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Old 03-17-2015, 04:53 PM   #1
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Lithium costs: comparison and sanity check?

Our oldest bank of 3x Group 31 AGM batteries is coming into its 10th season, and while it still acts normally and nominal resting voltage is still in the area of 12.6+v, Iím beginning to plan for its eventual replacement. Iíd like to hear someone compare costs of a Lithium-based system, just to be sure Iím not misunderstanding the current market. I have read almost all the Lithium-related threads here, but they often wander so much I havenít been able to pin down relevant details that would specifically apply to our situation.

So Iím planning to replace those 3x G31s with 4x 6V golf cart batteries, using Lifelineís GPL-4CTs as a target for discussion. That would increase capacity on that bank from 300 Ah to 440 Ah, and thatís pretty much what I can fit in the same general area. (Not yet sure if I can fit the taller 6CTs, which would give a total of 600 Ah; not sure I can handle the extra weight, either.) Iím also planning to add an inverter/charger on that bank; the target for discussion is ProMarinerís TruePower CombiPS, 2000W pure sine wave inverter and 70-amp charger.

What Iíd like to know is what a comparable (Ah) Lithium-based system would cost, what components would be necessary to make it all work (special charger, special controllers, whatever?) and roughly how much space it would take.

Background: Our boat has two large-ish battery banks of 300 Ah each, plus one small Group 34 battery to start the genset. Each of the two large banks starts one of the main engines, runs approx. half the house load (including one fridge on each bank), and powers additional bridge functions (electrics -- nav lights and so forth -- on the newer G31 bank, and a fairly large electronics suite on the older G31 bank being replaced).

We have a parallel switch, so if one main bank is depleted, we can tie both together to get an engine going (minimum 1250 CCA or 1560 MCA required). Lifeline advises the 4x 4CTs would be fine for this application. And then we have the genset, too. And jumper cables.

The charger is a 3-bank 40-amp ďsmartĒ (enough) system. We have no inverter now.

The overall setup is a little less conventional, but itís simple and it works well enough for us. I do not want to change the basic setup. Iím happy with the AGMs, and I donít particularly want to change that either unless Lithium offers an affordable advantage.

We often anchor out, but usually only for 1-5 days at a time max, and then weíre back at the dock and on shore power. More often than that, weíre marina hopping, or even more likely doing some mixture. When anchored, an hour or a bit more of generator time in morning and evening keeps the batteries charged, and we have an electric galley so weíd be running the genset to cook at those times anyway.

We donít particularly NEED an inverter just now, but Iím planning ahead for when we have more leisure time and can stay out longer and might want some quiet access to small appliances. I believe adding additional charging capability, given that our current 40-amp charger is already tad small for our current capacity. An inverter/charger seems to speak to both of those. I have identified an area it can be installed, approx. 3 feet from the bank in question.

So what would it take in parts and $$ to replicate an approx. 440 Ah system using Lithium batteries (of some sort) ??

-Chris
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Old 03-17-2015, 06:53 PM   #2
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On the sanity check question: you are thinking of keeping one house bank lead-acid, and converting the other to LiFePO4?

You are crazy .

Seriously, don't do that. I'll let others comment on the cost.
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Old 03-17-2015, 07:35 PM   #3
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Have you looked at this thread?

Lithium Batteries By Smart

From what I have seen, it is 7 boat dollars for 360 amp hours.
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Old 03-17-2015, 07:48 PM   #4
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Chris

What would be the cost of equipment, aside from batteries, to bring LiOx batteries on line in your vessel, say an educated guess?
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Old 03-17-2015, 07:51 PM   #5
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Lithium costs: comparison and sanity check?

My study on LI a year or so ago showed it is still very much the domain of the tinkerers whom wish to get a whole lot of cycles. Sail cruisers benefit in two ways. Weight/space savings and time between charging as you can take 80% of charge out between charges.

My end opinion was unless you are seriously after an electric driven boat or long term cruising on the hook your throwing money at a problem that doesn't exist. 10 years on your existing bank testify to that.

If your needing some new reading material that would take days to sift through there's at least two 1,000+ post threads at CruiserForum that have input from some really knowledgeable folks.
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Old 03-17-2015, 08:03 PM   #6
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My son tells me a brand new low cost lithium battery is coming out next year; I think it's called lithium oxygen battery and will be 50% cheaper for the same amperage.....

That could still make several times more expensive gel batteries.
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Old 03-18-2015, 02:37 AM   #7
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Well nobody else has commented on the cost, so...

