For those of you exploring leisure battery options, you may have already read-up on AGM or the many variants of lead acid batteries such as Flooded Lead Acid (FLA) and Valve Regulated Lead Acid (VRLA), then you have Standard FLA, Sealed FLA, Sealed VRLA, Gel VRLA - getting a headache yet? Yep - I thought so!
But there is fantastic news, Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) Leisure Batteries entered the leisure battery market to offer a much more economical way of powering your adventures. They are lighter, smaller, more cost-effective and last far longer than their predecessors AGM and lead acid batteries. If this all sounds too good to be true - it absolutely is not.
However, with such a plethora of information on the market and in some instances too much information, it can be difficult to know where to start. So, here's the Fogstar guide to LiFePO4 leisure batteries, we hope you find it useful when it comes to selecting the right battery for your next adventures.
Let’s talk Chemistry
So, what are LiFePO4 batteries and how do they work? In order to explain, you’re going to need your Chemistry goggles.
LiFePO4 batteries themselves are comprised of three chemical elements;
Li - Lithium
Fe - Iron
PO4 - Phosphate
It’s these chemical elements that go into making up the name LiFePO4.
LiFePO4 batteries operate in a similar way to other lithium-ion batteries, producing electricity through the movement of lithium-ion and electrons.
The chemical make-up of LiFePO4 batteries takes full advantage of the fact lithium-ions and free electrons are compelled to reform, this is simply because they are in a particularly ‘precarious’ state. When you connect a load across the battery terminals, the ions and electrons travel from the anode to the cathode, in this instance the cathode is made of Lithium Iron Phosphate, which is what makes the battery so unique.
At this point this LiFePO4 battery uses a ‘separator’ that propels the ions through the battery and also thrusts the electrons around the circuit. This creates the current, and subsequently the power!
When you plug your battery in to charge, the entire process is reversed, and the lithium-ions and and the electrons are completely replaced in the anode - all set to go again. Impressive right?
What goes into your Leisure Battery?
We wouldn’t ever recommend doing so, but if you were to open up the plastic casing on a 12V leisure battery, you’d see four prismatic LiFePO4 ‘cells’ in the series. It’s these four (or if you’re buying a 24v leisure battery - 8) cells that form the heart and soul of your leisure battery.
If you’re lucky enough you might also find a Battery Management System (BMS) and if you’re super lucky you might find a Bluetooth module and in-built heating system (our customers at Fogstar certainly will).
For those looking to purchase a leisure battery, it’s crucial you understand what you’re buying and fully appreciate what cells are being used in your leisure batteries.
How do I know what size leisure battery to buy?
The first question to ask is; what will you be using it for? For those of you planning a weekend off-grid in the wilds of Pembrokeshire, you’d be looking for a pretty high capacity leisure battery to keep you going. If you’re planning a week nestled conveniently next to a hook-up on a campsite, you’re less likely to rely on your leisure battery.
You also need to consider elements such as space and budget, even going as far as listing and calculating exactly what it is you want to power. A good example of this is; over 24 hours keeping the kids entertained with the TV both evenings could burn around 80 watts, running your LED lights is around 15 watts, your water pump around 15 watts, running your laptop 70 watts, compressor fridge 40 watts - it soon starts to add up.
A rough guide on how to work it out is as follows.
- List your appliances for example (lights, fridges, TV’s, laptops, water pumps), the watts of each appliance, the estimated daily running time (in hours) and daily energy usage (in watt hours). This will allow you to work out the overall watt-hours you will be using every day.
- Simply divide your watt-hours by 12 (if you are using a 12v battery) to give you your overall amp-hours (Ah). For example; 1,023.1wh/12v = 85.25ah. 85.25 is our daily energy usage.
Picking a leisure battery is dependent upon a myriad of factors, so be sure to take everything into account before you commit and if you have any questions, do not be afraid to pick up the phone and give us a call.
You return from your latest excursion, unpack the contents of your van and just so happen to forget about your battery. When you suddenly remember at 3am the morning before your next trip, not only will your battery not be drained in the slightest, you’ll be able to charge it quickly and efficiently - particularly with your trusty Battery Management System (BMS) connected.
How to charge Leisure Batteries
There is a misconception when it comes to charging a leisure battery that you need a specialist charger and this isn’t entirely true.
If you’re making the switch from lead acid to LiFePO4 you may be wondering if you can use your lead acid charger to charge your new lithium iron phosphate leisure battery. The short answer is, absolutely yes, the Drift batteries have been designed as drop-in replacements for Lead Acid batteries.
We've written a fantastic article about charging your Drift batteries here - take a look!
The Benefits of LiFePO4 Leisure BatteriesSo we’ve looked at the technical elements of the LiFePO4 leisure batteries, but what are the benefits?
Well they are vast in comparison to lead acid AGM. In particular they offer a much longer life span, often in excess of 4000 cycles, very little maintenance and a fantastic discharge and charge efficiency.
Another fantastic feature of these batteries is their ability to deliver power at a consistent voltage for far longer, and achieve a depth of discharge (DOD) of around 95% before tailing off - sounds great, right?
Leisure Batteries are pretty small
Despite the size of LiFePO4 leisure batteries, they are remarkably lightweight, which is fantastic news for discerning travellers who may be worried about vehicle payload. LiFePO4 leisure batteries typically weigh half that of their predecessor lead-acid batteries - that’s quite some weight reduction!
Leisure Batteries are safer than Lead Acid batteries
The safety benefits of LiFePO4 leisure batteries are remarkable in comparison to other battery alternatives. Due to the chemical and thermal composition of the batteries, they will not overheat, nor will they explode or catch-fire if subjected to hazardous events or conditions such as collisions or short-circuiting. The impeccable safety record is why they are becoming an increasingly popular choice for travellers, use of them in off-road and unstable environments is perfectly acceptable, and most importantly - safe.
Leisure Batteries are good for the environment
For the environmentally conscious amongst us, there is more good news. LiFePO4 leisure batteries are non-toxic, non-contaminating and contain no rare earth metals. So unlike lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries, which carry significant risks to the environment.
The lifespan of the batteries, more than 10 years, is up to ten times the lifespan of a lead-acid battery - this makes them fantastically economical. Add in the weight savings achieved by switching to a LiFePO4 and, not only will your fuel tank thank you for switching, but the environment will too.
Leisure Batteries are not expensive - no, really!
The biggest barrier to LiFePO4 lithium battery ownership so far has been cost. Those looking to switch from lead acid to lithium iron phosphate batteries have been put off by the cost of doing so. Historically, lead acid batteries have been much cheaper
This is where Fogstar comes in. We’re not only able to provide the very best EVE Grade A Prismatic cells, integrated BMS system, built-in Heating, Bluetooth and associated App for external battery management, we’re also the best priced on the market - by some distance.
You’re probably wondering how we’ve done it, it’s simply down to our procurement strategy. Yes, it really is that straightforward.
Our aim is to provide the very best product, for the very best price, exactly what our customers at Fogstar have come to expect over the last seven years - want to read more about Fogstar and how we've become a multi-award winning UK supplier? Read our story here.