Four Factors to Look for in a Lithium Battery RV
By Chris Bienert, Winnebago
Better energy systems are the next wave in RVs. More owners want their AC and other appliances to run longer—long enough to keep pets cool for hours, and still provide hot showers while running other appliances. But they also want to untether from campground outlets and avoid noisy generators that compete with the sounds of nature.
That’s why there’s a buzz around lithium ion batteries—the kind that power electric and hybrid cars. Traditional lead-acid batteries like to be charged relatively slowly compared with lithium ions. The faster charge rate combined with much greater capacity for their weight is what makes lithium ions a true game-changer.
A few RV “techies” are installing their own systems and posting DIY instructions online. But if you’re not that much of an engineer, you’ll be happy to know a few RVs now come with optional lithium batteries built-in. At Winnebago, we’ve started with one of our most popular B vans, the Travato, introducing the Pure3 Energy Management System in our 2019 Travato 59GL and 59KL. (See video here.) These two models are fully engineered around the most advanced energy system available (see comparison chart).
If you’re seriously comparing RV battery systems, here are the main factors to keep in mind:
Think of power as three traits: charging speed, battery capacity, and how long the charge lasts. Most new RV lithium cells, including the do-it-yourself kind, are just 12 volts—a size that typically requires a long charge time and quickly depletes. If you want a rapid charge or several more hours of reliable juice, look for a more robust system, like the 48-volt Pure3.
The Winnebago system recharges from either a conventional outlet or a dedicated 58V alternator hooked up to the engine and a solar panel on the roof helps maintain the charge. During a charge cycle—whether manually initiated or requested by the battery—the Travato’s engine starts and ramps up to 1600 rpms, dramatically reducing recharge time compared with conventional batteries or smaller lithiums. You’ll quickly have 30 amps of 110v power for heating, cooking, or air conditioning.
Ease of use
Fewer RV owners are parking near a hook-up station for very long. They’re blazing out to the trailhead, exploring a National Park, or dry camping at an outdoor music festival. If this sounds like you, you need a system that restores battery power while you run the engine. Even short trips will do it.
And when you’re parked, the Travato 59GL and 59KL have an auto-start feature that starts the engine to recharge the battery. This feature extends the run time of the air conditioner beyond the battery’s fixed capacity. It’s a convenience that provides extra peace of mind when you’re gone from the RV for an extended period of time—for example, when you leave your pets for an evening out to dinner.
Ease of use includes keeping tabs on available energy. You shouldn’t have to scratch your head over the readout on a voltage indicator. The Pure3 system has a simple analog gauge that lets you know when it’s running low—like the gas gauge on your car.
Look for a battery that’s built to last. The best value and least hassle will be one that’s automotive-grade like the Pure3. You’d generally expect to replace a common lead-acid battery several times over the life of your RV, but the Pure3 is built to work as long as the Travato does, just like batteries in electric cars. To get a unit this durable, Winnebago worked with Volta, the leading name in vehicle energy systems.
Protection from the elements contributes to long life. For that, we mounted the Pure3 below the coach and inside a water-resistant, insulated steel housing. Cabin air circulates around the compartment when the weather gets too hot or cold. And the whole system is compact to provide ample clearance, even on rutty roads.
The ultimate test
Beyond tech specs, the key test is lifestyle. Will it enable the uncomplicated RV life you want? Our goal with the Travato 59GL and 59KL was to take lithium technology out of the realm of geek-dom and put it in the hands of the everyday RVer. For $20,000 above the Travato’s regular MSRP, the advanced Pure3 energy system is a practical solution when you average its cost and comforts over the entire life of your RV.
We’re pretty sure lithium ion systems are going mainstream in the not-too-distant future. So, when it comes time to shop around, look under the hood—or, in Winnebago’s case, under the coach. Make sure the energy system you choose has the capacity, durability, and simplicity you need for truly carefree adventures.
Check out the new Pure3 Travato on this page or take a spin through one at your local RV dealer.
About the author: A product planner at Winnebago since 1994, Chris Bienert lives in the space where engineering and marketing cross. He discovers the features and characteristics that contemporary RVers are looking for, then collaborates with Winnebago engineers to bring those innovations to market. Chris was part of the incubation group for the Winnebago Revel, winner of the 2018 RV Pro “Best of Show” award and a whole new category of Class B van for the outdoor adventurer.
Share this article: