Lithium Upgrade with (630AH) Lithionics Batteries

SSTraveler

2014 LTV Unity Murphy Bed
Bob Rusczyk posted his new dual Lithionics 12V125A-G31-5CND battery upgrade (perfect replacement for 2 Leisure AGM batteries) on the Leisure Enthusiasts FB page and asked me to post it for him here. He has a 2020 LTV Unity FX, with the 400 watts of solar option (4 each Go Power 100 watt flexible panels) Go Power PWM 30 amp solar controller. He replaced the GoPower controller with a Victron 100/50 MPPT Solar Controller. He has a Xantrex 2000 watt Freedom XC Charger/inverter w/remote control-display, and added a 15a Xantrex Echo Charger (for House to Chassis battery charging) to the 30a amp Sterling Power BB1230 Chassis alternator to house battery DC-DC charger. He added a Victron BMV-712 Battery Monitor w/Bluetooth. He built a custom PVC Composite battery tray to accommodate the battery compartment floor hardware, provide precision placement & containment of Lithionics batteries and improve insulation between floor and batteries. The Tray rests on “medium durometer” rubber strips providing some vibration isolation as well as air flow between tray and bay floor. The Tray incorporates a removable center divider (Velcroed in place w/lift lip) allowing batteries to be slide sideways to facilitate removal while ensuring battery cases are not touching and providing air flow. He modified the step bay door with lower and upper case support rails w/rubber retention/isolation strips as well as felted hold down cleats at the top. All cables were custom built to allow removal of each battery without disconnection, allowing access to power related connections and accessories on rear wall of battery compartment. Battery connections at rear facilitating access to battery control switches without removal or reaching across batteries. So far so good, he's finishing up the rest of his projects and wrapping this up.

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hoosierrun

Active member
In my opinion, everything looks good except the Sterling 30 amp chassis to house DC to DC charger. You will be disappointed. The actual output is 23 to 24 amps and any other significant draw takes away from battery charging. I recall reading where people with the newest LTV's (with the 30 amp Sterling), were only seeing 9 to 10 amps going into the battery after the 12 volt Dometic Fridge was drawing its 13 to 14 amps. You may have changed out to a compressor fridge (I don't remember), but I believe they still take about 5 amps or so when the compressor is running. Consider an upgrade to the 60 amp model. Some people report insufficient heat dissipation when installed under the passenger seat (Unity model), so consider moving it or providing some grill vents to help with cooling. I'm sure you read my post where I used the BBW1260 and find it works well. There might be a different manufacturer that has advanced features as well. Otherwise... great planning!
 

woundedpig

2018 Unity MB
Both the 60 amp Sterling DC/DC charger models have fans, but the waterproof, marine-targeted BBW1260 weighs several pounds more because of tons more heat-sinking. Agree with Hoosierrun that the 30 amp model is not adequate for almost any LTV application - certainly not for a large AH battery bank.
 

msmolow

2019 Unity CB / 2018 Chas
I have a Victron Smart dc/dc 30 amp charger. I agree with what hoosierrun and woundedpig say except that most of my drives between stops are 6 to 12 hours (time constraints generally make my trips 1000-2000 mile circles in 2 weeks) which combined with 400 watts of solar usually allows my FLAs to recover. I'll be switching to 315 amp lithium sometime in February so we'll see if I need to go to plan B.
 

hoosierrun

Active member
Both the 60 amp Sterling DC/DC charger models have fans, but the waterproof, marine-targeted BBW1260 weighs several pounds more because of tons more heat-sinking. Agree with Hoosierrun that the 30 amp model is not adequate for almost any LTV application - certainly not for a large AH battery bank.
I lost track of your upgrade (so many I have read about). I recall the heat issue. Did you resolve this by moving it? Putting in vents? ... or are you still living with the half power when it reaches over heated condition.
 

DiverBob

2018 Unity TB
I lost track of your upgrade (so many I have read about). I recall the heat issue. Did you resolve this by moving it? Putting in vents? ... or are you still living with the half power when it reaches over heated condition.
I was one who ran into overheat issues with installing the BB1260 under the passenger seat. I ended up moving it to be under the seat right behind the passenger seat on my twin bed. I also added a blower fan connected to a temperature controller that blows extra air through the heat sink. This seems to be working out OK. One problem I had was that the original BB1260 I had was failing and the replacement unit had a much better built-in cooling system for its heat sinks. The original had 3 vents across the top of the unit, the center section sucked air in and blew it out the 2 outside vents. The newer setup sucks air in from the bottom of the unit and discharges out the top, makes for much better air flow.
 

woundedpig

2018 Unity MB
These posts about installs of huge lithium banks always seem to remind me that an RV’s electrical system and capacity need to be built around the camping style that one desires to have - not vice versa. There should be a balance of battery capacity and charging capacity.
For example, if the predominant method of adequately recharging a depleted bank requires driving for hours from campsite to campsite to enable alternator charging plus any available solar contribution, that’s letting the electrical system determine camping patterns.

