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Old 02-24-2011
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New Lithium Batteries

I had the pleasure of sitting next to an engineer of the new Lithium Iron Magnesium Phosphate battery technology for the marine industry at the Miami Boat show. It was a great learning chat. Here are a few things I learned.
First thing he told me is a good wet-cell golf cart battery taken care of will outlast Gel or AGM batteries. So unless access to the batteries are a problem he told me don't waste my money on AGM.
The new solar panels coming out of Germany are phenomenal. They have a 40 degree direct sunlight line of sight vs. 90 degree of the current solar plates to produce max power. They can even capture sunlight reflection off the sea surface in certain conditions. So this is very exciting for us on sailboats.
The new technology for Lithium batteries is coming. I got a huge classroom lecture on how battery power is produced and used. We all know that taking our standard batteries below 50% is bad for the life of the battery. So let's say we have a standard 400 amp battery bank; 2 8D's. 50% of that is 200 amps and we all know that 10-20% of the 400 amps is unusable depending on age, temperature and sulfate saturation. . So a 400 amp battery bank is really only 160-180amp's of useful amps for running the systems in a boat without causing any damage to the battery bank. Of course that is all based on the 20amps/ hours rating. However, as it was explained to me, since I never go over 10 amp/hours at any given time, I will have more amps to use over and above the 400 rated at 20amp/hour battery.
Now comes along the new Lithium Iron Magnesium Phosphate batteries. They can be drained all the way down to 100% of their amp rating and not hurt the batteries significantly. They will be rated for average life span of 12-15 years. So if one has 400amp/hour rate battery bank , one gets all 400 amps for the most part. This is like doubling the amp/hours available. Hence, it would be like having a 800 amp/hour battery bank on my current boat. They also weigh less than 60% of the current rate similar battery and is also smaller in size. The standard 8D battery will be the size of a group 27 in the new Lithium battery. Smaller and lighter. For the Catamaran boats, I can see a huge advantage in going to these new batteries for weigh savings alone; about 200 lbs. Charging times is 2.5 hours (per battery) for a normal 70 amp battery charger found on most diesel engines.
Right now the price per battery is steep for initial cost; $2000 plus $500 for the charging controller. But is it really? Standard 8D battery is around 600-1200 dollars. We need two of them to get the useful amps on the one new Lithium battery. These batteries will last twice or longer than standard batteries. The charging controller is also a battery monitor system like the XBM one I have on the boat now. What I asked the engineer was for us sailors how much would it cost for useful amp/hours based on "How we use batteries on sailboat and compare that to standard lead acid batteries." From what I can guess is it is 50% at worse and about 100% better over the life span of battery. Stay tune for more of this new technology. I heard at the Miami boat show that Beneteau is coming up with new hybrid drive boat using this new Lithium battery in the coming year.
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Last edited by Melrna; 02-25-2011 at 02:12 PM.
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Old 02-26-2011
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"First thing he told me is a good wet-cell golf cart battery taken care of will outlast Gel or AGM batteries. " Yes and no. AGMs are expensive and easily damaged, but if you leave any wet call alone for 90 days, the internal self-discharge will damage it. An AGM can sit for 6-12 months with zero damage from self-discharge. Horses for courses.

"They have a 40 degree direct sunlight line of sight vs. 90 degree of the current solar plates to produce max power." Either that's backwards or wrong. If the German panels have 1/2 the line of sight, they'll need to be repointed at the sun twice as often, not half as often!

With all the claims for the new lithium battery types--and there are several--look at what the big dumb auto makers have concluded for their electric cars. The Chinese are using LiFePo with a cheap charging system. The Japanese, sometimes NiMh still. And some others are using a different LiOn type with a much more expensive charging system. Each claims they have the "best" longevity and cost per amp-hour of life. Two out of three have to be wrong about that!

If any of the manufacturers, or engineers, could really back up their claims about overwhelming superiority...do you think these big companies with hundreds of millions of R&D lab dollars would ignore them for long?

Too many claims, too few years of actual track records. Too few absolute warranties, and too many young companies that may not be around in five years to back them up in any case. I'd wait for someone to prove their claims, with a five-year track record and a performance bond, before spending money on any of them. Unless money was no object, i.e. cutting the weight on a racing boat.
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Old 02-26-2011
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I think Melissa Renee (crazy boat woman) meant to say "40 degree vs. 90 degree angle of incidence", meaning that the German panels will produce nearly full output when the incoming light is 40 degrees off perpendicular.

Good points about the other parameters. Interesting as LiIon and other technologies are, they're certainly not there in terms of price. Six hundred to 1,200 dollars for an 8D is way too high. Two golf carts can provide approximately the same AH (20-hour rate) for about $120 to $250 (Sams Club or Trojan T-105s).

Compare that to the $2,500 for a new LiIon battery. I don't think so, thank you. I'll take the flooded golf carts with about 5 years average life: I can install them ten times for the price of the LiIon's (and get 50 years instead of 10).

