Why We Converted to RV Lithium Batteries
RV lithium batteries are becoming much more popular with RVers as they become safer, more efficient, and as the price point becomes less of a barrier.
When we bought our new 2019 Newmar Canyon Star, the issue of lithium batteries came up. But all I knew about lithium batteries was that you couldn’t just pull out the lead-acid batteries and insert the new lithium batteries. If you tried, you could damage your electrical system.
That was enough information for me to avoid making this change. I didn’t understand these new battery systems. And I remembered the stories of people’s pockets catching on fire from the lithium batteries in their phones. That was enough to scare me away.
At least that was before I started to do the research for this article. Now, I know that lithium batteries will be my choice when it’s time to replace the batteries I currently have in this coach and the following article is an overview of why I came to this conclusion.
Yes, RV Lithium Batteries Cost More
First, let’s address the elephant in the room. The first thing (and maybe the only thing) you will hear about RV lithium batteries is that they are expensive. YES, they are! By comparison to traditional batteries, they are very expensive. So, you may ask why would anyone purposely choose lithium batteries?
The bottom line is they last much longer. You might need to replace traditional batteries every 2 or 3 years depending on maintenance. But you might be able to use the same set of lithium batteries for 10 years or more. The maintenance of lead-acid batteries as one of the conditions that determines the useful life of the battery. But lithium batteries require no regular maintenance.
All batteries degrade over time, but the rate at which lithium batteries degrade is so much slower than lead-acid batteries it results in the prolonged lifespan of these batteries.
But You Get More Battery Power in Return
Another major difference between these two battery systems is the amount of available power each will deliver to your RV. In other words, you can store more energy and access more power in lithium-ion batteries. They have a more dense and efficient energy storage system. This translates to more power available to you and the electrical systems in your RV.
Bottom line…you can run more electrical equipment in your RV for longer with lithium batteries. Unlike lead-acid batteries, they deliver full power even as the energy level is depleted in their cells. Lead-acid batteries need to maintain at least a 50% charged level. This allows them to deliver any power to your RV. But lithium batteries can be depleted up to 85% without damaging the batteries or diminishing the available power.
With lithium batteries, you do not need to add fluid or clean the battery terminals. Each weighs about 1/3 of the weight of traditional lead batteries. They are not dangerous, nor do they emit any fumes. On the flip side, with lead batteries, it’s recommended that you have a battery power management system installed. But it is essential with a new lithium battery system.
Making the switch to lithium RV batteries
The original warning that scared me away from lithium batteries in the first place was based on how complicated the electrical system is in an RV. If you drive a motorhome (and we do) there are both 120 volt AC circuits and 12 volt DC circuits in the house portion of the RV plus the regular car battery in the chassis that starts the engine and performs some other electrical tasks in the RV.
A travel trailer may have different systems. But suffice it to say that each rig is set up a little different from all the others. The battery bank (the entire battery set-up) is designed to deliver the correct power to every electrical component in your rig. This includes the plugins, refrigerator, entertainment center, fireplace, and lights. These battery banks may also be set up to work with one or more inverters. This system must be replicated with a lithium-ion battery bank. Then it can to meet the electrical demand in your RV.
An installation of new lithium batteries will also require a battery management system. This performs several functions, including balancing the power input during the recharge cycle. It also provides valuable information about the lifecycle and charge level in the battery bank.
When to call RV electrical experts
For an experienced and knowledgeable RVer with electrical expertise, replacing a deep cycle lead-acid battery bank with a lithium battery bank and battery management system, might be within reach. But for the average RVer, I would recommend having this system installed by people with technical proficiency, especially if you intend to include solar panels with the installation.
The bottom line, if you can afford to replace your lead batteries with lithium batteries, you will probably save money over time. You certainly will have more power available for longer periods of time. And you won’t need to do any maintenance on the batteries. They are lighter, cleaner, safer, and more efficient. The downside is they cost more, a lot more, roughly $1000 each.
Youtubers Drivin & Vibin teamed up with Sean from Battle Born Batteries to answer the top questions on RV lithium batteries in this video:
For more information on RV lithium batteries, check out the following article from Camper Report.
Peggy Dent is an author, writer, and full-time RVer, traveling around the US and Canada. She’s traveled more than 130,000 miles in a motorhome, over the past 20 years, and is currently writing for the RV industry. You can contact her through her website at www.APenInYourHand.com
Jesus MM Garza says
Apparently, a well maintained oversized set of 6 volt batteries (configured to 12v) should last 5+ years. Just say’n!
Lee Stauffer says
I’m sure you know this article will stir up a bunch of interesting comments. I’m glad you published Sean’s video with Drivin and Vibin.
Battle Born batteries are a drop in replacement for lead acid. They will not harm your RV nor will your RV harm them. However, with some tweaks, you will get better charging performance.
My top three RV upgrades (in order)
1) Bluetooth battery monitor. If you have lead acid or lithium, a good battery monitor makes all the difference in reducing battery anxiety.
