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Lithium ...or not?


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Hi All,

New guy here with a delivery date on an Elite2 in September.  My wife and I are scheduled for a factory tour second week in April at which time we need to finalize our various options. The only option I need to resolve is the electrical system... basically the issue of whether to go Lithium or not.   I watched this video by Tom Morton, 

that clearly supports the choice of a LiPo system, both from a technical as well as financial, (long term), perspective.  I am a mechanical engineer, (not quite retired), and the data that Tom presents is very compelling.  

My hesitation is the cost.  $9500 for the least expensive version!  I have priced various LiPo batteries, inverters, solar panels, etc., which accounts for maybe half or a little more of the $9500.  I have been self employed for most of my life and I understand the need to make a profit, but this option feels more like "profiteering" since this is basically upgrading components in the standard system.

Just wondering if I am missing something here.  I know the price is the price in the end and there is substantial work to upgrade later, which I prefer to avoid.

Is this system over priced?  I welcome any comments from fellow Ollie owners who have gone with the factory LiPo, (or not).  

Thanks!

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The answer really depends on what type of camping you intend to do.  If you are going to stay at full hookup campsites, then spending that much money for the lithium batteries / solar panel package doesn’t make much sense.  If you are going to be camping off-grid/boondocking, then the lithium/solar package is a must have.  We typically stay at full hookup campgrounds, and we don’t have the solar package (and we intentionally look for campground sites that are shaded), and our Oliver just has the old fashioned (cheap) lead acid wet cell batteries, and that setup has worked perfectly for us.   I do have a small portable solar panel and charge controller setup (<$900) that I use for the occasional quick off-grid stop (usually a Harvest Host location) on our way to our destination campgrounds.   I have much better things to spend $9,500 on. 

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2019 Oliver Legacy Elite II - Hull #461

Tow Vehicles:

Primary - 2019 Ford F-250 SuperCab 4x4, 6.2L Flex-Fuel engine 

Backup - 2019 Nissan Armada 

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I have just replaced the 4 AGM batteries on our 2016 and have been happy with the performance they have given us over the past 5 years.   However....   We are planning on increasing the time spent camping going forward over the next 5 years.  So I have been researching Lithium Batteries for some time now.   The point I took from the video you posted is...   The choice to go AGM vs. Lithium's depends on the amount of load you plan to put on the off grid electrical system.  

So... in making the choice I would advise that people consider how they want to use their camper and what the load will be.  There are people... (just saw one last week) who order LE2's with NO solar.   That would not be my choice but if you plan to camp mostly at RV parks... it could make sense.    We are looking at MORE off grid camping with A/C use when we "need "it and all the other demands that type of camping puts on the system.   For us it's Lithium by a wide margin. 

As to the system being overpriced.   I think you have to consider the whole price of the camper.   I have been a defender of the 2023 price increase that Oliver came out with because I truly do NOT believe they are "profiteering".   Inflation and raw materials cost have skyrocketed.  And, if you look at the price increase history of our trailers, it's clear to see that Oliver has not given us linear increases.  (that is a steady percentage or dollar increase every year)  There are peaks and valleys with the two biggest peaks being 2016 and 2023.  I have worked for companies with a maximum profit strategy and the price actions that go with it and that's not what I see from Oliver. 

As to doing the upgrade work yourself....   there are those on the forum that have done it.   Not me thank you.  But for those with the tech skills and desire to tinker it's a way to save some money.   I would pay to have it done for me. 

Anyway.... hope this has helped.  Best of Luck no matter what you decide. 

Scotty

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Gregg & Donna Scott and Piper the Westie  -    The Flying Sea Turtle - Hull # 145     Western NC


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I do not have the factory lithium option in my 2017 LEII, it wasn’t available in 2017 and I bought my Ollie used.  But I do have lithium batteries now, because of a lead acid battery failure which I blame on myself.  And I like tinkering with my stuff.  If I had a boat, motorcycle, classic car or any of the assorted toys that we can afford, it would be the same.  I like tinkering and I can always find something I would change if it is something I am capable of tackling.

