Best Batteries for your next project
The use of batteries stretches back as far back as when humans started to store electricity for later usage.
From Baghdad Battery, the oldest known battery in history, to the now-standard lithium batteries in Cars, Vans, RVs and even our cellphones, they all have one thing in common. Store the produced energy and make it accessible when needed.
As we know them today, batteries are much more efficient in crucial aspects, especially recharge, weight, and lifespan. The more traditional yet still standard Lead-Acid batteries and Lithium-ion batteries are the most common batteries used as Battery Banks for solar power, camper vans, RVs and Off-grid systems.
Lead-Acid batteries are well known for their price and availability compared to their more expensive counterparts, the Lithium-ion batteries, but why is that?
It all comes down to how they are made and their material. The typical lead acid batteries are made of individual cells containing layers of lead alloy plates submerged into an electrolyte solution made of sulphuric acid and water.
On the other hand, Lithium Ion Batteries or other terms Secondary batteries, are made of multiple electrically connected cells. There is a negative end in each cell. This negative end is typically made of carbon. A positive terminal made from a metal oxide is also present, making lithium battery production more challenging and expensive than Lead-Acid Batteries.
Here comes the question of which type of Battery should be used for Van Life or RVs and Homes. There are no definite answers. This blog will go through the advantages and disadvantages of lead-acid and Lithium Batteries and recommend batteries for each type of project to choose which is best for you.
Lithium vs Lead Acid, Which one should I use?
Lithium vs Lead Acid: Upfront Cost and Expenses
As said above, the upfront cost of a lithium battery is often more than other types of batteries, such as AGM batteries. For example, Let’s look at two batteries most used in electrical systems designed by our engineers.
At first glance, Lithium Batteries cost 4-5 times more than their counterparts, but are these batteries the same to compare?
To answer this question, we have compared the performance of a Lithium battery vs an AGM battery.
The accepted depth of discharge in a Lithium battery is 80%, and the same value in Lead-acid batteries is around 40-50%.
When looking at each battery individually, we can calculate the nominal energy by multiplying the nominal capacity by the nominal voltage. Then we can calculate the actual accessible power in each battery by utilizing the DoD (Depth of Discharge) value.
Therefore, a Lead-acid battery can not produce as much electricity as Lithium Ion Batteries. In a realistic scenario, approximately two lead acid batteries are needed to produce the battery power as a Lithium Battery.
Under these circumstances, Lithium batteries are only about 2-3 times more expensive than a battery bank with the same output built by AGM batteries. This leads to Lead-Acid batteries being more cost-efficient when building your system.
In addition, A lithium battery does not require any maintenance after installation; however, Lead Acid batteries require water levels adjustment and cleaning acid residue of the battery and sometimes the surrounding area. This maintenance can also include the occasional bolt and cable replacement due to corrosion.
Lithium vs Lead Acid: Life Span
Using Lead Acid batteries up to 50% is recommended, which we used for our calculations in the previous section. a Lead Acid battery is typically designed for 600 charge cycles with 50% DoD usage. This number can drop to 400 cycles if you decide to use your battery at 80% depth of discharge.
On the other hand, assuming 80% depth of discharge, a Lithium battery will last for around 3000 cycles. This number can increase to 5000 processes if the batteries are used with 50% DoD.
(All information in this section is based on manufacturer data supported by tests at Volts Energies)
Cold Weather Performance and charging
Lower winter temperatures affect all batteries, Lithium Iron Phosphate or Absorbent glass mat (AGM) as temperatures drop, battery electrolyte viscosity increases. Thus, making ions movement harder and harder. Therefore, Batteries will operate at a lower capacity than their nominal values.
This phenomenon affects Lithium batteries far less than lead acid batteries. Take a look at the chart below indicating capacity decrease in these batteries.
Even with better battery capacity in colder times of the year, Lithium batteries are at a significant disadvantage compared to Lead batteries. These rechargeable batteries encounter an issue called lithium plating that can damage batteries permanently when charged at below zero temperatures. This problem is resolvable by high-quality BMS or batteries with Heating pads and kits, yet this is a great inconvenience for many lithium batteries users.
This issue is significantly prevented in some cases, such as Lithium Battery Solution batteries or BattleBorn Heated batteries with temperature sensors and External BMS in LBS and Heated kit in Battleborn.
Size and Weight
When building a system for a home connected to shore power or for a stand-alone off-grid system, size and weight don’t matter a lot. However, there is a different scenario when it comes to a battery system for an RV or Vans. Lithium batteries are a life-saving solution, especially in VANlife usage where space is limited, and excess weight should be avoided.
On average, Lithium batteries are up to 60% lighter than the same capacity Lead Acid batteries, which can make a lot of difference in mobile usage applications such as Vans and RVs. And in many cases, much smaller in size and volume.
What would we recommend?
There are no absolute answers. Getting the best batteries is not just based on life span and pricing; you need to ask yourself some critical questions, such as:
What is the primary purpose of this project? Are you building a Camping Van or RV, or is this for your off-grid cottage or connected to shore power systems, etc.
How much will you be using this system?
Is it installed on your summer vacation vehicle, or it’s intended for a daily Vanlife lifestyle?
Is this a house battery on a complete solar powered cottage or lakehouse?
What kind of output do you need? Is it going to be a simple fridge and a few LED lights or much more than that?
One of our Project managers can help you find the best battery for RV and Van or build a complete Solar Panel off-grid system based on your needs.
In addition, you can find a quick review of our best selling batteries:
BattleBorn is one of the greatest brands in the market with amazing reliability. Battleborn batteries are a direct replacement for lead acid batteries, and with their built-in BMS, they can operate without adding anything else to the system. Great for Boats and RVs when small capacity would suffice; they are capable of series and parallel connection, but battery cells won’t communicate with one another.
LBS Tesla Second Life Batteries are batteries from cars with accidents, and none of the batteries are end-of-life batteries. These Tesla batteries are designed for systems with significant outputs from 5KWh to 1MWh. With LBS external BMS, you can build big battery banks and communicate CANBUS with other equipment when needed. These characteristics make LBS batteries the best choice for significant industrial and commercial applications.
LBS Lithium Batteries with External BMS can give you the most flexibility with the capability of building systems from 12.8VDC to 600VDC. You can use LBS lithium batteries for residential, commercial, and industrial applications. This battery solution for Van and RVs is heavily customizable based on your requirements.
Victron Energy batteries are a great system when you need to build a complete system of Victron Energy components. Using Victron Energy external BMS, these batteries can communicate with other components. Victron Energy Lithium Batteries are compact and work best in low voltage systems of 12, 24, and 48 Volts.