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Old 15-03-2023, 04:56   #1
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Throw Victron out--move EF Power Kit in?

Some time ago I discovered the EcoFlow Power Kit [(us/eng) https://www.ecoflow.com/us/ecoflow-power-kits/series , (eu/de) https://www.ecoflow.com/de/ecoflow-power-kits/series] on the BOOT show in Dusseldorf and it got me thinking: hmm, this highly integrated system (Hub & batteries) could possibly replace all the many "blue boxes" and thick cables. Neat and tidy!

An overview of the system (eu version, console & distribution panel omitted):

Code:
AC in, 3 kW (220-240V,15A,50/60Hz) --> |   | --> AC out, 3.6 kW (230 V, 10 A, 50 Hz)
Alternator in, each item 1.6 kW        | H | --> DC out, either
  - 1 x 13-60 V, 60 A              --> | U |       - 26.4 V, 60 A (1.6 kW) or
  - 2 x 13-60 V, 30 A           --/--> | B |       - 13.6 V, 70 A (1.0 kW)
PV in (MPPT), total 1.6 kW             |   | (--> 48 V DC via empty batt. port, inoff.)
  - 3 x 15-60 V, 30 A        --/--/--> |___|
                                        /|\       # HUB: 14 kg, 48 x 14 x 30 cm, Wi-Fi,
                  1, 2 or 3 BATTERIES (LFPO4)     #   Bluetooth v4, NMEA 2000, RJ45, J1939
                  - 2048 Wh (51.2 V,  40 Ah) or   # BATT: 17.1/40.6kg, 35x20x29/50x26x30cm
                  - 5120 Wh (51.2 V, 100 Ah)      #   IP54, BMS built-in, autoheating
Context:

Support (optional) electric cooking, the Power Kit would be complemented with two 12 V (motor and redundant bord) batteries. The rather small Monsun will/might carry Flin solar panels and a SuperWind; there's an older Votronic PTT charger for redundancy. It's an energy-frugal boat but one shouldn't need to think twice about consuming (230 V) energy in future. Planned is one 2 kWh LFPO4 battery now and--who knows--a second one later.

Reservations:
  • 1. long time support? What will e.g. happen if in 10 years there is a problem?
  • 2. price (hub & 2 kWh cost 4.9 k€)
  • 3. (internal) complexity, closed software
  • 4. robustness, watertightness, power loss
  • 5. what if it breaks "far away from civilization"

Current thoughts:
  • 1. in the worst case just replace
  • 2. battery w/separate parts carry rather similar costs, e.g. [from (eu/de) https://www.greenakku.de]: Liontron LFPO4 2.5 kWh (12.8 V, 200 Ah): 1.9 k€, Victron Centaur Charger 12/30: 0.5 k€, Victron Phoenix Inverter Compact 12/1600: 1 k€, Victron BlueSolar MPPT 100/30: 3 x 0.22 = 0.7 k€, Victron Cerbo GX: 0.4 k€, Victron GX Touch 50: 0.3 k€. In total: 4.8 k€. Cables and stuff extra
  • 3. I read of one case were there was a power loss problem which was fixed with a SW update. This new system certainly has a bigger risk than e.g. the tried and proven Victron boxes. But unless self-built and FOSS one is at the mercy of the supplier anyway
  • 4. Liontron and Victron have an advantage here, but I think I could accept it. However I'm a bit concerned that the Power Kit might have a (too) big power loss in normal operation (e.g. for transforming 51.2 V to 12 V)
  • 5. go back to "frugal sailing" with 12 V batteries and "cooking with a Taylor's"

Thanks for any comments/advice. I'm very interested to hear what you think about such an installation!
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Old 15-03-2023, 06:05   #2
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Re: Throw Victron out--move EF Power Kit in?

The website is very short on details, but for a cruising boat I donít like integrated systems where a single component failure can cause havoc.
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Old 15-03-2023, 07:25   #3
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Re: Throw Victron out--move EF Power Kit in?