2) Lithium upgrade. If your RV lifestyle is frequently off-grid, then lithium is a game changer for you.
3) Solar panels. Yes, solar comes in third. I do a panel or two on the roof and a portable panel or two so I can park in the shade.
Litium batteries oh jo thanks like having a nuclear bomb on board at all times if you ever seen a litium batery in a cell phone burn its like a hot nuclear bomb going off ,very dangeous no lithium fo me .
Way, way too expensive. I use Trojan T105s lead acid 6v batteries. I have a 20 watt solar panel on the roof connected to a solar charge controller that keeps the batteries up to voltage so that they don’t sulfate in the summer time here in Arizona. I get 5 years of good use out of them. I buy them at a local golf cart shop that sells them for a very reasonable price. The last time I paid about $120.
Patrick Jones says
I have heard good things about converting to the Trojan T105s 6V batteries. Are these the same as the Inter state batteries sold at Costco? If not, are they carried by major retailer?
– Pat 19G View
I agree. I put two T-105’s 6V golf cart batts in my Class C in April 2017. They are still going strong. Under $300 for the two of them.
I bought 8 280 Ah cells from AliBaba with a 24V Overkill Solar BMS from Florida for $900 and I don’t think I’ll need another battery for 15 years. Lead acid is dead.
Craig Gulley says
you forgot to mention on key “con” to lithium, as it pertains to travel trailers. Lithium will not work in freezing temperature and most coach batteries in travel trailers are outside. If you are thinking about converting to lithium you will need to move the entire battery system inside and have some type of temperature control. so if you can’t and you RV in shoulder seasons or even states that have winter, Lithium is not for you
friendly mcface says
incorrect. lithium works fine below freezing. what you should not do is charge lithium batteries below freezing.
Raymond Orr says
The problem with your article is you compared lithium batteries to lead acid. You did not mention AGM batteries which are a good option from lead acid and cost less than lithium. They also have a longer life than lead acid and less maintenance.. If you are going to write article about RV batteries give a complete picture of all the options. The pro’s and con’s of each. That is all!
Brad Wartman says
Hi Raymond, AGM batteries also use a lead-acid chemistry and are subject to the same general limitations.
Richard Simpson says
most lithium RV packs have built in heaters, so no problem charging or discharging in cold camping
Totally ignored the fact that these batteries as sensitive to extreme temperatures and vibration.
Drew Mueller says
At $90.00 apiece, I can buy almost infinite sets of lead acid batteries when compared to lithiums over the life of several motor homes. Checking them every couple of months is easy. If taken care of, they last 5 years on average. For me the decision to chose lead acid over AGM or lithium is obvious.
Luis campos says
How much for two batteries
Dave B says
Great article! I been looking at installing solar to my 38ft North Point RV and was considering installing Lithium batteries with the new system. I’ve heard of Battle Born Batteries and I’d like to find a reputable company in my area (Manteca, CA) that could install and do the in tire upgrade for me. Your article again was very helpful and this is the avenue that I’m going to go down. If you have any suggestions of Reputable installers in my area please feel free to email me. Thanks again Dave
Replaced 2-6V and 1-12V batteries with 2 -12v Lithium and a new lithium battery management charger.
Congratulated myself on the great weight savings.
Traveled a few miles to a gas station-after fill up I tried starting but the built-in BLM (battery management system) tripped on both Lithium batteries leaving me unable to fire up. Another RVer gave me a jump to get it going.
Checking with the Born Free Lithium battery people I learned that their batteries cannot be used as a starter battery. Thousands $$ spent and It wouldn’t even start my engine!
All my research did not mention this!
Mack Knife says
Um, adding water to batteries went out a long time ago. Almost all battery systems in TVs are now AGM which other than charging don’t require maintenance. Also, used properly, AGM batteries will easily last 5-7 years without trouble. Lithium batteries are not a good choice where temps can go below freezing, it isn’t that the batteries freeze it’s that lithium batteries are very inefficient at low temps.
Your Canyon Star should have come with AGM batteries which still today are the better solution for most people.
steven lefler says
It all depends on your storage capabilities.:
I have a Winnebago Navion which has a battery compartment under its entry step. Factory setup 12 V system for Dometic 12V refrigerator, fans, LP switch and and and lights.
The factory provided two Group 24 8240 NAPA Lead acid 12 V with 75AH was not enough.
I upgraded, removed and purchased two Group 31 Relion 100 AH 12V Lithium @ $1050 a piece. I have plenty of power now for 4 days.
Thanks for info Steve! I also have a Navion and am considering a LiFePO4 change. Did you change your inverter/converter? Does the on-board generator electrical inc. T/R switch have to be modified? Do you use solar panels or depend on charging from the tow vehicle alternator?
My RV spends most of its life above 8K ft elevation where low temps are common, I changed to 2 6V LA batteries that has been very successful.