Quote:
Originally Posted by ranger42c View Post
[SIZE=2][COLOR=black]So what would it take in parts and $$ to replicate an approx. 440 Ah system using Lithium batteries (of some sort) ??
LiFePO4 cells permit somewhat greater depth of discharge than lead-acid, so you might decide to go with less nominal Ah capacity with lithium, say 300Ah to equal a 440Ah lead-acid bank.

LiFePO4 cells are more easily damaged by overvoltage and undervoltage than lead-acid, so you probably should hve at least an undervoltage disconnect that will shed load on the bank if its voltage gets too low.

On the cheap end of the spectrum: You can order four 3.2v 300Ah LiFePO4 cells from Balqon for $1580 and wire them in series for a nominal 12V 300Ah bank. A simple nonprogrammable undervoltage disconnect relay that can handle 200A is about $100.

On the high end, you can get a 360Ah module from Gensun for $7000 all set to go with a full battery management system including disconnect relays.

In either case most folks who have looked into this would advise that you budget for a programmable alternator regulator and a programmable mains-powered charger that can be customized for LiFePO4 charging profiles. And if you are going to keep some lead-acid batteries as part of your system, you probably should have a separate way of charging them; some claim they have successfully used the same charging profiles for lead-acid and LiFePO4, but that is controversial to say the least.
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Old 03-18-2015, 04:21 AM   #8
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Unless you are an aeronautical electrical engineer you should not have those things in a boat ..... wait a minute, that didn't work for Boeing
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Old 03-18-2015, 04:52 AM   #9
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IIRC Boeing did not use LiFePO4, but instead a different Li chemistry. The ones they used had higher energy density, but were prone to thermal instability. As they discovered. There are a plethora of Li battery chemistries, and unfortunately they are lumped together for 'reporting' all too often.

I'm anticipating LiFePO4 systems suitable for boats at reasonable prices in a year or so, based on discussions with a friend who is intending to establish a business to do just that.
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Old 03-18-2015, 07:11 AM   #10
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Right on. If you go to youtube and search around a little you can find guys trying to damage lifepo4 and all they manage to do is "poof" them. The other variety will happily get very hot or worse...

"Poofing" is not dangerous just expen$ive

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IIRC Boeing did not use LiFePO4, but instead a different Li chemistry. The ones they used had higher energy density, but were prone to thermal instability. As they discovered. There are a plethora of Li battery chemistries, and unfortunately they are lumped together for 'reporting' all too often.

I'm anticipating LiFePO4 systems suitable for boats at reasonable prices in a year or so, based on discussions with a friend who is intending to establish a business to do just that.
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Old 03-18-2015, 09:52 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by QB View Post
On the sanity check question: you are thinking of keeping one house bank lead-acid, and converting the other to LiFePO4?

You are crazy .

Seriously, don't do that. I'll let others comment on the cost.


Candor is a good thing! And I suspect you're right!

Actually, though, since I'd assumed a separate charger, and the DC house loads are separated into two banks...

What exactly would be the downside of one bank being AGM and one bank being LiFePo4?

-Chris
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Old 03-18-2015, 09:55 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Donsan View Post
Have you looked at this thread?

Lithium Batteries By Smart

From what I have seen, it is 7 boat dollars for 360 amp hours.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CPseudonym View Post
My end opinion was unless you are seriously after an electric driven boat or long term cruising on the hook your throwing money at a problem that doesn't exist. 10 years on your existing bank testify to that.

If your needing some new reading material that would take days to sift through there's at least two 1,000+ post threads at CruiserForum that have input from some really knowledgeable folks.

Yep, have seen those, as well as a boatload of other threads, and Mainesail's (Compass marine) articles, etc.

I'm happy to assume non-problem; just thought useful to check first, in case the wine is getting riper -- assuming I'll have to do something eventually, anyway.

Edit: And this just in... Mainesail just responded to the same questions on the other forum; his recommendation was to stay with AGMs. That cuts to the chase nicely

-Chris
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Old 03-18-2015, 09:56 AM   #13
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Chris

What would be the cost of equipment, aside from batteries, to bring LiOx batteries on line in your vessel, say an educated guess?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rustybarge View Post
My son tells me a brand new low cost lithium battery is coming out next year; I think it's called lithium oxygen battery and will be 50% cheaper for the same amperage.....

That could still make several times more expensive gel batteries.

Hmmmmm... Have to admit, LiOx is a new one on me; I'll research, thanks!

-Chris
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Old 03-18-2015, 10:04 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by QB View Post
LiFePO4 cells are more easily damaged by overvoltage and undervoltage than lead-acid, so you probably should hve at least an undervoltage disconnect that will shed load on the bank if its voltage gets too low.

