Lithium Battery Bank

After thoughts and advise please, due to start van build in spring 2022 not going full time due to health issues but we do hope to spend between 2/3 month away at a time, our initial plan is to do Scottish Highlands and Islands on to Scandinavia , Faroes , Iceland .
Question is would I be better with a larger battery bank than installing solar that won’t perform at its best that far North .
We don’t tend to stay in one place for more than a couple of days at a time so battery to battery charging wouldnt be an issue , calculations are showing we would use a max of 80 ah a day so my thoughts are leaning towards building a 280ah lithium battery bank if not larger and maybe not installing LPG at all.
Thanks

Greetings & Welcome!

I believe deep cycle lead acid or AGM batteries are a much better choice for campers, and offer better bang for the buck.

I wouldn’t go solar either, I would go with an isolator for my main charging, and a generator with a battery charger for a backup plan.

Things like heating, cooking, and refrigeration are best done with fuel, not electricity.

NOTE: I have edited my original reply to keep it simpler and more on topic.

Cheers!


“Everything should be made as simple as possible." ~ Einstein


A bigger battery bank is never wrong and definitely a plus. I wouldn’t go with lithium until you are sure your system is built and charging correctly. You don’t want to ruin that battery. Burn out something cheap first. Once it works you can always upgrade later.

Solar is also pretty cheap and pretty efficient. Even if it’s only pushing out 30 amps a day it can help.

It’s really hard to judge how much power you are going to use until you start using it. I would double my max and assume you’ll use more than 80 or add in items. Lights, phones, etc. maybe you just upgrade an appliance. It’ll give you room for that and also keep you from stressing and monitoring it all the time.

Thanks for the replies and the info and advise folks all of which I will take on board when deciding on which route to take , need to install a shower in the build what are folk finding to be the most economical and reliable way of heating hot water

We are starting our van build and living in Canada a similar situation with colder temperatures and very limited solar availability… especially with the plan to visit the arctic ocean. Likewise we don’t tend to stay in one place more than a few days at a time. We calculate an electrical energy demand (Induction cook top) of roughly 100 Ahr/day and will generate heat and hot water via a hydronic system plumbed into the van diesel tank. All this background out of the way the primary electrical system will be 600 Ahr LiFePho battery bank and charging via a second dedicated 280 Amp alternator.

Hi Mav
I have looked in to installing a Hydronic System but was a little concerned the water would be to cool to shower with the following morning although if the water tank was well insulated and the battery bank was sufficient I could bring it back up to shower temperature by using an emersion heater, like the idea of a dedicated alternator

Nobody wants cellphone/laptop li-ion batteries in their car. The ones in the gadgets we use are more than enough.

LiFePo4 (lithium-iron-whatever) are modern, for example used in submarines these days. They can take a beating and don’t burst in furious flames like lithium-ion batteries. Not the same thing as EV batteries, even if they share same word “lithium” in them.

Regardless of used technology, if I could design my very own battery it would be something (like on a sled) that could be pulled out (from the back or side door) in case of emergency. Either if the van catches fire for some reason, you would want the battery bank out or if the batteries themselves show worrying signs (ie swelling, leaking) you would want to extract them safely. Not something that requires power tools to get them out.

Greetings!

I removed a number of posts in this thread because they were off topic and/or distracting from the original topic.

Personal attacks are never acceptable, and will not be tolerated.

Differing on topic help, opinions, or solutions are always welcome, but personal attacks will be deleted.

Cheers!


“Everything should be made as simple as possible." ~ Einstein


Here’s a good article that shows that lithium batteries are far superior in every way including cost. Not just someone’s opinion actual proof

Greetings!

Here’s the way it works in the real world… You have 2 different products, A & B. The tests performed by product A clearly show that it’s the best, yet the tests performed by product B show that it is actually the best. In truth the tests are designed to provide the answer that the tester wants to convey.

Back in the real world, people have been using FLA (flooded lead acid) batteries successfully for many many years, and continue to do so. For similar lifespan & capacity, LFP batteries cost at least 2x more than FLA batteries. That’s using 2x the FLA batteries to equal or better the capacity, and replacing them once to equal or better the lifespan, so a total of 4 cheap FLA batteries. The 100ah deep cycle Everstart batteries are under $75 at Walmart. The cheapest 100ah BB battery I could find was $799, and lots of them are even more expensive. (other brands included)

So with similar lifespans & capacities figured in, the only relevant question remaining is whether saving a little weight & space is worth $400 extra to you. Maybe the bragging rights are worth that much to some people… None of the above is worth $400+ extra to me. We probably shouldn’t forget the added extra costs of the LFP chargers, charge controllers, B2B chargers, and all the monitors etc. either.

