Thursday, December 02, 2021

What stuff costs battery edition...

A thing about language, a suggestion from EBM, and about that gas in your dinghy...

It's come to the point where I have to replace the batteries aboard "So It Goes" and I've been doing a lot of research on what to replace them with. 

Just about everyone is telling me that I should go with Lithium and their talking points seem to have merit and at first glance they are somewhat compelling. According to just about everyone Lithium has twice the usable energy, charges faster, and when the overall life of the battery is factored in less expensive than lead-acid.

Almost too good to be true.

A resource I follow where lithium batteries are concerned regularly tears down commercial lithium batteries and far too often the build quality appears to be somewhat problematic. Another resource who is big on harvesting surplus cells has been something of an eye opener as the whole act of harvesting cells is based on batteries that, for one reason or another, have failed.

Throw in the fact that while companies producing (or just rebranding) batteries have warranties that don't quite reflect the longevity they're claiming.

Warranties tend to say a lot about how good a product actually is so I take them quite seriously. Then again I recently had a couple of "Lifetime Guaranteed" solar panels which failed and the vendor refused to replace them because the company that built them was no longer in business. Which makes me wonder how many of the lithium battery sellers of today will still be around in five or ten years.

I'll also point out that the battery in the computer I'm writing this on is no longer accepting a full charge and cuts out on a regular basis and it's only a couple of months old. Fact is, battery failure on this computer has been an ongoing issue and I don't think a single battery has made it to the end of a warranty cycle. As it is, I'm replacing the computer battery about twice a year which does not give me a warm and fuzzy feeling where lithium batteries are concerned.

My current 400+ amp hour battery bank has lasted six years nine months and is still working albeit in a tired and grumpy manner. While we could get by for another year it makes sense to replace them now where I can get a good price on new batteries in a place where the old bank will be recycled and not just dumped in a landfill.

The decision to buy lead acid golf cart batteries is mainly about the fact that I have experience with lead acid and know they will work for the next six years or so without any issues as they're simple and don't have a lot to go wrong. Lithium, on the other hand, has complicated circuits (BMS) which can fail and are not user repairable. Several people I know advised that installing a second lead-acid bank as a back up to a lithium bank would be no bad thing which does not exactly fill me with confidence.

But what about the cost? The new bank (four six-volt golf cart batteries) is going to cost $732, including free delivery. Using the current bank as a model means I should expect to get around eighty-one months of service and the cost to the budget will come to about $9.04 a month.

I suspect, that eighty-one months from now when it's time to replace the new batteries, there will be a newer, hipper, and better battery chemistries that do not require rare-earth materials to build while lithium will have become passe.

I'm looking forward to seeing what the future brings...

Listening to Petite Amie

So it goes...