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Discussion Starter #1
We just bought a 2019 Transit 350 passenger van and plan to convert it into a camper van. The installer I'm talking to says I need a Parallex 45 amp converter with 2 AGM batteries. After researching batteries, it seems to me that I'd be better off with one lithium battery rather than 2 AGM. My installer was totally dismissive of the idea. I guess he wants to do what he wants to do! We have only talked, he hasn't started anything yet and has not quoted a price. Should I follow his advice or try to find someone else?
 

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Lithium is going to cost over $1,000 dollars, Agm probably $200 dollars. I guess it just depends on how much money you want to spend.
 

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While we're certainly not rich, money wasn't the concern. I just want the best and easiest to use and maintain system. that will last a long time. More than one person that I've spoken to said not to go with lithium while what I've read online says otherwise. If I go with lithium, I'll have to find another installer because the guy I'm talking to doesn't seem interested in doing it. I'm in CT if you know someone.
 

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If it were me, I would look for a different guy. One who is more flexible and more importantly one who is not hopelessly rooted in the past.
 

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Your question is one that gets a lot of debate. There isn't a clear answer because there are so many different camper designs and uses. Some want to boondock or cook and heat water without propane, so have huge banks of batteries and tons of solar on the roof. Others have AC and shore power and plan to spend more time in places where they can plug in. Weight is also a factory with the Lithium batteries coming in much lighter, as well as cost, as was mentioned above. I would suggest checking out a couple of sources that I have found really useful to explain the different options.


This site has tons of info on all aspects of camper design.

This company, as well as several others, have good articles that might help you make your decision.
I would agree with @kenryan about the guy you are taking to about building your van. It seems odd that he isn't interested in building the van the way you want it. With such a sizable investment, you should have it done exactly the way you want.
There are also a ton of threads you can find on the battery question using the search function of this forum.
 

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While we're certainly not rich, money wasn't the concern. I just want the best and easiest to use and maintain system. that will last a long time. More than one person that I've spoken to said not to go with lithium while what I've read online says otherwise. If I go with lithium, I'll have to find another installer because the guy I'm talking to doesn't seem interested in doing it. I'm in CT if you know someone.
Be aware of the sub-freezing charging restriction with the lithium,if you are planning on using the van in the cold.
Dave
 

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We just bought a 2019 Transit 350 passenger van and plan to convert it into a camper van. The installer I'm talking to says I need a Parallex 45 amp converter with 2 AGM batteries. After researching batteries, it seems to me that I'd be better off with one lithium battery rather than 2 AGM. My installer was totally dismissive of the idea. I guess he wants to do what he wants to do! We have only talked, he hasn't started anything yet and has not quoted a price. Should I follow his advice or try to find someone else?
This is not at all to say that lithium is better...it depends. I would just say that if he isn't open to the idea of something other than AGM, ask him why - there might be a good reason or he might not know anything about electrical. Having said that, he might be giving you that advise based on your build and how you told him you would use it. For example, my van use sees well below freezing temps 4-6 months of the year and I keep my batteries outside. While I could afford lithium, it made no sense in my situation. I want all of my indoor space for living and bikes and I don't have big loads like a microwave, induction stove, etc. My 210AH of AGM batteries give 105 AH of useful service which is plenty when coupled with a 100w solar panel and driving every other day. Sure, I'll likely need to replace them for $500 or so in 5-6 years, but that isn't a given. The AGMs in my SMB were still going strong at 11 years.

The only thing that might lead me to the need for more battery is that espresso machine I'm building into my my remodel...

Just consider that a lot of the van life crap on YouTube is from people that really don't know anything either. They assume that they must use lithium because they need a microwave, laptop charger, tv, induction stove, etc. If you need all that stuff, then yes, lithium is probably the way to go.
 

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I’d be curious why the installer doesn’t want to use a lithium battery, is the plan solar only or charge off the alternator. If it’s charged from the alternator a b2b charger will be needed with lithium, agm batteries might be able to get by without a b2b charger but I you would have significant unused capacity. I would be be more worried more about a system that is poorly optimized by someone that is not willing to adjust the setup to your wants or needs
 

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We just bought a 2019 Transit 350 passenger van and plan to convert it into a camper van. The installer I'm talking to says I need a Parallex 45 amp converter with 2 AGM batteries. After researching batteries, it seems to me that I'd be better off with one lithium battery rather than 2 AGM. My installer was totally dismissive of the idea. I guess he wants to do what he wants to do! We have only talked, he hasn't started anything yet and has not quoted a price. Should I follow his advice or try to find someone else?
I have worked batteries and the emerging energy storage industry for >20 years here's my take on it.

Li-ion Pros over AGM
Its lighter than AGM for a given capacity and could provide some additional life - given the right circumstances
Its perceived to be 'better" and certainly gets the majority of the PR

AGM Pros over Li-ion
1/10th of the cost - Li-ion is just not cost effective for high capacity installations.
Similar or lower space requirements - doesn't need a complex battery management system
Much more tolerant of occasional over charge or excessive discharge
Fully recycled at end of life - Li-ion is not recycled at any significant commercial scale and its toxic components end up in landfill

Putting all of that aside, you really need to start with a detailed evaluation of not only your power needs but also your power demand type. I was part way through a detailed house electrical design, when I realized that most of the things we needed to power, was both DC and had its own battery, this included laptops, phones, Kindles, GPS and LED light blocks, etc.