I do not like to help people spend their money and I am not sure what that $9500 would buy anyway.  I have never made any money on my choices in anything I use for recreational endeavor’s.  My needs and wants are my own and I have to burden those  choices my self.

 As you know, there are a lot of people that believe Oliver’s are over priced compared to a Casita, Scamp or any of the other travel trailers available, except maybe Airstreams.

I would ask if this is your first RV, what type of camping you intend to do and where that camping will be.  It may help other owners answer this question.

Sorry I couldn’t be more help and I hope I haven’t added to the stress of your battery choices.  And I really do like the Morton’s YouTube channel.  They have great content are very transparent about their sponsors.

Mossey

 

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Mike and Krunch   Lutz, FL  
2017 LEII #193 “the dog house”

 

 

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Hello,

Carrie and I are excited about having lithium batteries with a lot of solar energy for dispersed camping. We also plan on having a few higher watt appliances that we would like to use out boondocking. For us, the decision was easy. I look forward to, hopefully, not having to worry about depleting my batteries!

Good luck!

Kirk

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Kirk and Carrie Peterson

Twin Falls, Idaho

2018 Ram 3500, 8 foot bed with overland conversion.

Elite 2 before the end of 2022!

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We love lithium for many reasons - especially the lithium battery management systems.  What we see omitted in most lithium-related posts is the charging limitations - not how you charge - but how fast you can replace that expended energy.

So, it's the age-old "what goes out must come in."  Hence, we were happier with four lithiums in our RV than the three we currently have in our Ollie.  We were happier when we could provide 40 amp hours while driving than the 5 we currently have.  We typically use 120 amp hours during a 24 period when boondocking and not fully replacing those amp hours simply means our stay is shortened.

Charlie.

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Arizona | 2020 Oliver Elite II Twin bed Hull #617 | 2021 Ram 1500 e-Hemi 4x4

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I can't give you specific advice as my LE II is a 2020 and when I ordered mine, Oliver did not offer any lithium options (they announced availability three weeks after I ordered mine).  After purchase, I immediately upgraded to Lithium.  The upgrade was painless .  Having said that, I would probably order the full Oliver lithium package if I had it to do over again just for convenience and the bells and whistles of Oliver's battery choice.  As a point of reference though, I will explain my experience in which I easily upgraded later.

Since Oliver had no lithium option and I planned to convert to lithium right away, I asked Oliver to add the solar system and inverter, but I would stick with the standard 2 flooded batteries when I ordered.  Oliver said I had to upgrade to 4 batteries (flooded were fine) if I ordered the solar/inverter system because they needed 4 batteries to test out the whole system before delivery.  So I upgraded to from 2 to 4 flooded batteries.  When I got the trailer home, I replaced the four flooded batteries with 4 Lion Energy UT 1300 lithium batteries through Costco (113 ah each for a total of about 450 ah).  They were $700 each (Costco has specials on these batteries a couple times a year)  The UT 1300 lithiums (only 23 lbs each) are group 24 size which is the same footprint as the four flooded batteries (Group 27) that came in the Oliver.  That made it easy.  All I did was remove the four flooded batteries and replaced them with the 4 lithiums.  They were an exact fit and I didn't have to change out any of the wiring.  Truly plug and play.  It took about 2 hours.  It would have taken half that time except that the posts on the UT 1300 lithiums were both sized the same as a negative terminal on a flooded battery so I had to run to NAPA and buy a replacement negative terminal for my positive battery cable so it would fully tighten onto the postive post of the first lithium battery.  (The positive terminal post on the flooded batteries is slightly larger than the negative terminal post I learned.)  That was not an issue with the remaining three batteries because the cables attach to screw posts with wing nuts.)

I now have 18 months of experience with my lithium batteries and at least 12 boondocking trips.  No problems whatsoever, knock on wood.  The UT 1300 lithiums don't have bluetooth or heaters but that hasn't been a problem.  Each battery has a button you push that will light up a row of 5 LED's when the batteries are above 70% state of charge (SOC), when you get down to only 2 led lights lit, the battery is down to about 20% state of charge.  While crude and not particularly accurate, they work and I always have a good idea of how much juice I have left.  The Battery Management system (BMS) in the UT 1300 seems to work fine, and has all the important safety systems built in (e.g., won't charge if the battery is below freezing, etc.).  I store my trailer outside and the solar system keeps the batteries fully charged all the time in the summer.  In the winter, I am connected continuously to shore power which makes sure the batteries are brought to a full charge each day.  I know this is not recommended for maximum battery life, but the Lion Energy warranty is 8 year replacement with no pro-ration if the batteries drop to less than 70 percent capacity in the first 8 years.  We'll see.

