RV Lithium/AGM Battery & Electrical System Upgrade – Part 1 – Project Intro

TheRVgeeks Electrical, Great RV Products, Updates & Upgrades 32 Comments

Major RV Project Announcement: We’re upgrading our RV to lithium house batteries and AGM chassis batteries, while re-vamping and upgrading our electrical compartment. This is the official project intro, to be followed by a series of videos detailing the various steps in the project, as well as our experience using and living with the new gear.

We’re excited to be introducing the very first Class A installation of the new Xantrex e-GEN lithium ion battery, as well as our first experience using AGM chassis batteries (made possible by powerful Fullriver batteries, which provide the necessary cold cranking amps for our big Cummins engine).

GLENDINNING POWER CORD REEL $70 DISCOUNT

When we find RV products we absolutely love, we’re thrilled to be able to add them to our Discounts Page.  We’re pleased to announce that Glendinning Products is now offering RVgeeks viewers a $70 DISCOUNT on their brand new CRRA50 50′ power cord reel (the exact same one we just installed). Order factory-direct from their store at GlendinningProds.com and use Coupon Code “RVGEEKS” at checkout to SAVE $70.00!
NOTE: The discount is valid only on the CRRA50

HUGHES AUTOFORMER 10% DISCOUNT

Hughes Autoformers also offers RVgeeks viewers a special discount. SAVE 10% when you order either a 30-amp (Model #RV2130-SP) or 50-amp (Model #RV220-50-SP) factory-direct at HughesAutoformers.com. Use Coupon Code “RVGEEKS” at checkout to get 10% OFF!
If you don’t know what an autoformer does, check out our video.
NOTE: The discount doesn’t apply to any other Hughes products, but these are the latest models, newer than our own!

Thanks to all of the fine companies that are participating in this project for providing the expertise, equipment and service required to get this big job done.

Stay tuned as our exciting project unfolds!


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We're handy RVers, not professional technicians. We're happy with the techniques and products we use, but be sure to confirm that all methods and materials you use are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.

We sometimes receive products for evaluation at no cost, and The RVgeeks are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. But our opinions are our own, you won’t pay an extra penny, and we only link to products we personally use, love and can recommend to friends with complete confidence.


Comments 32

  1. I am considering upgrading my coach batteries to lithium ion and have started my research (the reason why I’m here). In my learning travels I was told by one of the lithium ion battery manufacturers that it is not a good idea to have the chassis battery charging system (engine alternator) on my Itasca class C MH. The reasoning was that the system is not intelligent enough and may cause harm to the lithium ion batteries. My charging system uses a solenoid to separate the coach and chassis batteries unless the ignition switch is “on” or the “battery boost” switch is enabled.

    My question to you is: Are you conditioning the alternator charging voltage/current going to the lithium ion coach batteries or does this system not charge the coach batteries from the engine alternator? Or are you not concerned with the alternator charging the lithium ion batteries?

    I’m working on a solution to disable charging the coach batteries while driving. The trick is finding the wire that supplies power to the solenoid only with ignition “on”. Only one wire goes to the solenoid so the power has to route through the boost switch, which I can’t figure out how to gain access to its connections.

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      Hi Joe. That lithium battery manufacturer wasn’t lying… you definitely want to be careful with “dumb” alternators charging lithium batteries… for two reasons, actually. First is that the alternator isn’t designed to cut charging to the lithium when the battery reaches full, and lithium batteries HATE being overcharged. It puts them into their danger zone, where they begin to overheat and can result in fire. That’s way every battery offered for these kinds of applications has a BMS (Battery Management System) either built into the battery or external to the battery. It monitors the battery state and ensures that the battery is kept safe. The problem is, at the overcharging end of the spectrum, the BMS would have to shut the battery down completely to prevent the alternator’s charge from doing damage… which would mean you’d lose juice to everything that the lithium battery powers. Not good… PLUS, you’re then ONLY relying on the BMS to protect the battery. And what happens if the BMS doesn’t work right? You could be in trouble.

      The second issue is the fact that lithium batteries don’t recharge the same way typical lead-acid batteries do. Lead-acid batteries have increasing resistance to charging as they get closer to full, so they push back against the alternator’s output… but lithium doesn’t. It’s resistance curve is both steady… and low. So the alternator doesn’t get any kind of feedback that the battery is nearly charged… so it just keeps pumping out 100% of its output, all the time. So it’s possible that you could cause a premature failure of your alternator.

