CAMPING - POWER & LIGHTING
The EcoFlow Delta Pro 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 around 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. (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.
Our testing showed that the EcoFlow panel is one of the very few panels we’ve tested that produces the maker’s claimed wattage. It’s excellent.
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 promised to rewrite what can be done with van or camper trailer electrical set-ups. However, our long-term testing has shown up a charging issue that may be a problem for Australian users: in-car charging is totally inadequate.
With a limit of a miserly eight input amps from the vehicle alternator, the EcoFlow can’t be recharged as you drive. Even worse, it can’t accept charge from rooftop solar and the vehicle alternator at the same time, because these two charging modes use a single input point.
We asked EcoFlow about improving in-vehicle charging and this is their reply:
“Currently, there is no official adapter available for car-engine charging and the EcoFlow team does not recommend users use third-party cables and accessories as they haven’t done any safety testing for them.
“The DC interface of Delta Pro is XT60 and some users with hands-on skills will DIY a battery cable connecting the positive and negative electrodes and then add an XT60 plug to charge the Delta Pro from the car engine.
“However, for security reasons, we do not recommend users do so.”
That poses a problem for Australian users who rely on alternator combined with solar charging to top up batteries when travelling. The Delta Pro needs periodic solar and mains charging, because its in-vehicle charging ability is poor.
As is, the Delta Pro will work well as a power source for weekend camping, in cloudy conditions, but without mains backup every two or three days, it’s not a long-term source of camping power.
In full sunlight conditions the EcoFlow 220W solar panel we tested provided ample power to run an 80-litre fridge, plus periodic use of a pod coffee machine and LED lighting, without depleting the Delta Pro battery pack. In fact, it made power in excess of consumption. Here’s the power balance while running the fridge, with the panel angled to the afternoon sun:
Value for money
With a suggested Australian RRP of $6500, the Delta Pro may look like a very expensive power solution, but if you break down what it can do and if solar and periodic mains charging is available, the price isn’t unreasonable.
If evaluated solely as an alternative camper power source, it’s the equivalent of an installation 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 could do the fitting yourself, you’d easily see five grand slip away.
On top of that the Delta Pro is portable, allowing it to do many other powering jobs. For example, it could be a tradie’s power source during the working week, a weekend power source for overnight camps and a backup for household mains power in the event of a blackout.