Battery Options, Part 1—Lithium

The summer before last we were stuck close to Base Camp, due to a health issue I was dealing with, and so it seemed like a good time to replace our aging—six years and many hundreds of deep cycles—house battery bank.

Not only was one of the batteries down to 50% of its original capacity, but our house bank was small by modern standards, so we wanted to upgrade to 800 amp hours at 12 volts. (More on how we determined our desired capacity for the new bank.)

Our first task was to decide what type of battery to buy. The options I looked at were:

  • Lithium
  • Lead acid:
    • Carbon foam
    • Liquid filled
    • Gel
    • AGM

A quick aside: Many people use "lead acid" to mean liquid filled but, in fact, all of the commonly available battery types, other than lithium, use lead acid chemistry. The differences are in the physical way the batteries are constructed.

Back to our selection process, what I learned about each battery type, and why we eliminated three of the four to arrive at our final choice (to be revealed in Part 2).

Let's start with the sexy exciting one...yup, lithium.

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 18 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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