      All that said… our system IS setup to allow the alternator to charge the lithium battery while we’re underway. Xantrex integrated a custom charge controller with the solenoid that was previously used by our BiRD (Bi-directional Relay Delay System). The BiRD allows the house batteries to charge off the alternator when we’re driving… or the chassis batteries to charge off the inverter/charger when we’re on shore power. The custom charge controller they installed uses charging voltages that are more appropriate for a lithium battery… and it disconnects the solenoid that joins the two battery banks together when the lithium battery is nearing full. That way, the lithium battery gets isolated from the alternator to protect it… and the alternator then only “sees” the chassis batteries, which are still lead-acid (AGMs).

      Not sure what system your Itasca is using… but I’d bet it’s something similar to our BiRD from Intellitec. You may want to post questions about it on the Winnebago forum over on iRV2.com (it’s free) to see if anyone can point you to more detail about it. But we’d bet that there’s another circuit/relay involved… that receives a triggering signal from either the ignition switch OR the battery boost switch, sending the “close” signal to the larger solenoid that connects to two battery banks. So you may be able to install an interrupt switch somewhere in that circuit to prevent the big solenoid from closing.

      Hope this all helps… fire back with any questions you still have (or that we just created, LOL!)!

      1. Thanks for the great info which reinforces what I had learned from some of the battery manufacturers. I’ve investigated some of Victron Energy products and bought one of their battery monitoring systems, which provides coach battery current and voltage and calculated amp hours etc. plus the voltage reading of the starter battery. It’s a start, but I really need to find the wiring data and location of the battery boost wiring. It seems Winnebago no longer provides that data to the public.

        I’ve also purchased a battery load tester and battery charger / conditioner that will remove sulfate crystals over time. At least, that’s their claim. I’m 3 years on my original batteries, one (coach) has a shorted cell, the other is estimated to be 50% shot and the starter battery isn’t doing any better. Yes, they are cheap batteries but the monitoring system provided by Winnebago is wholly inadequate and is likely the reason the batteries have been stepped down over time and seldom fully recharged. It’s a learning experience.

        Now I’m looking to put an AGM battery in for the starter, next spring, mostly because it supplies the power to my satellite / AM / FM, radio and aux. input which is used a lot while camping either docked or dry. I now have a 8 ga. jumper cable that can be used to connect the starter to the coach batteries for charging (shore or generator) or getting support from the coach batteries if needed. Essentially doing the job of the battery boost without using the solenoid. The Amp-L-Start I purchased will help keep the starter battery charged while on shore power or generator automatically. Hopefully it works as advertised.

        Going to lithium will change a lot this short-term solution engineering but it will be great if I can pull it off. I’ll probably have to spring for a BMS and some sort of power conditioner to keep the alternator from trashing the very expensive lithium batteries. I still would like to be able to charge the coach batteries while driving, only doing it safely and correctly. I may get back with you for info on the vendor that engineered your lithium solution. Thank again and BTW… great videos!

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          Hey Joe. First… definitely head over to the Winnie forums on iRV2.com. We’re sure that someone there may be able to help provide some insight into your battery boost switch and charging wiring that will be helpful. You can search the forums first, to see if someone else with the same model & year has already posted this… but if you can’t find it, post a question and you’ll get lots of help.

          And Winnie isn’t the only manufacturer that provides woefully inadequate battery monitoring systems… but, in their defense, most people wouldn’t use (or wouldn’t bother to learn how to use) a system that’s much more complicated than the simple 25% scale LED lights. We’ve seen some amazing things with peoples’ power usage!

          Once you do end up going with lithium, the other option for charging them while driving is to install a second, lithium-compatible alternator on the fan belt path… and isolate them so that the old alternator only charges the chassis battery while the new one charges the house. Might be simpler (and better for both batteries).

          Hope that helps! (And thanks for the kind words!)

          1. I have gone to and signed up for WinnieOwners.com. So far no help on the wiring issue. Maybe I’ll try iRV2 also, it can’t hurt.

            I never considered going with two alternators; that’s a good idea, I think. I guess it will need to have some intelligence to it and know when to switch charging modes, But as Victron support was saying, I’ll need a BMS anyway and I believe that they have a device that will condition power for the lithium batteries. They have lots of DC power products and seem to be leaders in the mobile power industry. But their product line may be a proprietary solution and I’m reluctant to go that route. Maybe at this point in time any good solution may be proprietary because of a lack of standards for the early adopters.

