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Old 10-08-2020, 08:37   #1
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Is Lithium Worth it?

I'm currently prepping to leave Cape Town and have had to upgrade my solar / wind and lastly my battery bank.

My boat is currently severely underpowered with 6 x lead acid (104 a/h).
I have a 48ft monohull.

I've looked at lithium and all my power generators are programmable including my primus wind power - air 30's (x2) with a manual potentiometer (to a 13.7v output per the manual).

The cost difference is as you know 3x for the lithium equivalent up-front rather than gel.

I would need assistance in setups as I'm no pro and that of-course costs more.

My question is - Is lithium worth all of this extra when I can simply buy new gel batteries?

My family are not new sailors but we are all jumping in to start cruising and I'm hoping for the best.

The lithium set-up I'm assuming is still cheaper in South Africa than the Caribbean which is where we're heading and planning to stay for a while.

My gut feel says simply put in gel and upgrade to lithium when the time comes in 3 years and when I know we're all in it for the long haul.

This is based on me not wanting to fork out the $7000 to get the lithium equivalent.

Please can you give me your input and thoughts as to what you would do in my situation?

Cheers
Ryan
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Old 10-08-2020, 08:47   #2
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Re: Is Lithium Worth it?

Ruixu battery has 220 ah 12v Lithiums for $1,100 usd. The internal cells are Synopoly. So, you could get 660 ah for $3,300. See https://www.ruixulithiumbattery.com/12v-lifepo4-battery

Not much difference in cost to a gel battery on a useable ah basis.
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Old 10-08-2020, 09:20   #3
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Re: Is Lithium Worth it?

Well there are several very different lithium battery technologies. I am assuming you mean LiFePO batteries.

If that and not some other type of lithium batteries then probably yes but the answer depends on several factors.

Bottom line, if all things work out according to specs, no glitches or catastrophic failures then LiFePO has several advantages.

- Over the life of the batteries they will be lower cost per amp hour used than lead acid or other battery technologies.

- LiFePO batteries will hold more stable voltage at a low state of charge than lead batteries that have lower voltage as they discharge.

- IF you have the systems, you can charge LiFePO batteries as fast as you can generate amps and the charge acceptance doesn't drop off as they charge.

BUT

Unless or until some company comes out with a bulletproof, smart battery control system LiFePO are not plug and play and forget. Knowing how to properly care and feed these batteries is essential Overcharge them and you could kill a few thousand dollars worth of batteries. Kill a set of lead batteries you're only out a few hundred.

To take advantage of the high rate of charge they can take you will also need to invest many hundreds into upgrades in your charging system.
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Old 10-08-2020, 10:14   #4
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Re: Is Lithium Worth it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rykie View Post

My question is - Is lithium worth all of this extra when I can simply buy new gel batteries?
Only you can answer this really. Those with lithium will of course say yes and those that don't say no.

But the real question shouldn't be whether it is worth difference over gel TO YOU. It is whether getting rid of the partial state of charge problems of FLA/AGMs/GELs is worth it to YOU.

When I said yes to that question that left LFP and Firefire batteries. Both about the same price for me. I decided on the FireFly as they were "simpler" and not 1 large bank that a problem would take all out.
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Old 10-08-2020, 10:15   #5
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Re: Is Lithium Worth it?

You define what is "worth it" for yourself.


These batteries are very good use e.g. in a racing boat.


They may be also the best use in a very power-hungry boat.


Reverse the question and imagine for a moment a Lion battery of 100Ah that costs USD100.


Would you use it, or rather stick to a car battery.


If you want it and can afford it, it is worth it.


b.
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Old 11-08-2020, 08:44   #6
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Re: Is Lithium Worth it?

Lithium are easy to break, and require a higher level of user knowledge to prevent damage. We installed $16,000 dollars worth in an application 6 months later they were toast.
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Old 11-08-2020, 08:48   #7
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Re: Is Lithium Worth it?

i've been researching the subject as well. You must look at https://battlebornbatteries.com/. there are excellent youtube vids with the ceo discussing what makes their lithium batteries different from the others.

big investment - worth digging deep for best solution.
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Old 11-08-2020, 09:04   #8
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Re: Is Lithium Worth it?

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Originally Posted by rmhutch59 View Post
Lithium are easy to break, and require a higher level of user knowledge to prevent damage. We installed $16,000 dollars worth in an application 6 months later they were toast.
What type of lithium batteries specifically? What sort of charging mechanism did you have in place?
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Old 11-08-2020, 09:18   #9
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Re: Is Lithium Worth it?

I've not studied the question in detail, but so far view aligns with Skip's. In a perfect world LiFePO looks great. But my cruising life has never been perfect.

I think I'll be sticking with FLAs for the time being.
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Old 11-08-2020, 09:23   #10
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Re: Is Lithium Worth it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by skipmac View Post
Well there are several very different lithium battery technologies. I am assuming you mean LiFePO batteries.

If that and not some other type of lithium batteries then probably yes but the answer depends on several factors.

