What kind of battery for adventuring, is Lithium up to the challenge?

Discussion in 'Parallel Universe' started by JoelWisman, Mar 6, 2012.

1. JoelWismanLong timer

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"Ampere hour", "Amp hour", or "AH" all mean the same thing, but what might that thing be?

Amp hour is a measure of charge. This doesn't have anything to do with charging a battery. The "charge" part means a given number of electrons. It's not an exact measure of energy, because that would require recording the voltage the amps were delivered at, which in a battery varies as the battery is depleted or as current demand is raised.

For our purposes, "amp hour" (AH) is a rough guide to how much capacity a battery has to support a load such as headlights or whatever until the battery is dead.

Batteries are chemical reactors, and the chemical reaction takes time, so an amp hour waiting is incomplete without knowing at what rate of discharge we are talking about, and what temperature for that matter.

For example, the most common oe battery in the F800GS is the YTX14 made by Excide. This battery specs out at 12AH @ the 10 hour rate. This means you can put a 1.2 amp load on this battery and it will support it for 10 hours before falling below a terminal voltage of 10.8 volts.

If you draw less current over more time, you will get slightly more AH out of the battery, perhaps 13AH if you draw it at the rate of 0.65 amps for 20 hours.

If you draw more current over a shorter time, 2 hours, you will only be able to draw perhaps 5 amp for 2 hours totaling 10 amp hour (5 amp X 20 hours = 10 amp hour)

The remaining amp hour did not go "POOF" and disappear. It was not "used up" by inefficiency. It is STILL THERE, however the chemical reaction in the battery was too slow to keep up and got TEMPORARILY exhausted.

Turn off the load (switch the key off), wait 15 minutes, turn the key back on, and the reaction will have caught up and you can draw out some more.

More over, this is not an entirely linear thing and varies not only from chemistry to chemistry, but brand to brand.

To determine exactly what a battery will do, you need a multi page white paper that is honest from the battery manufacture as temperature and rate of draw is going to have differing affects from various manufactures and even between models of battery from the same manufacture.

Here is a nice start from Odyssey Battery which in my experience is honest.

Scroll down to PC535 in the link and note the AH at differing rates. for instance at 1.3 amps, this battery will deliver for 10 hours totaling 13 amp hour. At a 112 amp rate this battery will only deliver for 2 minutes totaling 3.4 amp hour.

Now, 112 amps is pretty close to the average current the starter pulls on an F800GS, and if you hold the starter button for 2 minutes straight your starter motor will burn out and likely the wiring to it will catch on fire!

If you do this, please give me a call as I get good parts discounts and can make some money traveling to you to replace your starter and wiring while saving you money :) But I digress.....

Far more likely AMP HOUR is going to matter to you when using your bike headlight to set up your tent or when cranking repeatedly and leaving the key on because something is broken on your bike which you are trying to diagnose.

AMP HOUR, when shown on the battery or in specifications, is usually quoted at the 10 hour rate.

AMP HOUR is a rating of how likely you are to get a dead battery and need a jump, long hike or a tow.

AMP HOUR matters when you are knocked unconscious on a remote trail and wake to find that while your engine has shut down, your key is still on.

AMP HOUR matters a lot when your bike won't start and you are intermittently cranking and leaving the key on while using a multimeter to try and find the culprit, which is probably a stuck injector or pump if riding an F800 :)

AMP HOUR matters when your stator or voltage regulator fails 100 miles from civilization.

AMP HOUR goes down as the battery ages, very quickly with the crapy F800 oe battery. much slower with a DEKA battery, slower yet with an Odyssey battery, and in theory, very very slowly with a LiFePo4 battery that has not been abused.

AMP HOUR has NOTHING to do with how rapidly a battery will crank your engine over, though in extreme cases it does affect how many times you can crank your engine over before the battery is depleted or the chemistry is tired and you have to wait a while before trying it again.

AMP HOUR is relevant when you store your bike for extended periods without a battery maintainer hooked up, though it is only 1/3 of the equation.

AMP HOUR is not well understood, because in searching dozens of threads here, on GL16 forums, in the garage, and even in magazine forums, it has been miss applied and miss understood EVERY SINGLE TIME!