            Thanks again and happy motoring.

  2. Looking forward to learning more about battery options. I hate to go off topic but… what brand of wheel covers are you using on the RV ?

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      Hi Jeff. Those are old MCD wheel covers that have long since been discontinued. We hopefully have a lead on a new type of wheel cover that we’re expecting to come out later this year. As ours are getting very old, we’re eager to find out more, and will of course keep everyone posted when we do.

  3. This is a really interesting topic and I am looking forward to upcoming videos. I’m wondering though – now that the electric auto industry appears to be heading towards solid-state batteries, if that is something Xantrex is looking into. Maybe you could ask one of their engineers about that! Anyway, great job on the videos. I’ve been following you guys ever since I bought my RV in 2013. Your videos have been very helpful – and entertaining!

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      Thanks, Craig! And that’s a good question. We’ll see if we can ask one of our Xantrex contacts about that… although since they’re just now getting Lithium batteries to market (along with the rest of the RV industry), our bet is that they’ll be waiting quite a while before making any switch! 😉

  4. Just caught up with this video. Looking forward to the process, and excited about the Xantrex 600AH All-In-One unit!

    Due to my misunderstanding of the limitations of the Magnum MS2812 charge maintenance logic, I just ‘walked down’ a bank of X’s 4 Lifeline L16’s, at a way too young ~5 years of age. (Expensive lesson, and now depend on the MidNite Classic150 to maintain the battery banks.) I had planned to jump to Lithium when the Lifeline’s expired. (More for weight saving reasons then performance.) But dang it, working with Lifeline on trying to save the L16’s – they made me an offer of assistance to replace the bank with the same L16’s – that was too good to pass up!! So perhaps I’m lucky I did not jump to Lithium 2-3 months ago:)! Get to see how this new product shakes out, and have room in my tray to install it in place. So that is a plus too.

    Funny about the Chassis, our CAT MF 8D starter battery, with 1500 CCA was replaced in January. I went back and forth between X’s 2 of the same Fullriver Grp 31’s vs Lifeline’s 8D GPL-8DL. (Wanted AGM for starter this time, as I was planning to seal up the battery bay compartment for Lithium.) I ended up going with the Lifeline, because it used existing cables, was bit less money then the X’s 2 Fullrivers, and about the same weight (From memory, within 5-10 pounds each others.). Pleased with the 8D, both the CAT MF and now Lifeline, for starting out CAPS era 04 Country Coaches ISL. Yes, more CCA with the two Grp 31’s, but multiple starts in the high teens during Feb/Mar – and never felt the 8D struggled to get us started. Can’t go wrong with either Lifeline or Fullriver, from my research:)!

    On your soon to be 600AH, are you going to use 65-70% discharge as a target amount? Or go for the Full Monty and go 80% discharge or so? (600AH is the bank size I would go with for Lithium as it would actually increase my useable AH’s (800*50%=400AH’s vs 600*70%=420AH’s – for a 20AH increase. (My planned safety level, was to use 70%, at least until I learned how it all worked!)). Curious what your planned consumption threshold is?

    And appreciate your patience holding off on the Solar Upgrade, so you can share real world differences serving these two banks from the same panel array. That’s value added info!!!

    Reserving a good scotch to read the next installment!
    Best,
    Greg/Smitty

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      Hey Smitty! Sorry to hear you had that experience with your Magnum MS2812 and your Lifeline batteries! If you don’t mind sharing, what exactly was the issue that caused them to fail prematurely like that?

      But we TOTALLY get why you’d stick with Lifelines a second time if they gave you a deal good enough not to pass up! Lithium is still early-adopter-priced… so waiting a couple of years will just mean that more kinks are worked out and prices will come down.

      As far as our plans on depth of discharge percentage (DOD%)… we’re targeting an 80% DOD max. Technically, this battery has 90% useable. But, of course, doing so comes at the cost of lifecycles. At 80% DOD, we should be somewhere in the 3,000 cycles range… which is PLENTY of life for us. Using less will increase it… but using more would decrease it, and we want to avoid that if we can. So this 600Ah battery has a THEORETICAL max of 540Ah of useable power… but we’ll be targeting 480Ah as our practical limit. Not a bad increase, since the 4 x Lifeline GPL-4CT AGMs it’s replacing only had 220Ah (at 50% DOD). And it weighs 100lbs less! NICE!