Spending $1050 a piece for batteries is nuts. I put (2) 200 watt solar panels on the roof of my small class A and they produce, on average, about 150 amp-hrs on a sunny day which is way more than I need to keep my 2 Trojan T105s charged and run my refrig, lights, tv, satellite system. My investment in the solar panels, charge controller, and mounting hardware was about $700. If you are trying to extend your boondocking capability it is much more cost effective to go solar than Lithium.
You are totally wrong about the durability of lead acid batteries. The reason is that you need to go to a different charging system to maintain your lithium batteries or you will destroy them. Here is the truth. If you invest in a proper charging system for your lead acid battery, you can easily get 5 to 8 years life out of them. You can’t justify the cost. No one care about weight savings in an RV. Switching to lithium makes no sense.
Philip Parker says
No way form or fashion are the lithium batteries worth what they cost! Last twice as long and cost 10 times as much and can’t be used in cold weather! NOPE!
Lee Stauffer says
If you calculate the dollars per amp-hour delivered, Lithium is actually half the cost of lead acid. My 100AH Battle Born battery will deliver 300000-500000AH before they wear out. A typical high quality deep cycle lead acid will deliver 25000AH before it is worn out.
Lead acid batteries only have half their storage when they are at 32 degrees. Lithium can deliver 80%+ of its energy down to -5 degrees. Lithium should not be charged below 32 degrees, but I have a simple, low cost thermostat heater that keeps my battery between 35-45 for about 25AH per day.
Celestina Simmons says
How do the batters hold up if the coach sits for say 9 months ?
As an electrical engineer I would be most interested in how using the equivalent 8 6 Volt batteries would work with the existing magnum system in our late module units. This new technology allows batteries to discharge at almost 100 % capacity without harm compared to only 20% before deterioration begins in lead acid batteries. This alone means more usable power which translates to either less battery requirement or more capacity. I am anxious but I believe the magnum unit can be properly programmed to accommodate.
h goff says
Battle Born can be dropped in without changing anything – they may charge slower, but no damage to electrical system. Also a MH or trailer’s electrical system is not “complicated”. On shore power, the only special thing is the inverter that makes 12v – otherwise, its straight through 120v. i don’t think you understand what you’re writing about
Phil Pearlstein says
lthium ion batts last 12yrs if properly maintained in a rv/or 10,000 cycles.Lead acid degrade past 50% in 36 mo period,have a larger depth at voltage discharge and recharge in 1/3 the time. A 200 AH lithium batt will provide the same on voltage energy as 4x 100AH AGM lead acid batteries.This batt is currently available @$1000. The AGM(non gel/glass hybrid lead acid) are 4×170 or $680 for same power and live about
3000cycles and 5x the charge time at max charge, The wt is109lbs vs 300 lbs.Niether does better under freezing as a discharged lead acid will freeze when spec grav of electrolyte drops off and cannot be safely moved inside/ the lithiums can be.The additional shed rate on lithium also supports inverter output 35% longer…food for thought.
Rick H. says
We just recently bought a new trailer for weekend and vacation trips. Here in the southern part of Arizona, lead-acid batteries typically only last about 2 years, due to our summer heat. That’s not just RV batteries, but also automotive batteries. When the battery in our trailer needs replaced, I’m going to seriously consider lithium.
Truth is, most Lithium batteries won’t come close to lasting even 4 years.
Lithium batteries consist of multiple cells. The best ones come with a voltage regulator, regulating the voltage of each cell, and upvolting their 3.6V to the required 12V.
Cheap batteries come with sets of 3 cells in series.
Once one cell goes bad, the battery may go bad, or lose significant capacity (3 cells capacity at once).
These cheaper batteries are sold almost anywhere, and often cost just a few bucks less than the more expensive, proper batteries with voltage controller.
Most Lithium batteries on the market, are actually much WORSE, than their lead acid batteries in lifetime.
Bought (2) 12V batteries from Wallmart in 2014 and have traveled thousands of miles and dry camped in our Casita. They are at 100% now at 7 years and were inexpensive.
Linda Brown says
The articles did NOT mention the added costs to make sure that our current electrical system are compatible with the lithium batteries. And you must find someone who actually knows what they are doing to make all needed changes to our systems. You could spend many thousands. Only consider if you use your RV over 6 months a year.
Dalton Bourne says
I’ve used sealed lead-acid batteries in the past (and UPG batteries before that), but I heard from a friend that while sealed batteries are a good choice, I should consider a longer-lasting battery to avoid the need to worry about finding a replacement every few years. So I decided to go with a lithium battery for my RV. I trusted and opted for the deep cycle battery from Battle Born. It weighs just 29 pounds, a lot lighter than the 63-pound UPG batteries I’ve had, and the extra weight of the UPG batteries is just a load. That’s why, despite the fact that these AGM batteries are perfectly adequate for my system, I adore them.
Eric Wuolle says
I wonder if the older RV built-in chargers that came with their lead-acid battery bank would have to be changed to be able to deal with the discharge-recharge cycles in order to change to lithium chemistry ?
Although this may not be a significant cost factor, it may be consideration for those needing to have such a change made. Just thinking……