 

 

 

 

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Steve and Lornie

LE II Standard  Hull #657  2004 4Runner 4.7 L V8

Oregon

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   I listened with great interest to Tom Mortons video.... and I appreciated his logic and conclusions he arrived at.   It was a tough pill for me to swallow to pay $4100 more for the 390 Amp hour Lithium package vs AGM's... but I'm comfortable with that decision.   One thing that I'm not sure about is the brand of Lithium batteries that Oliver installs in the 2022 model.   I notice that most of you who have over time migrated /upgraded to Lithium purchased Battle-Born.   They do seem to be a benchmark in the industry.

   What brand of Lithium battery is "original equipment" in Oliver currently?

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2022 Elite II, Hull #1097  Elli Rose 🌹 Lithium batteries w/390Amp hours, and solar (pick up is May 2)

2019 F-150 4wd, 3.5L Eco-boost, 3.55 rear end, with Max tow package

 

 

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Lithionics is made in Florida.  Typically sold only to manufacturers, including Oliver and Winnebago, and others. 

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2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12

 

 

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My plan is to start with the standard battery and upgrade to 3 Battle Born batteries in the fall. Ideally BB will have their BF deal again ($670) depending on demand etc. 

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The Lithionics OTT uses are heated. Battle Born offers heated batteries, but you have to specify you want those. I believe the Battle Born will last longer, according to their data. I considered getting Battle Born for our trailer. However, even with removing the slide out drawer, you cannot get as many amp hour in that space as you get with the two 315 Lithionics for a total of 630 amp hours. The way batteries are advancing, if I ever need to replace the Lithionic, I am sure there will be better options at a later date. 

Kirk

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Kirk and Carrie Peterson

Twin Falls, Idaho

2018 Ram 3500, 8 foot bed with overland conversion.

Elite 2 before the end of 2022!

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We're going with the factory lithiums and solar. Our previous RVs all had small flooded batteries and we carried a generator. I was always stressing about conserving power when boondocking and then taking time to run the generator in the morning and evening. Never again. As for the pricing, I'll be honest, the factory lithiums are a luxury. Yes, we could retrofit an Oliver with lithiums ourselves for less money. But this will be our last RV and we decided to just go for it so we can start enjoying it on day one. We're treating ourselves with this trailer.

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Stephanie and Dudley from CT.  2022 LE2, Hull #1150: Eggcelsior.

Tow vehicle: 2016 GMC Sierra 6.0 gas dually 4x4.

Our Oliver journey: Steph and Dud B's RV Screed

Where we've been RVing since 1999:

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I didn't order Lithium with my trailer and have just returned from 2.5 months in the SW, some campgrounds with hookups but the majority was either campgrounds where dry camping was available or boondocking.  The solar, 2000 watt inverter and 6V AGMs performed flawlessly.  I had enough power each night to run the furnace from bedtime to awakening, run electriconics and have lights.  I would not have benefitted from the Lithiums mostly because I don't use a electric coffee-maker, hairdryer, microwave, crockpot or waffle iron.  For my use, the standard solar and 6V battery bank is more than I need.  Now, if Lithium prices came down considerably by the time I am ready to replace my AGMs would I splurge?  Maybe, maybe not since a lot of my camping happens during Winter months and in the cold and Lithium just doesn't perform to its full potential in the cold.

I understand why many upgrade to Lithium and it makes sense for their camping patterns.

