As a rule, even on vacation, we need electricity - whether it is to power a refrigerator or a radio, or lighting, or to charge mobile devices. When we are on the road or there is no 230V socket at hand, we have to rely on the on-board batteries of our vehicles. We will look at different types of links and their specificity of operation in order to refute facts and myths and indicate the right solutions to specific needs. Not every type of battery can withstand a deep discharge unscathed, and not every type of battery is suitable for high-powered loads. However, there are many more differences. Today we will discuss the design of individual batteries and the pros and cons of each. In the next material, we will introduce you to ways to optimize energy consumption, their proper operation, replacement and charging.
These are traditional batteries, the structure of which resembles a starter battery. However, the devil is in the details: the lead plates are thicker, which allows for cyclic charging / discharging. Simple design / older batteries require maintenance - more specifically, topping up with distilled water and checking the electrolyte density. Evaporation may also occur. This distinguishes these old structures from modern maintenance-free solutions.
The above type of battery is the cheapest power source and can supply high currents. However, it should not be discharged too deeply, as this leads to excessive and irreversible wear. This solution can prove useful at low loads, e.g. when the user can regularly reach for an external power source.
If we do not have high requirements for the battery, we use small receivers and quickly recharge the battery, then this type of energy storage can be successful. It should be emphasized that virtually every reputable battery manufacturer has this type of product in its offer. They are cheap to buy and easy to recharge. The disadvantages include the risk of leakage and evaporation, as well as a relatively lower service life compared to other technologies. They also discharge themselves, and storing them in a discharged state significantly reduces the capacity.
The technology itself is not new, as it dates back to the 1960s, but it has been used successfully so far. Here, too, we are dealing with lead-acid batteries with gelled sulfuric acid as the electrolyte. The gelling material added to the sulfuric acid is silica. The advantage of gel batteries is good resistance to electrolyte loss during electrical operation and low self-discharge (gel batteries do not show a loss of charge as a result of self-discharge after even 6 months). If the power consumption is small and takes place over a long period of time, they will do well. Unlike conventional lead-acid batteries, they do not need to be placed horizontally. Due to high internal resistances, there may be problems with loading them with solar installations. Moreover, when working with a converter and high-power receivers (e.g. dryers), they discharge very quickly. Of course, you should pay attention to the higher price and long charging time.
AGM stands for Absorbent Glass Mat. Here, the liquid electrolyte is absorbed just in the tangle of thin needles of the glass fiber mat. It's trapped and won't leak out of that glass fabric, while still being fluid and providing good battery electrical performance - definitely better than the type of gel battery described above. In addition, the larger surface of the lead plates allows for the same dimensions to obtain a greater capacity. Thanks to lower internal resistance, charging is faster, and cooperation with solar panels is not a problem. In addition, AGM batteries are better suited for powering higher-power consumers, e.g. through a converter. Moreover, they are maintenance-free, can operate in any position and are not sensitive to lower temperatures. Winter caravanning will not be a problem here. Unfortunately, they can handle deep discharges and high temperatures a bit worse than standard gel batteries. They are also more expensive than them.
The latest and most technologically advanced cells in lithium-ion technology are also used in camping vehicles. LiFePo4 is a concept that has revolutionized the mobile power market in recent years. This term refers to lithium iron phosphate batteries. They are light, have a negligible memory effect, high capacity and resistance to discharge (we have almost the entire nominal capacity at our disposal) and frequent charging. The parameters are constant and do not depend on the ambient temperature. In general, it is assumed that the lifetime of this type of battery with a discharge of 70% is up to 3,000 cycles. They do not self-discharge. An important "heart" of this type of systems are electronic systems controlling operating parameters, protecting them against deep discharge. Both high-power devices and converters successfully cooperate with this technology. The only downside, unfortunately, is the purchase price ...
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