Enter Shorai and other LiFePo4 batteries. LiFePo4 chemistry behaves very differently. Every LiFePo4 battery I have seen will deliver about the same AH at the 10 hour rate as it will at the 1 hour rate. When does this matter? Never under normal circumstances, but some when you are cranking repeatedly trying to start an unhappy bike, and even more if your lights and heated gear are being left on. It also matters when your F800 is due for it's 30,000 mile stator replacement.

Because of the superior chemical reaction speed of LiFePo4 batteries over lead acid, Shorai sought to display AMP HOUR differently. Enter the term PBEQ. Shorai, as far as I can tell made up this term.

A Shorai LFX18 battery is spec'd at 18 AH PBEQ, but in truth is a 6 AMP HOUR battery. If you read shorais whole FAQ here, you will find the following sentences:

""he internal "completely discharged" capacity of a Shorai LFX is 1/3 the rated "PBeq" capacity. For example, the LFX18 12V series have 6Ah cells internally""

These two sentences are buried and have apparently been missed by nearly everyone because the number of places I have found where people are raving about having a higher AMP HOUR capacity compared to their stock battery is STAGGERING and is making my blood boil. I'm not angry at posters who are not electrical engineers. I am angry at Shorai for being deliberately deceptive IMO.

Likely some people caught this but accepted Shorais explanation in their FAQ under the heading "How does the LFX "PBeq AHr" capacity rating compare to lead-acid Ahr ratings?"

With absolutely ZERO fear of loosing a defamation law suit to Shorai, let me say that the majority of that FAQ is complete BULL SHIT.

Shorai boldly states that their 6 AMP HOUR LFX18 will perform like an 18 AMP HOUR lead acid battery. On some planet or powerful drugs such as LSD this may be true. Perhaps if you are comparing a \$30 flooded lead acid battery and running current out of it at a 70 amp rate, this is true. But how on earth can you draw 70 amps continue sly with a motorcycle without setting it on fire? You won't be doing this with the starter, that much is for sure.

Bassed on what I am seeing, the Shorai LFX18 is comparable in amp hour to an AGM that has perhaps 8 amp hour.

In this video here:

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leaving the key on continuously and cranking the Aprilia Caponord every 5 minutes, a \$75 4 month old Deka ETX 14 battery rated 12 AMP HOUR drove the Shorai LFX18 rated 18 AH PBEQ into the ground and kept merrily starting the bike long after!

So, we are starting to see some posts of Shorai dissatisfaction and I have a dozen PM's of failures, so why do we have so many positive posts?

1) In blind product tests when consumers are tricked by sampling a product that is cheaper versus one that is more expensive, when in reality they are actually the exact same product, people nearly always rate the more expensive product much higher. We believe because we spent hard earned money and we want to believe.

2) AMP HOURS aren't usually important. They don't matter for race bikes at all and only affect adventurers or tourers in rare situations.

3) The Shorai FAQ is a convincing piece of propaganda even though it is mostly untrue.

4) People tend to be comparing a worn out OE battery to a brand new Shorai. The Shorai FAQ tends to be true when comparing even a new bike with an oe battery as BMW uses a fairly poor OE battery and then usually lets it sit uncharged for months in the warehouse as well as months uncharged on the dealership floor. Comparing the battery your BMW came with to the Shorai you are likely to like the Shorai a whole lot better. This does not hold true with a \$75 DEKA ETX14 battery or a \$120 Odyssey PC535 battery, or at least wouldn't if I sold you one of these batteries for \$230 dollars :)

So, am I apposed to LiFePo4 batteries for adventuring and touring? Not at all, but you are going to need to get a MUCH bigger LiFePo4 battery then Shorai recommends.

I haven't had time to test Balistic or AntiGravity batteries yet, but from their web sites alone, I like AntiGravity better as they are being far more truthful about AMP HOUR specifications. Actually the entire FAQ of AntiGravity seems far more truthful then Shorais FAQ.

Time will tell once I can test one.

This is just AH comparisons so far. Much more to come, good and bad.

Next up, CCA

If you are truly interested in batteries understanding these terms is important so if anything is un-clear, ask and I will do my best to clarify :)
2. JoelWismanLong timer

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You might have because this sure isn't what others are seeing.
3. Mike.CStelvio Dreamer!