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2021 Elite II, Hull# 898

2018 Toyota Tundra, 2003 Dodge Ram 3500 5.9l SRW

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I'll second what Mountainman198 said above.  I purchased a used, year-old 2020 LEII and it has the solar package/4 AGM batteries/2000W inverter.  All of our camping was boondocking last year in places like Rocky MT Nat Park, Custer SP, Canyonlands and forest service campgrounds with no hookups.  The 4 AGMs connected to solar always had plenty of power for our needs.  Now, we don't have any need to use the A/C where we camp.  We had no problem running the heater all night on several trips.  We watched downloaded netflix shows on the TV at night. I ran a small coffee maker in the morning and a toaster.  My wife ran a 750watt hair dryer.  No problem.  Now, we were always in the sun where the solar would recharge nicely.  I suppose I might have trouble if I were camped in the shade - I don't know.

I think the lithium system is surely teriffic but I don't feel I "need" it for what we do and where we camp.

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2020 Elite II #627, 2021 Silverado 1500 3.0L Duramax, Colorado

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As you compare AGM to Lithium prices, consider how long you are likely to be using the trailer and if you believe "many years" is likely, then it's worth factoring in the comparative predicted lifespans of the two battery types. Lithium doesn't look quite as expensive once you do that, and if you boondock a lot especially with unreliable solar conditions then the Lithium also offers potentially significant additional benefits

 

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Jim and  Yanna, Woodinville WA

2004 Ford E250 camper conversion

Oliver Elite II hull #709

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7 hours ago, Jim_Oker said:

if you boondock a lot especially with unreliable solar conditions then the Lithium also offers potentially significant additional benefits

Good point. Here in the Northeast some of our boondocking is in heavy shade. The lithium package will allow us to go longer before needing to move to sun or run a generator. With the larger lithiums we should be able to camp at least a week in the shade, then recharge when we get home again. The limiting factor will now be tank sizes.

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Stephanie and Dudley from CT.  2022 LE2, Hull #1150: Eggcelsior.

Tow vehicle: 2016 GMC Sierra 6.0 gas dually 4x4.

Our Oliver journey: Steph and Dud B's RV Screed

Where we've been RVing since 1999:

ALAZCACOCTDEFLGAIDILINIAKYLAMDMAMIMNMSMOMTNENVNHNMNYNCNDOHOKORPASCSDTNTXUTVTVAWAWVWIWYmed.jpg.e6391b9064a3f8f0951751f985664135.jpg

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7 hours ago, Jim_Oker said:

As you compare AGM to Lithium prices, consider how long you are likely to be using the trailer and if you believe "many years" is likely, then it's worth factoring in the comparative predicted lifespans of the two battery types. Lithium doesn't look quite as expensive once you do that, and if you boondock a lot especially with unreliable solar conditions then the Lithium also offers potentially significant additional benefits

 

We got AGM’s because that was what was available back then.  They did fine when we boondocked.  If lithiums weren’t available I would have replaced them with AGM’s and we would still be happy campers.  But, since it looks like we’ll be camping a while longer I thought it was worth it to spend the extra money on lithium batteries.  No regrets.  Mike

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Texas Hill Country | Elite II #135 | Ram 2500 6.7L

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15 minutes ago, Steph and Dud B said:

boondock a lot especially with unreliable solar conditions then the Lithium also offers potentially significant additional benefits

I completely agree. However, this is also a reason to consider adding portable solar panels. A longer cord allows you to position your panels for better sun exposure. Also, many of the new panels perform better on cloudy days. Bluetti's PV120 or PV200 are both great examples.  Plus they are light, easy to move around, and easy to store. Of course, you will also need to add a solar charge controller,  but by adding a Victron MPPT charger controller, your panels will perform even better on cloudy days. 

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Kirk and Carrie Peterson

Twin Falls, Idaho

2018 Ram 3500, 8 foot bed with overland conversion.

Elite 2 before the end of 2022!

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9 hours ago, Jim_Oker said:

As you compare AGM to Lithium prices, consider how long you are likely to be using the trailer and if you believe "many years" is likely, then it's worth factoring in the comparative predicted lifespans of the two battery types. Lithium doesn't look quite as expensive once you do that, and if you boondock a lot especially with unreliable solar conditions then the Lithium also offers potentially significant additional benefits

 

I concur with Jim Oker regarding the projected life spans of lithium vs. AGM.

