Thursday, September 28, 2023


RV lithium batteries: Fact versus fiction

By Cheri Sicard
Jared Gillis from All About RVs (one of our readers’ favorite RV YouTubers) has produced a useful video below and separates fact from fiction on the topic of RV lithium batteries. He also shares the lithium batteries he uses to power his full-time digital nomad RV lifestyle. But for the most part, the advice will apply to other brands as well.

The idea for this video came about because Jared kept hearing different things about RV lithium batteries being repeated over and over again. He knew from experience some of these shared bits of internet wisdom were true. Others not so much.

On to busting the most popular RV lithium battery myths!

# 1 Lithium batteries aren’t safe

Jared often hears that lithium batteries come with an increased risk of the battery catching on fire or exploding, but he emphasizes the importance of realizing that ANY battery that stores a large amount of energy has the potential for a type of “catastrophic failure.”

More importantly, he says that the RV lithium batteries are different from the exploding lithium batteries you might have heard about on the news. RV lithium batteries use an entirely different type of chemistry, usually lithium-ion phosphate, which is safer and more stable.

According to Jared, you have more hazard and explosion potential with a lead-acid battery than you do with a lithium battery.

For instance, lead-acid batteries must be stored in a vented box because they give off harmful gases. Lithium batteries do not need to be vented as they give off no such gases.

He also points out that there is a popular myth circulating that you don’t need to vent AGM batteries, which he says is not true. Watch the video for details.

Another built-in safety feature with RV lithium batteries is their BMS (battery management system) that protects the battery from operating outside its safe operating area, monitoring its state, controlling its environment, and more. Watch the video for details because even with a built-in BMS it’s still possible to use your RV lithium batteries improperly.

# 2 You can’t use lithium batteries in the cold

Jared says this is only halfway true.

Depending on the manufacturer, different RV lithium batteries will have different stats. For his example, Jared chose Battle Born because they are a well-respected popular brand.

He says a lot of people are surprised that you can still pull power out of your RV lithium batteries at -4 degrees F—in other words, well below freezing.

However when it comes to charging the battery, that’s where you will need to wait until it warms up a bit. It needs to be above 24 degrees F to charge your RV lithium batteries, at least in Battle Born batteries. Anything below that would do damage to the battery, although the BMS should protect it from happening.

On the higher end, the BMS will shut the battery down when it reaches 135 degrees F. Hopefully, that won’t ever happen. But with some of the record temperatures we have seen, it makes you wonder.

In the video, Jared makes a comparison between RV lithium batteries and typical RV lead acid batteries in regard to temperature and how far you can drain each without damaging the battery.

#3 You can use an RV lithium battery 100% before recharging

In other words, you drain it down to zero and use all the power in it. This is another thing that Jared says is not 100% true, but if you look at it in practical terms, it kind of is.

Jared explains in detail in the video, but this essentially means that the BMS will shut the battery off before it drains to the point of doing damage. So yes, in the instance of our Battle Born lithium battery examples, you can get the 100 rated amp hours out of it, but the BMS is shutting the battery off before it gets too low and where damage would occur.

#4 You can charge a lithium battery five times faster than a lead acid battery

Jared says you technically can, but you probably shouldn’t, in order to protect your investment in your RV lithium batteries. Watch the video for the technical explanation of how you should charge your lithium batteries for maximum life and why. But you can safely charge at double the rate of typical lead acid batteries.

#5 Lithium batteries are expensive

Yes, the price point of RV lithium batteries can make them an investment to get into. However, if you look at the watt hours you will get out of them, the argument can be made that they are less expensive than their lead-acid counterparts. Not to mention, the price of lithium RV batteries is coming down and the number of manufacturers entering the market is going up. With more competition, prices are likely to continue to become more affordable.



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Neal Davis
21 days ago

Thank you, Cheri! I saw this video a few days ago, but you remind me that it bears watching two or more times to ingrain the lessons.

22 days ago

Slight correction to the article: it’s lithium iron phosphate, not lithium ion phosphate.

Mark Kaye
22 days ago

Battle Born batteries are starting to show failures due to an internal connection becoming loose – this is more common in RV’s where the vibration is higher
always do some research on failures & warranty before plunking a lot of cash down on a lithium battery

Tommy Molnar
23 days ago

I learned a lot about lithium batteries AFTER I bought them. One of the things I learned from talking to tech support at Expion 360 is that lithium batteries should not be stored at 100% charge. They should be stored at about 60-70% charge level. I’ve had to make some changes to my whole battery charging system to accommodate this.
Morningstar (the mfg of my MPPT solar controller) helped me do a custom charging program to adapt to the lithium batteries. And some other stuff as well . . .

Cheri Sicard
22 days ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

I am about to get lithium batteries, thanks for the heads up.

Jim Johnson
23 days ago

Until I can find a reasonably priced Lithium battery with a built-in heater* (they exist) AND will satisfactorily charge off my TT’s built-in power center (designed for flooded or AGM lead-acid batteries) … in other words the Lithium battery is designed to be a drop-in replacement for the TT’s current deep cycle system… I will stick with AGM.

However if (heaven forbid) I am forced to replace my TT’s power center, the replacement will support Lithium.

*been through two winter storms in south Texas cold enough to preclude recharging most Lithium batteries.

23 days ago
Reply to  Jim Johnson

“Until I can find a reasonably priced Lithium battery with a built-in heater”

You will be waiting a very long time, and if you were to be able to buy what you want, it would be expensive because they would have to add a charge controller to the battery to protect it.

I built my own battery from 16 280ah cells for a 15kw 48v battery. I put 1400w of solar on the roof of my RV and replaced the old charge controller/inverter.

All in? …. just under $5000. and it would be $500 cheaper today as the cells when purchased were $160 ea and they can be had now for less than $130 in stock in Houston. I used a top of the line BMS from Overkill Solar, and built the battery box from a steel job-site tool box lined with 1/2″ closed cell neoprene.

*IF* you are getting good service from your conventional LA batteries, why change?

For the once a year RV trip or the weekender lifestyle, the cost to go to Lithium is steep, but as a full-time RV resident, I was burning over $200 a month in gas for the generators( yes plural) to run “my stuff”….

My AIO (All-in-one solar charge controller and inverter) utilizes a 48v battery and can support up to 5kw of solar and 3000w of 110 out. I use a 48v – 12v converter to supply house 12 needs,

RVNaut on Youtube

23 days ago

This Summer’s extreme temperatures killed my 7 month old AGM. Vendor gave me a 100% refund because they had no replacement.
Heat is tough on any battery.

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