      We don’t want to share too much here, as we don’t want to give it all away before we get the videos launched… plus, we’ve only got a week of use under our belts… but so far, so good. It’s been overcast and raining about 90% of the time, so we haven’t seen any solar benefit on this trip. But we’re loving the lifestyle improvements the lithium is already providing. We’re very happy!

      Hopefully the sun will come out again while we’re dry camping, so we can get a feel for how well it keeps up with demand. We know that 375W isn’t going to be enough… but it will be interesting to see how the lithium soaks up those solar electrons, and whether or not we see a difference in the amount of charging we get in a day.

      Thanks for hanging with us… and enjoy a nice glass of scotch! 😉

      1. The 80% DOD is the norm for Lithium, so understandable that would be your target DOD.

        The Magnum MS2812 (Perhaps others Magnums too(?)), has some very good programing and customizable parameters. And great tech support from Magnum. Pleased with their equipment. Timing was off a bit on our Solar install, with 1200W of 48V High Efficiency Panels – we needed a 96A capable controller. Magnum’s PT-100 came out ~4-6 months after we went with the MidNite Classic150 Controller. (Which we also like, but would have preferred to have had a full sweet of Magnum component, for KISS!).

        The mentioned we had the Lifeline’s L16’s, Basic Magnum background charge related settings were: >AGM1 (Lifeline) setting, for the bulk of their life. We made a change about 8 months before we lost the batteries, to go to Customize settings, because Lifeline made a slight increase to their recommended Float voltage. And the AGM1 settings were not specifically customizable; > Finish Charge was set to SOC at 100%; And we let Auto do it’s thing for Charge Efficiency. (Of course other settings too, but those were the main Charge ones.)

        We also had the Solar pumping into the mix, via the MidNite Classic 150 with WhzBngJr component. Which allowed us to use Ending Amps, to control ending the Full Charge cycles. (Ending Amps set to 4A, per the Lifeline recommended values for out 800AH bank.)

        The problem we had was while not using the coach, we’d park it next to our garage and a neighbors house, both with two stories in the mix, and creating sort of a ‘deep recess’ between the two homes. So due to heavy shading, while parked and the coach plugged into a 20A outlet, we would turnoff the MidNite Classic 150 controller feed of solar power.

        So, the Magnum MS2812 was doing the maintenance of the House and Chassis battery. More info, we have the BMK Meter, AGS, Smart Battery Combiner, Temperature Sensor, etc. And, we leave Chassis and House battery connects ‘On’, as well as our Samsung Fridge. We also had the Inverter left on, in case of power outages.

        All the background complete. Here is where we found a flaw, too late for that bank, in the Magnum charging logic.

        -Once the MS2812 goes to Full Charge, it monitors ‘Voltage’ (This is not heavy used voltage, but with basically idle demand draws of about 15-20A, the battery ‘Voltage’ was for sure not a ‘Resting Voltage’.) to determine when to restart back up charging.

        -The MS2812 looks for a battery voltage drop below 12.7V, so basically 12.6V, before starting back up the charger.

        -The charge goes to Float mode, and the Float only runs for 4 hours.

        -My bank of 800AH’s, at 12.6V, is at ~ 85% SOC. Float for 4 hours, is not enough to bring the batteries back fo Full Charge Voltage levels.

        So in our earlier travels this year to Arizona, we’d sometimes have LBCO cut off the inverter when brewing the AM coffee. All of our about 5 years time with this bank, we lived mostly on the top 20-25% of the battery. (Most AM’s, after brewing the coffee, we’d be at the 75% SOC indicated level.). And, the same thing was detected after we had two LBCO occurrences. I’d check the SOC before brewing, and be in the mid to high 70% SOC indicated range. So. the battery bank seemed not be able to handle higher voltage draws, and would LBCO to protect itself. (Again, only recently had this occurred, as we’d never had a problem while boon docking in the previous 5 years.

        Long story short here. Much help form IRV and RV.Net and other sources members. Help from Magnum Tech Support. Help from Lifeline Tech Support. Multiple ‘Conditioning’ (Equalize, Lifeline calls it conditioning.) attempts, over about a 5-7 week period, to try and restore the banks life.

