Lithium RV batteries have been growing in popularity to the extent that they have pretty much now become the gold standard for RVers looking to maximize house battery power while boondocking and camping off-grid.
This week in Episode 385 of our RV Podcast, we interview two RV industry leaders to talk about lithium RV batteries – Sean Nichols of Battleborn Batteries and Jeff Runels, the President and CEO of Keystone RV.
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Why Lithium RV batteries are so much better than AGM and lead acid batteries
Lithium RV batteries began showing up more and more in RVs about five or six years ago. Over that time, as technology has improved and their ruggedness and reliability have been proven, they have become the standard for RVers who find themselves camping away from campground electric hookups.
Though still expensive ($1,000 for 100 amps is common), they have the benefit of weighing almost half as much as AGM batteries, being virtually maintenance-free, and charging faster, discharging more fully. When aired to solar panels, they can make RVs energy independent.
At the Tampa show, we caught up in separate interviews with Battleborn’s Sean Nichols and Keystone’s Jeff Runels. Both explained the appeal of lithium batteries.
Interview Transcript: The state of Lithium RV batteries today
Here is an edited transcript of our interview with these two industry leaders on lithium RV batteries:
Why do you think lithium has become the standard or gold standard for RV batteries?
Well, that’s because lead is dead, Mike. Lead is dead. Lithium batteries, lithium iron phosphate batteries, a deep cycle storage solution that we sell here at Battleborn, and make and assemble here in the United States, is the new standard of deep cycle storage and RVs and Marine applications.
Lithum RV batteries out-preform AGM in warm AND cold weather
It’s been proven over a number of years now and well trusted and believed in by consumers. It’s been accepted by the community and the technology continues to innovate. So, now we offer a full line of heated batteries at Battleborn too. So, if you want to charge at cold temperatures, you can get those from us now, also. We have our same standard line without the heated option, also.
And I’ll tell you what, we did a white paper number of years ago. Maybe like two years ago, called “Lead is Dead.” It was a white paper about how a lead-acid battery can’t perform well at any temperature.
So when someone says to me, “don’t buy lithium batteries because you can’t charge them in cold temperatures.” I’m thinking, have you ever actually measured the amount of power that goes in and out of your lead acid battery, even at room temperature?
Because it doesn’t perform well even at room temperature. And at cold temperatures, I’m talking like 40 degrees, not even super cold like you went camping in the other day, it doesn’t perform very well at all. It’s pretty painful.
So, our batteries have a built-in charging protection, the Battery Management System, to stop you from ruining the battery. But now we have the heated option so you can warm the battery up. We have a state-of-the-art heat system built into the battery, that uses very little current to make the batteries warm enough up so you can recharge them in any climate.
Lithium RV batteries are still expensive, no doubt about it
People work hard for their money. So, I will acknowledge that the battery does cost more upfront. If you go to that same white paper, “Lead is Dead”, you’ll find out that our batteries are over eight times cheaper than AGM batteries over the life span based on per-cycle cost.
Due to the length of time, due to the warranty, the battery comes with, it makes people feel more comfortable making that investment in our battery than a lead-acid battery.
What it does is changes the experience of using the RV. So, it’s not only just about the cost, it’s about actually maximizing the investment that you made in this vehicle that you bought to go out and enjoy the outdoors.
We’ve been well received by the OEM side of the business and the consumer side and we appreciate everybody believing in us. We did recently do an agreement with Keystone.
Keystone RV now makes Lithium RV batteries OEM
We are the exclusive battery supplier for Keystone RV, which is a very large tow-able manufacturer in the industry. You can get the batteries at their dealership through Dragonfly, or you can order them on the coach itself when it comes to the dealership.
I think that you can see that the tides are changing. I remember we had a conversation one time when you were asking me when I thought lithium would really have that inflection point. I think that we’re here, there now.
Well, Jeff, you guys announced a pretty big partnership with Dragonfly, the parent company of Battleborn. Tell me about that.
So, we partnered with Battleborn because they bring so much expertise to the table.
They’re also the name when you’re talking about lithium and when you’re putting a solar program together these days you can’t talk about efficiencies without having a good battery. And so as we’ve developed this program where we’re releasing three systems, solar on everything in some way, shape, or form at Keystone, you want good partners. So, they were kind enough to come on board, help us out and now we’ve established an exclusive relationship.
So, how much lithium can I put on this, ordered from the factory?
You can order our biggest system with four of the 270 amp hour GC3 batteries.
Wow. 1200 amps.
I don’t need a generator.
I don’t need a generator. And solar, how about solar?
So, the solar, again, you have a 200-watt system, a 400-watt system, and a 600-watt system are our three main systems that will graduate through the entire campus.
And that just helps trickle-charge it. You’re really relying on power-
Well, it depends. I’ll give you an example. We had the 600i system in one of our midsize fifth wheels at Hershey last year. We were able to run our refrigerator and our soft start AC in that unit for up to an hour and 45 minutes standalone, it wasn’t hooked up to power. And that was which just with one, 270 amp GC3 battery.
In comparison to the industry now, where does this put you guys at Keystone, in terms of solar and lithium?
I would say we’re well out ahead.
What this means to consumers is that these RVs are now really good for taking off the road now and I can make lithium RV batteries factory installed?
Factory-installed, rather than having to do it myself afterward in retrofit. That’s pretty impressive.
That was our hope.
We didn’t want people to have to tear these coaches apart and you don’t want to have to… so, the other thing that we should mention when we talk about that is all of these have outlets, inverted standard from the factory.
That’s the other big piece of this. Each of our coaches regardless of what level you’re at has at least seven outlets inverted. That’s going to be really important because you don’t want to have to do that after the fact.
Thanks, Jeff. Appreciate your time.
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