Bottom line, if all things work out according to specs, no glitches or catastrophic failures then LiFePO has several advantages.

- Over the life of the batteries they will be lower cost per amp hour used than lead acid or other battery technologies.

- LiFePO batteries will hold more stable voltage at a low state of charge than lead batteries that have lower voltage as they discharge.

- IF you have the systems, you can charge LiFePO batteries as fast as you can generate amps and the charge acceptance doesn't drop off as they charge.

BUT

Unless or until some company comes out with a bulletproof, smart battery control system LiFePO are not plug and play and forget. Knowing how to properly care and feed these batteries is essential Overcharge them and you could kill a few thousand dollars worth of batteries. Kill a set of lead batteries you're only out a few hundred.

To take advantage of the high rate of charge they can take you will also need to invest many hundreds into upgrades in your charging system.
This is a great bottom line summary of the advantages and issues of Lithium.

I'd like to add my perspective as a full time cruiser who lives on the hook most of the time. I shied away from spending so much on Lithium and instead got high quality AGMs from Mastervolt. My electrical and charging system was professionally upgraded and installed by a master boat electrician who I trust.

2 years later I regret getting AGms:
- Takes forever to charge via generator and solar/wind

- Charging performance deteriorates significantly if you don't equalize or "balance" the batteries regularly (at least weekly), which is even more generator time.

- Low voltage at 80% or so, which means I can't discharge the batteries to 50-60% before charging as I should be able to. Did all the tests and they are not defective.
So before the end of this year I'm upgrading to Lithium and look forward to efficient charging and discharging, the lack of which is the bane of my day to day existence right now. I could live with them to the end of their life, but just don't want to.

Goes to show that there is a difference between the IDEA and the REALITY of most things.

The Idea of AGMs for a cruiser as the best and most affordable option below Lithium just doesn't match my reality of real world experience using them. The higher initial expense of Lithium doesn't seem so daunting now and worth it to me.
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Old 11-08-2020, 09:40   #11
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Re: Is Lithium Worth it?

I agreed the question is "worth it to you", what would the lithium bank do that other chemistry won't and how much of an advantage is that to you. I would also say widen the question. Is it a choice simply between gell and lithium? All the different batteries have advantages and disadvantages and major cost differences so start with a power budget for cruising, ie being away from shore power for long periods and needing enough reserve power to keep the boat going in case of a system failure. Look at the cost benefits of flooded, sealed or lithium systems including lifespan. Cut through they hype.
My 'rules' for any system on a cruising boat are
1 Fail safe. When (not iF!!) it goes wrong is it an inconvenience or a disaster. If it is a critical system what is my backup.
Can I access and maintain the system at sea with what I have on board, if not can I safely turn it off.
Can I keep it running without access to a boat yard or major chandlers, if not can I do without it for a month or two.
Is it robust enough to survive a multi-day gale at sea when everything gets wet. If not can it be packed away as part of prep for foul weather.
Will it significantly improve quality of life on board.


For electrics that means:

Making everything as simple and accessible as possible.

Doing everything possible to waterproof and shockproof it.
Having at least 2 means of charging when away from the dock that will give enough charge to run essential systems.
Having at least a 50% reserve in batteries over expected daily consumption, this translates into about 1 week running only critical systems.
Being able to run critical systems in the event of the failure of one battery in the house bank.
Being able to start and run the engine immediately in the event that the main electrical system fails or the house bank is flat.
Is it cost effective, particularly paying attention to whether there is a cheaper and simpler way to do what I need this system to do.
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Old 11-08-2020, 09:56   #12
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Re: Is Lithium Worth it?

Several other points... there are members on here who are rocket engineer quality brainacs who installed Lithium and have unbelievable set ups. You are taking family who I am going to assume include teenagers. They watch movies, listen to music, like to be clean, possible game on their iPads. You are going to need lots of juice. Absolutely lithium would be justified.

Remember that you only need about half the lithium amp/hrs to be semi equivalent to lead wet cell. There are Battleborn lithium that have the BMS all ready set up. If you get BMS separately there are many tutorials on what to do. Some guys even have electric induction hobs instead of propane. Lithium has so many advantages versus gel or lead. In the long run lithium is cheeper. But you have to get it set up correctly and understand balancing, discharging cut off at too low, charging shut off too high, and the like.
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Old 11-08-2020, 10:33   #13
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Re: Is Lithium Worth it?

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Originally Posted by alansmith View Post
Several other points... there are members on here who are rocket engineer quality brainacs who installed Lithium and have unbelievable set ups. You are taking family who I am going to assume include teenagers. They watch movies, listen to music, like to be clean, possible game on their iPads. You are going to need lots of juice. Absolutely lithium would be justified.

Remember that you only need about half the lithium amp/hrs to be semi equivalent to lead wet cell. There are Battleborn lithium that have the BMS all ready set up. If you get BMS separately there are many tutorials on what to do. Some guys even have electric induction hobs instead of propane. Lithium has so many advantages versus gel or lead. In the long run lithium is cheeper. But you have to get it set up correctly and understand balancing, discharging cut off at too low, charging shut off too high, and the like.

