Overview of our Lithium Battery Electrical Setups
First System (2011): Our 1961 Vintage Bus Conversion
In June 2011, we bought our vintage bus conversion without a house battery system already installed. The just emerging lithium ion batteries had already been on our radar, and since we had the opportunity to build our electrical system from scratch – we decided to delve into the world of LFP.
Specifically – we went Lithium Iron Phosphate aka LFP aka LiFePO4.
At the time, while gaining popularity in the cruising community, there were very few RVs with lithium based house system. And thus limited options and resources available to tap into. So we decided to build our own out of cells meant for electric vehicle conversations. We worked with Elite Power Systems to break down their 48v GBS cells packs into a 12v system.
Our goal with our electrical system is versatility.
We enjoy staying in a variety of locations – from full hook-up RV Parks, courtesy parking with friends & family to boondocking or overnighting in public areas. We didn’t want to overdesign for any one scenario, but rather find our own unique balance that makes any of these styles thrivable for a couple weeks or more at a time.
Our fridge is a marine 12v Dan Foss Compressor (all electric), and we use electric for most our cooking (induction cooktop, microwave/convection, InstaPot, etc.).
We also travel with a cat, and want to provide ample cooling if we want to stop and take a hike, explore a museum or pick up a few groceries in route – so thus we wanted to run a roof air off battery for a couple hours (yes, it’s possible to run an A/C off battery – but not entirely off our solar!).
Quick specifications of our RV system :
- LFP – 500 AH at 12v (400AH ‘usable’ at 80% DoD)
- Cells & EMS purchased from Elite Power Solutions in Phoenix, AZ – assembled by us
- Chemistry – Lithium Iron Phosphate aka LFP aka LiFePO4
- Dimensions – 141 lbs, 20″ D x 13.5″ W x 10″ H
- Inverter/Charger: Victron MultiPlus 12/3000VA
- System Controller: Victron Control Contro GX
- Battery Controller: Victron BMV700
- Charged via shore power, generator, alternator and 800w of solar on our roof
- Installed: August 2011
Most of our series below is based on this project – including updates over the years. There was a lot we learned in the process that hopefully helped others avoid the same mistakes.
Below you’ll find a video recap at 5.5 years, as well as our 3 year written report.
2019 Update: While in extended indoor storage, our bus had an extended loss of power that shut down our system. The LED status lights on our BMS system over the course of several months drained the batteries. After consulting with Elite Power Systems, we determined it wasn’t worthwhile risking trying to bring the batteries back to life.
At the end of 2019, we replaced our original system after 8.5 years of use. Since we were impressed with our boat’s Battle Born Batteries install in 2018, we accepted their kind offer of 400AH @ 12v for our bus.
We’ll have a full recap at some point in the future of our first lithium setup.
Second System: Our 1999 Bayliner 4788 Boat (2018)
In March 2017, we purchase a motor yacht for exploring America’s waterways seasonally. We’ll be splitting our time between boat & RV.
As we anticipate mixing in a good amount of anchoring out (the boating equivalent of boondocking) – of course a solar/lithium installation was in the plans.
It took longer than expected given the ramp up to boat life, so we didn’t approach re-doing our electrical system for another year.
In mid-2018 – we decided to accept Battle Born Batteries’ offer of their drop in lithium batteries, mainly because we’re very curious to get hands on experience with this mainstream option that is becoming quiet popular.
We re-wired the boat for 24v, and installed Victron gear and 300AH of lithium. In spring 2019, we also completed the installation of 1440w of solar panels as our flybridge cover.
As of late 2019, we have been quite impressed with Battle Born as a company and their products, and have adopted their batteries – we may even add on in the future.
Our starting battery system in the boat, being in September 2018, consists of:
- Batteries & BMS: 6 x 100AH Battle Born GC2 wired up for 300AH at 24v
- Inverter/Charger – Victron Quattro 24/5000
- System Control – Victron Venux GX
- Battery Controller – Victron BMV712 Smart (Bluetooth!)
- Converter – Victron Orion 70A 24v to 12v Converter
- Charged via shore power, generator, alternator and solar
- Installed: September 2018
Here’s our 50m video overview of the system:
Below is our research on Lithium Ion batteries and updates to RV project:
Lithium Batteries for RVs Video
Careful – it’s an hour long.
Recorded during a live broadcast on 11/2/2016
with special guests – Nina & Paul of WheelingIt.US!
This video included an overview of lithium batteries, recap of our systems and our 5 (plus) year report on how our system has been performing.
Research & Analysis Articles:
Project Notes & Updates:
Coming Soon: 8.5 Years of Lithium Update
8/22/2019 – Tour of our Boat’s Electrical System
After 3.5 years of full time use, we answer these questions:
– Has lithium lived up to all the promises?
– What have been the downsides?
– What have we learned?
– Would we do it again?
– Was it worth the cost?
– Who’s installing systems and where to get cells.
12/2014 – Our Solar Installation – We planned our LFP install with solar in mind, but didn’t get around to installing it until late 2014. Here’s a run down of our system (basics: 800w on our roof, and 600w with ground deployed flexible panels).
6/2013 – Boosted Electrons = Better Views (why a boosting/hybrid inverter is a great compliment to a lithium bank, providing lots of flexibility for various power situations!)
Links to other Lithium battery setup information:
- Cruiser Forums Thread
- WheelingIt’s 2016 Installation
- Dave of RVNerds has built a 48v LFP setup out of the battery of a Volt.
- Gone With the Wynns – Used ReLion on their boat
- Mortons on the Move – built from a wrecked Tesla battery system
- The RV Geeks – Testing out the new Xantrex Lithium setup
Places Installing and/or Selling Lithium Batteries:
- Battle Born
- AMSolar (Springfield, OR)
- RV Solar Solutions (Mobile)
- Off the Grid Camper (Mobile)
- PrecisionRV – ‘Marvin’ (Mobile)
- Starlight Solar (Yuma, AZ)
- Volta Power Systems
Our LFP disclaimer – This blog is our personal space – not a business pursuit. We are simply full time technomads who are designing our own cutting edge mobile homes, and are sharing our independent research & project… because, well, we like to! These articles are our gift to you and we frankly have no interest in convincing anyone to follow this path.
We are NOT selling these batteries, we regularly turn down advertising requests and we’re not electrical/battery consultants/experts. We may however have affiliate interests in some products, but only those we can give a thumbs up to.
We purchased our initial system at full retail cost, however over the years due to this series – some upgrades and new equipment has been provided to us for field beta testing either at no cost or substantial discounts from manufacturers we now provide feedback to.
While this option is becoming more prevalent, there are now drop in solutions and there are professional installers available -those contemplating this technology should still be rather savvy with electrical and battery technology. We take absolutely no responsibility should you attempt to try lithium batteries – do so at your own risk.
We have tried to share all the information we can in the below articles, updates & video. If you have further questions, it’s time to start a conversation with the battery distributor or installer you’re considering – not us.
We request your understanding that we just don’t have the available free time to offer individualized guidance (paid or free) – we just couldn’t keep up with our inbox that this series of articles generated for us. We do occasionally host live Q&As on the subject .. and sending us some virtual wine in thanks for this series will bring us a smile 🙂 . Thanks!