Battery

electrifying dreamstime xl 20820417 800xWe’re still on the electrical trail this week, but I promise I’ll have some more entertaining stuff for you soon. Mind you, electricity can get quite entertaining if you don’t do things correctly, just ask this guy!

There is a conundrum that has cropped up while helping customers plan the change-over from lead-acid batteries to a RELiON lithium battery bank, and we’ll be getting to that soon. But first let’s review current practices for charging multiple battery banks.

Relion coverIf you haven’t heard on the grape-vine by now, or seen it on our web site, Coastal Climate Control is very pleased to announce that it’s now offering Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries from RELiON. These are great products from a great company, and Coastal is stocking the most popular sizes, ready for immediate sale.

Many of you will no doubt be aware of the enormous advantages of LiFePO4 batteries, and there is a whole bunch of information regarding RELiON batteries on our web site here.

We’ve been asked how to charge a lithium battery bank when the boat has been set up for Flooded, GEL, or AGM lead-acid batteries, so let’s look at some of the characteristics of LiFePO4 batteries.

shorai melted 03
They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but go tell that to the few fledgling marine lithium-ion battery manufacturers of a few years ago. The well-publicized failures of a few specialized batteries sowed the seeds of doubt and insecurity regarding the safety aspect that we’re still trying to shake off to this day.

Sure, it’s well known that, compared to lead-acid equivalents like AGM’s, lithium-ion batteries are lighter, deliver far more power, charge much, much faster, have a lot more useable capacity, will last many times longer, and are a far more savvy investment over the long run. But could they actually be as safe, or better still, safer than good ol’ lead-acid versions?

Let’s first look at how unsafe lead-acid batteries can become when abused, charged from faulty or incorrectly set equipment, and manufacturers’ guidelines are ignored.

tesla interior roberto nickson g 237027 unsplash 640x431So Elon Musk has parked his Tesla in the Milky Way or wherever. Just imagine having the capability and resources to do that, and the mind boggles at the thought of what else you could dispose of up there in the big blue yonder. I presume that he removed the battery before take-off, because those things are heavy.

Yes, I know they are Lithium Ion (LI) batteries, but those are not as light as some imagine. I know this from when I drive my Chevy Volt to my office in Tesla Drive (a bit ironic don’t you think) and feel how solid and sure-footed it is on the highway. That’s because it weighs about 800 pounds more than a similarly sized Chevy Cruze due to the hefty battery pack. But thanks to that 17kw lump, I have sizzling, silent acceleration and decent range in a very stable platform.

Talk is that there’s soon to be an Electric GT motor racing series featuring a modified Tesla. This will no doubt have phenomenal out-of-the-box performance, but weighs in at about 200 pounds more than my road-going Volt, and where less weight = more speed (i.e. on the race track) that means a lot of lithium to be grappling with lurching around the bendy bits.

I started tinkering with LI batteries six years ago, and even made my own 100 amp/hr pack from bits and bobs I bought online. I did it primarily to investigate whether that might be a viable alternative to the few expensive and complex marine LI systems available back then, but soon realized that the safety aspect was paramount.

Those specialized marine LI systems featured external Battery Management Systems (BMS) that could cut loads and/or charging devices if anything got slightly out of whack, and when you’re in the middle of an ocean that’s a pretty important feature. Most of the online offerings I came across were for auto use, where it’s assumed that if something goes wrong you can pull over to side of the road, hop out, and run away. Not so good for a yacht where the closest land may be a just mile away, but happens to be straight down, on the ocean floor.

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