In this episode, we talk to a leading expert on lithium batteries – Sean Nichols of Battle Born Batteries, one of the best known companies making lithium batteries for RVs. Sean tells us that lead is dead, that the old lead acid batteries found in most RVs are rapidly being eclipsed by more powerful and efficient lithium technology. He explains just what lithium will – and will not – do for the RVer and how they can be made to reliably work even in very cold weather. Sean Nichols will be coming up soon in our interview of the week.
Also in this episode, your questions, RV news if the week and an off the beaten path report from the Burketts.
Show Notes for Episode #236 April 3, 2019 of The RV Podcast:
WHAT MIKE AND JENNIFER ARE UP TO THIS WEEK
Before we get started, two housekeeping notes. One, in this podcast we will mention a bunch of different resources, news stories and web links that will give you more information about the things we’re talking about. Whenever possible, we build in direct links to those topics on the shownotes page for this episode. You can find that at rvlifestyle.com/236
Also, you may have a question you’d like us to answer, or a comment on the things we’re discussing. If so, we invite you to leave us that question or comment on the special voicemail number we have for the podcast – it’s 586-372-6990. If you are driving and can’t write it down right now, just go to the RV Lifestyle travel blog at rvlifestyle.com and scroll down the page. You’ll see that number prominently posted on the blog.
- We share our whereabouts and plans
- We’re down in Florida on the Emerald Coast enjoying a spring break vacation with family
- The next big trip will be to Phoenix Arizona and the huge Super B Small Motorhome RV Show. Once again, Jennifer and I will be attending the Super B RV Shownear Phoenix.
The dates this year for the show are April 11-14 and it will be held at what is now known as State Farm Stadium (formerly University of Phoenix Stadium) in Glendale, AZ, Jen and I will be doing meet and greets Friday and Saturday, as well as video live streams direct from the show. Over 100 Class B and short Class C RVs will be on display. There will be some new products being shown at the show for the first time, as well as new floor plans being introduced.
Manufacturers represented include Winnebago, Leisure Travel Vans, Pleasure Way, Midwest Automotive Designs, Fleetwood, Tiffin, Entegra, Roadtrek, Hymer and Thor Motor Coach.
Sponsored by LaMesa RV (which has RV dealerships in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Florida), this is the largest RV show in North America that features only small RVs. Attendees can see in one place all of the latest floor plans and the and most popular motorhomes from the top manufacturers.
People coming to the show will be able to talk with factory reps, RV manufacturing company owners and RV experts and celebrities.
Dean Corrigal from Leisure Travel Vans will be there, our own RV Lifestyle Personal Chef MJ Curry will be talking about cooking in an RV kitchen, and there will be a seminar on solar power presented on Saturday, April 13 at 11:00 am by David Copeland from Van Dyke Enterprises.
- We’re in our second week of ownership of our new Leisure Travel Vans Unity FX. We have it being detailed tomorrow.
- Look for a video on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel thus week in the 2019 Mercedes Sprinter chassis and the big improvements it offers compared to previous Sprinter chassis used on RVs.
- Jennifer has sheets and bedding coming for the Murphy Bed.
- I need to order a cellular booster. Probably won’t install it until we get back to Michigan in late April. Considering lithium… as you’ll hear in the interview
- Next 7 Stop Adventure Guide is coming out. Probably next week. It will be on Utah and joins the one we did on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
RV LIFESTYLE NEWS OF THE WEEK
Judge rejects request to form a creditor committee to slow the sale of Erwin Hymer Group, maker of Roadtrek
A judge has rejected the request of several creditors of the bankrupt Erwin Hymer Group North America, makers of Roadtrek, to form a creditor committee, according to a report in the RV Daily Report. The creditors wanted the committee to slow down the sales process.
Heading to Alaska’s Denali this summer? Plan on carrying out EVERYTHING
If you’re planning to hike Denali, North America’s tallest mountain, any time soon you’ll be asked to carry out your own human waste. Why? The Alaska glacier with approximate 66 tons of human waste from previous hikers is starting to melt and, well, authorities don’t want to add any more you-know-what to the problem.