Quote:
Originally Posted by noelex 77 View Post
The website is very short on details, but for a cruising boat I donít like integrated systems where a single component failure can cause havoc.
I agree entirely.

That does not appear to be anything but a BMS, DC-DC charger, and control panel in a box with another box with LiFePo4 cells.

I would stick with the proven blue boxes myself. Keeping the components separate and as non-proprietary as possible will make the system more robust and repairable.
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Old 15-03-2023, 08:00   #4
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Re: Throw Victron out--move EF Power Kit in?

Quote:
Originally Posted by noelex 77 View Post
The website is very short on details, but for a cruising boat I donít like integrated systems where a single component failure can cause havoc.
Wouldn't an individual Victron component failure cause havoc too?

Fully agree on the fancy website though. This TheVerge article may give a bit more coverage: https://www.theverge.com/23508869/ec...f-grid-vanlife. I also came across a sprinter-forum discussion: https://sprinter-source.com/forums/i...hreads/113254/ (but of course (cruising) boats are different than campers / home-independence).
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Old 15-03-2023, 08:19   #5
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Re: Throw Victron out--move EF Power Kit in?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
That does not appear to be anything but a BMS, DC-DC charger, and control panel in a box with another box with LiFePo4 cells.
plus 4 MPPT solar chargers. But what you say is the whole point for me, an incredible compact device that covers ~all energy needs. The 48 V battery is nice, I didn't find this with individual components. Much less current than with 12 V.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
I would stick with the proven blue boxes myself. Keeping the components separate and as non-proprietary as possible will make the system more robust and repairable.
I must admit, my title is not entirely correct: I will not throw out Victron, it's a decision to buy Victron or (very hypothetically atm) such a Power Kit. -- Is repairability so much better? What would you e.g. do when the Multiplus breaks? Could this be repaired in, let's say, Greenland
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Old 15-03-2023, 08:21   #6
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Re: Throw Victron out--move EF Power Kit in?

Quote:
Originally Posted by pietvdiemen View Post
Wouldn't an individual Victron component failure cause havoc too?
No, not with sensible design.

For example, a single solar controller failure would reduce my solar output only by 1/3 and even here nearly all of this loss could restored in a few minutes by connecting two panels to one controller. The alternator and AC battery charger would be unaffected.

This is just one example where the systems have inbuilt redundancy.

If I understand the EF power kit correctly, the failure of a single component could disable all DC and AC power out and/or prevent all charging. This especially concerning as the closed, integrated and software controlled system would prevent many of the normal troubleshooting steps that can be used to track down where the fault lies.

Sorry, I don’t think it is a step forward.
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Old 15-03-2023, 09:38   #7
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Re: Throw Victron out--move EF Power Kit in?

Quote:
Originally Posted by noelex 77 View Post
No, not with sensible design. [...] If I understand the EF power kit correctly, the failure of a single component could disable all DC and AC power out and/or prevent all charging. This especially concerning as the closed, integrated and software controlled system would prevent many of the normal troubleshooting steps that can be used to track down where the fault lies.
I would also assume that a severe individual failure would knock out the whole system. My "sensible" failure-design would thaen be to immediately switch to the 12 V spare battery and load that with the Votronic charging controller. A loss of maybe 90 % (luxury gone, but basic needs still covered). The second motor battery stays connected to the alternator and could be connected to the board battery if necessary.

Wouldn't something like this be acceptable as a redundancy?

On the other hand if everything works well, I think it would be very hard to achieve the same convenience with ordinary blue components. Apart from the fact that I'm no s/v Jedi and there's also the "big" space question.
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Old 15-03-2023, 09:47   #8
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Re: Throw Victron out--move EF Power Kit in?

Depending on the boat, it’s very hard to fit and it is pretty expensive. I am friends with many people at EF and talked with them about this and really think the best way to implement this would be with a new build. They make good products and are well capitalized but for a cruising boat, I’d still go Victron as it’s easier and quicker to replace parts. On a RV, it’s simple enough and a great product but if you are in other countries or miles offshore, I’d choose Victron. I suppose one option would be to keep some Victron backups for critical systems in case of failure.
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Old 15-03-2023, 15:58   #9
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Re: Throw Victron out--move EF Power Kit in?

