Skip to Content

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

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

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 CRMA50-12-RV50 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 CRMA50-12-RV50

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!


Recent & Related Videos:


Featured & Related Products:

We'd Love It If You Shared This!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Don

Friday 15th of November 2019

I've been searching around considering an AC system for my RV and powering it by batteries. I was digging around looking for some switching type system to allow me to power my 50V RV (both legs) using a 3000 watt Renogy multi-bus inverter/charger while still being able to plug into 50 amp shore power when desired w/o needing to reconfigure anything. The folks at Battle Born said that AM Solar had a device, but thought it was only available in a bundle from AM Solar. I contacted AM solar, and low and behold they now offer such a unit. Can you imagine, running everything on your rig when hooked up to 30Amps, or running 30 amps when hooked up to 15 amp power? Or even just having 3000 watts available on any outlet of your rig while boondocking? https://amsolar.com/rv-inverter-accessories/50-tsfmb Don Hediger (Headin' Out)

TheRVgeeks

Monday 18th of November 2019

Hi Don! Sorry for the delayed reply... we were in Fredericksburg, TX for the premiere of "The RVers" and have been a bit disconnected. We haven't seen that unit from AM Solar, but it's definitely an intriguing option. Especially for a retrofit situation in conjunction with a hybrid inverter! Thanks for sharing it... it's always good to be aware of options like this!

JoeC

Monday 8th of October 2018

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.

TheRVgeeks

Tuesday 9th of October 2018

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!)!

Jeff King

Monday 11th of June 2018

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 ?

TheRVgeeks

Monday 11th of June 2018

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.

Craig

Friday 8th of June 2018

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!

TheRVgeeks

Friday 8th of June 2018

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! ?

Smitty

Thursday 7th of June 2018

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

TheRVgeeks

Thursday 7th of June 2018

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! ?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

PLEASE NOTE: 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 participate in the Amazon affiliate program, which provides a means for us to earn a small commission by linking to products there. But our opinions are our own and we only link to products we can recommend to friends with complete confidence. And using our links won't cost you an extra penny!