Types of Camper Power Generation

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The energetic heart of our living cell is undoubtedly the service battery. The market offers various solutions in this regard: it is, therefore, necessary to know the different types of batteries and to carefully weigh the purchase of the service battery and the devices needed to recharge it. The first difference to take into consideration is that between three major types of batteries:

- Starter battery

- Slow discharge battery (AGM)

- Lithium batteries




Engine starting batteries

Starter batteries are built very differently from slow-discharge batteries, as the number and thickness of the plates inside them change.

Normal starter batteries have thinner and more numerous plates since they must have the ability to provide the inrush current in amperes sufficient to start the engine and, therefore, must deliver a large amount of energy in a short period.

Therefore, these batteries are not suitable for the use of the services of the living area of the camper. Although they can also be used for this purpose, they will offer poorer and less lasting performance over time than slow-discharge batteries, especially during the winter, when electricity consumption rises significantly (especially if we also use stoves such as the Trauma Combi or Webasto diesel heaters).

 

Slow-discharge service batteries

Slow-discharge batteries, on the other hand, have the characteristic of being able to deliver current slowly and steadily over time. For this, the internal construction is made up of thicker plates.

Among the slow-discharging batteries, it is worth mentioning above all the so-called AGM RV batteries. These batteries have a greater capacity (generally greater than 100Ah) and are particularly suitable for the camper's needs. In particular, AGM technology is ideal for withstanding numerous deep discharge cycles. These accumulators are made internally with lead-calcium plates in which an absorbent material soaked in acid is wrapped; this technology allows the electrolyte to evaporate during the charging and discharging phase (when the temperature inside increases), at the end of which the bubbles produced to mix with the acid, leading the battery to maintain efficient performance.

- It must also be said that AGM batteries are free from leaks and maintenance, which is sometimes necessary with normal starter batteries (the electrolyte liquid levels should be checked annually). AGMs are also better resistant to self-discharge: when a battery is not recharged for long periods, it tends to discharge automatically, even if the poles are disconnected.

- Among the contraindications of these batteries, we must first mention the weight: at least 30kg for each battery. Remember that our camper cannot exceed 3500kg of total mass unless you have a C license.

- The price, much higher than that of a normal starter battery, is between € 200 and € 300.

 - It is also possible to install more than one service battery, connecting the accumulators in parallel and thus doubling the energy reserve.

We must also consider that these super-batteries must be recharged with equally efficient devices. Otherwise, we would have a large reservoir of energy that we will only partially exploit. If we often rely on campsites or on equipped areas that have electricity columns, we will have no problems. We can recharge our batteries through the special 220V socket available to every camper in the outer part of the cell. However, remember that a recharge cycle can take many hours, so we do not think about "hit and run" stops.

Alternatively, the market today offers many solutions for recharging batteries services of any type:

-   Solar panels: producing clean energy in motorhomes

-   EFOY fuel cells: the ideal solution for (almost) all the energy needs of the motorhome

-   Charge optimizers (boosters): the ideal solution to charge the batteries of the camper while traveling

-   Power generators for campers: the ideal solution for high energy requirements

 

LITHIUM BATTERIES

Lithium batteries represent the last frontier of service batteries for campers. These batteries have several advantages over older AGMs:

- With the same Ah declared, lithium batteries offer about double the autonomy compared to a normal AGM battery. This is because lithium batteries offer discharge cycles of up to 90%, while in the case of AGMs, the maximum recommended discharge should never exceed 40%. Therefore, a 100Ah lithium battery will offer an autonomy of about 200Ah of AGM batteries.

- Lithium batteries weigh at least half that of AGMs. Considering the weight problems that any motorhome owner faces, that's no small advantage.

- Increased longevity: Lithium RV batteries withstand many more charge cycles than AGMs before starting to lose their potential. This means we will have to replace them much later than we would be forced to do with an AGM.

- Charging Speed: Lithium batteries recharge much faster than AGM batteries. Considering that a full charge cycle of an AGM takes several hours, this is no small factor.

So far, the choice must fall on a 12v lithium ion battery. However, we must also consider their disadvantages: lithium batteries have a cost far higher than a normal AGM, and additional costs are often required to adapt our electrical system to use these batteries.

Furthermore, in case of failure, with a single lithium battery, we would remain totally without energy, while if we had two AGMs in parallel, in case one should fail, we could always use the other.

 

CONCLUSIONS

Until lithium batteries get cheaper, I will continue to prefer AGM batteries. But suppose you have big weight problems with your vehicle and want to enjoy the maximum comfort of a battery that charges faster and guarantees greater longevity. In that case, the lithium battery is the preferred choice.

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