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Balqon Lithium Batteries. Good? Bankruptcy?


Al F

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I am seriously considering buying a 5 KW hour Balqon battery for my 30' class A.

 

Reading older topics on Lithium batteries there is mention of possible bankruptcy. Also looking on line there are a few hits about Balqon & bankruptcy. However it seems most of the talk is in the time frame of 2013/2014.

 

Does anyone have any more current info?

 

Also I believe there are a couple of people active on this forum with Balqon batteries installed. How are they holding up?

 

This 5 KWH package looks very compact and robust, just what I need to replace my two 6V golf cart batteries. I have a 2000 watt PSW inverter installed and in January 2015 will be in the process of installing a pair of 325 watt Kyocera solar panels and a 60 amp Morningstar solar controller. By the way I do have some experience installing a solar system. This will be my second install.

 

The Balqon battery looks a lot better than the AM Solar lithium battery package. Also AM Solar isn't shipping there batteries yet.

 

Any thoughts/comments are welcome.

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I remember the bnakruptcy discussion but cannot remember the specifics (sigh....age). The discussion on lithium ion in http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/ is exceptionally long but probably the best out there. I do know they discuss the bankruptcy in the main thread on Lithium. I would also take a look at the product offerings and forum at this site. http://evtv.me/ Dave

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I remember the bnakruptcy discussion but cannot remember the specifics (sigh....age). The discussion on lithium ion in http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/ is exceptionally long but probably the best out there. I do know they discuss the bankruptcy in the main thread on Lithium. I would also take a look at the product offerings and forum at this site. http://evtv.me/ Dave

I looked at the EVTV 400AH battery package. They want $4K versus the $3k at Balqon or $3.3K at AM Solar. I'm not sure why the higher price.

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I think it is because of the casing etc. I have not looked at the Balqon you are referring to so I am not sure. I know they are always much more expensive when they are packaged as a stand alone, ready to use, unit. I purchased the individual cells and assembled my battery which saved a good deal but was quite a bit of work. From what I have read and recall there was no knock on Balqon due to quality, the issues were whether you had a US dealer or otherwise the concerns with import ,shipping, time of delivery etc.

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Looking it over, I don't think for the extra money the EVTV package makes sense. I thought perhaps it included a battery monitoring system but it says it does not. In the cruiserforum where some of the dealers participate there is a lot of discussion about the concerns with warrantying hte stand alone packages, thus the higher cost. The concern relates to the fact that most charger/converters are optimized for lead acid so unless you get into the higher end charger/converter units that youcan program yourself you will have problems. I am sure amsolar will give you input on the needed charging system/settings. Generally you do not want these batteries, for a 12 volt system, to be charged above 13.6 to 13.8 and you do not want any equalization or float charging. This link has a very good overview of the battery system. http://www.pbase.com/mainecruising/lifepo4_on_boats

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Looking it over, I don't think for the extra money the EVTV package makes sense. I thought perhaps it included a battery monitoring system but it says it does not. In the cruiserforum where some of the dealers participate there is a lot of discussion about the concerns with warrantying hte stand alone packages, thus the higher cost. The concern relates to the fact that most charger/converters are optimized for lead acid so unless you get into the higher end charger/converter units that youcan program yourself you will have problems. I am sure amsolar will give you input on the needed charging system/settings. Generally you do not want these batteries, for a 12 volt system, to be charged above 13.6 to 13.8 and you do not want any equalization or float charging. This link has a very good overview of the battery system. http://www.pbase.com/mainecruising/lifepo4_on_boats

Dave,

Thanks for the link. I haven't read all of it yet, but it looks good. Also the Cruiserforum link I saw earlier. Lots of good info in both.

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I am sure amsolar will give you input on the needed charging system/settings. Generally you do not want these batteries, for a 12 volt system, to be charged above 13.6 to 13.8 and you do not want any equalization or float charging.

 

Dave, I thought I already spent all your money this quarter! ;)

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AM Solar has done a lot of trialing although their costs are substantial. We have Manzanita Micro batteries which are made up of four x 180 amp-hour (12 V nominal) CALB (Chinese Aviation Lithium Batteries). We have four batteries in series for a 48 V nominal battery suite. They are packaged extremely well and have done exceedingly well. They are designed for EV and are pricey. The Battery Management System has done its job for 2.5 years. Charging terminates at 54.3 V float (3.4 V per cell).

 

I know folks who are extremely happy with Balqon and other who have been disappointed. I once went through all 4000 postings or so on the Cruiser forum. There are only a few points of discussion that are re-opened numerous times; however, all the information is there. Have read http://www.pbase.com...ifepo4_on_boats numerous times and it is excellent.

 

 

We are currently on beach about 20 km north of Tulum, Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Mexico. It should rain for next 5 days but there should be sunshine as well, sometime. nevertheless, the temperatures are a maximum of 88 during full sun. Fully recharged yesterday with four or five hours of sun, about 3500 W-hrs.

