Almost all RVs currently use lead-acid
batteries, the technology which has been around for more than a century. Although many electric vehicles have been built with lead-acid batteries, they are so heavy that the quest for a better battery has been the focus of electric vehicle development for many years.
A type of battery construction which offers some advantage over the traditional flooded cell type, but is still the same lead-acid chemistry, is absorbed glass mat (AGM
). AGM batteries are readily available in sizes and designs suitable for RVs, and some Escape owners have used them; they've been discussed quite a bit in this forum. The end result is about the same weight for a given energy storage capacity, so they don't enable any great change in the way electrical energy is used in the trailer.
Rechargeable power tools first became practical with nickel-cadmium
batteries, but they have lots of issues and never were successful in electric vehicles. I've never heard of them used in an RV.
The next battery technology to prove useful for electric vehicles was nickel metal hydride
, and this is still the type used in many gas-electric hybrid cars. They can handle a lot of power for their size, but should not be either fully charged or deeply discharged for best life, so they work better in the hybrids than they would in an RV. Again, I've never heard of them used in an RV.
To run a battery-electric car, or a "plug-in" hybrid without excessive weight, more energy needs to be stored and the battery needs to withstand deep discharge. These characteristics would be great for an RV, and the solution has turned out to be various lithium
-based chemistries. There are all sorts of issues with management on both charging and discharging (use), and the batteries themselves are expensive, but compared to lead-acid the same volume and much less weight of battery can carry more usable energy. They're expensive, especially with the management system that should accompany them, but some RV owners are trying them. There's even one trailer manufacturer (Kimberley
) that offers them as a regular factory option and has done so for years. Oh no, another customization request for Escape Trailer Industries.
Although cars have driven lithium battery development, the best-known type - lithium-ion - has proven to be problematic even for cars with thousands of dollars of battery management equipment. It seems like lithium iron phosphate
is the most viable choice for RVs (and many other applications).
So, has better battery technology enabled anything new in RV use? One manufacturer (Kimberley again
) even offers the possibility of running air conditioning from the batteries... at least for a short time.