The NexGen batteries we bought for our motorhome are working well. We are finding these lithium ion batteries have advantages over deep cycle, 12-volt lead-acid batteries commonly used in RVs.
About eight months back we were in the market for new house batteries for our motorhome. The batteries in our motorhome were about five years old. The previous owner expounded on how well the batteries worked. She told stories of how many days they would work without charging, and how dim the lights would get before the water pump wouldn’t run. In her ignorance, she was bragging about how badly she had abused the batteries. Knowing deep cycle batteries never should be discharged below 50 percent, we were surprised the batteries lasted as long as they did.
We looked at the less expensive, standard lead acid batteries, and the
expensive, absorbed glass mat (AGM) batteries, trying to compare cost,
capacity, longevity and charging ability. The AGM batteries didn’t
In our research, we came across lithium ion batteries. My first thoughts were, "Aren’t those the kind that go haywire, blow up, and make airplanes fall from the sky?" After a little research, I found this happened under certain unusual circumstances that aren’t going to happen in my RV.
The lithium ion batteries I was looking at also had a built-in power control board with short circuit protection, reverse polarity protection, and over voltage protection. Satisfied they were safe, I looked further into these totally different batteries.
There is a lot of information and misinformation out there. There are
YouTube personalities using their fame to support their personal
opinions, and people selling lithium ion batteries promising the sky.
There’s a lot of chaff to separate from the grain, so to speak.
Based on my research and our experience, below are some of the things I've learned and believe about lithium ion batteries.
Lithium Ion batteries can be run down to virtually no charge without harm or degradation. They can be fully cycled up to 5000 times, as compared to 200-300 times for a lead acid battery. With this kind of life span, I expect to move these batteries into at least our next RV, and probably the one after that.
Lithium ion batteries, unlike lead acid batteries, can be fast-charged. They have little internal resistance and don’t over heat from heavy charging. They can be charged with most any charging system already in place for existing lead acid batteries.
The low internal resistance means the charge put to the batteries is absorbed more readily, making them more efficient. More energy from our solar panels will actually get into the lithium ion batteries. If we need to charge them with shore power or with a generator, doing so will take less electricity than if we were charging lead acid batteries. We didn’t have to alter our existing charging system.
Lithium ion batteries have no acid to leak or seep. I removed all the corrosion from the battery cable ends before installing them. We should now have absolutely no corrosion on our battery terminals. There is no maintenance, at all, period.
We watch our charge levels on the controller. If it gets low, we can charge them up, but there isn’t any damage or degradation from the deep discharge.
We can let the NexGen batteries sit idle for a year and still have 80% or more charge. Unlike lead acid batteries, they don’t need regular charging while in storage. This is great for snowbirds or seasonal RVers who don't use their RVs all the time.
We were assured we could add more batteries of the same rating to increase the battery bank anytime during the next five years, and possibly longer. This is because of the low rate of degradation. This means when we change RVs, the batteries will move with us. If we needed a larger battery bank, we can just add another. This is different from lead acid batteries that should be matched closely, so the poorer battery doesn't discharge the stronger one. (After using a lead acid battery few months, you really shouldn’t add a new battery to your existing bank.)
After we did our research, we needed to decide if the NexGen batteries would be a good investment. That’s what it would be: a longterm investment. The price for two batteries was about $2000. The benefits included the increased performance; the lack of maintenance; we could deep cycle them with no worries; and the charging efficiency. We also considered that these batteries should perform for up to 20 years; due to the low rate of degradation, we could add another battery in the future; and that because they do not expel gasses, they would be easier to place in our next RV. Coleen and I decided to make the investment.
We ordered our NexGen batteries from Amazon. They arrived in three days, by UPS. I wouldn’t even think of having a lead acid battery shipped to me -- I would assume I would have to go pick it up somewhere.
When the NexGen lithium ion batteries arrived, they were amazing light. I knew they should only weigh about 25-30 percent of what lead acid batteries would weigh, but until then hadn’t really thought much about that fact.
Installation was straightforward. I removed the old batteries. I then cleaned out the battery compartment with water and baking soda. While I cleaned the battery cable ends, the compartment dried. It was a pleasure to lift the 25-pound batteries into the compartment verses the 90-pound lead acid batteries I had just manhandled out. The terminal bolts were metric as opposed to SAE, but that was not a problem. It was an easy installation.
At the time of this writing, we’ve had our NexGen batteries for about eight months. They have worked flawlessly. We have noticed the voltage is higher than that of any of the lead acid batteries we’ve had in the past. There doesn’t seem to be the draw down in the voltage when the inverter starts to power the microwave.
We inadvertently turned on a portable electric heater for about two hours while using the inverter -- not plugged into shore power. This didn’t seem to phase the NexGen batteries. The same use would have really knocked down any lead acid batteries we have had in the past.
I’m happy with our NexGen batteries. I’m not all stupid-giddy about them like some people, because, I won’t really know how they’ll perform until after another 10 or 12 years of use. So far they look really good. They certainly have advantages now, and I hope they live up to all my expectations in the future.
On a side note, with what I have experienced so far, if I had an electric golf cart, I’d like to have lithium ion batteries in it. The lightweight; the thousands of deep cycles; and the efficiency in charging are just the characteristics called for in a golf cart battery.
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Editor's note: My husband, Bob Nilles, wrote the above article. We are using our NexGen batteries with a photovoltaic solar system, however they should work well on RVs without solar panels, also. He has installed all of the components of our solar system, and regularly maintains it. For more information about solar power, our experiences using it while full-time RVing, and about our current solar system, please read the other articles in the Solar Power section on this website. Reading this article, I can't help but wonder if there is an electric golf cart in my future!