CAMPING - POWER & LIGHTING
The lithium-ion battery has changed our way of life. We’re mobile-connected virtually everywhere and the lithium deep-cycle battery allows remote-area camping with ample power for fridge, lights, entertainment and communications. Our Revolution lithium battery has been faithfully pumping out amps for the past six years and is still performing perfectly.
The basic lithium ferro-phosphate cell being used by Revolution Power Australia, one of the leaders in lithium-ion battery development, is 3.2V. Four of these make a 12.8V unit that’s topped by an integrated battery management control power board and packaged in a case that makes it look like any normal battery.
However, the LFP equivalent of a 120 amp-hour AGM battery weighs only 12kg – around 24kg less.
Put another way, three LFP batteries of the same weight as one AGM can produce constant power for more than three times as long.
But, before you rush out to buy a lithium replacement for your deep-cycle battery, there’s a catch. To avoid damage to the LFP cells that could be caused by excessive charging voltages, temperature-based voltage compensation, equalisation or continuous trickle charging, it’s vital that the LFP battery is connected to a purpose-designed charger.
Despite claims made by some suppliers, our research at OTA says your existing charger cannot be used optimally with an LFP battery.
Redarc has been working with a number of companies, including Revolution Power Australia, in the development of several lithium-battery charging systems.
Also, after years of R&D Redarc chose the Revolution technology for its own lithium battery brand.
At OTA we replaced the 12V AGM battery in our Traytek Slide-on Camper with a Revolution Power Australia 100AH LFP battery kit. The installation was done at RPA’s Brisbane HQ in late 2014.
The first charging system we evaluated was Redarc’s LFP1240 charger that’s specifically designed for the task of charging an LFP auxiliary battery, via normal alternator voltage, or through a solar panel. The solar charger uses top-shelf maximum power point tracking (MPPT) technology.
In addition, although Revolution Power Australia LFP batteries have inbuilt under- and over-voltage protection the Revolution kit included a Redarc Smart Start battery isolator with low-voltage disconnect function, to ensure that a flat vehicle battery cannot cause the LFP battery to drop below the critical 8V mark, below which the battery can suffer severe damage.
We tested this kit for its durability and performance through six major outback trips.
The Revolution-Redarc combo behaved faultlessly and the camper functioned with fridge and LED night lights running for two days without solar or vehicle power. Given the average mix of sunlight and cloud the camper was self-sufficient 24/7 without anything other than solar power from the 200W roof panel and the lithium battery.
Our current (poor pun) test phase is with Redarc’s Manager30 battery management system controlling power input. That charger was fitted in January 2016 and has experienced widely varying weather conditions, so the charger’s three-mode charging system has had a workout.
The Manager30 uses solar power whenever possible – even with 240V mains power plugged in – and our mono-crystaline 200W solar panel fed some amps into the charger nearly all the time.
Only very thick cloud reduced solar input to less than one amp, at which point the Manager30 needed power for the lithium battery from the engine alternator or mains power.
That has happened only twice in120,000km of bush tripping.
We check its operating mode several times each day on the Manager30 display and monitor battery voltage every morning, after overnight fridge operation. The lowest voltage we’ve experienced is 13.2V.
The Manager30 edges slightly over its rated 30-amp charge capacity with mains or alternator input, giving a very fast recharge. However, even with typical solar input around 6.5 amps the lithium battery recovers in a couple of hours every sunny morning.
The Redarc Manager30 isn’t cheap, but our testing shows that it’s the best battery charger and management system we’ve used.
OTA’s test area for the Revolution-Redarc combination has embraced freezing weather in the Flinders Ranges, steamy tropical and hot dry NT conditions, and has been bounced and rattled over some of the nation’s most rugged and corrugated tracks, including the Anne Beadell, the Connie Sue, the Tanami and several trackless desert treks across the Northern Simpson.
Our old 75 Series isn’t famed for its soft ride, so we reckon we’ve given the battery and charger a severe workout.
We wouldn’t go bush without our Revolution-Redarc power supply. Check out the video we did at the five-year mark: