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Old 07-26-2019, 04:55 PM   #1
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Lithium Update

For what it is worth, a lithium battery update.

I just returned from 4 days at a couple of NY campgrounds without hookups, using 2 100 amp hour Battleborn batteries, combined with a Victron SmartSolar 30/100 controller. While a bit of sun at the start of the first day, mostly rain, and clouds the second day. I arrived at the campground with the batteries at 88%. Used 35 amp hours the first day, 32 amp hours the second, and rarely saw positive amps going into the batteries. Moved to a different campground & between the solar panels & truck charge line, put it all back in on a 105 mile drive; parked in heavy shade. Used 45 amp hours the day before & 65 amp hours yesterday. Put all of it back on the 233 mile trip home.

Rather than my usual attempt at using minimal electricity over the last two days of the trip, I did everything as if I had hookups (except the air conditioner). By morning today, I was at 65%, and, as mentioned before, was back to full in 4 hours.

While I certainly don't believe that lithium batteries are for everyone, I sure appreciate them!
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Old 07-26-2019, 05:05 PM   #2
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Good to hear from you Jon and glad to hear the new setup is working out for you. Glad you’re getting in some camping, hate to see you get out of practice.
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Old 07-26-2019, 06:39 PM   #3
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Nice first workout on the Lithium's Jon. One of the pluses is that they are supposed to charge much faster, and it sounds like your early results point to that advantage. It will be very nice to have all the additional AH availability with the Lithium's as well.
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Old 07-26-2019, 07:02 PM   #4
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I like the idea of lithium, but will have to wait for them to come down in price. With 2 6v batteries and controller I am afraid it is still too expensive for me.
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Old 07-27-2019, 10:42 AM   #5
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Thanks for the update Jon; please keep us posted. Right now it looks like a B2B charger and an MPPT solar controller would be good first steps for me, with lithium batteries a year or so down the road.
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Old 07-27-2019, 10:58 AM   #6
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One of the pluses is that they are supposed to charge much faster, and it sounds like your early results point to that advantage.
I think the very effective charging while driving is the result of the DC-to-DC converter (a.k.a. battery-to-battery charger), not the lithium battery chemistry.
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Old 07-27-2019, 11:01 AM   #7
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I think the very effective charging while driving is the result of the DC-to-DC converter (a.k.a. battery-to-battery charger), not the lithium battery chemistry.
It might have something to do with the 320 watts of solar on the roof - the DC to DC converter is limited to 9 amps...

Still, the advantage of the lithium is they take in the full output of the DC to DC converter & the solar controller until almost full, unlike conventional lead acid batteries that have an absorption cycle for the last 20% of charge.
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Old 07-27-2019, 04:03 PM   #8
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It might have something to do with the 320 watts of solar on the roof - the DC to DC converter is limited to 9 amps...
Sure, but the 320 nominal watts of panels will be producing much less than that in the real world, so their contribution will be at best comparable to the DC to DC converter.
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Old 07-27-2019, 05:26 PM   #9
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Most of the drive was showing 24 - 26 amps going into the batteries, with the trailer using 1.2A. While I didn't try shutting off the panels, if the truck was putting out the full 9 amps (which it did the time I tried it with the solar panels turned off) that leaves around 15 - 16 amps from the panels during the trip.

This time of year the sun is pretty much perpendicular to the panels for much of midday, and while I have always suggested saving money with small systems by using a PWM solar controller, I have to admit I was seeing an amp or two gain with the MPPT. The controller history showed a peak of 295 watts for the day.
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Old 07-27-2019, 06:01 PM   #10
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In reading this thread I realized I am ignorant as to solar controllers. Search on 'mppt' controllers indicates it must be a type, since several manufacturers produce them, at prices from $99 to $500. Several questions:

1. What exactly is an mppt controller and why is it better than others?
2. How can I evaluate an mppt controller for purchase and get an adequate one without overpaying?
3. Can I improve my system a little at a time by upgrading to an mppt controller, realizing I will still have a 70w panel and two basic 6v batteries? What would be the benefit?

Thanks for the help. Ignorance is curable!
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Old 07-27-2019, 07:58 PM   #11
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Old 07-27-2019, 08:29 PM   #12
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I have just replaced my five year old PWM solar controller. It was a quality device and performed admirably. My reason for the change was a recent purchase of a 24 volt solar panel. Most panels under 200 watts are 12 volt panels. A 24 volt panel is usually larger in size and watts. There are a number of advantages to 24 volt, the biggest being it can push more wattage to your batteries. Running at 24 volts vs 12 volts is more efficient.

The disadvantage maybe their size. Some owners have connected two panels in series to make a 24 volt system. Since it allows the use of two smaller panels it has its advantages. It also had some drawbacks in my application. A new 310 watt 24 volt panel was a better solution.

At any rate I needed a 24 volt solar controller. I had alway read that MMPT controllers were more expensive. Forget that. I paid less for MMPT THAN MY FIVE YEAR OLD PWM. And it has many more features.

On the forum there has been a number of discussions of the Victron Battery Monitor. I have a love/hate relationship with my TriMetric battery monitor so decided to look into Victron for a solar controller. I found their smart line of 12/24 volt MMPT controller. The smart feature has an app that allows you to monitor solar charging from your smart phone. Nothing else is required, and so easy to set up and use. It was love at first sight.

MMPT is more efficient in charging, there was not a significant price differential, the technology had changed to larger panels and more battery monitoring, and prices had come down with the improvements. It was an easy decision.
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Old 07-27-2019, 08:47 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marant View Post
In reading this thread I realized I am ignorant as to solar controllers. Search on 'mppt' controllers indicates it must be a type, since several manufacturers produce them, at prices from $99 to $500. Several questions:
Some general thoughts....
1. What exactly is an mppt controller and why is it better than others?
The big difference between MPPT and older PWM controllers is that MPPT has a DC to DC converter to bring the solar voltage down to a proper level for the necessary charge as determined by the controller logic board. A PWM controller may have the same logic but adjusts the long-term average voltage by changing the ratio of the on-time to off-time. At a nominal input solar voltage of 17-19 Volts (Escape size panels) there is a slight gain of efficiency. MPPT is more suitable for house-size panels (around 28 volts) where conversion to a battery friendly 13.8 (for example) is much more efficient.

2. How can I evaluate an mppt controller for purchase and get an adequate one without overpaying?
The tried and true method of getting recommendations - barring access to a full laboratory.

3. Can I improve my system a little at a time by upgrading to an mppt controller, realizing I will still have a 70w panel and two basic 6v batteries? What would be the benefit?
You might consider that MPPT might give you 1 amp over your current setup, per others with experience. While a second panel for the same $$$ could get you 5 amps. No additional controller needed for a second panel.
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Old 07-27-2019, 11:03 PM   #14
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Most of the drive was showing 24 - 26 amps going into the batteries, with the trailer using 1.2A. While I didn't try shutting off the panels, if the truck was putting out the full 9 amps (which it did the time I tried it with the solar panels turned off) that leaves around 15 - 16 amps from the panels during the trip.

This time of year the sun is pretty much perpendicular to the panels for much of midday... The controller history showed a peak of 295 watts for the day.
Impressive and it helps to drive mostly at mid-day
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Old 07-28-2019, 08:01 PM   #15
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Jon-- can you see the Bluetooth output from your Victron controller and battery monitor while you are in your truck, towing?
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Old 07-29-2019, 07:40 AM   #16
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Jon-- can you see the Bluetooth output from your Victron controller and battery monitor while you are in your truck, towing?
Yes. Seems to work up to about 40' from the trailer.
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