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You're scaring me Joel! :eek1

I put Shorai's in both our F658's before shipping them to New Zealand for Christmas. So now the question is what regulator should I install as I really like the weight saving, and where to get it. Don't want to shove this excellent thread off topic so I think I'll post up a sep[arate one for that question.

Really appreciate your effort, really intersting even more important enlightening.
4. ScienceOfDirtU-Boat Rider

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I've got a couple of mid grade Fluke meters. Next time you're going to be in my neighborhood, PM me, and we can hook them up to your bike and see. I'm going to put them on my 2010 just to get another data point.
5. JoelWismanLong timer

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Please do, and that goes for anyone else concerned about this. It IS possible BMW changed the part, is testing alternates, or that I tested a fantastic run of bikes with regulators set defectively low.

Lets get some more data points, but please measure right at the battery terminals after the bike has been running for a while, and make note of ambient temperature.

What I am seeing with the two Shorai LFX18s I have experimented with is that 14 volts and below will eventually fall out of balance, though how long it will take I don't know. 14.1 volts is marginal. 14.2 volts and above looks like it will be ok to me.
6. JoelWismanLong timer

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Give me a day to see if I can find one of the many excellent regulator/rectifier manufactures willing to put on an oe direct replacement plug.

I'd also like to talk to a few engineers about series rather then shunt regulators, as that is one possible way to deal with rapid stator heat aging.

This isn't likely critical yet. Lost Rider, the owner of the Shorai I found to be so unbalanced has been the first to experience many F800GS problems. It will take time and a lot of cycling before these issues show up for others.

Lastly I think it wise to wait for some more data points on what charging voltages are being seen on K7X bikes, as NCD's post has given me pause.
7. NCDDirty Hairy

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This morning - the standing voltage displayed on the Bug is 12.8, and my multimeter says 12.86.

Battery is the OEM Deka (black top, textured grey sides.)
8. JoelWismanLong timer

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That sure sounds accurate. The question is, are you the only ones or do others have this higher charging voltage?

Anyone with a charging voltage at or above 14.2 don't really need to worry about a Shorai getting unbalanced.
9. ebrabaekLong timer

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I am in socal until this Saturday 3/22..... I will measure mine as soon as I get home.....

Erling
10. JoelWismanLong timer

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Aren't you home yet??????
Im filled with suspense.

If I got this wrong and most F8's are charging above 14.2, well, that changes one of my concerns a lot!
11. ebrabaekLong timer

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... You and me both...... Still here.....in Socal, were told yesterday to prepare to stay until Sunday...... Arrrrggggg... The suspense is killing me......

Erling
12. ApostolosBeen here awhile

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I've got the battery bug installed and my charge is the way Joel describes. Fluctuates between 13.8-14.1 while riding around, and up to 14.4 at idle.

God bless,
David
13. ScienceOfDirtU-Boat Rider

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Bike running. See picture for RPM, temp, and voltage reading. This was after a short ride home for lunch. Bike is a 2010 vintage. Let me know if I can get anything else.

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14. JoelWismanLong timer

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ScienceOfDirt, can you check the voltage with the RPM's around 3000.
15. ScienceOfDirtU-Boat Rider

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Just for more data, the voltage was 14.11 at 2000 RPM, and 13.99 at 3000 RPM.
16. JoelWismanLong timer

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0.15 volts higher, but still the behavior I am used to seeing. If you ride like I do, rarely idling, this is a voltage range that will cause issues with Shorai batteries unless you change the voltage regulator or use a balance charger every month or two.

Thanks for the data.
17. Mike.CStelvio Dreamer!

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Here are the voltages as best as I can measure them with the equipment I have.

Bike: 2010 F650GS
Bike was idled for 10 minutes before readings taken
Meter 1 (red): AMPROBE PM51A and according to their spec sheet accurate to +- 2%. (brand new and bloody expensive by my standards)
Meter 2 (Yellow): Digitech QM-1525 (old, cheap and shitty)
Ambient temp: 25 degrees C
Installed Battery: Shorai LFX18A1-BS12
Idle Voltage: M1 - 14.1v, M2 - 14.01v
3000RPM Voltage: M1 - 13.99v, M2 - 13.9v

Lower voltage at 3000 RPM compared to idle seems odd.

