I don't have the funds and backing that Nigel Calder and others have to experiment
with new technologies on my own boat. I seem to have plenty to do with just the basics in every other category. I do try to watch the new developments but have put lithium (of any flavor and chemistry) and carbon batteries in the "too early and too risky" pile in my mind. However, things happen and I am redoing my entire battery system on my newly acquired old boat and dealing with issues such as placement, weight, wire runs, ancillary systems (charging/inverting/etc). I have had very good luck with my own AGMs (remarkable luck it seems but I have always been very anal when it comes to TLC for batteries). My AGMs are dated 2008 and I don't have enough experience with them yet to really know how good they are. I don't have the equipment/time to do a real capacity test on them but I'll figure it out when I get to use the boat more on longer trips out.
Our plan is to go blue water
cruising again to remote
places and boat maintenance
is always something I keep in the front of my mind when installing equipment
on my boat. I don't want to have to spend a fortune to get some critical bit, or wait for weeks, even months, to get it. Even in Mexico
simple things we take for granted in the US can be very difficult to get and expensive. Lithium batteries seem to be in that category. I don't want to be, and can't afford to be, a technology bleeding edge sailor.
However, the LiFeP batteries seem to be coming along. My plan now is to design, install, and rewire the best I can so that adopting the new batteries would be a "drop in" in the future. I say "drop in" in the sense that ALL the supporting equipment
is there that is needed for the new batteries. E.g. I now have a Balmar
125A small frame alternator
that would not last long with LiFeP batteries of the same Ah as I have now. But it looks like I would need only a fraction of the Ah of current tech versus the new. But I can plan for that and wire for that now. It does not cost that much more to put in 2/0 wire instead of 1 gauge if it is all new and it is DIY.
I am now reading as much as I can on the subject, including the many fine contributions on CF here and elsewhere. Special thanks to MaineSail for his write-ups of what he has found and tested. My biggest question right now is how the heck to really size the battery bank. It certainly seems like, on an Ah basis as currently defined, that I could get by with half the "Ah" rating with LiFeP batteries as I would go with AGM/LA. I need to do some paper and pencil and get my head
wrapped around this issue. I think I will play "a week in the life of a battery" game
and do the math. It really does take an entirely new approach from previous experience and "rules". I may share some of this so you guys can pick it apart.
Cost is certainly a major consideration as well, not only for the batteries, but for the charging
equipment, BMS, sensors/displays, etc. If I can afford it one of the new Balmar
small frame AT alternators, e.g. 165A, would be needed for the new tech and would also be good for my AGMs should I decide to stay with them. (I will wait until I detect my older AGMs need replacing before going to anything else anyway, and the tech will be either better proven or disproven by then, and hopefully the costs will have come down.) One thing is absolutely clear - you can't just "drop in" the new batteries in a boat that was designed and built for LA tech. At all. I can use my current inverter/charger but some other bits will have to change. I need to dig in deeper to my Outback solar charger
to see if I can tweek it to suit the new tech. The whole battery management regimen will be entirely different though.
So - thank you to all who are exploring this and posting
. I'll be lurking. I promise not to laugh if anyone gets burned by going down the wrong rabbit hole. Just don't burn up your boats or alternators along the way, unless you can afford to do that.