        Lifeline Tech believes that I ‘walked the battery down’, due to the non in usage parking at the house. (We go out for 3-5 months trips, then would have it parked next door for 1-3 months of non usage.) The Magnum MS2812, once it reached Full Charge. Would go into the cycle of waiting or the voltage to drop to 12.6V, then go into Float for 4 hours – not returning the bank to true fully charged condition. And slowly sulfate build occurred on the matts. (I had never noticed a loss of usage in the battery bank until easier this year, so, had never Conditioned the bank until after LBCO kicked in.) The Tech believes I should have done my yearly audit (Which I admit I did not do.), and it would have detected the slow ‘walk down’, and I could have Conditioned periodically to knock off the sulfate build up.

        In hindsight, for larger banked batteries, specially AGM’s, the MS2812’s AGM1 setting should have used different parameters for ‘Maintenance’ after Full Charge was reached. (The 12.6V value, is fine for Wet, not AGM or my case AGM1 Lifeline needs. And, 4 hours of Float, even on a Wet battery, when the bank size is set to say ‘large bank size’ (800AH is a good size bank, but larger banks of 1000 and more, are becoming more and more common on larger all electric coaches.) – is not adequate maintenance for these type and size banks. (They also might have used SOC vs Voltage, as they do have pretty good SOC logic via Charge Efficiency Learning, to determine when to start back up ‘Maintenance’ charging. For example, if they had allowed a user controlled parameter of say 95% SOC, to trigger back on the Float, and a ‘How Long Float’ in Maintenance mode – it could have served my specific bank of Lifeline’s a bit better.

        Not knocking Magnum. But after sharing this info on a few boards, I’ve found out I’m not alone with my bad ‘assumption’ that the Magnum AGM1 (Lifeline) setting, had ‘ALL’ of the conditions programmed to appropriate support my bank of Lifeline Batteries. Not the case, so I self inflicted the early demise of this specific bank… (And note, the Lifeline Tech Support person I worked with, was also a bit surprised at what had happened.

        My two expensive learning opportunities on this one were: 1) Smart Battery Chargers, are not all that smart for all conditions of battery management and maintenance; 2) Active participation by an owner, using experiences and doing yearly audits (No Specific Gravity test can be done with AGM or Lithium.) of health – are part of the ownership experience.

        I now do the following: Leave the Solar Controller on, while in storage. Even just a few hours of sun, dramatically reduces the slow discharge of the house bank. I have a monthly calendar reminder, to go ‘trick’ the MS2812 into feeding a good long charge to the house bank. I’ve changed Equalize value down to Lifeline Absorb Voltage levels. And I then ‘Equalize’ for with the MS2812 (At Absorb voltage level.), which is a four hour run. I do this Monthly, regardless of stated SOC levels. This is to help keep sulfate from building up on this banks mats. And, I’ll now be doing the yearly procedure Lifeline recommends, and chart the health of the bank. If I notice slow lower of capacity, I’ll set the MS2812 back to Lifeline recommended values for Conditioning, and due a full Condition at the Conditioning voltage level.

        One other interesting observation. Though Magnum MS2812 has a Ending Amps parameter for detecting Full Charge. It is measured at the ‘Inverter/Charger’ unit, NOT via the BMK Meter. So it does not see or account for the actual 15-20A ‘At Idle’ consumption. So, the Ending Amps of 4 for my banks, would never be met. (Some try to trick it, by say taking the At Idle AH, and adding the appropriate Ending Amps for the their bank. (Maybe for me I’d use 17 (Mid between the 15-20A at idle.) + 4A (Ending Value) = 21A to be used as Magnum’s Ending Amp value. But for now, I’ve elected to still use SOC 100% as the Ending to Full charge – along with the more active involvement on my part for the management of maintaining this bank of batteries.

        ====

        Long winded, but wanted to share as much as possible, and most of this is from memory on my part. After spending a good 5-8 weeks of heavy interactions with the companies above, learn what happened to my battery bank. So please anyone reading this, do your own due diligence and fact checking of the info I’ve shared. Now 4 months has gone by, and some of the details could have faded:)!

        Best to all,
        Smitty

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          Hey Smitty! Thanks so much for the detailed reply! The reason we asked is because we thought we might have suffered some of the same fate with our Magnum MS2812 and our Lifeline batteries. While we had them for 7 years… the last 2 of those 7 were definitely sub-par, and we were just limping along. Because our travel plans over that time period tended away from longer dry-camping stints, we didn’t have the impetus to replace them sooner. But they’d had it. We never felt that the Magnum was properly charging them… and over time, they definitely began to show it. We had changed to a custom profile (with Lifeline’s new recommendations for charging voltages), but that never helped.