Does RV Industry trends point to coming recession?
An Indiana newspaper produced an interesting read over the weekend, analyzing RV industry trends to determine if a recession is on its way. Overall RV sales were up in 2018, but the industry is reporting seven months of overall declining RV shipments, reduced work weeks at some RV factories and even some unpaid furloughs.
Man falls to death at Grand Canyon National Park while taking selfie
A man from Hong Kong who was taking a selfie at the Grand Canyon National Park fell and dropped 1,000 feet to his death last week. He was the second death in the park last week leading officials to warn against putting personal safety at risk while seeking the perfect selfie.
This part of the podcast is brought to you by RadPower Bikes,an electric bike manufacturer offering direct to consumer pricing on powerful premium electric bikes. Now with free shipping
LISTENER QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK
Hi ..have been listening to your pod cast very informative. I wanted to ask what kind of gas mileage do you get with your new leisure RV. How does it do in the mountains, did you get the Mercedes diesel? and if you tow a car ? I have been looking at them and just on the edge if their is enough room? It is just me and my small dog and in the near future I want to sell everything and full time. Looking for your input. Thank you,..Russ
Imagine if you can, a problem arises with your new MH. Would you let us know about it, and because of your blogging, would the service you personally get be different than the general public? I don’t mean to throw you under the bus, but I believe it’s a fair question. They know you will inform your subscribers so they will want to make sure you are 100% satisfied. We on the other hand don’t have your influence so they would not necessarily treat us the same way they would treat you… Or would they? Dave
RV INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK
Our guest this week is Sean Nichols of Battle Born Batteries, one of the best known companies making lithium batteries for RVs.
Sean tells us that lead is dead, that the old lead acid batteries found in most RVs are rapidly being eclipsed by more powerful and efficient lithium technology.
He explains just what lithium will – and will not – do for the RVer and how they can be made to reliably work even in very cold weather.
Here’s a transcript of the interview:
Speaker 1: Tell me about Battle Born Batteries.
Speaker 2: Battle Born Batteries are the best lithium batteries on the market. They’re drop-in replacements for lead acid. We have a few different models. We make them in Reno, Nevada. They’re designed and assembled here in the States. We do import parts from around the world. Each one of our batteries are built with lithium iron phosphate, which is the safest kind of lithium that you can use. It’s the most thermally stable, so you’re not going to run into a lot of issues that you’d run into with more of an automotive type battery. The batteries come on the Battle Born side with a consumer warrant of 10 years. It’s an eight year full replacement, and a two year repair fee or prorated warranty, so it’s the best warranty in the industry.
Speaker 2: We really stand behind the product, and the reason we’re able to do that is we know every step of the manufacturing of the battery. We take quality very seriously. We’re able to back our product with a 10 year warranty. I don’t think there should be a company out there selling that doesn’t have the ability to offer a 10 year warranty. Because if you cycle the batteries every single day, it’ll only be 3,650 cycles. And we say right up front, everyone says the last 3,000-5,000. Stand behind your product and people stand behind you.
Speaker 1: There is so much confusion. Lithium batteries in RVs in particular, how reliable is lithium now for the RV?
Speaker 2: It’s pretty good. We’ve got a pretty simple system. We work with all the suppliers that are already in your RV, so we don’t ask you to use anything weird. If you take it somewhere to get serviced, there’s not going to be anything weird in there. Even our battery, it looks like a regular battery, but it’s clear labeled lithium.
Speaker 2: I think that cold temperature charging is what people get worried about. There are times, if you don’t have the right protection of the batter you can actually ruin the battery by charging it when the temperature’s too cold. That is something that a lot of manufacturers miss. We were the first people to come out with cold temperature charging protection. If our battery is below 25 degrees it will not take a charge. Our battery management system will not allow you to destroy the battery. We have it so … it behaves almost exactly like a lead acid battery, basically. You’re not going to be able to destroy it. You just use it.
