Challenges For All Lead-Acid Battery Types
All of the batteries we have discussed so far are variations of lead-acid battery technology and utilize the same internal chemical reaction. Because of this, they all suffer similar drawbacks in operational performance.
All lead-acid battery types require strict usage and charging requirements to get their full lifespan. Monitoring discharge and charge levels is required to get the full lifespan from these batteries as deep discharges and partial charges will damage the battery. These batteries also have long recharge times and need a special absorption charge cycle to get fully charged. This makes lead-acid batteries a poor choice for applications that involve lots of charges and discharge cycles, like renewable energy power applications.
Lithium-ion batteries are relatively new and are currently the most expensive of the 12V battery types. However, they offer many advantages for those willing to upgrade. Unlike their lead-acid counterparts, lithium-ion batteries work using lithium salt to create more efficient electricity storage. RV Lithium-Ion batteries cost around $900 each.
Lithium-ion batteries have the highest storage capacity of all RV 12V battery types and have the fastest and most efficient charging. They also last the longest before needing to be replaced, sometimes 3-5 times longer than traditional batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are lighter and don’t require the regular maintenance that other types of batteries do.
Finally, lithium-ion batteries can discharge more of their stored energy without damaging the battery or reducing your power, unlike lead-acid batteries. Because of all these charging benefits, this type of battery performs very well in repetitive and partial charging tasks like solar power systems.
Lithium-Ion batteries can be installed anywhere and do not need to conform to existing shapes and sizes. The Battle Born GC3 battery has a different form factor that packs lots of power in a unique shape designed to be installed anywhere.
Lithium-ion batteries are by far the most expensive up-front of the 12-volt battery types available. Additionally, since lithium-ion technology is newer, you will need to upgrade more than just your batteries if you want to convert to a lithium-ion battery system.
However, lithium-ion batteries last much longer and also employ electronics inside them that both protect the battery and you. These overall make the battery much safer than a lead-acid alternative.
Lastly, they will limit current to the nameplate label. This means most Lithium-ion 12 volt batteries will not work as an engine starting battery.
How to Choose the Best 12 Volt Battery Type For You
Picking the best 12-volt battery type for you is about trade-offs. Each battery type has advantages and disadvantages, and these can vary depending on your style of RV or travel.
The RVer on a tight budget may go for cheaper flooded lead-acid batteries, even if the long-term cost is more. Those who often operate in very hot or cold temperatures may want to avoid lead-acid batteries, however, in favor of a lithium-ion battery that will protect itself and perform better.
Gel batteries eliminate some of these issues, but the owner needs to be really comfortable with additional charging requirements.
RVers looking for low maintenance batteries should focus on sealed lead acid, gel, AGM, or lithium batteries and ignore flooded lead-acid batteries altogether.
Lithium-ion batteries are the obvious top choice, as they include an optimal mix of safety, low maintenance, efficiency, long lifespan, and power.