Making Lithium Batteries! A Lithionics Factory Tour


While we’ve been not-so-patiently-waiting to get into our new Winnebago EKKO, I’ve been obsessively planning modifications and upgrades for it.  One of the biggest items on my list has been an upgrade and expansion of its power systems.  Since the factory installed batteries are made by Lithionics – and we plan to stick with those batteries due to our years of success with them – we thought it would be a good idea to get up to speed on everything that’s in these batteries.  So… off to Florida we went!  The result: this tour of the facility.

 

We had visited Steve and the Lithionics team several years ago.  But a lot has changed for them over the years.  We cover a lot in the video, but a few things stood out for me.  I list the main ones below, but feel free to add your own observations down in the comments.

The Overriding Obsession with Safety and Quality

Fun Fact:  Every Lithionics battery undergoes quality and safety checks that take more than twice as long as it takes to actually build the battery.  It’s true.  They charge and discharge every battery to verify that the capacity they advertise is actually delivered to you.  They take thermal images of the battery under load to look for hot spots or loose connections.  They keep the records of the tests – linked forever to your battery by a serial number.  It’s really impressive.

UL Listing

I don’t claim to know everything about UL testing standards, but I hope I never have to endure the kind of testing these batteries have to for UL 1973.  There are a lot of UL standards, but that’s the one that matters for batteries going into an RV.  The big takeaway from the UL testing is that NO MATTER WHAT kind of insane, destructive, or deliberately malicious torture you put a Lithionics UL listed battery through, nothing bad is going to happen.  Drop them.  Shoot them.  Burn them.  Submerge them. They won’t catch fire, explode, go into thermal runaway, or leak toxic goo.  (I don’t intend to actually do any of those to our batteries, but it’s comforting to know we could…)  This kind of safety and peace of mind is definitely worth something to us.

They’re an Engineering Driven Company

This is mostly my opinion.  But to me, the company doesn’t seem driven by marketing, or sales, or accountants.  They’re driven by the technology.  “Can we do it?”  “Can we do it better?”  “Can we make it safer?”  These are the questions that keep the wheels turning at Lithionics.  It’s kind of how I hope I would run a company if I had one.  This isn’t to say that they don’t care about sales, marketing, and accounting.  But I don’t think you would ever see an accountant at Lithionics tell the engineering staff to use a different part because there was an alternative that was 3 cents cheaper and “almost as good”.

 

Those were my big takeaways, but there are a lot of other bits of information in the video that you’ll find interesting.  (Ever wonder how they do heater kits?  You’ll see.)

Sound off in the comments below with any questions, and I’ll try my best to answer.  Cheers!



James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.


    16 thoughts on “Making Lithium Batteries! A Lithionics Factory Tour

    1. John

      RE: “not-so-patiently-waiting to get into our new Winnebago EKKO”

      Any news on that front, James? We’ve ordered one too but the dealership seems fairly uninformed. We’re assuming you guys are pretty close to the front of the line so any info you can pass on would be greatly appreciated… Also, looking forward to the details of your upcoming customization projects in the months ahead. Fun!

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        No real news. We kind of expect it any day now, but until we drive off with it, we won’t know for 100% certain.
        I have so many projects laying in wait, it’s not funny.

        Reply
    2. Patrick Broos

      Great company. I’m glad to hear they are thriving. Thanks very much for making the trip to Florida.

      I wonder if they will ever develop a complete “RV power appliance” product, combining the following components into a single package (or multiple packages with plug-and-play interfaces):

      – Lithionics batteries
      – AC inverter/charger with transfer switch
      – AC distribution (breaker) panel for “house” circuits
      – 12V DC distribution (fuse) panel for “house” circuits
      – MPPT solar charge controller
      – interface for charging from alternator, with some kind of active monitoring of the alternator to prevent damage

      Such a one-box power appliance could help RV manufacturers save labor, improve reliability, and improve safety.

      Such a product might also find significant sales in the retrofit market, where many owners are comfortable with connecting AC/DC loads to breakers/fuses and with other low-power DC wiring tasks, but are utterly unqualified to design or implement the high-power DC fusing/wiring required to build a system from components (sourced from multiple vendors).

      I would guess that most RV dealers are also not qualified to do that kind of lithium/inverter/charger design and retrofit work.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        That’s actually a pretty interesting idea.
        Not aware of anyone who’s working on it though.

        Reply
    3. George Bullard

      Really interesting video. They really come across as caring about the product they make and the pride in that product jumps out in the video. Great news for the end users (including us soon to be EKKO owners) that we’ll be able to have complete confidence in the power system for years. Thanks for making the video and sharing.

      Reply
    4. Rich Ambrose

      I love the look on James’ face when first seeing the 20,000 Watt-hours of batteries! Like a kid looking at a wall full of candy! Not to mention his expression at the thought of blowing up $50K worth of batteries! Priceless!

      Reply
    5. Don Wilson

      Very interesting tour. Great to know that our batteries in our Ekkos will be of such quality and safety driven. This has been the best info confirming how good these really are. And they not only stand by their batteries, but they are independently tested and UL listed, unlike any others. We will have the second battery installed at factory and anxious to get it out on the road to see how well it does and what we will be able to do at will.
      Thank you Stef and James.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Thanks, Don!
        The UL and safety thing… the more you get into it, the more important you realize it is. I have *no worries whatsoever* about the safety of these batteries.

        Reply
    6. Linda

      Any news on when you’ll get your Ekko? Local to me the rep says hers is coming the first week of June.

      Reply
    7. Matt

      Neat. I like to build my own batteries, but this would be the next best thing! They do a fantastic job with their builds and BMS. Fun fact, my first DIY battery in my van was with a mini-bms v7 from cleanpowerauto. Dimitri actually closed up shop and if I remember correctly went to go work for Lithionics.

      Reply
      1. Dimitri

        Hi Matt, indeed I joined forces with Lithionics as I saw a great opportunity to go beyond DIY market and make the best batteries for the RV market. Thanks for your kind words!

        Reply

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