On the cheap end of the spectrum: You can order four 3.2v 300Ah LiFePO4 cells from Balqon for $1580 and wire them in series for a nominal 12V 300Ah bank. A simple nonprogrammable undervoltage disconnect relay that can handle 200A is about $100.

On the high end, you can get a 360Ah module from Gensun for $7000 all set to go with a full battery management system including disconnect relays.

In either case most folks who have looked into this would advise that you budget for a programmable alternator regulator and a programmable mains-powered charger that can be customized for LiFePO4 charging profiles. And if you are going to keep some lead-acid batteries as part of your system, you probably should have a separate way of charging them; some claim they have successfully used the same charging profiles for lead-acid and LiFePO4, but that is controversial to say the least.

Very useful! Sounds like the low-end solution is higher than entry cost of four Lifeline 4CTs (without regard yet to different life-cycle costs).

The ancillary "programmable" components are the things I've been less aware of, although I'd assumed a Lithium-specific profile on the charger would likely be necessary. Didn't know at all about voltage disconnects and alternator regulators...

-Chris
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Old 03-18-2015, 12:18 PM   #15
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Quote:
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Actually, though, since I'd assumed a separate charger, and the DC house loads are separated into two banks...

What exactly would be the downside of one bank being AGM and one bank being LiFePo4?
If the two banks are always electrically separate, there's no problem. So if you are sure your "parallel" switch will never be thrown, you'll be OK. But what will you do if the lead-acid bank goes flat and you want to start the other engine?...

Quote:
Edit: And this just in... Mainesail just responded to the same questions on the other forum; his recommendation was to stay with AGMs. That cuts to the chase nicely
FWIW I need to replace a couple 8D AGM's in my boat this year, and after a bunch of research that's what I've decided to do as well.
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Old 03-18-2015, 02:42 PM   #16
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Quote:
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If the two banks are always electrically separate, there's no problem. So if you are sure your "parallel" switch will never be thrown, you'll be OK. But what will you do if the lead-acid bank goes flat and you want to start the other engine?...

FWIW I need to replace a couple 8D AGM's in my boat this year, and after a bunch of research that's what I've decided to do as well.

So a momentary parallel switch wouldn't work because one bank is X chemistry and the other is Y chemistry? Yes, having a working parallel switch is still a requirement.

Have to admit, during our transition I was still running one main bank of FLAs after having switched the other bank to AGMs. Parallel switch worked. That's essentially the same chemistry, though...

One reason we don't have 8Ds is 'cause I don't want to lift that kind of weight ever again. Hence the G31s. Happens that also meant I could put three of them in the same space where I could only fit one 8D, so 300 Ah per bank instead of about 245 or so.

And then I eventually figured out that I can fit four 6V GCs in the space I've got, even though I can't get four G31s or two 8Ds there. And with enough 6V GCs (four is sufficient), I could still probably start an engine. And checked that with Lifeline and Cummins to be sure And Lifeline makes AGM 6V GCs. So assuming an AGM replacement, the 300 Ah will increase to 440 Ah.

-Chris
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Old 03-18-2015, 05:00 PM   #17
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Quote:
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So a momentary parallel switch wouldn't work because one bank is X chemistry and the other is Y chemistry? Yes, having a working parallel switch is still a requirement.
Quite different resting voltages, and LiFePO4 is capable of delivering huge current.

It would be an interesting experiment to parallel 300Ah of charged LiFePO4 with a large discharged lead-acid bank. I wouldn't want to do it, but it would be interesting!
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Old 03-18-2015, 07:12 PM   #18
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Lithium and wet don't mix well. The way you prepare a lithium battery for disposal is put it in salt water for awhile.
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Old 03-19-2015, 07:58 AM   #19
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It would be an interesting experiment to parallel 300Ah of charged LiFePO4 with a large discharged lead-acid bank. I wouldn't want to do it, but it would be interesting!







In the meantime, Maine Sail mentioned Firefly carbon-foam AGM technology in the thread on the other forum, so I did some looking at that. See http://www.bruceschwab.com/advanced-...asis-group-31/


Sort of incredible to see their design life at 3600 cycles to 50% DoD or 1000 cycles to 80% DoD. That would be 3.5x longer life span (to 50% DoD) than Lifeline's 6V GPL-4CT golf cart batteries, and 5.5x longer that Odyssey's PC2150 G31s. Hmmm....


-Chris
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Old 03-19-2015, 08:19 AM   #20
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That seems far more user friendly than the current state of Li tech IMO. Plug and play, no degree in electrical engineering needed to understand the voodoo.
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