Speaker 2: It won’t take a charge below 25 degrees until it warms up above 32. Guy in Michigan, we sell a heat solution that wraps around the battery. That heat solution basically is made by Ultraheat in Elkhart, so an American made product also, like our battery. It’s designed for the battery. Some people do that. Some people run a light bulb in their bay. There’s lots of guys out there on Facebook, lots of forums that have found others ways to keep their batteries warm in a situation where they get cold. Some people chase the sun. The majority of people chase the sun. I know, like yourself, you actually go home to Michigan. For us, being able to provide that heat is not a big deal.
Speaker 2: We work with OEMs that put the heat solution on all the time. [inaudible 00:02:50]
Speaker 1: For the RVer who maybe has an older system and wants to retrofit his unit with Battle Born or new lithium, how hard of a choice is that? Where do they go? How do they get that done?
Speaker 2: I’ll tell you what, it’s pretty simple. It’s a lot more simple than people think. Most situations, you can just drop the batteries and just use them.
Speaker 1: Just like an AGM?
Speaker 2: It depends on the size of the bank. Once you get over three batteries, which most rigs only have two. Once you get over three, if it’s a motorized RV, there’s a special battery isolation manager that we use, but it’s made by an industry known player, Precision Circuits. We basically have a system of our own too that works. Everybody has a little bit of a system. We also work with Vitron, if people need to upgrade components, we sell those at Battle Born. If there’s a charge controller or a charger. If you have a converter on board, 99% of the converters out there work fine with our batteries.
Speaker 2: There is some upgrades if you want to charge faster. From Progressive Dynamics. They have an upgrade for almost every model of converter out there.
Speaker 1: I’m just going to use ours as an example, and everybody else can fill in the blanks. But maybe this’ll give you a rough idea. Leisure travel van, unity model, it’s got a couple of old fashioned lead acid batteries in it. It’s got a 1,000 watt inverter. It’s got 400 watts of solar. How do I put your lithiums in that?
Speaker 2: How many AGMs do you have in there, two?
Speaker 1: They’re not AGMs. They’re lead acid. It’s two.
Speaker 2: Lead acids?
Speaker 1: Yeah.
Speaker 2: They’re sealed, okay. Two of them. Are they on a rack on the outside hanging somewhere there?
Speaker 1: Actually they’re on a little cabinet that’s on the side of the vehicle.
Speaker 2: Perfect. That’s easy. This is great. Because that cabinet needs to be vented because you’re probably using wet lead acid batteries, so it lets cold temperature in. The first thing you can do when you put lithium in is plug that vent, because you don’t need to vent lithium because it doesn’t off gas at all, it doesn’t corrode, anything like that. So we can insulate that compartment with a small amount of insulation, and possibly wrap one of the batteries with heat, that way you get some power if it does get cold. Because once that heat system is hooked up properly, you just plug in when it’s getting cold, it’ll keep your batteries warm.
Speaker 2: It has a thermostat on it so it only turns on when it needs to to keep it warm. Even if you didn’t … Let me tell you what, the testing that we do is that negative three degrees in a freezer, and we warm the battery up in the freezer still. Takes about 45 minutes. Even if you didn’t remember to plug it in, you can plug it in for 45 minutes, and it’d be ready to go anyway.
Speaker 1: What else do you need? You want to upgrade the inverter obviously..
Speaker 2: If you’re only putting … Well, it depends. That unit comes with 1,000 watt Xantrex, I think we’re talking about, or is it Magnum?
Speaker 1: I think it’s Xantrex.
Speaker 2: It depends on the invertor. There are some inverters that, if there’s an inverter charger, they don’t charge lithium as fast as they could. I don’t think you need to upgrade that inverter. I think if you have a generator … You have a generator on board?
Speaker 1: Yeah.
Speaker 2: If you have a generator on board, I would have an installer wire an extra convertor to the generator so that every time it runs it charges off the convertor too. Then you really get high speed charging, because if you have two batteries in there, you can charge it at 100 amps. You can recharge it in two hours. You could never do that with lead acid.