          We have to say, the old Lifelines DID start showing signs of some improvement when we replaced the Magnum with our new Xantrex FSW. But five years in, the damage had been done and they never really recovered.

          C’est la vie. Like you said, an expensive learning experience… but one we hope we won’t have to re-experience now that we’re lithium-powered! 😉

          Hope the new regimen works out and keeps those AGMs humming along and happy for many years!

          1. I should have been more clear on our Lifeline’s. I had budgeted for them to last ~6-8 years. And with them designed to live on the top ~75%, the usage of DOD Life Cycles should have supported that target replacement age.

            After the multiple Conditioning runs, they did come back some. I’d SWAG it at about 85% of original capacity. So with even a pretend effort of conservation (Which we have never done in 5 years or so of usage.), and maybe a bit more generator usage when in heavy shades or snow covered panels, we for sure could have limped along fine for probably another year or so.

            Lifeline Tech Support did offer to ship me one of their heavier duty chargers, a big sucker it be, to do more heavy Conditioning runs on the batteries, one at a time. They felt that this could/should knock of a bit more of the sulfate build up. But then they offered me the price discount on a replacement bank – and it was a 5 second thought process on my part, before I said ‘Yes, and Thank Your!’. (I live about 80 mins away from the Lifeline warehouse in Southern California. Had just driven up in January to pick up the 8D Starting battery, so another half a tank of gas in my truck – and I drove home with the new House Bank. I like knowing I’m getting fresh stock, going to the warehouse itself to pick up my batteries. A real plus.

            I can’t say enough positive things about the way Lifeline backs their great products. I was completely out of the warranty period, and it was clear that it was my error in maintaining the bank – and yet they still offered to help.

            I’d like to see Magnum enhance their Manual to talk about more specially about AGM1 (Lifeline) and AGM2 (Other AGM’s) battery management. I’d also like to see logic changes that allows user controlled parameters on coming out of Fully Charge. When to come out of fully charge (SOC vs Voltage), and Either Absorb or Float cycle choices. (Larger battery banks, require more time to charge.)

            Sort of repeating myself here, so will stop:)!

            Looking forward to your next chapter with the Lithium install,
            Smitty

  5. Great video of a topic I’m very interested in, along with many RVers. I’m most familiar with the setup that Chris and Cherie have in their bus. The question I have is, why is the temperature of water freezing and the LifePo batteries not charging the same? Do they contain liquid? Anyway, I’m planning on subscribing to your Patreon channel to follow your adventures on this topic. I’d love to trade out my 960 amp-hours of lead acid batteries, just to lose the weight.

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      Hi David! Glad you’re interested in this topic! It’s certainly a big one these days, with Lithium-based batteries gaining steam in the industry! And you’re right… it is strange that the lithium chemistry batteries have an issue at 32°F/0°C just like water… but as we understand it, it’s not an issue with an electrolyte “freezing”. From what we’ve read, the issue is that with colder temperatures, the chemical reaction(s) in the battery slow down. At 32°F, the reaction has slowed sufficiently that it can’t keep up with any significant input of power and what happens is that metallic lithium begins to crystallize. Left unchecked for long enough, the lithium crystals end up damaging the cells in the battery, eventually destroying it. Most (good quality) lithium battery manufacturers will employ temperature sensors and a relay/solenoid that the BMS can trigger to disconnect the battery completely to keep it from charging if it reaches those temperatures.

      And you sure would be able to save a LOT of weight with lithium! The single, 160-lb Xantrex Freedom e-GEN battery we have installed has a USEABLE capacity of 540 amp-hours… vs the 480 useable amp-hours you have now! Unfortunately, the Xantrex battery is not currently available for retail/aftermarket purchase. As we mentioned in the video, this is the first installation of the self-heating variant. Xantrex has several Class B manufacturers (Coachmen and Midwest Automotive Designs that we know of) who are installing the non-heated version as a factory-installed option (since it was designed into the coach, it can be placed in a spot protected from freezing & excessive heat). But we are a case study & showcase for the system’s use in Class A motorhomes… and we’re hoping the success of the installation will lead to an accelerated push into aftermarket sales.

      If you do decide to join us on Patreon, we look forward to seeing you there! Thanks!