Hint to battery researchers: price matters!

Bill
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Old 02-27-2011
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Thanks btrayfors that is exactly what I mean on the solar panels.
There are many ways to look at what batteries to have on one's boat.. depending on how a sailor is going to use them. I think for the average weekend sailor or racer the golf cart batteries are best. If one is on a mooring ball or has no way of charging the batteries very often than a case for AGM can be made. For the full time cruiser both cases can be made; wet cell/AGM's.
You are correct in that there is a lot of claims on the new Lithium batteries. But when one looks at all the consumer electronics,, almost all have some type of Lithium batteries in them now. The new battery cars that are coming out have the new Lithium batteries in them as well as most of the hybrid cars that have been out for awhile.
The engineer I had the pleasure of chatting to for a few hours, for their company batteries they have been in the field now for 5 years with the military and other government agencies. So he made for a good argument on the claims of their batteries. This was their first boat show and the company was looking to make inroads to market their products to the marine industry.
I think for the average sailor or boater out there these new batteries are not needed. Wet cells can handle their needs just fine at a great price. Where this new technology can come into play is a hybrid drive system that the current boat manufactures are playing with, full time cruisers with big amp draw needs, boats that are sensitive to weight like a Catamaran and boats where space is limited for a big battery bank. Time will tell if and when this technology comes to the marine industry.
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Old 02-27-2011
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If you cannot fully charge your batteries about every 2 weeks AGM batteries are a bad choice as they really don't like that. On a mooring or cruising with solar/wind gen no problem. But if you are only charging to 80% SOC with the alternator you will kill AGMs quickly. Except for the maintenance free aspect and the ability to place them on their sides I see no real advantage to AGM batteries. Trojan T-105 or similar GC batteries will outlast them and are nowhere near as fussy about charging. And they are a lot less expensive.

The UK magazine Yachting World reviewed Lithium batteries and gave a breakdown of cost/amp hour over the batteries' expected life in an issue about 6 months ago.
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Old 02-28-2011
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Lithium batteries are going to be the battery of the future.
They are at the moment expensive there is still a lot development work to be done.
The useable capacity of lithium batteries is higher than lead acid, but 15-90% is more realistic than 0-100% quoted in the OP.
The cycle life is yet to be determined. Manufacturers claim a very large number of cycles, but early adopters like the electric bike and RC community report a much more modest cycle life. These users are hard on their batteries and boat owners are likely to do better, but I would be very sceptical of manufactures claims on life.
Lithium batteries can be recharged at very high rates which makes them appealing for boats which rely on generators as there main power source. The light weigh is also an advantage to racing yachts. They are the only practical option for electric drive as lead acid batteries cannot deliver the current necessary.
I think, however, it will be some time before the cost / benefit ratio makes them appealing to the average boat owner.

At the moment there are 2 types Lithium batteries. Chinese products that are cheap, but have some quality control issues and reputable firms that are much more expensive (and generally use Chinese cells, but with better QC and matching)
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Old 02-28-2011
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What worries me about Lithium is the scarcity of the material and currently available sources. Blood batteries (like blood diamonds) would make me stay with wet cells.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noelex77 View Post
They are the only practical option for electric drive as lead acid batteries cannot deliver the current necessary.
I agree with most of what you said, but this part I quoted is patently false. Lithium batteries have a very limited upper discharge current. Many have "smart" controllers built into them that shut them down when they exceed this current. Exceeding it will damage the battery or even cause it to explode. Lead acid batteries can deliver more current (per amp hour of capacity) than any other technology except perhaps vanadium batteries (which you will not have on your boat). Lead acid batteries, particularly wet cells, can produce astounding amounts of current.
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Old 02-28-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rmeador View Post
I agree with most of what you said, but this part I quoted is patently false. Lithium batteries have a very limited upper discharge current. Many have "smart" controllers built into them that shut them down when they exceed this current. Exceeding it will damage the battery or even cause it to explode. Lead acid batteries can deliver more current (per amp hour of capacity) than any other technology except perhaps vanadium batteries (which you will not have on your boat). Lead acid batteries, particularly wet cells, can produce astounding amounts of current.

The maximum continuous discharge currents for different batteries are:
Lead acid batteries 0.2C with short time load up to 1C
Lithium iron phosphate Up to 15C

The above figures will vary depending on the particular battery (increasing the plate surface area can increase current delivery), but as you can see Lithium iron phosphate batteries will deliver 10X the current of similar lead acid battery.

If you look up Lithium iron phosphate batteries you will see examples of small batteries that will deliver scary amounts of current for example a 23AHr battery (about 1/3 the size of a car battery) that will produce 1000A for 5 seconds. Make sure you fuse them well!

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Old 02-28-2011
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On the subject of LiFePO4, Wikipedia has this to say "Many brands of LFPs have a low discharge rate compared with lead-acid or LiCoO2." They do, however, point to one manufacturer that claims results like you're talking about, so I stand corrected on that issue.
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