All of this is very true and I would agree that if you want 'house' standard power availability lithium is well worth looking at as otherwise you need the sort of house bank you would expect to see in an off grid home. The alternative may be an onboard generator.


I have a BIG caution about the statement that "you only need about half the lithium amp/hrs to be semi equivalent to lead wet cell". Which is frequently put forward as an argument to ameliorate the cost of lithium. Yes it is true that you can cycle lithium cells much lower than lead acids without significant damage. In theory that means if you use 100a/hr in daily cycling you only need about a 120a/hr bank. Fine they system will work but if you have ANY problem with the charging system your boat will be blacked out in a couple of hours. My rule is that you should have a 50% reserve so that when the system has a problem you stand a reasonable chance of getting to the nearest port or fixing things without being back in the days of oil lamps and sextant navigation. (although I still do carry oil lamps and a sextant for fun and 'just in case'). Think about the following scenario. You are 200 miles offshore, it's been blowing 35kn+ for 36hrs and likely to continue for another 24 before the world stops feeling like you are in the washer on a deep clean cycle. Half the crew is exhausted, seasick or both and you are down to 2 watch keepers. The batteries are down to 20% DoD so you start the engine to recharge. The engine runs but the ameter shows zero. It is just after dark so the solar bank is providing 0 amps for the next 8hrs. In 2hrs all your systems including nav station, GPS, radar, radio and cabin lights will go dark. Now do you think it was a good idea to fit a minimal sized house bank because lithium lets you discharge to 80% DoD 'without damage'? If the solution to the above scenario is either 'we are OK because the critical systems run on a separate bank to the 'house' systems and that is fully charged' or 'WTF, try the genset, fine now we have charge' then you have backup and are OK. If not stick with the idea that the house bank should provide 48hr of power not 24 but then always recharge daily at 40-50% DoD.


My ideal system is a house bank that goes down to about 60% on a normal day, can be recharged to 80-85% from the alternator in less than 1 1/2hrs and then sufficient solar to provide daytime power and bring the batteries to full charge. I also like to fit a separate bank to run nav and critical systems that can be charged by the solar system in case the main house bank fails (on a bigger boat this could be simply a way of switching out any one string in the bank). This gives a decent power reserve and 'get you home' solution
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Old 11-08-2020, 11:18   #14
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Re: Is Lithium Worth it?

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Originally Posted by SV__Grace View Post
This is a great bottom line summary of the advantages and issues of Lithium.

I'd like to add my perspective as a full time cruiser who lives on the hook most of the time. I shied away from spending so much on Lithium and instead got high quality AGMs from Mastervolt. My electrical and charging system was professionally upgraded and installed by a master boat electrician who I trust.

2 years later I regret getting AGms:
- Takes forever to charge via generator and solar/wind

- Charging performance deteriorates significantly if you don't equalize or "balance" the batteries regularly (at least weekly), which is even more generator time.

- Low voltage at 80% or so, which means I can't discharge the batteries to 50-60% before charging as I should be able to. Did all the tests and they are not defective.
So before the end of this year I'm upgrading to Lithium and look forward to efficient charging and discharging, the lack of which is the bane of my day to day existence right now. I could live with them to the end of their life, but just don't want to.

Goes to show that there is a difference between the IDEA and the REALITY of most things.

The Idea of AGMs for a cruiser as the best and most affordable option below Lithium just doesn't match my reality of real world experience using them. The higher initial expense of Lithium doesn't seem so daunting now and worth it to me.
No doubt, lithium batteries are expensive but the benefits are there. I too have Mastervolt, but Lithium version. As mentioned above, you need to have high output alternators and I also have Sterling boosters. The Mastervolt batteries manage themselves, they are basically self-managing. Setting up the configuration is not a job for an amateur, you need to have an expert do that, then you are good to go. I have never had to do anything with my batteries and they are five years old now.

I can run both engines and they will absorb huge current 160A @ 12V. They will also take huge amps from your solar, which, if the window for maximum output is short, means that you can make the most of available sun.
In short, the quality of life benefit of minimizing hours of charge time from engine(s)/generator is worth a lot to me. Last year we spent 4 months in Ecuador and almost every day the batteries were full by 1pm, even running the washing machine etc. We didn’t have to start the engines to charge the batteries once.

It’s a great way to go if you can stomach the cost of the batteries, alternators, charge boosters, installation costs and combined with a sizable solar array.
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Old 11-08-2020, 11:38   #15
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Re: Is Lithium Worth it?

IMHO the answer is NO. They're not worth the investment from my point of view. I'm 65. Despite the hype & obvious benefits I have no desire to invest thousands of dollars into batteries. One can buy an awful lot of conventional batteries during their lifetime for the cost of lithium.

Although I do agree the industry does need those that are willing to invest in the technology in order to move forward & improve technology. If you have extra money burning a hole in your pocket....

For the record, I have an electric boat & run FLA.
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