Reed and Elaine

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Reed has the best system I know of in an RV. I just went with a12 Volt system. But, yes Yarome, these boards are dangerous. Doesn't take me long in these tech talks toconvince myself there is something I can't live without.

 

By the way, for Al, the individual Calb 180 Ah cells are for sale at the EVTV site.

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I don't have time right now for a long post, but let me say quickly that Balqon's customer service could lead one to believe that they have already gone bankrupt. The 12V 9kWh battery bank with EMS, that I installed a couple months ago may be a fine product. The jury is still out for me. But I could not recommend anyone doing business with them based on my experience.

 

Jim

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I looked at some CALB (Chinese Aviation Lithium Batteries) sites. They may now have a US distributorship

 

http://www.calibpower.com/Product.aspx

 

It will take a lot of searching and computing to decide what works best. Our son, who is in business and designed and fabricated our system, has some minor reservations about Manzanita Micro; however, his concerns primarily have to do the Battery Monitor on the Battery Management System. It is designed for electric vehicles and give several readouts on energy storage:

 

Watt-hours to full charge

Voltage of each cell (sixteen cells) and total battery suite

Percentage charge

 

Only the last seems to be incorrect due to its EV design. Manzanita Micro said they would try to make software changes but have not done so as yet.

 

We have been happy with Manzanita and would probably get further batteries from them. They are quite pricey

 

http://www.manzanitamicro.com/

 

They sell CALB cells from 40 Amp-hour to 400 Amp-hour (3.4 V nominal cells). Their boxed batteries are in Aluminum with Lexan tops

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I looked at some CALB (Chinese Aviation Lithium Batteries) sites. They may now have a US distributorship

 

http://www.calibpower.com/Product.aspx

 

It will take a lot of searching and computing to decide what works best. Our son, who is in business and designed and fabricated our system, has some minor reservations about Manzanita Micro; however, his concerns primarily have to do the Battery Monitor on the Battery Management System. It is designed for electric vehicles and give several readouts on energy storage:

 

Watt-hours to full charge

Voltage of each cell (sixteen cells) and total battery suite

Percentage charge

 

Only the last seems to be incorrect due to its EV design. Manzanita Micro said they would try to make software changes but have not done so as yet.

 

We have been happy with Manzanita and would probably get further batteries from them. They are quite pricey

 

http://www.manzanitamicro.com/

 

They sell CALB cells from 40 Amp-hour to 400 Amp-hour (3.4 V nominal cells). Their boxed batteries are in Aluminum with Lexan tops

This 180AH package from Manzanita seems to be in the price range of other ~400AH battery packages I have seen, about $3200.

 

Reed & Elaine, is your system made up of these batteries wired in parallel or did your son get individual lithium cells and regulator/monitor boards and custom build a system?

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Al

 

Our son got purchased the batteries as already assembled in the Manzanita aluminum and lucite package with battery management systems on each battery

 

Each battery is composed of four 180 A-hr CALB cells in series so 12 V nominal (13.5)/

 

Four batteries are then set in series so we have a 48 V (nominal) system.

 

Other folks have built custom LFP batteries but son did not believe that he should try a new technology to custom build a battery and let his parents be his beta. The system is complex enough without adding in custom built batteries.

 

Reed and Elaine

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Another thing to consider Al is just getting 4 of these. http://www.electriccarpartscompany.com/400Ah-32V-2C-br-CA400FI-br-CALB-Lithium-EV-LiFePO4-Prismatic-Cell-Battery-br-USA-Stock-br-177L-28W-113H-in-br-450-71-287-mm-br-30-lbs-136-kg-br-For-Quantity-Pricing-and-Specifications-See-Details_p_284.html Hook them up in series and you are good to go. You just need to get the busbars. I prefer the busbar connectors from EVTV since they are strand which provides needed flex in the RV application. I have a passive battery monitoring, not active balancing and shunting monitoring system, which cost less than $200.00 but I do not even have it hooked up yet. The reports in the boat community have been that since the draw with RV-boat applications is so much less than the electric vehicle application the batteries stay in balance themselves after an initial balance. I still intend to hook my BMS up just for one more safety level but the primary concern is not letting the batteries overcharge or get too low. My magnum inverter/charger cuts out or turns on appropriately for both the high and low voltage settings I entered. If I was just a recreational camper this system would make me nervous but we live here and I can just look at the inverter battery monitor and Trimetric battery monitor to make sure we are good. The benefit of the seperate BMS that I have not yet installed is that it monitors each cell individually rather then just the cumulative 12 volt battery. That way if one cell happens to go out of whack, you will get a warning and it will not take the whole battery down. (In fact, I just talked myself into finishing up the installation) . I do check the individual cells periodically and they are staying right in balance as others suggested they would.