It is all well and good to be able to run the AC off the house bank for X hours, but what will be required to recharge the bank? And will that necessitate an alteration in preferred camping style? If one is boondocking primarily, this is an important issue. If one frequents campgrounds with shore power, why invest in these huge battery banks anyway?
 

SSTraveler

2014 LTV Unity Murphy Bed
I have a Victron Smart dc/dc 30 amp charger. I agree with what hoosierrun and woundedpig say except that most of my drives between stops are 6 to 12 hours (time constraints generally make my trips 1000-2000 mile circles in 2 weeks) which combined with 400 watts of solar usually allows my FLAs to recover. I'll be switching to 315 amp lithium sometime in February so we'll see if I need to go to plan B.
This is how I use my Unity as well, so when I was offered a Sterling BB1230 from another Forum member I was happy to receive it. The Sterling will serve my purposes to charge my Lithionics 315ah Battery as I drive and use it throughout the day, then I will be plugged in at a campground for the night and it can get topped off by my Xantrex 3k inverter. The good thing about the Victron Orion 30a DC-DC charger is that you can hook multiples in parallel to increase the charging amp output. Whereas with other DC-DC chargers you just have to ditch a small one for a larger one, wasting money. I really like Ivuman's choice with the Renogy DCC50s 50a charger and MPPT solar controller. He reported 68a charging from it and the 600w solar (connected to a Victron 100/50 controller) [See post#44 for an operational note].
 
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hoosierrun

Active member
Good posts from woundedpig and SS Traveler. I have always tried to make a similar analysis regarding upgrades. Certainly you have to go out and use your rig for a year to understand what you like to do and how you will camp. That is why I have been really slow to make any serious upgrades. Our style generally involves dry camping or boon docking for a max of 4 days in a row, generally followed by a camping place near town (with a laundry) for 2 days. It never works out exactly like that. There are so many National Forest Campgrounds and National Parks in beautiful areas that make the dry camping capability of the LTV terrific. When we were in Yellowstone, we were in a campsite that allowed no generator use at any time. On the fourth day, we ran our lead-acid batteries flat and they were never the same. Of course at that campsite we never could use the microwave, and naturally there is no OTA TV, so we made it 4 days and drove out and stayed in a nice RV park with power water and laundry. My flex solar panel provided minimal replenishment. Another time we found outstanding National Forest campgrounds along the Salmon River in Idaho. All dry camping but really outstanding.

After researching lithium batteries and reading about what other people were doing, I went for a pair of drop in Battleborn batteries. The improvement was incredible. With the increase in off grid power capabilities came an increase in more power consuming appliances. We found we could use a toaster, Keurig coffee maker, and oven toaster, even with our 1200 watt MSW inverter (of course 1 thing at a time). We even use a leaf blower to clean the awning and site of leaves, right off an inverter plug. We operated 1-1/2 years like that. I added a battery monitor and soon after, a DC to DC converter to get 100% of my battery capability. I know I have to upgrade the solar, primarily because the flex panel has lost most of its capability, and we recently added more battery capacity. I see only some benefit from adding solar, because we rarely park out in the open. The goal is always to find as much shade as possible at a campground. Solar upgrades will be coming and I hope to get a 2000 watt inverter and rewire for off grid microwave/convection oven operation. I don't have too much interest in running the AC off grid, although the idea sounds enticing. I guess my thoughts here lead to the idea that these upgrades can mostly be done as needed, and I agree with woundedpig that you don't need to go crazy and spend $15K for the latest and best upgrade that can be done, only to find it is overkill.

Regarding the parallel connection for DC to DC converters, my documentation that came with my Sterling BBW1260 states that additional units can be added in parallel.
 

