Lead-acid batteries have long been the standard for RV owners needing to power their vehicles' appliances and other essential components. These batteries are inexpensive, simple to use, and haven’t had much competition in the past.
Then lithium batteries became available. They were originally pretty expensive and had some safety issues. However, several advancements in the last decade have made their technology safe and prices have come down to an affordable range.
Due to the advantages lithium batteries have over lead-acid batteries, many RVers are making the switch. So, what are these advantages, and are they enough to make lithium batteries the better choice for your RV?
Let’s find out!
The biggest difference between lead-acid batteries and lithium batteries is their energy efficiency. When using a lead-acid battery, you have to recharge it before it drops below 50% to avoid damage. If you switch to lithium batteries, you can deplete them down to 0% without hurting them.
So, if you have two 100Ah lead-acid batteries, you would expect to be able to use 200Ah. However, only 100Ah would be usable. Now, if you replace your lead-acids with two 100Ah lithium batteries, you’d have 200Ah of usable power, effectively doubling your energy with the same number of batteries.
What this means for you is that you won’t have to constantly monitor your batteries’ charge levels or worry if you’ll make it to your next destination before you need to stop and recharge. For some RVs, you’ll be able to go for multiple days between charge. You also won’t have to worry about ruining your batteries if they happen to die. You can recharge dead lithium batteries and they’re good as new.
Not only that, but they charge faster than lead-acids, so you’ll save time there too.
Another significant advantage that lithium batteries have over lead-acid batteries is their ability to provide consistent power and performance. Their voltage output doesn’t change based on heavy loads or charge levels.
Lead-acid batteries lose some of their power and performance as their charge is depleted or when they’re under a heavier load. When you’re on the road, this inconsistency can make it challenging to predict how long your batteries are going to last and when you’ll need to stop to recharge. This loss of power is called the Peukert effect, and it’s something that doesn’t affect lithium batteries.
Lithium batteries provide the same power level whether they’re charged to 100% or 1%. Heavier loads don’t affect them, and they also perform better in cold and heat than any other batteries. When you switch to lithium batteries, you’ll easily enhance the performance of your RV’s house bank.
While lithium batteries have had some safety issues in the past, advancements in technology have fixed these problems. Now, the LiFePO4 lithium battery technology is inherently safe.
Since lead-acid batteries are filled with acid, using them comes with some risks. Acid burns, corrosion, hazardous spills, fire, and even explosions are just a few of them. Lithium batteries don’t contain acid, so leaking or producing gasses isn't an issue. Plus, they’re non-toxic.
On top of that, lithium batteries have a built-in battery management system. This BMS monitors the battery at all times. Not only does this keep an eye on your battery to make sure it’s working optimally, but it also manages the safety of the battery. Multiple circuits are in place to prevent the battery from overheating or overcharging, ensuring that your lithium batteries are reliable, safe, and effective.
Lithium batteries are significantly lighter than lead-acid batteries. In fact, they’re about a third of the weight of lead-acids. When you’ve got a house bank with three or four batteries, this can reduce the weight by at least a few hundred pounds.
This may not sound all that exciting, but most RVs have a pretty strict weight limit, and this decrease means you have a little more flexibility in what you can bring with you on the road. Plus, heavier loads put a strain on your tires, suspension, and braking ability. It can make your vehicle ride unevenly, and it takes more fuel to carry the extra weight. As you can see, lighter batteries have some pretty significant advantages.
Cost Savings Over Time
It’s true that lithium batteries are more expensive than lead-acid batteries. However, you’ll end up saving money in the long run, and here’s why:
Lithium batteries last much longer than lead-acid batteries, especially if lead-acid batteries aren’t properly maintained. Lead-acid batteries require you to add water, check acid levels, and clean corrosion. Otherwise, they degrade even faster, and you’ll have to replace them sooner. On the other hand, lithium batteries don’t require any maintenance or care to keep them in good condition.
Lithium batteries can last ten times longer than lead-acid batteries. They get around 5,000 charge cycles, whereas lead-acids get 500 to 1,000. You could potentially power your RV for twenty years, depending on your usage, which is four times as long as the five years you’d likely get out of lead-acids.
So, not only will you be saving money on fuel from their lighter weight, but you also won’t have to replace them nearly as often.
It’s clear that lithium batteries are the better choice for your RV's overall performance and efficiency. If you spend a lot of time out on the road and off the grid, lithium batteries can drastically improve your quality of life.
Let’s quickly recap the benefits you’ll receive by making the switch:
- Double the usable energy
- Consistent power & performance
- Safe & reliable
- Weight reduction
With all these advantages, lithium batteries are more than worth the higher upfront cost. If you’re ready to make the switch, Patriot Power Source is here to help. Visit our website or give us a call and we can answer all your questions and help you figure out the right setup for your rig.