So with a bit of planning I was able to have an all DC system powered off the 2 AGM's that came stock and live under the driver's seat. All of our devices are charged via USB chargers while the vehicle is in motion and we can power the roof fan, lights and recharge phones for 48hrs while parked.

The only compromises we made was to use propane for cooking, vehicle gasoline for heating and a solar water heater.

This decision probably saved us a minimum of $3500-5000 and 400lb in weight if you include the batteries, inverter, BMS and solar.
 

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Out of all of the people that I've seen that switched to lifepo4 I've only heard of one guy that wanted to switch back to AGM and in that guys video it was obvious that he didn't know what he was doing with the lifepo4.

If you have access to shore power to use when charging i would stick with AGM though


Be aware of the sub-freezing charging restriction with the lithium,if you are planning on using the van in the cold.
Dave
The good batteries have the battery management system that protects from sub freezing charging , just need to choose what method you use to keep the battery warm.
I use a diesel heater on the lowest setting , I believe most people use 12 volt electric battery heaters
 

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We went with a Lithium Iron Phosphate battery for a few reasons:

  1. For the same usable amp hours, the 100Ah lithium battery we chose saved us 100 lbs. over a 200Ah (100Ah usable) AGM battery. Price was about $400 more.
  2. The lithium battery can be tipped on its side, and fits nicely under the passenger seat.
  3. Our van is a "fair weather", 3-season vehicle, so the lithium battery gets pulled out in the winter. If yours will sit out in subzero weather, this is a definite consideration, as turbodave mentioned above.
Craig
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks to everyone for their help!

The installer I've been talking to is a RV sales and repair shop. We plan to do our own interior with a carpenter friend. We just went to this shop for the electrical components and installation. Just guessing, maybe he doesn't want to be bothered with us because we didn't buy an RV from him or he doesn't know much about lithium or he has the Parallex Converter in stock that he is trying to unload on us for $768. I've asked for an estimate on the installation price and he dances around the question. In any case, I've pretty much decided to move on and find someone else.

It is our intention to use the camper portion of the van in fair weather. I imagine we will take trips for weekends and possibly do some traveling in the south in winter months. Maybe stay overnight at rest areas or find campsites along the way. No plans for boon docking.

We would be powering a mini refrigerator, microwave, induction stove, tv, coffee maker, etc. (not all at the same time) So, another question: Can we run the lithium batteries off of the alternator to an inventor without a converter? My husband said it's not that complicated but sure seems so to me!
 

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I have a 255 amp-hr 8D AGM battery which is primarily charged by a single 300 watt high voltage solar panel and a MPPT controller. For my use I do not need anything more. Battery is always charged with a 3 stage charger so expect the battery to last many years. Same system in sold Sprinter lasted 9 years. The lowest SOC I have seen is 83% so no need for more capacity. My backup method of charging is the vehicle powered inverter that powers the shore power charger. Seldom required.

 

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@ Orton
Just curious , What's your average amp hours consumed per day ?

For example , my daily ah usage
Spring------ 30 ah per day
Summer----40 ah per day
Fall-----------20 ah per day
Winter-------40 thru 70 ah per day

40 ah per summer day is summer days that required no air conditioning.
When the weather gets extremely hot in the summer my daily ah usage from my battery gets cut back to about 15 ah per day because my
generator will be running constantly to power the air conditioner , and since the generator is already on I power everything from 110 volts at that point.

My main goal is to power everything from 12 volts but when the summer heat kicks in I'm forced to go into 110 volt mode and so unfortunately 110 volts is required and so I take advantage of it and run everything 110 volts.
I try to keep generator run time to a minimum but it's dependant on waiting for the summer heat to lighten up to where I can shut the air conditioner off and go back to 12 volt only mode and keep cool with a fan at that point.

My charge times are about
Spring. -- 1 hour 15 minutes a day
Summer --- 1and a half hours a day
Fall----------- 45 minutes a day
Winter ------ 2 hours a day

And so once per day I fire up the genset and then go shopping or something for about a hour and a half and by the time I come back to the van my batterys are charged.
 

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@ Orton
Just curious , What's your average amp hours consumed per day ?

For example , my daily ah usage
Spring------ 30 ah per day
Summer----40 ah per day
Fall-----------20 ah per day
Winter-------40 thru 70 ah per day

40 ah per summer day is summer days that required no air conditioning.
When the weather gets extremely hot in the summer my daily ah usage from my battery gets cut back to about 15 ah per day because my
generator will be running constantly to power the air conditioner , and since the generator is already on I power everything from 110 volts at that point.

My main goal is to power everything from 12 volts but when the summer heat kicks in I'm forced to go into 110 volt mode and so unfortunately 110 volts is required and so I take advantage of it and run everything 110 volts.
I try to keep generator run time to a minimum but it's dependant on waiting for the summer heat to lighten up to where I can shut the air conditioner off and go back to 12 volt only mode and keep cool with a fan at that point.

