east and especially New England. Therefore, I don’t know what level of usage to expect on these batteries this year.
Finally, while no news is (usually) good news, so long as the batteries work as they are supposed to, there is nothing for me to report. I’m not going to forget to post but to continue to post that “everything is fine” seems a bit ridiculous. So if you don’t see anything new posted here, just wait a while and check again.
Thanks for reading.