TampaSteve

2018/2019 Unity CB
I'm still on the fence on DC-DC chargers. I have two Battleborns, 600 watts solar, and a compressor fridge. I currently just have the Cole relay as a battery combiner. The later works perfectly and is happy pumping 90 amps or more when my batteries are seriously depleted. Extremely reliable, cheap, and easy to swap if it fails. The downside is, if I am stuck idling in a traffic jam it could potentially be hard on the alternator. Hasn't been an issue yet, and many people have 200 AM Lithium with just a relay. (I could mitigate that with a simple on/off switch on the left side of the passenger seat, allowing me to switch it on when I get to the highway.) For me, the 30 amps DC-DC would be woefully inadequate. From the time we park at, say, 4 PM until we take off in the morning we can easily kill 125 AH boondocking with streaming TV, fans, compressor fridge, and misc. Its not that rare to then drive less than an hour to some trailhead or something and park in partial shade. So we need as much charge as possible flowing from the alternator. I'm satisfied with the current setup, but have considered upgrading to a pair of 125 AH Lithionics. That might be a bit much for the alternator to handle bare. I'm leaning towards the Renogy 60 amp DC-DC but would have to make considerable space close to the batteries for it. Or alternatively I may just install the cutoff switch on the cole relay and see what happens with 250 AH and the Mercedes alternator. It might be just fine if I avoid the scenario of an extended idle with depleted batteries.
 

hoosierrun

Active member
I'm still on the fence on DC-DC chargers. I have two Battleborns, 600 watts solar, and a compressor fridge. I currently just have the Cole relay as a battery combiner. The later works perfectly and is happy pumping 90 amps or more when my batteries are seriously depleted. Extremely reliable, cheap, and easy to swap if it fails. The downside is, if I am stuck idling in a traffic jam it could potentially be hard on the alternator. Hasn't been an issue yet, and many people have 200 AM Lithium with just a relay. (I could mitigate that with a simple on/off switch on the left side of the passenger seat, allowing me to switch it on when I get to the highway.) For me, the 30 amps DC-DC would be woefully inadequate. From the time we park at, say, 4 PM until we take off in the morning we can easily kill 125 AH boondocking with streaming TV, fans, compressor fridge, and misc. Its not that rare to then drive less than an hour to some trailhead or something and park in partial shade. So we need as much charge as possible flowing from the alternator. I'm satisfied with the current setup, but have considered upgrading to a pair of 125 AH Lithionics. That might be a bit much for the alternator to handle bare. I'm leaning towards the Renogy 60 amp DC-DC but would have to make considerable space close to the batteries for it. Or alternatively I may just install the cutoff switch on the cole relay and see what happens with 250 AH and the Mercedes alternator. It might be just fine if I avoid the scenario of an extended idle with depleted batteries.
Other than the fact that you are exceeding the Mercedes extremely conservative (recommended) max draw, I don't envision a problem. The alternator has plenty of reserve, especially if you are not using everything like lights, wiper, AC compressor, defrost grids, and every other possible accessory, many of which is not equipped on an LTV (heated seats, heated steering wheel, rear air, etc.). I don't have any more experience with more than the 200 AH Battleborns, but I ran just like you are doing now for over a year with never a problem. You probably read that my problem was not having the solar to top off the battery. You can't do it by alternator alone. Your system will likely be fine. At one time, I was going to try and upgrade to the 120 amp Sterling. They are expensive and I have mixed (uncertain) feelings, but knowing that 100 amps passes fine, I suspect 120 will too. It is not like that draw on the alternator is going to be for 4 or more hours at over 100. Do you know the wire size and fuse size that LTV has between the batteries? It should be verified that the sizes are of sufficient size.
 

TampaSteve

2018/2019 Unity CB
Other than the fact that you are exceeding the Mercedes extremely conservative (recommended) max draw, I don't envision a problem. The alternator has plenty of reserve, especially if you are not using everything like lights, wiper, AC compressor, defrost grids, and every other possible accessory, many of which is not equipped on an LTV (heated seats, heated steering wheel, rear air, etc.). I don't have any more experience with more than the 200 AH Battleborns, but I ran just like you are doing now for over a year with never a problem. You probably read that my problem was not having the solar to top off the battery. You can't do it by alternator alone. Your system will likely be fine. At one time, I was going to try and upgrade to the 120 amp Sterling. They are expensive and I have mixed (uncertain) feelings, but knowing that 100 amps passes fine, I suspect 120 will too. It is not like that draw on the alternator is going to be for 4 or more hours at over 100. Do you know the wire size and fuse size that LTV has between the batteries? It should be verified that the sizes are of sufficient size.
Thanks thats what I was thinking - that the 220 amp alternator is not going to burn up outputting 100 amps. 99% of the time my solar tops off the battery so the lack of a full alternator charge isn't important to me..

I do have some reservations about going to 250 AH, but possibly not enough to dissuade me from trying. :cool:

I think I have a 150 amp ANL fuse to the battery from the relay. I didn't check the wire size, but I assume its adequate for the fuse rating.