Proof of test pics follow.

M1, Volts at idle
<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/57523448@N08/7010211423/" title="Charge_Volts_Idle by Mike_Sal, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7053/7010211423_6a2c7af47e.jpg" width="500" height="375" alt="Charge_Volts_Idle"></a>

M1, Volts at a tad over 3000rpm
<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/57523448@N08/7010211697/" title="Charge_Volts_3000RPM by Mike_Sal, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7106/7010211697_9dc4af64e4.jpg" width="500" height="375" alt="Charge_Volts_3000RPM"></a>

Meter comparison at Idle
<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/57523448@N08/6864095246/" title="Volts_Comp_Idle by Mike_Sal, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7089/6864095246_f8766f9113.jpg" width="500" height="375" alt="Volts_Comp_Idle"></a>

Meter comparison at 3000rpm
<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/57523448@N08/6864095586/" title="Volts_Comp_3000RPM by Mike_Sal, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7087/6864095586_2d9fddcd44.jpg" width="500" height="375" alt="Volts_Comp_3000RPM"></a>

Ambient temp
<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/57523448@N08/7010210055/" title="Charge_Volts_Idle by Mike_Sal, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7197/7010210055_8276b561d4.jpg" width="500" height="375" alt="Charge_Volts_Idle"></a>
18. EurastusHej på dej!!

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I've got an early 2009 F800GS that was purchased in October of 2008. This was roughly the 800th bike off the assembly line, if I'm reading the VIN correctly.

Multimeter reads 14.07 volts at idle and 13.88 at 3000 RPM.

This seems in line with what Joel reported at the beginning of this thread.

I'm starting to think there was an in-line change to the OEM regulator made sometime in the past several years; it looks like the newer bikes are consistantly putting out slightly higher voltages.

Thoughts?
19. JoelWismanLong timer

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Outstanding

I thought I might be loosing my mind, but looks like NCD's bike has a BMW test regulator in it or for whatever other reason is an outlier.

Either way, it is ALWAYS a good idea to check idle and mid RPM voltage on your individual motorcycles before making decisions.

Mike C. I think your old, cheap, and shitty Digitech meter might be more accurate then your Amprobe LOL, though the Amprobe sure is cute and accurate enough for most things. 13.84 volts is normally what I see at 3,000 RPM and it has seemed consistent across all the F8's I have measured.

Lower voltage at higher RPM when the alternator isn't fully loaded isn't odd, its wrong. Without getting overly technical, the R/R BMW selected for these bikes is quick to sense and slow to adjust. It should be ignoring the peaks and shooting for an average RMS voltage of, well 14.4 volts in my book, but 14.1 if BMW was thinking the bike was going to be released with a gel battery. What happens with this R/R is it senses the peaks (harmless, actually beneficial) and drives down the RMS average to keep the peaks around 14.1 volts. It's a design flaw or at least a mismatch of regulator to charging system with a lot of electrical noise.

Apostolos thank you.

ebrabaek, I still want to see what you measure, partially for another data point, but more because I am curious what kind of meter you use :)

Mike C. From tests I have now done with two Shorai LFX18 batteries, doing something seems warranted. Balance charging every couple of months will suffice and would be the cheapest solution, or replace R/R's.

I am still waiting for 3 R/R manufactures to get back to me. I talked to sales support at all 3 companies but what I need to speak to is an engineer for each. Took a bit to confuse each companies tech support and convince then I really did need an engineer and that allowing me at one would only take up 15 minutes of their time and could be profitable. Will update on what kind of a regulator will work best as well as exploring series regulators as soon as I learn something more.

Thanks all, finally got back my high current and accurate clamp from repair and calibration since my shunts demise, more on cranking, pulse, CA, and CCA soon, and expecting to receive an AntiGravity battery and toss it into the mix of tests soon.
20. JoelWismanLong timer

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I measured a 2012 F800GS just last week, results are buried somewhere in the middle of this thread, but it was pretty much the same as all the older K7X bikes I have measured.

I think we are just seeing inaccuracies of various multimeters except for one outlier which has WAY higher voltages and is stable through all RPM's

Thanks for the data Eurastus.