CAMPING - POWER & LIGHTING
Occasionally a game-changing product comes along and at OTA we think the EcoFlow Delta Pro is one such innovation that we’re long-term testing. This portable power station has ample battery storage capacity to run a campsite, but also has the ability to be a mobile power supply for non-mains areas and a power boost for homes.
With a capacity of 3600Wh from its 48-volt lithium ferro-phosphate (LFP) battery stack, the EcoFlow Delta Pro is equivalent to multiple 12-volt lithium batteries, producing 300 amp-hours (Ah). That’s the amount of power fitted to most top-shelf caravans and way more than the average camper trailer or camper van.
The four 10-amp power outlets can easily power typical 240V camping appliances: coffee machine; microwave; kettle, induction hotplate and fan heater. Obviously, it’s kinder to the battery if these heavy-amp users aren’t switched on at the same time, but the system’s capacity of 3600W lets it handle two or three at the same time, if necessary.
The battery is mounted in a sturdy chassis, with wheels and extendable carry handle for relative ease of handling. As you’d expect from a 300Ah battery, the unit weighs 45kg. By way of contrast, if you packed that much electrical power into an AGM battery pack the weight would be more than 100kg.
However, the Delta Pro is more than just a battery box, because it has an inbuilt battery protection system (BMS); four 10-amp 240V power outlets; four USB A outlets; two USB C outlets; an Anderson outlet; a cigarette lighter outlet and two DC 5521 outlets.
On the input side the unit has a 240V charging socket and a 12V charge socket for car alternator or solar panel inputs. Charging time from mains power is a claimed two hours and the input capacity of 2300W can easily supply that.
Solar charging capacity is a whopping 1600W, which is a lot more than the optimal 200W panel size per 100Ah, 12V LFP battery. It has top-shelf MPPT solar charging, for maximum efficiency.
The Delta Pro also has pairing ports, allowing one or two additional units or battery packs to be paired beside it. This is an option for self-sufficient power supply for garages, shed or tiny houses, or for connection to a house, to provide back-up power in the event of power outages.
It’s this multi functionality and portability that sets the EcoFlow Delta Pro part from traditional RV power systems. It can be a camper power supply, a portable power source and a home power booster.
The 12-volt auto-electrical system has been with us since the 1950s and 24 volts has been the global heavy truck standard since then, except in the USA that has stuck with 12-volt. (Mind you, the USA also runs a highly inefficient 110-volt mains electric system as well.)
All 4WD mild-hybrid vehicles use 48-volt systems and full-electric vehicles use much higher voltage than that.
More volts (electrical potential energy) in a battery means less current flow (amperes) is needed to do the same amount of electrical work (Watts). Less current flow means that thinner wiring can be used and also reduces the fire hazards of high-current circuits.
In the case of the EcoFlow Delta Pro the conversion from 48-volt direct current (DC) to 12-volt DC and 240-volt alternating current (AC) is done inside the casing. In contrast, a conventional battery setup in a van or camper requires wiring and terminal connections between batteries, battery management system, inverters, sockets and switches.
Smartphone display screen
The Delta Pro internal protection systems are comprehensive: overcharge; overload; overheat; overcool; short circuit; low voltage and over-current.
A large display panel shows all battery input and output information and naturally, the Delta Pro has Bluetooth connection to a smartphone, allowing remote, easy access to battery information.
Compatible solar charging
EcoFlow makes a range of solar panels to recharge the Delta Pro and our choice for testing was the company’s portable 220W ‘bifacial’ panel. This panel came in a carry bag that doubled as a ‘kickstand’, to angle the panel towards the sun.
Bifacial panels are more expensive than conventional solar panels, because they’re made to be translucent, without internal metal connections. The idea is that sunlight reacts with the front face, passes through the clear sections of the panel and reflects off the background to contribute more power via the rear face. Many large-scale solar arrays have bifacial panels and are mounted on frames above the ground, to ensure reflection.
In the case of the EcoFlow bifacial panel, the interior of the bag that becomes the kickstand is reflective, to enhance that bonus power.
Many remote area travellers rely on petrol-powered generators for back-up and battery recharging power, and these units work very well.
The downsides of generators are obvious – noise, fumes and air pollution – although top-shelf ones have ‘eco’ settings that greatly reduce noise. Most considerate generator users have long extension leads that allow them to position their ‘gennies’ well away from camp sites.
In sunny conditions and provided a Delta Pro is backed up with ample solar panel power it has the ability make a generator redundant. However, without periodic solar or mains charging the Delta Pro will eventually run out of puff.
The great advantage of the Delta Pro is that its noise level is electric-fan only and it produces no emissions at all. Unlike a carbon monoxide producing genny, it can be used inside a van or camper; in fact, that’s recommended, because it’s not waterproof and must be kept away from rain or rising water.
Integrating a Delta Pro
This compact, 48-volt battery unit rewrites what can be done with van or camper trailer electrical set-ups. If long-term testing confirms our initial impressions, we’ll redesign our Tray Tek slide-on camper, to integrate the Delta Pro into it, or, if that proves too difficult, we’ll adopt a clean sheet of paper approach and design a campervan around the Delta Pro.
All existing van and camper layouts have various electrical components distributed around their chassis and bodywork, but the Delta Pro is self-contained and portable, so we’d want to preserve that flexibility.
The ideal location for the Delta Pro is in the camper galley area, under a bench on which the various appliances can be used. It would need to be positioned with the power outlets facing inside the camper, for ease of access, but there’s also the need to have easy access to the other end, where the charging inputs are located.
Those dual access needs are probably best met by a side access hatch, possibly with a lowering fridge slide, to ease the task of slotting the Delta Pro in place. All the inlet power cables could be routed into that storage bin, allowing easy plug-in once the Delta Pro was strapped into position.
Value for money
With a suggested Australian RRP of $6500, the Eco Flow may look like a very expensive power solution, but if you break down what it can do, the price isn’t unreasonable.
If evaluated solely as a camper power source, it’s the equivalent of three 100Ah LFP quality batteries, plus BMS/charger, plus wiring to four 10A, 240-volt outlets and several 12-volt ones – plus the labour of fitting all that.
Even if you can do the fitting yourself, you’ll easily see five grand slip away.
On top of that the Delta Pro is portable, allowing it to do many other powering jobs.
Our testing is planned for the second half of 2022 and will involve evaluation as a camper power source, a portable power station and as a boost for house electrical power. Watch this space.