One additional benefit of lithium not yet mentioned on this thread:  you can run the AC from the batteries for a few hours. 

With regard to the economics of the Lithium Pro vs. Solar Pro packages, and other considerations (like weight), see this thread:

 

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Hull #?

Central Idaho

2022 Elite II with expected delivery November, 2022.

Tow Vehicle:  2019 Tundra Double Cab 4x4, 5.7L with tow package

 

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15 hours ago, Kirk Peterson said:

Bluetti's PV120 or PV200 are both great examples.  Plus they are light, easy to move around, and easy to store.

Good point on portable panels. Do you have one of this type? If so, have you augmented its stand in any way? I imagine it would have to at least be staked out in wind, if not even also needing additional support.

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Jim and  Yanna, Woodinville WA

2004 Ford E250 camper conversion

Oliver Elite II hull #709

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We have the PV200. We carry stakes with us, but haven't had to use them yet. The heavy nylon canvas case allows you to adjust the angle. In loose sandy dirt stability would be a problem.  We don't get our Ollie until September,  but we are using the panels to charge two 100 Ah Battle Born batteries in our truck. One PV200 weighs 16 pounds and comes with an MC4 connector. We can use 3 for our truck for 600 watts of solar with a Victron 100/30 MPPT charge controller. The Oliver will be able to use up to five for 1000 watts, if we need that much, and we are going to use  the Victron 150/70 charge controller.  Of course, have more panels allows you to end up with more energy on cloudy days, even if the function of panels are each decreased.  

Kirk

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Kirk and Carrie Peterson

Twin Falls, Idaho

2018 Ram 3500, 8 foot bed with overland conversion.

Elite 2 before the end of 2022!

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   As I am understanding Olivers OEM Lithium battery arrangement... they will not charge from the 7 pin connector (from TV) while driving from place to place.   So my assumption is that I will get some charging from solar panels (dependent on sunshine) and also whenever hooked up to shore power.   Of course a third option would be a generator.

  From our past experience (with a previous travel trailer)... we are not so much campers as travelers.   We move a lot.     Another option would be to install the "dc to dc" system that I believe John E Davies documented... and is what I hope to ultimately do in order to utilize that otherwise untapped resource while moving from place to place.   As is so often the case... only some real world experience with the Ollie and our style of camping/traveling. 

   When it's hot... I can guarantee you I want electric hook-up for that A/C.... but for those other times... just how much can I count on the solar panels to keep up before we need to find shore power to charge up again.  Expect wife to make her coffee every morning, run the microwave now and then briefly... and lights of course.   

   

     

 

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2022 Elite II, Hull #1097  Elli Rose 🌹 Lithium batteries w/390Amp hours, and solar (pick up is May 2)

2019 F-150 4wd, 3.5L Eco-boost, 3.55 rear end, with Max tow package

 

 

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I believe that your understanding of lack of charge from the 7 pin is correct.  Without a DC/DC charger you would probably burn up your TV alternator if 7 pin charging was allowed.

I also believe that dependent on your actual electricity usage, you will be favorably surprised as to how much you can count on those solar panels to keep up the batteries.

Bill

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2017 Ford F150 Lariat 3.5EB FX4 Max Towing 2016 Oliver Elite II - Hull #117 "Twist"

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1 hour ago, Dave and Kimberly said:

just how much can I count on the solar panels to keep up before we need to find shore power to charge up again

This of course depends on latitude and time of year, and I suppose how long you and your wife leave the electric coffee maker plugged in. In a sunny site in June at the southernmost tip of the WA coast, we were back at 100% charge by noon each day with some daily microwave and furnace use as well as some use of the vent fans and of course lights (with the factory installed 340W of panels). We make out coffee with the stove but I'm guessing the outcome wouldn't have been dramatically different with a plug-in coffee maker. OTOH, one month earlier up along the coast in Olympic National Park, in a shady site during a mixed sun-and-cloud period in which we also used the furnace a bit more than we did one month later, we got a little back each day but would have been needing to use the generator if we'd stayed there for two weeks ish.

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Jim and  Yanna, Woodinville WA

2004 Ford E250 camper conversion

Oliver Elite II hull #709

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