After another all-nighter lithium ion battery research session last Tuesday, we slept in on Wednesday and then made our way down the hill from Flagstaff into Phoenix. With every foot of elevation drop, the temperature increased and we were soon reminded of why we escaped to Flagstaff in the first place.
The bus did incredibly well on the descent, and we learned the advantage of a jake brake – they not only sound cool, they’re very useful! After our first major drop in elevation, Chris exclaimed
‘If I ever meet Jake, I’m gonna kiss him!’.
In the 7000 foot elevation drop, Chris only had to briefly engage the regular bus brake once or twice, the rest the Jake handled with ease.
Unfortunately our late departure and stops at every rest stop, often of which involved more research and ordering parts that would be needed for the battery install – put us arriving in Phoenix too late to meet up with the supplier.
But never fear, we received an invitation inbound for bus parking, power and dinner with a fellow bus nut. Well actually, they’re the owners of one of the buses we looked at in our search, Bus’Osaurus. When our friends we rendezvoused with in Flagstaff walked into our bus, they decided they too needed a bus as their full time home.. and actually bought Bus’Osaurus this week!
We hadn’t realized how contagious this bus nut disease is, so caution to anyone who invites us over.
Thursday morning we arrived to Elite Power Solutions, who specializes in lithium iron phosphate (for the geeks amongst you, LiFeMnPO4 is the actual chemistry) batteries for electric cars, motorcycles and scooters. Our research into the state of lithium for RV use lead us to them as a reputable supplier of a non-combustable safer battery than previous versions of lithium ion. When we reached out to their engineers they were happy to work with us to create our RV house battery solution. And they further offered us a great price on the batteries that sweetened the temptation to pioneer into the land of untested bright speculations.
We were anticipating when we arrived our time with them would be focused on getting the batteries installed into the bus and hooked up to the various other parts we had shipped to them – including our fancy new pure sine inverter, high end relay switches, fuses, and such.
Little did we know that the batteries came in packs of 4 cells that make up 100ah at 12v. And to create our bank of 500ah, we’d have to manually disassemble 5 packs and re-assemble them into 4 packs of 500ah at 3.2v and hook them up in parallel. We soon learned how tedious of a process this is, which includes having to unscrew every jumper and all the assembly plates.
We then had to re-assemble the binding plates to support 5 cells each, and press the cells into the bands using a hydraulic jack.
It was actually quite exhilarating to physically build our own pack (and talk about the geeky DIY points we earned!) – but it’s time we hadn’t budgeted for. And this got complicated when the house generator in the bus overheated in the 110+ heat, threatening to roast poor Kiki with out air conditioning. We had to end Thursday early with a scramble to find a nearby RV park with power hook-ups and then rent a car. After making sure Kiki was ok, we ran some errands to obtain parts for the battery bank – and got our Fry’s Electronics fix (grin).
On Friday morning we returned to Elite Power to finish building our bank and getting it all wired up – which involved tediously screwing in jumper bars in parallel, fuses and Elite’s EMS (Energy Management System).
When we were done – we had a sweet looking 500ah battery bank that measures just 21″ x 14″ x 11″ and weighs just 140 lbs. And yes, a much more technical post is forthcoming for all you interested in more of the details.
We’re much further behind on the project than anticipated, but feel much more in tune with the system we’re building as a result of being so involved with its creation.
We’ll continue sharing the install as it progresses this coming week as we meander towards Reno, with the goal of having something workable by Burning Man.
Gates open in 9 days.
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.