If or when the prices become comparable, it might become a more relevant conversation… In the meantime, an equally efficient system using cheaper and quicker & easier to replace batteries can be built for a fraction of the price.

If you actually read that article, in #3 they truthfully state that " The cost per watt-hour delivered for lead-acids was surprising. It was much worse for the expensive AGM batteries than the cheaper options. The flooded lead-acid was the cheapest under all circumstances. "

THE CHEAPEST UNDER ALL CIRCUMSTANCES!!! End of story… Capacity, lifespan, and performance can all be equaled or bettered.

Cheers!


“Everything should be made as simple as possible." ~ Einstein


Here’s the problem with Lead Acid batteries and vans. As the available current for lead acid batteries is only approximately 50% of their rating, you need twice as many of them as in a typical Lithium setup. So if you calculate that you would need 2 Lithium batteries to power your rig, you would need at least 4 Lead acid batteries (more if there are high current draw devices as high discharge rates drop Lead acid batteries below cut out voltage more quickly than Lithium). So you need twice the physical space, and more heavy gauge interconnecting wiring. Then factor in that Lead acid batteries weigh 2 to 3 times as much as Lithium batteries AND you have twice as many of them. This can add up to lots of cargo space (precious in a van) and several hundred extra pounds (also a factor in suspension and fuel mileage). Then add that flooded lead acid batteries also require ventilation when being charged. AND then factor in that Lithium batteries (number of charge/discharge cycles) will typically last 3 to 5 times longer than Lead acid batteries.

For most people building recent model year van conversions, $400, or $800,or even $1600 isn’t going to make nor break their build budget. And cheap generally comes with the added costs of being less reliable, incurring more repair costs, more time consuming, and aggravating. Most people want a safe, comfortable, and reliable build. Most people aren’t scrounging for the absolute cheapest old vehicle, nor the cheapest or old school way of doing something. It’s going to be their home, either part time or full time. And any one individual’s perception of what is good enough or desired vs. another’s is highly subjective. Some people may want to build brand new vans with Lithium batteries and solar chargers and microwave ovens and fuel fired indirect heat - because that’s what they want and because they can. Others may want to, or have to, go cheap, either because they simply want to or can’t afford any better.

But to profess that there is only one correct way to build a van, or power the electrical system, is simply arrogance. In the real, real world, different people want different things.

1 Like

Greetings!

While I’ll agree with part of what you mentioned, I have never suggested that there is only one way to do it. I have built many different systems, using many different components.

The problem as I see it, is that the technology doesn’t live up to it’s hype or it’s price. It shouldn’t require different charge characteristics for example, requiring you to buy a bunch of new stuff besides just the batteries. The temperature problems are slowly getting worked out, but they’re not there yet.

At his moment in time, they’re just not the best choice, and they may never be. Newer and better battery technologies are in the making. More now, than anytime in the recent past. Other technologies look more promising, and they’ll all be drop in replacements for the older lead acid applications like vehicles & RV’s.

The movers & shakers are trying to eliminate the need for batteries all together, with a silent power source which is available 24/7. Nikola Tesla knew how to do that, and we’re getting closer to making it an everyday reality. Experimental units are already in use, and the results are very promising. One such unit was demonstrated at the Rimrock GTG in the PNW a couple of years ago.

It’s not just about price, it’s about quality, reliability, and sustainability. It’s about not harming the planet by stripping it’s rare earth minerals, and poluting us into oblivion.

Right now it’s all about corporate & government greed, not about better solutions, but this too should come to pass, because it’s not sustainable. The energy revolution is in it’s infancy, and great changes & innovations are on the horizon.

In such times of great change, it is often best to be patient, and not waste our time, money, or energy on things that may be obsolete and become unsupported in a very short time. Just like when VHS won out over Beta. The battery & energy generation & storage wars are raging, and until some new tech becomes available almost everywhere locally, as nomads, I suggest that what’s readily replaceable locally is the best choice for us.

If our batteries die, it’s a huge inconvenience, and if our systems are set up for lithium, you might not be able to instantly replace them with what’s available locally because the charging characteristics might all be wrong. It’s not always about the money, there are many factors at play here, and making the wrong choices today can have a very negative impact on our lives tommorrow. Too many people don’t think past today, while I’m in it for long term success.

I’m out here in the trenches, and see all these avoidable problems actually happening. Power and climate control are two of the most common failure points for nomads, and both are easily avoidable.

Cheers!


“Everything should be made as simple as possible." ~ Einstein