 

This would get you the battery you want for less than 2500 with shipping and tax. The other issue is the casing or straping for the batteries. Again the whole strapping of lithium battery issue really comes from the electric vehicle market where they have high draws and the batteries can heat. If the batteries get too warm the plastic casing will melt and the battery will sag or warp. This dramaticaaly shortens the life of, or simply kills, the cells. The purpose of the banding or straps then is to keep stop the sag if they get too warm. It does not need to be super sophisticated and some have just used plywood to brace the sides. This is especially true in the RV-boat community since all reports indicate they under lower C usage the batteries never get warm enough to sag in the first place. I decided to play it safe and bought two 1/4 inch aluminum plates (In retrospect I would go with thinner plates--overkill) and just hold those over the back and front of the back with threaded rods down the sides. The other reason for the expensive cases in the drop in market is marine usage where salt water kills. So in both of those cases you are paying for casing that really is not necessary for the RV application.

 

The biggest complication for my project was that I went with 100 ah cells. This really became a pain in the ass since I had 28 cells to assemble and strap. I assembled 4 groups of 7 cells in parrallel and then assembled those 4 groups in series. I did this for 2 reasons, (1) the 100 AH units were on sale and (2) some on the forums argued that with a larger number of individual cells, if one cell failed the others in the parallell group could keep things some what in balance and operative until you identified the problem and replaced that one individual cell which would also be cheaper i.e replace a 100 AH instead of buying a 400 Ah battery. In retrospect I made a mistake. Each busbar connection creates the potential for a loose connection impacting pack performance, diagnostics is much more difficult, and assembly is hugely complicated and time consuming. Also, the cost savings I thought I was getting from the sale on the 100 Ah batteries was offset by the expense of the busbars needed for all of the cell connections.

 

Anyway, had some time on a rainy day so thought I would pass on a few thoughts.

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Dave,

Thanks for the long, detailed description of your setup.

 

I already have the Trimetric monitor and Magnum PSW inverter/charger installed so I could just install the 4 cells as you mentioned. I am just a little leery of installing the Lithium batteries w/o a BMS.

 

I am going to have to look a little closer at the website you provided. They show a confusing number of BMS components.

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Lithium batteries have a troubled history with fires and explosions. They have caused fires on airplanes when transporting them from the mfg. on board transport planes. I think they are banned from being transported on passenger planes. I am not sure how this effects RV use since i have not heard of troubles while in RV's. I know that the hover boards have a problem with lithium batteries but all this could be caused by faulty mfg. of the batteries.

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kent Hmmmm It is the housepower bms at this link. Not sure why the direct one will not work. http://minibms.mybigcommerce.com/

 

The LiFePO4 batteries are a different chemistry than those used in the airliners that had problems. You are not hearing those problems with regard to the electrical vehicle, RV or Marine uses. I am not sure what chemistry they use in the hoverboards and I don't think they know the actual problem with those boards yet either.

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Lithium ion batteries overheat when significantly overcharged. These also heat quickly when discharged at high rates such as a direct short. Most smaller batteries have circuitry to cutoff the battery in these circumstances but the circuitry is cheaply fashioned on some batteries. Add to the fact that cheaper batteries can heat at lower extremes and it can be a fire hazard. Our business purchases a lot of these small batteries and there are a number of shipping regulations to contend with because of the problems. I not familar with the large banks but my guess is these have safety circuitry as well. Hopefully someone with experience can comment on this. The LifeP04 batteries do not burn but many of the EV are using the lithium ion.

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Yes, there are shipping regulations with LiFePO4, as any hazardous material, but a general discussion of the safety of Lithium Ion will waste our time since each chemistry must be evaluated on its own. I am guilty of using the name Lithium Ion battery(which had safety problems in planes) as well, but we are discussing Lithium Iron batteries. For instance Lithium Cobalt Oxide used in cell phones will have thermal runaway if overcharged, hence the circuitry you were referring too. However, there are numerous published studies on the safety of the Liithium Iron Phosphate batteries being discussed here. There is also a safety record with usage similar to RVs in the marine community where there is a relatively large established user base. I won't link the safety articles unless requested but this link provides some background. http://www.batterystuff.com/kb/articles/battery-articles/lithium-battery-overview.html http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/types_of_lithium_ion . You will find exhaustive discussion of the safety record of LiFePO4 in the Cruiserforums http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f14/lifepo4-batteries-discussion-thread-for-those-using-them-as-house-banks-65069.html This includes discussions by people that intentionally attempted to cause the Lithium Iron Phosphate cells to engage in thermal runaway but were not successful. For LiFePO4, the needed safety "circuitry" is essentially the same fusing set up you see with lead acid banks and as suggested by inverter manufacturers and Jack Mayer on his website. The Battery (Managment or Monitoring) System "BMS" we are discussing adds one more protective layer that will shut down the batteries if needed but that really is intended to protect the batteries themselves from over or under charge and not the user from fire, or explosion situations, as this chemistry does not do that.

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