The FitRV Li-ion Comparison Video – a Spirited Response!

Dec 22, 2020 | Private

*readers’ note – Jack Johnson and the Volta team put together this response at the enthusiastic invitation of James Adinaro of the FitRV. We’re long time fans, but wanted to get the record straight on several important details!

James,

Thanks for taking the time to connect with us after posting your last video comparing Volta and Lithionics. We appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight on a few details from the video, and per your invitation, here’s a slightly more ‘pithy’ response.

Chemistry ≠ Safety

In your video, you reference the general marketing claims that Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) is inherently safer than Nickel Manganese Cobalt (NMC) in li-ion batteries. This claim is common because LFP can’t contain as much energy and uses a less flammable electrolyte solvent. However, it’s important to know that safety is much more a function of overall engineering and system design than it is any specific chemistry.

For example, most of us strap ourselves into a vehicle with 20 gallons of highly explosive gasoline under our butts every morning without a second thought. Gasoline contains over 30 times the amount of energy per unit volume as the best lithium ion on the market. BUT, just like the automotive industry created worry-free safety systems for gasoline, automakers have also developed multi-layered and literally bulletproof approaches to securing li-ion batteries with only a handful of incidents each year.

It’s this “automotive grade” approach that Volta employs in the engineering of our system that no other aux system manufacturer even has access to. On the other hand, consumer-grade LFP products, many of which are UL certified, have been accountable for numerous li-ion battery recalls with the Consumer Protection Safety Commission, accounting for well over half a million products.

“Automotive Grade”

In your video, you refer to “automotive grade” with devilish quotations. Yes, it is a term we use to clarify the difference of our product from others.  BUT, it’s much more than a marketing term. RVs drive on the road (and often off-road!), which means they’re subject to the same vibration, rigors and safety concerns as any vehicle. Wouldn’t you want the most valuable technological system on your RV to be tested and designed for the rigors of everyday life on the road? In the video you ask “so what?” Here’s what it means to have an “automotive grade” supplier:

  • ISO 9001 :2015 supplier
  • TS 16949 supplier
  • Designed to meet Vibration requirements
  • Designed to meet 10+ year requirements similar to an engine
  • 2x energy density compared to LFP
  • Same cell supplier as Mercedes, BAE, and Zero Motorcycles.

Consumer grade battery builders buy their cells from a commodity supplier without these standards.

“Automotive Grade” Life is Real Life

Volta NMC modules, supplied by Farasis, have proven to meet the automotive life expectancy of 2,000 cycles at a 2C discharge / 1C charge rate with no rest at 90% depth-of-discharge with 80% of usable capacity remaining. This is extremely important because we are defining life per automotive standards. Consumer products will not typically define how they measure life, and if they do, it will be a single cell without a statistically significant sample, not as a module or system. Volta defines life at the system and pack level, not just cells. Consumers should be most careful in reviewing what companies claim for life – there’s a lot of marketing exaggeration in this realm, but Volta doesn’t mess around when it comes to testing. Our data is real.

“Automotive Grade” Batteries Don’t Shake Loose

Format and module design have a huge impact on life, safety and performance. Volta’s larger prismatic pouch cells are potted in aluminum modules, which provide superior impact and vibration resistance over traditional cylindrical cell designs. On the other hand, low-volume consumer battery manufacturers will purchase cells coming off the commodities market and solder them together in a plastic housing. These are generally small format cells which require dozens or hundreds of discrete connections, which statistically relate to more possible failure points at both the cellular and connection level.

“Automotive Grade” Energy Density Matters

LFP cannot accomplish the same energy density as NMC. Most of our vanlife customers understand that space is the most valuable resource on their vehicle, which is why we leverage best-in-class technology to contain all the power you need in as small of a space as possible without compromising on weight or safety.

“Automotive Grade” Power Matters

Greater specific power is not irrelevant but is the biggest differentiator for some of our customers.  You mention in your video that with the extra power Volta can provide in a small space with our inverter, you can run all devices simultaneously and accommodate big start loads. Thousands of new RVers are entering the market with expectations that their power ought to be exactly the same as at home.

Volta lets you run it all, just like home.

Later in the video, you describe that you have to be smarter about what you are running and turn things off. RVers aren’t micromanaging their power systems because it’s fun; they’re forced to do it because they don’t have the power to do it in the first place. This is no longer the case with Volta and should not be understated.  

Mac vs. PC: Some people just want it to work.

We get it that some RVers will have a preference for DIY – they want to install the packs, drill the holes (fill those and redrill more), and then run all the wires themselves so they can drill even more holes and add another pack in the future. However, in the same way that Tesla seals off their battery packs or Apple presses a seamless MacBook, we build and seal a complete system that just works really well and lasts for the whole life of the vehicle.

We don’t charge at base idle because it’s bad for the engine

You mentioned you like how Lithionics’ alternator charges at base idle instead of high-idle like on the Travato. This is actually another automotive-mindful approach. We will design an alternator to match the engine’s performance capabilities to ensure we do not stress the engine and optimize our system performance at the same time. Modern engines have many complex requirements at idle and we ensure Volta solutions are not causing emissions or excess wear.

In conclusion

We appreciate good competition in the marketplace and welcome healthy feedback so we can improve our product.  We are also dedicated engineers that are passionate about what we build, so it’s important to us that folks truly understand the differentiators that set Volta apart. Thanks for this opportunity to share, educate and provide context for your dedicated followers.

Sincerely,

Jack Johnson
Volta Power Systems