The article below featured in Western 4WDriver Magazine. It has been republished with their permission
Written by Nick Underwood
It was blowing like a bastard when we pulled into our campsite at Cape Range NP and the driving wind kept up for four days before we could venture out without getting our southern white legs sandblasted to the bone.
At least the sun shone throughout our 10-day stay which was crucial to the testing of our new Lithium iron battery set-up.
Easter of 2018 had seen us in the same area under hot conditions and struggling to keep fridges and lights going with our previous wet cell dual battery system.
Typically the winds nudged gale force and the thermometer hovered in the high 30s to early 40s - conditions which showed up the inability of a 130-watt solar panel and occasional engine running to keep us in coastal camping comfort.
In the end, following a cloudy day and a few warm beers, we broke a life-long resolve and bought a generator to prop up the system.
Since then and with retirement (and longer duration campsites) a reality, we've re-built our camping set-up and at great expense to management, installed a state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery system that is dedicated to all electrics in the canopy - two fridges, numerous lights, water pump, inverter and power points.
The battery is a 200 amp/hr eight cell Lithium iron controlled by a REDARC Manager30.
So there we were propped for 10 days (the longest we've spent in one spot for 30 years) and ready to put the system to the test.
Our vehicle was facing roughly north and our struggling 130-watt solar panel was combined with a 200 watt blanket on the bonnet to capture solar and re-invigorate the system.
In those 10 days neither the vehicle nor generator were started and the panels remained fixed in one position. We left the Manager30 on touring mode and recorded read-outs three times daily.
Apart from the aforementioned electrical devices, we used the inverter daily and for extended periods running a Dremmel craft tool and from the fourth day on, an extra LED light to illuminate a section of the annex.
As you can see, the battery never dropped below 80% capacity over the 10 days. Voltage and solar input were consistent throughout the test as was battery temps. To combat heat build-up in the area behind the Engel where the battery resides, an extractor fan is fitted and before any more trips, we will insulate the gullwing doors to keep the interior cooler in hot conditions.
To say we are chuffed with the combination of RV Lithium's custom-built battery and REDARC's Manager30 is an understatement. As leading-edge technology, the system is not cheap but every day without the worry of whether your power supply will die or survive confirms we made the right decision.
The weight is far less than a wet cell battery of similar output and for anyone contemplating the move to Lithium, as the market matures prices will drop to more affordable levels. Just research the product well before you commit.
We reckon ...
From our experience so far, we say "Go for Lithium iron, put your mind at ease and leave the generator in the shed. You and your camping neighbours will appreciate the serenity."
Thanks to Paul Kearns of RV Lithium systems and Scott Montgomery of REDARC for their considerable input.