My charge times are about
Spring. -- 1 hour 15 minutes a day
Summer --- 1and a half hours a day
Fall----------- 45 minutes a day
Winter ------ 2 hours a day

And so once per day I fire up the genset and then go shopping or something for about a hour and a half and by the time I come back to the van my batterys are charged.
Unfortunately I have not done any recording. I just ignore the system because it works. Occasionally I will look at the Magnum SOC meter out of curiosity. I have a 85 liter Vitrifrigo front opening refrigerator with 2 1/2" of additional polyiso insulation on the top, bottom and two sides. 2" of closed cell insulation glued to the back. Four OEM LED lights powered from the house battery. Use 12 volt DC heating pad to stay warm at night instead of a diesel or gas fired heater. Do have a 600 watt (950 watt actual) microwave. Do charge my electric bike from the house inverter.

What is important is to design a system that meets the expected electrical load. No need for more than what is required. A list of electrical loads and expected run time should provide the information required to match the design to the use. Many build a mobile power station when it is not required.

The 300 watt panel and MPPT solar controller gets me back to 100% SOC each day. I cook with 1 # reusable propane bottles. I do have a vehicle powered pure sine inverter for backup charging if multiple days of no sunshine. So far only needed backup a couple of times each year. I do live in Ca. so my climate is better than some other locations. I do not live where it snows.
 

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Unfortunately I have not done any recording. I just ignore the system because it works. Occasionally I will look at the Magnum SOC meter out of curiosity. I have a 85 liter Vitrifrigo front opening refrigerator with 2 1/2" of additional polyiso insulation on the top, bottom and two sides. 2" of closed cell insulation glued to the back. Four OEM LED lights powered from the house battery. Use 12 volt DC heating pad to stay warm at night instead of a diesel or gas fired heater. Do have a 600 watt (950 watt actual) microwave. Do charge my electric bike from the house inverter.

What is important is to design a system that meets the expected electrical load. No need for more than what is required. A list of electrical loads and expected run time should provide the information required to match the design to the use. Many build a mobile power station when it is not required.

The 300 watt panel and MPPT solar controller gets me back to 100% SOC each day. I cook with 1 # reusable propane bottles. I do have a vehicle powered pure sine inverter for backup charging if multiple days of no sunshine. So far only needed backup a couple of times each year. I do live in Ca. so my climate is better than some other locations. I do not live where it snows.
I'm confused on how you get by without air conditioning ?
I know we live in different climates but I remember watching a Will Prouse Youtube video where he was living in the same place as you (California ) and he was having a miserable time in the RV from the heat to the point that was one of the reasons he moved back to a house.

Edit , I found that its hotter inland , he must've been inland or at least in a hotter area of California.
 

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While we're certainly not rich, money wasn't the concern. I just want the best and easiest to use and maintain system. that will last a long time. More than one person that I've spoken to said not to go with lithium while what I've read online says otherwise. If I go with lithium, I'll have to find another installer because the guy I'm talking to doesn't seem interested in doing it. I'm in CT if you know someone.
When I started my conversion van electrical business, I decided that I would only do LiFe battery based systems. If customer wanted AGM, I would either talk them into LiFe or not do the project.

My very first customer's application was for use in both 3 and 4 season use and there was no possible way for a Li battery pack to work for her needs.

I adapted to the needs of the customers and offer both, but it did take some effort to change the hardware I was using. I will only use certain brands of electrical components that I have tested and have confidence in for the builds that I do. If a customer really is in love with using specific parts, I now offer them the ability to "rent the shop and do the work with my assistance", but I won't take on the liability of those parts working correctly.

In spite of my infatuation with LiFe batteries, more than 2/3 rds of the projects that I do are AGM, at least in part because the van use will involve significant time in snow / ski use.

In CT, with the winter conditions and potential that you might go on a vacation in a ski area, honestly 400 amp-hrs x 12 volt of AGM might be a very good decision. That is what I have in my van.
 

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I'm confused on how you get by without air conditioning ?
I know we live in different climates but I remember watching a Will Prouse Youtube video where he was living in the same place as you (California ) and he was having a miserable time in the RV from the heat to the point that was one of the reasons he moved back to a house.

Edit , I found that its hotter inland , he must've been inland or at least in a hotter area of California.
Will lives I think in NV, which is quite hot.

The weather conditions in CA vary greatly. It can be 60 F at the coast and 90 F just 80 miles inland. Another 100 miles east and it can be 105 F. Go another 100 miles east and you can be sitting in snow on a mountain. All on the same day.
 

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Will lives I think in NV, which is quite hot.

The weather conditions in CA vary greatly. It can be 60 F at the coast and 90 F just 80 miles inland. Another 100 miles east and it can be 105 F. Go another 100 miles east and you can be sitting in snow on a mountain. All on the same day.
Yeah , he now lives in a house in Nevada , at the time he was complaining about the heat he was moving around place to place in California , I believe San Francisco , maybe San Diego , he probably didn't go to the Coast were it's cooler because of getting hassled by the authorities. Just guessing .
 
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