Speaker 1: How much of a difference does lithium make? The question everybody always asks is, how much air conditioning can I run with it? And of course we understand that it depends on the humidity, how hot the coach is, all that stuff. But in general, give us some ballpark –
Speaker 2: How much does it make.
Speaker 1: Tell us what two lithium batteries will do to a Boondocker?
Speaker 2: For sure. Lithium will allow you … and I’m going to go a little scientific on you, but lithium will allow you to store two to three times the amount of power in the same amount of space. All because of the puekert effect. Have you ever heard of the puekert effect?
Speaker 1: Putrid effect?
Speaker 2: Puekert. P-U-E-K-E-R-T. Puekert.
Speaker 1: Okay.
Speaker 2: This is a guy, Wilhelm Puekert, he basically found out this science that the bigger load you hit a lead acid battery with the less actual deliverable power’s inside. They tell you up front you can use 50% of a lead acid battery. That’s not true. It’s true under some circumstances. A 600 watt load is markedly different amount of deliverable power than a 120 watt load or 10 amp load. So 120 watts, for pulling 120 watts out of the battery, you get a different amount than you would get with a 600 watt load.
Speaker 2: Lithium’s not effected by the Puekert effect because it doesn’t have any resistance inside of it. It can deliver power very easily. Actually under most circumstances, you get two to three times the amount of power at one-fifth the weight with lithium. And it lasts 3,000-5,000 cycles, minimum.
Speaker 1: Help me still understand that in terms of practical use. What does that to me as an RVer? If I had two of those lithium batteries.
Speaker 2: Let me tell you. If you had two lead acids. So the testing we did was with two six volts, 225 amp hours versus 200 amp hours of lithium. On a 600 watt load, you would only get about 42 usable amp hours out of about a 225 amp hour bank. You would get 200 out of the lithium. If you go to a 300 watt load, you get about 72 usable amp hours. We’re almost at a third now, not 50% still. 300 watts is not a lot of stuff running. That’s like a TV and a receiver. You would get about 72 usable amp hours. That’s when you get to the 11.8 voltage cut off, where they say you’re at 50%. The 50% voltage cut off is the same, but the amount of power you get between there and the top is variable.
Speaker 2: Only when you go to a 10 amp load, which is 120 watts, do you get 115 amp hours out of that bank. All of those loads, even if you wanted to run a 200 amp load. The battery bank would still delivery you 200 amps. You could never run a 200 amp load on a 225 amp power lead acid bank. The voltage would drop, and your equipment would shut off.
Speaker 1: Use air conditioning for an example. How much does that take?
Speaker 2: Air conditioning with two batteries, you’re really asking a lot of the two batteries, because you only have 2,400 watts of power stored. Air conditioners typically use a lot of power. The smallest one I see, like on a van like that is probably a 10K or maybe a 12.5 KBTU.
Speaker 1: 15K, I think it is.
Speaker 2: So it’s a 15,000 BTU, which is a British thermal unit. Doesn’t tell us how power it uses, but I bet you it uses somewhere around 20 amps when it’s running. 20 times 12 is 2,400. You can run an air conditioner for less than an hour off two batteries.
Speaker 1: Where this is for extending everything except air conditioning off the grid.
Speaker 2: Right. If you want to put in more batteries, you certainly can run your air conditioning. When I explain to people how to do it, you have to put a soft start on the AC, which we sell those too, from Micro Air, the easy starts. But what I explain to people is this. I say to them, “Hey, listen, here’s how this air conditioning thing works. You have a lot of power, you don’t want to waste it all on air conditioning. But if you stop at the supermarket on your way into somewhere and you got your dog in the van, you can run the AC for an hour or 45 minutes while you’re shopping, then come back out and drive off and be recharged by the time you get back to the camp. Then you don’t have to worry about anything happening to your dog.
Speaker 2: That’s the kind of circumstances I see using the AC, or if you get back from a hike or something, you want to cool down real quick. That’s the best case to use it in.
Speaker 1: And how does it all work with solar, just like an AGM, it triple charges the solar?