  6. I am REALLY interested in this topic! I am just an electronic nerd. I’ve watched every video y’all have made (probably more than once)(and did again yesterday on the bleaching fresh water tank because I just upgraded motor coaches again). I originally bought a Newmar Dutchstar several years back because I just like how much you all support them and I am proud to say I bought a used Essex last week!! Their build and quality is unmatched in the industry! So excited to tackle all the fun upgrades y’all have on the site. Happy Trails and keep those awesome videos coming!

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      Author

      Thanks so much, Jonathan! We’re really glad to hear you’ve enjoyed our videos… and that our love & enthusiasm for our Newmar comes through AND is shared! Sounds like you’ve had an equally-good time with your Newmars. Hooray! We’ve got a lot more videos coming about these upgrades and we’re really excited to share them all! Thanks for watching!

  7. Cool, great, wow! Can I have one???

    Good to see John in front of the camera.
    Guys, I just signed up with your Patron because this is a project dear to my heart. When Chris wrote about his battery farm upgrade in their bus, I though this is what I want. But the more I researched it (then, not now), the more I realized the technology was not ready for my RV. The new chemistry has been around for a number of years, but this is the first time I have seen the battery enclosure to deal with the temp issue. While freezing is an issue, so is hot weather. I hope you will touch on that as well in your project.

    As an FYI, I installed my first PV system in 2001 on my old 5’th wheel. Then I started moving my PV system to our house when we were not traveling. Over the year, this became old as I aged. Today I have a large PV system on the house that also charges our Ford C-Max Energi toad when we are home. This car is also the best toad I ever had. See http://mangles.net/fun/projects/2014-Phaeton/

    During the last few years I have considered putting PV on the RV. But I thought I wanted to upgrade the battery farm first. Now I see I may finally be able to do it all.

    So with all that said, I signed up with your Patron as I really see value in your project and future endeavors. This should NOT imply I have not enjoyed your years of video. You hooked me with putting foil around celery and microwave corn on the cob.

    cheers, mike

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      Hi Mike!

      First off, welcome and thank you so much for your generous support on Patreon. We very much appreciate your being here with us.

      Second…. sorry to report that no, you can’t have one. Unfortunately, I’m not kidding at this point. It’s not a product they’ve brought to market yet. Unlike a product intro, which we’ve done for Roadmaster with the Nighthawk, we don’t know the future of this battery. We’ve installed it conjunction with Xantrex as a case study and a showcase for the tech. They may bring this out first as an OEM-only product, with the ability to purchase it as an upgrade kit later… but we just don’t know yet. We’re hoping that our publicizing the first-ever use of the system in a Class A RV (similar e-GEN systems are now becoming available as OEM on some class B rigs, but without the heated feature) might lead to a groundswell of interest that leads Xantrex to sell it sooner, rather than later.

      We know they’re generally headed in that direction, and we assume they didn’t just outfit our rig with this for the fun of it. But currently, we have the only one available (now please don’t tell us we’re going to have to hide our location to keep you from pilfering it in the middle of the night). 😂

      As experienced as you are with solar, you’ll appreciate the plans we (hopefully) have for next year. The intention is to live with, and report on, the lithium system over the next few seasons (we’re especially interested in comparing our past Desert SW winter snowbirding to this upcoming winter with the new e-GEN) and then slather the roof with ample solar next year to replace our embarrassingly-inadequate-and-only-keeping-it-for-test-purposes 375 watts.

      We actually considered the Ford C-Max a couple of years ago, but decided to stick with our Honda (stick), since it’s got plenty of life left in it, and we hate bailing on perfectly good gear. Besides, I’ve (Peter) never owned an automatic transmission in my entire life, and now the idea of having to go through a lot of steps to tow would be a let-down. We connect our Honda, put it in neutral, and tow at any speed for any distance. Hard to beat!

      It’s so funny you mentioned the corn & celery videos, because although they’re very well-viewed, they’re obviously off-topic for us, and we assume usually most-seen by non-RVers. Glad we could help in the culinary department!

  8. Wow! Great information. I had 320 watts of solar installed last year with room for one more panel if needed. My 230 amp/hr 6 volt flooded batteries have worked so far, however, your information on LifPo Lithium is just the information I need and I will probably need to upgrade my charger-inverter. I look forward to your next videos on this installation.

