POWERING FREEDOM™ using lithium battery technology
Lithium Battery Systems (LBS) was founded by our Chief Technical Officer, Greg MacDonald, after having spent 5 years converting, designing and building electric vehicles – all using lithium batteries. During this time a thorough understanding of how to work with and protect lithium batteries was developed.
Greg realised a demand for light weight, power dense lithium batteries for the RV market using LiFePO4 technology. The numerous benefits to lithium batteries including weight, depth of discharge and longevity are valuable to outdoor enthusiasts who want the freedom to go wherever they want, whenever they want.
In July 2015 LBS began developing 12V lithium iron phosphate battery packs and has recently begun manufacturing lithium batteries with an Australian made BMS specifically for recreational vehicles of all types, including caravans, motorhomes, campervans, camper trailers and fifth wheelers.
Why we do what we do
We believe in POWERING FREEDOM™
Bestowing all Australians with the right to power their own freedom, whether it be:
• Freedom to self-generate power and be liberated from the grid;
• Freedom to power independence in the great outdoors;
• Freedom to power mobility in an ageing world.
We are redefining what’s possible with batteries and how they are used, by continually innovating and combining technology from various industries in new ways.
Meet the Team
What is a Lithium Battery?
We use the term “lithium batteries” as the shortened form of Lithium Ion batteries, which includes a number of different battery chemistries – all of which use some form of Lithium as one of the materials. All of these battery chemistries have different benefits and drawbacks, as well as different safety concerns.
We use the term “lead acid batteries” to include all types of batteries based on the chemistry of lead with a type of acid; these include AGM, VRLA, Gel, Deep Cycle, Marine etc.
Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4)
For all the products referenced on this website, the type of lithium batteries used are always of the type Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP). Of importance is the ‘Iron’ – as in ‘Ferrous’ – which is why the acronym has an ‘F’ in the middle. This is different to ‘ion’ – as in ‘charge-carrying particle’ – which is part of the generic name of all types of Lithium (aka Lithium Ion) batteries. In other words there are many different types of Lithium Ion batteries – the type we use is Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP).
This is important to note, because LFP batteries are considered one of the safest types of lithium battery. They are far less prone to “thermal runaway”.
LFP cells also tend to last much longer than many other types of chemistries, such as those used in laptops and cell phones – this is another reason why we use them.
A 12V pack has 4 lithium cells in it – each cell is a nominal 3.2V, so that the pack nominal voltage is 12.8V. This matches very well with the voltage of a 12V lead acid battery.
What’s the truth about Lithium Batteries?
Many people have heard stories of lithium batteries catching fire, or going into “thermal runaway.”
It is true that batteries (lead acid and lithium chemistries) contain a large amount of energy, and if this energy is not managed properly it can be dangerous. It is just like the petrol in a car fuel tank – you wouldn’t throw a burning cigarette into a car fuel tank would you! (Google petrol bomb if you hesitated at this question…)
However we drive around every day with dozens of litres of explosive fuel – kind of like a petrol bomb on wheels – without worrying about it. This is because we have safety systems and procedures in place to prevent dangerous circumstances. Likewise there are a few things that should be done with lithium batteries to ensure they can be used safely. A Battery Management System (BMS) should always be used to protect the battery cells.
Different types of lithium batteries are safer than others. We use lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) cells because they are much safer than those used in cell phones and laptops.
At LBS the safe use of lithium battery technology is our primary concern. We use a Triple Guard design approach to ensure that our batteries are both safe and reliable.
- Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) – the safest lithium ion chemistry to use for the applications we design our batteries for. We also use high quality cells that have a robust cell casing and have been manufactured under strict quality control procedures. This is the first line of defence.
- Battery Management System (BMS) – our BMS is circuit board that has been designed and manufactured in Brisbane, Australia using local engineers and best practices. This gives us the ability to control reliability, functionality and quality during board manufacture and not rely on overseas imported BMS’s. The BMS is the brains to monitor and control the cells during charging and use of the batteries. The BMS ensures the cells are balanced and regulated and in the rare case of any issues are safely shut down. This is the second line of defence.
- Metal Enclosure – our batteries are housed in a strong rigid metal enclosure. This lightweight yet super strong casing acts as as the last line of defence and ensures that any possible problem with the cells is safely contained within the enclosure. This is rarely required but gives peace of mind that no matter what conditions the batteries are subject to the final fortress of strength around the batteries ensures they are always safe.
In January 2013 a Lithium Cobalt Oxide (LiCoO2) battery overheated after an internal short circuit and started a fire on an empty Japan Air Dreamliner. This type of lithium battery is known for ‘thermal runaway’, which is just a fancy word for fire.
Following this incident, Ji-Guang Zhang, a researcher at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in the USA, suggested Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4 or LFP for short) cells be used as a safer alternative, as they are not as prone to thermal runaway
This is one reason we are using LiFePO4 cells in our batteries for the RV market.
It’s all in the BMS
All types of lithium batteries need a Battery Management System (BMS) for safety reasons and to ensure a long lifespan of the battery pack.
The name BMS can be confusing, as many products are in reality just a Battery MONITORING System, and do not perform the balancing function required to maximise capacity.
This is a new type of technology that is often not well understood, as it is something new that was not required for lead acid batteries. It provides many different monitoring and protection functions, to ensure each cell in the battery pack remains in a safe state, and takes appropriate action if any cell goes outside of intended operating parameters.
What does a BMS do?
A BMS also performs important protective functions to maximise the capacity and lifespan of the battery pack, including:
– Every cell is in the pack is monitored, to check it’s voltage does not go too high during charging, or too low during power draw.
– The temperature of the cells is monitored – if this goes high a warning is generated, and if it goes really high the pack can be disconnected to prevent further charging/discharging.
– The State of Charge (SOC) is accurately monitored by sensing how much current goes in and out of the battery; when the battery pack is empty it is disconnected from the load to prevent damage from further discharge. (In contrast, lead acid cells simply use voltage to estimate the state of charge, and usually do not disconnect the battery).
Local Design & Manufacture
We use our own custom-made BMS designed, engineered and manufactured here in Australia. We do this to ensure we have better control over quality, reliability and so that we can build in the functionality that we need from the start.
The problem with using imported off the shelf battery management systems, especially from China, is that you have little control over quality and hence reliability which could result in hazardous situations.
We believe that the BMS is the most important part of a lithium battery; therefore we worked with electronics and battery management experts here in Australia to design and build our BMS specifically for use in our 3 core areas –
LBS Verified Designs
Its all about integration
Ever attempted a jigsaw puzzle and tried to fit the wrong pieces together? It just doesn’t work, and neither does a battery system with components that are incompatible with each other. A battery system is comprised of chargers (AC or DC), the battery and possibly an inverter if AC power is required and they all must work seamlessly together. It is even more important with lithium batteries because some chargers on the market which have been designed to charge lead acid batteries simply don’t work with a lithium battery.
So we came up with the concept of a ‘verified design’ to ensure all components work together. An LBS Verified Design is an integrated system of compatible components which have been tested together. Refer to our Bundles page for more information on complete systems which have been verified and tested.
Customers Sue and Rick from Toowoomba, QLD purchased a lithium battery system from us in January 2016. A year later we caught up with them to ask them what was the longest they were disconnected from mains power for?