Quote:
Originally Posted by pietvdiemen View Post
. . . Could this be repaired in, let's say, Greenland

In fact I spent a summer a few years ago sailing to Northeastern Greenland, Scorsebysund to be exact. I spent a year preparing for that, and thinking through (with horror) everything which could go wrong, and how to fix it, in that place where the nearest harbour is 1000 miles away.


If a mission-critical system goes down there, you can die.



The first thing I did was pull everything apart which might not be up to snuff and rebuild it; drop the rudder out, replace the functional autopilot hydraulics (keeping the old parts for spares), doing deep service on main engine and genset, etc. etc. etc.


I had a significant fraction of a tonne of spare parts on board, but I knew that the Victron charger/inverter was one device I would not be able to fix if it broke. So I had a spare charger, and a spare inverter. I had a complete spare school bus alternator for bulk power production, which backs up the Kohler generator. I seriously considered bringing a suitcase generator as a backup to the backup.



If I had had lithium batteries, I would have some spare cells, and a spare BMS.


What is really funny is that in the event -- thousands of miles of sailing North from Cowes to Greenland via Orkneys, Faroes, Iceland, and a few weeks in Greenland itself -- not a damn thing on the boat broke. Nothing. The only problem we had was a clogged toilet.



I would not have wanted a device as described in the OP on board for that.
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"You sea! I resign myself to you also . . . . I guess what you mean,
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I believe you refuse to go back without feeling of me;
We must have a turn together . . . . I undress . . . . hurry me out of sight of the land,
Cushion me soft . . . . rock me in billowy drowse,
Dash me with amorous wet . . . . I can repay you."
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Old 15-03-2023, 16:00   #10
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Re: Throw Victron out--move EF Power Kit in?

Quote:
Originally Posted by noelex 77 View Post
No, not with sensible design.

For example, a single solar controller failure would reduce my solar output only by 1/3 and even here nearly all of this loss could restored in a few minutes by connecting two panels to one controller. The alternator and AC battery charger would be unaffected.

This is just one example where the systems have inbuilt redundancy.

If I understand the EF power kit correctly, the failure of a single component could disable all DC and AC power out and/or prevent all charging. This especially concerning as the closed, integrated and software controlled system would prevent many of the normal troubleshooting steps that can be used to track down where the fault lies.

Sorry, I donít think it is a step forward.

This
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"You sea! I resign myself to you also . . . . I guess what you mean,
I behold from the beach your crooked inviting fingers,
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We must have a turn together . . . . I undress . . . . hurry me out of sight of the land,
Cushion me soft . . . . rock me in billowy drowse,
Dash me with amorous wet . . . . I can repay you."
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Old 15-03-2023, 18:23   #11
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Re: Throw Victron out--move EF Power Kit in?

Please send me a list of the Victron components that you are throwing away. Instead, send them to me and I'll pay shipping!
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Old 16-03-2023, 03:26   #12
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Re: Throw Victron out--move EF Power Kit in?

Quote:
Originally Posted by noelex 77 View Post
No, not with sensible design.

For example, a single solar controller failure would reduce my solar output only by 1/3 and even here nearly all of this loss could restored in a few minutes by connecting two panels to one controller. The alternator and AC battery charger would be unaffected.

This is just one example where the systems have inbuilt redundancy.

If I understand the EF power kit correctly, the failure of a single component could disable all DC and AC power out and/or prevent all charging. This especially concerning as the closed, integrated and software controlled system would prevent many of the normal troubleshooting steps that can be used to track down where the fault lies.

Sorry, I donít think it is a step forward.

Just to expand on this a little -- the more integrated the system is, the more integrated the failure modes, in most cases.


Keeping the elements of the system separate and as little dependent on one another as possible makes them easier to diagnose and fix and makes the system more robust.