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  9. Every time I turn on one of your videos it costs me money, solar system, Viair, Tough Top, and now Lithium batteries when will the pain every end! I’m very thankful that you’re waiting for Newmar to update their cabinets and make room for a King bed on their New Aire, otherwise I’d need to find a 2nd job!

    Great work guys, really looking forward to your new project and very timely for me. Just yesterday I was looking into adding more Lifelines to my existing 2 year old bank, same old story didn’t buy enough when I ditched the Norcold.

    I’ve been thinking about Lithium recently and having installed a few small pieces from Victron, I’m getting hooked on their products. Although the cold temperature issues have me thinking twice, I guess we need to start wintering where it’s sunny rather than Whistler.

    The Xantrex battery solution seems to be the perfect answer for the cold temperatures, I’m keenly waiting part 2 of your project.

    Thanks again guys for a fantastic job and also blazing the trail.

    Graeme Arnott

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      Hi Graeme! Sorry to be costing you, but we have some good… and bad… news about this. The good news is that we’ll be saving you money… at least for now. That’s because the Xantrex battery isn’t available for purchase at this point. So we suppose that’s the bad news, too. This is a case study and showcase for the new technology, and we don’t know how and when it might become available. It might start off as an OEM-only offering, but we’re hoping that any interest we can help bring might lead to an aftermarket kit, too.

      As far as temperature goes, Whistler is indeed a poor choice for typical non-heated lithiums batteries! But actually, so is the Desert SW. We’ve talked with other RVers who are planning various lithium conversions, and when asked about the freezing issue, and the importance of installing them in a heated, indoor space (rarely, if ever, where the original flooded lead-acid bank was installed), we’ve heard that some people plan to simply avoid boondocking in cold weather, and would only stay hooked up.

      That totally misses the point. House batteries are always in use, even when hooked up (everything that uses 12 volts at the very least), which means that without power coming into them, lithiums will shut down at some point. They don’t care if you’re hooked up, running the generator, have solar, driving (alternator charging) or not. The moment your batteries temperature sensors show that they’re below freezing (even the Desert SW goes below freezing at night), they will cease to take a charge, and the clock will start ticking. If you run out of power before you return to a warmer climate, your 12-volt system is dead until you do, hook-ups or not.

      Stay tuned for part 2 next Wednesday! :)

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  10. This is very timely for me. I presently use AGMs for the house but the system is inadequate for boon docking. Been considering replacing with Lithiums gaining power without having to rebuild the compartment. Looking forward to your reports and hopefully you will be able to secure deep discounts for all of us.

    Vern

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      Hi Vern! We’re sorry to report that, at least for the time being, we can’t arrange any discounts because this battery isn’t for sale yet. We’re working with Xantrex to showcase the technology, and hopefully any interest we help generate will play a part in getting this to market sooner. We’re not sure what their plans are yet… possibly to make this an OEM offering to start… but we’ll of course be sure to keep you posted.

  11. Glad to see you’re going to use the scientific method as you upgrade your rig. Too many people do everything at once.

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      Thanks, David. We thought it would be a good way to get a feel for how each element of the complete system changes the performance. But we admit that it was hard… since we really just wanted to get the 100% complete system in place all at once! 😉 Stay tuned!

  12. Oh my, what a project! This will be a good experiment. This is a bit weird, but just yesterday afternoon I was wondering about how well your Lifeline AGM batteries were performing as I’m thinking about upgrading to them. I want to get rid of the constant maintenance of my flooded cell batteries. So…today I get the answer. Too weird. Thank you for your excellent info and videos! They help us average capable RVers cope with our complicated machines. By the way, stay away from a late model Newmar test drive. I took one about a month ago and it IS all it is cracked-up to be!

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      We can confess now, Doug… we’ve been reading your mind for quite some time now! LOL! Glad this came out in time for your decision process. In short, our Lifelines worked great for most of the 7 years we had them in… did exactly what we wanted them to do (and what you’re looking to accomplish): turn the batteries into a no-maintenance component. It was definitely nice not having to worry about outgassing, checking water levels, etc. If we were doing a direct replacement of our Lifeline AGMs (instead of upgrading to Lithium), we’d be looking at Fullriver’s DC250-6 batteries. They are only slightly larger than the Lifelines… but are 250Ah each instead of 220. So in the same footprint, you could get more bang for the buck. We found Fullriver during our research and were impressed with their products and reputation (plus friends of ours have had a set of them in their RV for several years and have been very happy with them).

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