Lithium ion battery safety in caravans is tainted by a fire-prone technology of a different nature. The LiFePO4s used in caravans are far safer – here’s why.
The major appeal of lithium ion batteries is that they pack a lot of energy in a small volume. As with a weight lifter they can release that energy very fast – with consequences that include ignition. Because of this characteristic they have protection requirements that must be met both in everyday use – but also when transporting. In particular, they must not be overcharged.
GenZ 100 Ah LiFePO4 battery has a full battery management system inbuilt. Pic: Radlink Communications
Ensuring lithium ion battery safety in caravans
The LifePO4 lithium ion batteries used in caravans are usually 12 volts. They consist of four series connected (nominally 3.2 volt cells). Unlike lead acid and AGM batteries however, rechargeable lithium ion battery safety in caravans (and indeed generally) necessitates a battery management system. This system monitors each cell and ensures they are equally balanced. This system must also ensure that the intended charging voltage is not exceeded. It must ensure that the battery is not discharged below a level (advised by the battery maker) and typically between 10% 20% of remaining charge. It must also ensure that the battery is protected against excessive continuous current, and also over temperature due to incorrect usage.
The battery management system is not necessarily supplied with all LiFePO4 batteries. Unless you are totally sure of what you are doing it is strongly advised to buy only LiFePO4 batteries with the system inbuilt; to advise the vendor of the exact intended usage, and to obtain written assurance that they are suitable for that usage.
As with types of batteries, ensuring lithium ion battery safety in caravans necessitates protection against mechanical damage. This does not need to be extreme but care must be taken that they cannot be pierced by sharp objects etc.
If you found this information of value, please do have a look at the author’s books in this area. They are the 2016 released Caravan & Motorhome Book, Caravan & Motorhome Electrics, Solar That Really Works (for cabins and RVs) and Solar Success (for homes and property systems). There is also the more specialised The Camper Trailer Book.
(The author acknowledges the advice given in the preparation of this article by Simon Chan, Chief Engineer, Radlink Communications, at the May 2016 Lithium Batteries Conference presented by IDC Technologies.)