If you’ve been in the RV world at all, chances are you’ve heard about lithium batteries. Everyone seems to be installing epic solar systems with lithium battery banks and showing off their latest set up on social media and YouTube.
The saying “Lead is Dead” rings throughout the RV community, and countless travelers are making the switch. But are lithium batteries really that great? And is it actually worth the cost to switch from the more affordable lead-acid alternative?
In this article, we aim to answer these questions. We explore everything to know about lithium batteries, their pros and cons, and whether you should consider upgrading your battery bank.
Let’s dig in!
What Is a Lithium Battery?
A lithium battery is a leading battery technology that uses lithium-ions as the electrons. Most deep-cycle lithium batteries consist of multiple cells that include an anode, a cathode, an electrolyte, and a separator.
To create the needed chemical reaction, lithium batteries are typically made of lithium-metal oxide (like lithium-cobalt oxide) for the cathode and graphite for the anode. This allows lithium ions to move from the negative electrode (the anode), through the electrolyte, to the positive electrode (the cathode).
Because lithium loses electrons very easily, these batteries are extremely energy-dense. That means they can produce a lot of energy compared to their size. This is why lithium batteries are so popular for small devices, such as smartphones and laptops. They truly pack a punch.
How Are Lithium Batteries Used in RVs?
Lithium batteries are typically used as house batteries, which means they store the electricity that your RV’s appliances and devices use. This includes your microwave, coffee maker, lights, outlets, etc. To charge your lithium house batteries, you’ll need some kind of power source such as solar power, a generator, or even your engine’s alternator if you’re in a motorhome.
Your batteries then store this energy as DC electricity until you need to use it. To convert the DC power to AC power (which will allow you to use your outlets), you’ll need an inverter.
Can You Use Lithium Batteries in Any RV?
Yes! Virtually any RV that accepts house batteries can use them (which is nearly all RVs, perhaps with the exception of some bare-bones pop-up campers). Anywhere you use a deep cycle house battery, you have the option to upgrade to lithium.
You may need a few pieces of equipment to make the switch.
Pro Tip: Ready to switch to lithium RV batteries? Make installing simple with Your Easy Guide for Lithium Battery DIY.
Benefits of Using a Lithium Battery in Your RV
So should you upgrade to lithium? Let’s take a look at the advantages of these high-tech batteries.
Incredibly Long Lasting
Lithium batteries are extremely energy-dense compared to other deep-cycle batteries. Because of this, they can emit more power for longer periods. In fact, they last, on average, 10 times longer than their lead-acid competitors.
Stores More Energy
Not only do lithium batteries store more energy compared to lead-acid batteries, but they also have a greater depth of discharge as well. Meaning, they hold more usable energy. For example, lead-acid batteries only have a depth of discharge rate of 50% (don’t discharge your battery more than halfway).
Lithium batteries have a depth of discharge rate of 80% to 95%. So, you’ll be riding around with the most energy-dense batteries on the market, and you can use nearly all the energy they hold!
No Fluid Needed
If you’ve ever had lead-acid batteries in your RV, you probably remember driving around with jugs of distilled water. Luckily, watering your batteries is a thing of the past when you have lithium batteries. Because they’re fully sealed, they are virtually maintenance-free. You won’t have to worry about checking the fluid once a month.
Because lithium batteries are extremely energy-dense, they can hold more electricity in a smaller battery. Specifically, lithium batteries are one-third the weight of lead-acid batteries for the same power. And as we all know, weight is everything when you’re mobile.
What Are the Downsides of Lithium Batteries?
Like anything, lithium batteries aren’t perfect. And despite their many benefits, they might not be the right battery for you. Let’s take a look at the most common disadvantages of lithium batteries.
The Price Point
Lithium batteries are much more expensive when it comes to up-front costs. Their high price point can be a major obstacle for those who want to upgrade from lead-acid but can’t afford it. In general, you’ll pay around $800 for a 12V 100Ah lithium-ion battery, while you can find 12V 100Ah lead-acid batteries for as low as $175. Unfortunately, this price difference is a deal-breaker for many.
Installing Can Be a Challenge
If you’re considering upgrading to a lithium battery setup, you’ll have to factor in the installation costs (or at least the time to do so). Not everyone is comfortable rewiring their RV’s electrical system, and installing lithium batteries can be slightly more complicated.
Like most kinds of batteries, lithium batteries are affected by extreme temperatures. As a general rule of thumb, chemical reactions move faster in hot temperatures and slower in cold temperatures. Therefore, during very cold temperatures, lithium batteries may have difficulty charging. Moreover, they may overperform during scorching temperatures, shortening their lives.
Nevertheless, all chemical reactions are affected by temperature to some degree, and you’ll find similar issues with other types of batteries as well.
Are Lithium Batteries Overhyped?
No, they’re not. They have completely revolutionized our modern society as we know it. They’re the reason why smartphones can fit in our pockets, why laptops are thin and portable, and why electric vehicles have become so mainstream. When it comes to efficiency and energy density, no other battery technology compares. RVers everywhere are enjoying the benefits.
Pro Tip: We uncovered the truth about these 5 Myths of RV Lithium Batteries.
Is It Worth Upgrading to Lithium Batteries?
Do you plan on traveling often? Can you afford the upfront costs of a lithium battery set up? If your answer is yes to these two questions, we think the upgrade is totally and completely worth it.
While lithium batteries cost more than lead-acid batteries, they deliver much more power, have a longer lifespan, and will save you the headache of having to keep up with maintenance. To put it plainly, RVers who have upgraded their battery systems to lithium are typically very happy they did so. We think you’ll feel the same way!
Do you plan on upgrading to lithium? Let us know in the comments below!
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