For example: if you have a single controller managing alternator, solar charging, and B2B charging, the system will be easier to operate (and install), but you've got a single point of failure where you would lose the whole system with a single fault, as Noelex describes. Keeping all of these functions separate isolates any problem better, protecting other parts of the system.



Now there are some cases where you might want to violate this principle -- for example, an integrated charger/inverter has so many advantages over separate ones, that it's definitely worth making them dependent on each other. But I would be really careful with integrated control systems which manage different parts of the system, at least with ones without which the other elements of the system can't work autonomously.


I understand why the OP is attracted to this -- a lithium power system on a cruising boat built up out of bare LiFePo cells is a fairly complex thing. It's a shame we don't have a company which helps with the design and integration of these systems, which would be much more useful than just selling them in boxes with a suboptimal architecture.
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I behold from the beach your crooked inviting fingers,
I believe you refuse to go back without feeling of me;
We must have a turn together . . . . I undress . . . . hurry me out of sight of the land,
Cushion me soft . . . . rock me in billowy drowse,
Dash me with amorous wet . . . . I can repay you."
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Old 16-03-2023, 12:45   #13
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Re: Throw Victron out--move EF Power Kit in?

Thanks, noelex77 and Dockhead for the feedbacks! It's much more sceptical than I expected and I will have to think longer about it.

Dockhead understood it well with my attraction, a lithium power system is so complicated (and there are so many approaches) that a ready-made well-working* device would be a godsend. 48 V, short thin cables, all-encompassing sw, everything properly enclosed (could) have real technical advantages (or at least, I thought so).

The ability to track down faults is a question of granularity, isn't it? With Victron one could track down e.g. a broken solar controller, a broken BMS, Multiplus etc. (and replace). With the Power Kit it would be either the battery or the hub (to be replaced). In both cases, faulty cables, plugs could be found, and what else could go wrong?

*I should mention that there is a pretty damning video about the Power Kit where "Gadget John" throws** out ..not the Victron but the Power Kit due to too many faults and an inadequate cable. This doesn't invalidate the whole concept for me (it's new, it must mature, sw can be updated) but I would not buy right now. -- As a practical summer experiment I'll have a small EB70/Bluetti on the Sprinta boat. And until next year, when a new electrical system must be installed, more infos about the Power Kit will arrive (I hope).

**
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Old 16-03-2023, 15:17   #14
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Re: Throw Victron out--move EF Power Kit in?

I agree with Dockhead and Noelex about their concerns on an integrated system- especially when it's impossible to add redundancy.

The Ecoflow battery prices aren't bad though. 5KWh with builtin BMS and heater for $3,999. Mastervolt wants $6,500 for 5.5KWh.
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Old 16-03-2023, 16:22   #15
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Re: Throw Victron out--move EF Power Kit in?

After much procrastinating and having similar thoughts about Echoflow...



... I've concluded that if you have Lithium on a boat, until a manufacturer comes up with a system specifically for boats, you have to learn to design and build your own system. Even if a manufacturer came up with an off-the-shelf system the variability of usage scenarios on boats is much greater than for RV's. This would require a manufacturer to offer a complex configurable solution.



.... and while it seems like a daunting task at the beginning it soon becomes apparent that it's not that challenging.


Relating our particular scenario to the OP's (well considered) reservations. I wouldn't go offshore or into remote locations without lead acid somewhere in the system and the ability to run critical systems if any digital control (E.g. BMS) failed. LiFeP04 gives you better charge harvesting and storage capacity and in turn the possibility of running high current application like induction cooking.



For example, with 400Ah of existing lead acid you can buy all the components and 200Ah's of LiFeP04 and get all the benefits for much less than EF, while doubling capacity. You're not worried about support in 10 years, complexity or robustness because no individual component can take down the system and you can carry a small spares inventory to recover from any failure, at least until you get to civilization. With lead acid civilization could be anywhere you could beg, buy or steal a truck battery.



W.r.t. Victron there a cheaper and better suited suppliers of most components. Although there are a few things where Victron is king.
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