For many of us one of the most useful modifications we can make to our off road vehicles is the fitting of a dual battery system to enable us to run two batteries and have the ability to stay ‘off grid’ for longer whilst using fridge freezers and lighting systems etc. Up to now most of us have made use of a traditional lead-acid Leisure battery, alongside our vehicles existing battery to run such extra pieces of kit, but these old tech batteries are not only really heavy, can be messy if knocked over giving off toxic fumes and after a few years or a few hundred charging cycles lose their ability to hold charge and then need to be replaced.
Fortunately newer technology, (although actually around in their first incarnation since the 1980’s) there are more Lithium batteries coming on to the market, or to be more precise Lithium Phosphate batteries or LiFePO4 as they’re commonly known. And it’s not difficult to see why these would be a much more popular choice when you look more closely at the comparisons between the two technologies.
With the LiFePO4 batteries:You get thousands of charging cycles compared to a few hundred with the lead-acid variety. Their rate of self-discharge is very low meaning they can be left unattended for several months. There’s no maintenance required. They are on average 50% lighter than their old equivalents and their shape and size mean they can often be fitted into small spaces where the lead-acid battery would not fit.
Have a much higher charging rate so are faster charging and can be charged quickly from the vehicle’s engine (see below).
Voltage remains constant for much longer during discharge (eg. no chance of the TV picture suddenly disappearing on you whilst frustratingly still being able to hear the sound)Can be discharged approximately 95% without damaging the battery AND can be discharged quickly without damaging the cells and so are ideal for use with inverters.
Also, one common myth worth dispelling at this point is around the tales of ‘Lithium batteries’ having a tendency to catch fire without warning. Perhaps true for some early incarnations of this technology however the LiFePO4 batteries that we’re talking about here are completely safe in normal use.
The only possible downside to this Lithium technology is the initial cost outlay which is considerably more expensive than their old tech lead-acid cousins, however with Lithium technology never needing to use mains hook up and with the capability of thousands of charge and discharge cycles over the long term for many the cost will be more than recovered over the lifetime of the unit. So if, like a growing number of us, you decide to take the plunge and invest in a LiFePO4 battery enabling you to do away with the need for hook-up and stay off-grid for longer whilst still being able to enjoy home comforts such as a fridge/freezer, lighting etc. then the other key thing to consider is which dual battery charging system to fit. And when it comes to battery charging and management systems then you need look no further than CTEK. Their brand new D250SE 20 Amp Battery Charger is an exceptional piece of kit that is optimized for AGM and Lithium batteries and delivers a 5 step charge that will condition and maintain your battery.
This market-leading system can also be connected directly to solar panels and has a built in regulator and Maximum Power Point Tracker to ensure that maximum power is generated from the solar panel. For the ultimate set up combine this with the CTEK Smartpass 120S. This on-board power management system distributes, controls and maximises available energy from your alternator to power service batteries and consumers and has the ability to distribute up to 350A cranking power from the service battery if the starter battery alone can’t start the engine, so you can head off to those magical off the beaten track places we love to get to without any worries.