Home Life on the Road Bus Projects

Inverted Intentions

Two weeks ago we finally escaped the intense Arizona desert heat in Lake Havasu City, and headed to nearby Flagstaff. Sitting at elevation 7000 ft, it’s many degrees cooler and has things that are green.

We came here intending to cool off – both our bodies and on the bus projects. We were also tempted here to be temporary neighbors with some fellow nomadic friends.

We had dreams of lots of hiking, catching up on some projects, exploring Flagstaff, birthday celebrations and beer.

Ahh… dreams.

Upon arriving, some prior conversations we had started inquiring about the state of lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4 – or LFP) battery technology for RV use elevated from intriguing to interesting. This newer LFP isn’t your old school lithium ion battery chemistry that is known for exploding – it’s non-combustable, making it vastly safer.

As our bus came with no house battery system or inverter, tackling that project was on our priority list – especially with planning to go off-grid at Burning Man at the end of the month.

One conversation lead to another, and we were introduced to a supplier of the technology – who happens to be just down the hill in Phoenix.

As we know that Burning Man would present an ideal opportunity to field test such a system, if we’re going to get it done – we had to move quick to take advantage of the Phoenix connection before leaving the area.

So instead of our chill no bus project escape, our time in Flagstaff has been consumed with intense all-nighter research into batteries & inverters, house electrical systems and taking measurements of all our bays. We’ve been weighing the benefits and risks of a bank of lithium ion versus AGM batteries, corresponding with our braintrust of electrically inclined friends and tracking down our ideal inverter.

We’ve decided that while lithium ion batteries have not fully proven their potential yet, especially for RV house electrical systems – heading to Phoenix this week is worthwhile. If it continues to hold our interest, by the end of the week we could have one very interesting and cutting edge house electrical system that could be a fantastic platform for our eventual solar install.

And yes, you can bet I’ll force Chris to sit down and write a more technical report.

So, this morning we’re off to Phoenix. Back into the intense Arizona desert heat.

I haven’t even checked the weather forecast for the expected highs.. I really don’t want to know.

By the way, we should note – we are not trying to motivate anyone to follow us on this path. We are not selling these batteries, we are not affiliates with any battery dealer, we paid for all our components and nor do we have any financial stake in the technology beyond our own systems.  We are simply full time RVing technomads who are designing our own cutting edge home & office on wheels, and are sharing our research & project. Of course we’d love to have more folks out there pioneering and helping us take the arrows in our backs.  Right now, we do not consider this technology ready for the mainstream, and those contemplating this technology need to be a bit savvy with electrical and battery technology. 

Other Posts In this Series:

Promise of Lithium #1: Lead Acid Battery Downsides
Promise of Lithium #2: Lithium Ion Battery Advantages
All our Lithium Ion Battery Posts 

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  1. How interesting indeed! As a fellow burner, I know all too well the luxury a good setup can do you out on the playa. How did your battery issues end up? Did they pass the Black Rock City comfort exam? Let us know!

  2. I have to wonder about the validity of article like this when the author doesn’t even know the difference between Lithium Ion and Lithium Iron (which is what LiFePO4 is).

    The big hint is the ‘Fe’ in it’s designation.

    There is a significant difference between LIPO and LPO batteries.
    They are not the same. They are totally different batteries with ‘very’ different characteristics.

    So much for any authority in this article …. sheeeesh!!

    • Gary – There are over twenty types of lithium ion battery chemistries based on different cathode materials and formulations. The most common cathode materials are lithium cobalt oxide, lithium manganese oxide and lithium iron phosphate.

      It is true that some people assume that “lithium ion” automatically equates to the older and more common lithium cobalt oxide style, but LiFePO4 batteries are still correctly considered under the umbrella term of Lithium Ion, and we very much do know about the significant differences between these two.

      We will be posting a more in depth technical article about the awesome promise of LiFePO4 batteries soon enough.

      Cheers!

      – Chris

  3. Good Stuff. It’s exciting to see people pushing the envelope. I hope the tech article includes some info about charging. I’ve been watching Lithium Ion for a while and always stumble on how it would fit in with our current charger and solar.

    We kill sams club flooded 6v’s regularly. The only reason we stick with them is that they are replaced free under warranty. I’d love to move to something else.

    • I suspect that once Chris is able to stick his head out of research and planning of the system, he’ll be writing one heck of a technical write-up that covers just about everything we’ve encountered in the planning process. We’re working with some amazing people on designing the charging system specific to the lithium.

  4. Looking very much forward to hearing more about it! This is definitely new technology ground you’re treading, esp. as far the RV biz goes.
    Nina

  5. See you at happy hour in a couple weeks. The bus is beautiful!
    Still happily rolling along in our T@B. Still choosing to camp solo in BRC. Arranging, soldering, painting, almost ready to pack it all up for the playa. Stay safe. That thing got a good horn on it?

  6. While I don’t know much about the technical aspect behind RVs, this is still very interesting for me to read! I look forward to hearing how everything turns out, plus the field test at Burning Man will definitely put your new technology through its paces. My husband and I also recently fled north to escape the heat–for us, we went from Spain (mindblowingly hot) to the Black Forest in Germany (aaahhh, much cooler!). Hope your return to Phoenix isn’t too terribly hot!

  7. Hey there – if you are looking for a space to chill (literally) in Phoenix this week, give me a yell at email above. We are (of course) knee deep in BM prep and projects, but please know you’re welcome to stop in and take a little time out of the sun without running your gas out on A/C expenditure.

    Sondra

  8. My mobility scooter has a lion battery. I am not supposed to leave it in the car because heat can make it explode. Airlines limit the size of lion batteries you can bring on board. Those two facts make me concerned about the idea of using these batteries for house power in a motorhome. Please, do lots of research before committing to this possibility. We do love the AGM batteries in our motorhome.

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