I am starting to think that just adding an on-off switch to the relay would be a nice addition for the situation I currently worry about - extended traffic idling with a near depleted battery. Obviously for 630 AH you need a DC-DC charger, or probably even 315.
 

OrioN

2008 2500 170" EXT
Thanks thats what I was thinking - that the 220 amp alternator is not going to burn up outputting 100 amps. 99% of the time my solar tops off the battery so the lack of a full alternator charge isn't important to me..

I do have some reservations about going to 250 AH, but possibly not enough to dissuade me from trying. :cool:

I think I have a 150 amp ANL fuse to the battery from the relay. I didn't check the wire size, but I assume its adequate for the fuse rating.

I am starting to think that just adding an on-off switch to the relay would be a nice addition for the situation I currently worry about - extended traffic idling with a near depleted battery. Obviously for 630 AH you need a DC-DC charger, or probably even 315.
Bear in mind, the ideal charge rate for LI is 0.3C, or 60A for your 200aH bank.
 

TampaSteve

2018/2019 Unity CB
Bear in mind, the ideal charge rate for LI is 0.3C, or 60A for your 200aH bank.
I was going by this quote from Battleborn on their FAQ page:

We recommend a 50 amp charge rate for a 100 Ah battery. You can charge at a higher charge rate of 100 amps in emergency situations where it is necessary, but we don’t recommend it for long periods of time.

The 100 amps from the alternator rarely last more than 20 minutes or so as it tapers down, so divided by 2 seems about right. When the solar has a high output it does seem as if the alternator starts producing less, so I don't think I have ever seen a combined charge rate much over 110 amps or so.
 

woundedpig

2018 Unity MB
I am starting to think that just adding an on-off switch to the relay would be a nice addition for the situation I currently worry about - extended traffic idling with a near depleted battery. Obviously for 630 AH you need a DC-DC charger, or probably even 315.
I know I recently posted this, but I added the switch you are referring to. I put it on the blue ignition signal wire going to the Battleborn Lithium Isolator (the first of which was defective). I have heard that some have put the switch on the ground wire. It is an LED DC switch. I make the decision about whether to enable alternator charging when we break camp, before the engine is started. If the batteries (300 AH BB) are quite depleted, I know they can pull 100 amps on alternator charging. In this scenario, I let my 600 watts of solar do the work, slower, but with more control.
 

TampaSteve

2018/2019 Unity CB
I know I recently posted this, but I added the switch you are referring to. I put it on the blue ignition signal wire going to the Battleborn Lithium Isolator (the first of which was defective). I have heard that some have put the switch on the ground wire. It is an LED DC switch. I make the decision about whether to enable alternator charging when we break camp, before the engine is started. If the batteries (300 AH BB) are quite depleted, I know they can pull 100 amps on alternator charging. In this scenario, I let my 600 watts of solar do the work, slower, but with more control.
I only read these forums part time so I probably missed that (or I have been known to forget lol) but that's exactly what I've decided to do. I ordered a sprinter lighted toggle switch I can put in the dash and will try doing the same thing.
 

lvuman

Member
In my opinion, everything looks good except the Sterling 30 amp chassis to house DC to DC charger. You will be disappointed. The actual output is 23 to 24 amps and any other significant draw takes away from battery charging. I recall reading where people with the newest LTV's (with the 30 amp Sterling), were only seeing 9 to 10 amps going into the battery after the 12 volt Dometic Fridge was drawing its 13 to 14 amps.
As part of this 630ah Lithionics upgrade, I chose the Renogy 50A DC-DC charger to regulate the max charging of the house batteries from the alternator. I installed it in the step compartment (see pic #47 on page one) and have been pleased with it so far. I verified the charge rate directly from my Lithionics battery Bluetooth app while driving. After letting the batteries discharge below 50% to test the alternator charging, I observed the charge rate at 64 amps within a few minutes after starting my 1-hour drive back home from boondocking in the desert for a couple of days. It stayed at approximately the same charge rate for the entire drive. The refrigerator was off for the test but my original 600w solar array was still on. I was averaging about 15-20 amps from solar just before I started home so that was obviously supplementing the alternator charging. Here's the glitch; if you are utilizing the built-in MPPT solar controller as I am to charge the starter battery while in storage, the solar breaker to the Renogy solar panel (1, 50w panel in my case) must be switched off while driving or the max charge from the alternator will be limited to 25 amps. That's is a pretty weird design in my opinion but no biggie to switch it off while driving. I just open the step compartment and flip the breaker then switch it back on when I park.
 

msmolow

2019 Unity CB / 2018 Chas
According to this article unless it's necessary it is better for lithium batteries not to be topped off.

 

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