Tomorrow, Jennifer and I head to American RV in Grand Rapids, Mich. to pick up our brand new Roadtrek CS Adventurous XL.
You'll soon see videos and photos of it and there will be lots of blog posts as we head out across North America in our new motorhome.
But before that, I need to address the issue of lithium-ion batteries on our new CS Adventurous XL.
Yes, we have them.
A lot of them.
But other than that, there's not much more I can discuss publicly.
That's because the system I will be using, like the earlier one being tested by Roadtreking Reporter RT Campskunk, is still, officially, under development by Roadtrek Motorhomes. Campskunk has been testing his system since early fall. Campskunk and some other testing has proven the concept is not only viable, but groundbreaking. Campskunk has a strong mechanical bent. He could design and probably build a motorhome singlehandedly. His use of the lithium-ion system has been invaluable in helping Roadtrek engineers fine tune their innovation.
The system Roadtrek has allowed me to use in the new CS Adventurous XL we'll be driving is the next evolutionary step. The fact that I am part of the test shows how far along it is. I'm the everyman, the typical RVer who doesn't profess to understand how it works, who just uses it. In other words, the fact that I am part of the test shows how close lithium-ion power will be for all of Roadtrek's customers.
Because lithium-ion power these days is perhaps the most fiercely sought after innovation among RV manufacturers – they are all scrambling to come up with a system – you can understand that Roadtrek, which is eons ahead of the competition, is going to carefully protect the system it has developed. The system I have is sealed and proprietary.
So what can I say?
I can say that I have 20,000 watts of available power. That is not a typo. 20K.
Let me put that in perspective: I just had a whole house automatic generator installed at my sticks and bricks house. I wanted it to handle everything: Lights, heat, appliances, air conditioning, the well, my computer system, my recording studio. The contractor installed a 20K genertator. He said it was probably more than I needed.
The system in our CS Adventurous XL is 20K.
That means I can boondock and use AC for amazingly long term off-the-grid camping.
As far as price goes, you know the saying, “if you have to ask, you can't afford it.” Lithium-ion batteries are really expensive. As it currently stands, the system I am evaluating would be many thousands of dollars above the cost of the motorhome. Roadtrek President Jim Hammill says the company is working on bringing the price into an affordable sphere and that will take some volume and negotiation. But make no mistake: Lithium-ion is a costly option.
What's the big deal about lithium-ion batteries? Compared with the lead acid batteries found in most RVs, they have an amazingly long cycle life. Some studies suggest they can handle up to 5,000 cycle uses. Lead acid batteries are typically good for 500 to 1,000 cycles. They also charge very fast, up to 100 percent of capacity. Lead acid batteries charge to about 80 percent and then need much more time to get to not much more than 85 percent. Lithium-ion batteries are smaller and weigh about one-third less than lead acid batteries.
One concern some have when they hear talk about lithium-ion batteries is the danger of fire. Lithium-ion batteries have been around since the 80's. We've seen them used in small devices like computers and electric tools for years. Remember a dozen or so years ago the stories about lithium-ion batteries in laptops suddenly bursting into flames when overcharged? Then there have been some stories about similar issues in the airplane industry. Those issues led to a change in the formula that is used to make large lithium-ion batteries and now they are so safe that many other industries besides the RV industry are about to introduce them to their customers.
Roadtrek is all over this and the unit Jennifer and I will be driving around North America will one day be followed many others who will be able to choose lithium-ion power as an option.
Lithium-ion will probably always be an expensive, thus not for everyone. But as you have just learned, this technology is highly advantageous for RVers like us who like to camp off the grid for extended periods of time.
Supplementing the lithium-ion coach batteries in our new CS Adventurous XL is solar power – 650 watts worth. The entire roof of our coach is covered with solar panels.
And our unit also has the proprietary Roadrek engine generator, which, when the batteries do eventually wear down after long periods of boondocking, can be used to charge it all up again. Really, though, with 20,000 watts of power from the lithium-ion system, I can't imagine us having to do that very often.
So – for now – this is my definitive piece on the lithium-ion battery system we have. I needed to explain it to you but not reveal anything that would allow Roadtrek's competitors from trying to rip off their technology. For most of my readers, I'm sure this will be enough. A small number of armchair engineers, however, will demand more details. I will not be providing more details until Roadtrek itself releases them.
I'm incredibly blessed to be able to be part of the test of this system which, as I said, someday soon, will be an option available to everyone.
So as you see the photos and read the blog posts about us boondocking and camping off-the-grid, you'll be able to read between the lines and know that one of the reasons we can stay out there so long is because of that amazing lithium-ion power system.
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