Speaker 2: Yeah, for sure. As a matter of fact it’ll charge more efficiently off solar than AGM batteries will. So, it’s like basically most people that put it up there say, “I feel like I got an extra panel in the roof now because I’m charging so much more efficiently.
Speaker 1: Where do you see all this going in the next five years?
Speaker 2: Lead is dead. That’s where it’s going. Lead is dead. I’m telling you, it’s worthless. It’s been a long time. There hasn’t been a technological advance in lead acid batteries since before I was born in 1975. It’s time for a new technology, lithium iron phosphate is already strong enough and good enough to be the next LED light bulb.
The interview of the week is brought to you by SunshinestateRVs.com, where every new or used motorhome is delivered to the customer free, anywhere in the country
OFF THE BEATEN PATH REPORT – Ninepipes Museum
By Tom & Patti Burkett
Bud Cheff and his wife Adelle arrived at Montana’s Flathead Lak in 1932. They staked a claim in the Mission valley below the Rattlesnake Mountains. For nearly a hundred years, the ranch has been known for the Angus cattle raised there, and for an imposing herd of Texas longhorns, which were rounded up and driven on horseback from summer pastures to their wintering ground on the ranch proper. Eventually houses and yards filled up the intervening miles, and the longhorns went off to live somewhere else. In addition to the cattle, the Cheffs are well-known for their outfitting and guided tours into what’s now the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Bud’s son, and eventually his grandson, became the operators of the camp and guest ranch, which still operates today.
All of this is prelude to the story of the museum. Bud spent his adult life roaming the Mission Valley and became fast friends with many of his neighbors on the Flathead Reservation. These members of the Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d’Oreille tribes shared much the same life and work as the young rancher. Eventually, as his children and theirs grew up together, he became a partner in conserving their culture and promoting tribal interests. The Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana History is on US 93 north of Missoula. It gathers together the mementos of this shared life, along with other related artifacts contributed by members of the Flathead Nation.
The front of the museum is a gallery and gift shop that features the work of Montana artists, including Native Americans. The museum is not large, but the collection is dense, with almost every item a gem.
The museum experience includes a narrated tour (on headphones) by Bud Cheff himself, telling about the individual items and where they came from. It’s peppered with anecdotes from his life with the Flathead people, some poignant, some hilarious, and all interesting. A collection of photos in the back of the museum illustrates daily life a hundred years ago and shows the process by which the natives were “Americanized” and how they eventually reasserted their sovereignty and tribal culture.
One of the most interesting and beautiful things we saw there was a winter count. For thousands of years, history was preserved among Plains tribes by oral historians, or keepers. The winter count is a pictorial record used by the keeper as a memory and teaching aid. Each year, the keeper consults with the tribal elders to select one symbol to represent the year, usually associated with a significant event. The symbol is added to the winter count and becomes part of the historical record. Originally painted on bison hides, these records are now kept on a variety of surfaces. The one at the Ninepipes Museum is exquisitely done.
Just down the road is the Saint Ignatius mission, which ties into a story from the museum. Many members of the Flathead tribes were converted to Christianity by early missionaries to the area. Several times in the 1880s and early 1890s the tribes requested a black brother (a priest) from church leaders in the East. Five were dispatched during the period, and the first four were killed enroute. The fifth one arrived safely and parish members built the current church in 1891.
In 1903, Brother Joseph Carignano arrived. Born in Italy, he worked as the mission’s cook, but during his stay painted more than fifty frescoes in the church. They represent well-known stories from the Bible, but among the traditional characters are ones who look like the Salish and Kootenai parishioners. It’s a stunning sight, and you, too, can sit in a pew and meditate on it’s message if you watch out for the unexpected, out here off the beaten path.
RV CALENDAR OF EVENTS
- April 4-6, Colorado Springs RV & Travel Expo, Colorado Springs Events Center, Colorado Springs, CO
- April 5-7, BC Interior RV Show, Penticton Trade & Convention Centre, Penticton, BC, Canada
- April 6-7, Vacationland RV & Camping Show, Norway Savings Bank
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