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Thursday, December 1, 2022
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AGM vs Lithium Battery: Choosing the Best Battery for Your Overland Rig

Photo by photoschmidt via iStock

Historically, AGM batteries have been the go-to for trailers and campers. For example, I have AGM batteries in my Turtleback Expedition trailer. But in recent years, some manufacturers have switched to putting lithium batteries in trailers. Both types are very popular today.

If you have an older trailer or camper that’s in need of a battery upgrade, should you stick with AGM or should you make the leap to lithium? In this AGM vs lithium battery guide, we’ll give you a few things to consider so you can make an informed decision.

Battery Technology

AGM battery technology

One of the best features of AGM batteries, like this 12V 110AH option, is that they are a proven technology that has been perfected over the years.

For example, they can charge easily in freezing temperatures. Sure, charging won’t be as efficient as it would be when it’s 70-degrees out, but you can at least rely on the fact that an AGM battery can charge up when the temperature dips.

Lithium batteries cannot do the same. In order to charge, they need a regulated temperature. This means that if you’re planning an overlanding trip below-freezing temperatures, you’ll need to figure out a way to keep the battery compartment above freezing.

But the AGM vs lithium battery debate flips the script when it comes to the “guts” of the batteries.

AGM batteries contain lead-acid, which makes them bulky and heavy. Lithium batteries don’t have this problem since lithium is lighter and smaller. If it’s a very long overlanding trip you’ve got planned, the space savings you get from using lithium batteries could allow you to bring additional items that you need for the trip. The space difference won’t allow you to add something like your kid’s bike to the compartment, but you could at least bring additional pots or pans!

AGM vs Lithium: Expected Life of the Battery

lithium battery for trailer

All things considered, lithium batteries like the Briter Products one shown above, have a much longer expected lifespan. This has a lot to do with their depth of discharge.

Depth of discharge refers to the amount of battery charge that is removed at any given state as it relates to the total charge that can be stored in the battery. AGM batteries are very sensitive to depth of discharge. This means that as the battery discharge is deeper and deeper, the less cycles the battery has in it.

As a result, it is typically recommended that AGM batteries only be discharged to 50 percent of their capacity. Doing so will help maximize the battery’s life cycle. However, by limiting the depth of discharge, you have to add more batteries in order to get the needed capacity.

Lithium batteries, on the other hand, have a depth of discharge in the range of about 80-90 percent. This means that lithium batteries have a much better lifespan. The Briter Products Ion-Ready battery shown above, for example, has a 5,000-cycle lifespan! If you’re going to use your rig a lot, lithium batteries might be your best bet because of their increased lifespan. But if you only use your rig occasionally, AGM batteries will do the trick just fine.

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AGM vs Lithium Batteries: Price

agm battery price

When getting batteries for your rig, one of the chief considerations will be the price.

Lithium batteries are more expensive than AGM batteries, at least in a head-to-head comparison. But there are a couple of things to consider.

First, as noted earlier, lithium batteries have a longer lifespan. So although they might cost more up front, the money you put into lithium batteries will stretch for a longer period of time.

Second, since AGM batteries have a limited depth of discharge, you will need more than one battery to get the capacity you need. This adds to your initial cost of investment, and when you consider that they will need to be replaced sooner than lithium batteries, the cost-per-unit savings of AGM batteries is really a wash.

Since the price issue is negligible, it really comes down to the essential features of each type of battery as well as your personal preference.

benefits of lithium batteries

If, for example, you need a cold weather battery, it’s a draw. A lithium battery like the Briter Products battery pictured above has the same temperature range as many AGM batteries. Additionally, if you want a battery with a higher charging efficiency, lithium is the better option.

If you want to be able to wire your batteries in a series, you’ll need to get AGM batteries. But if you want a deeper depth of discharge, lithium wins out.

If you like AGM batteries and aren’t short on space to have extras on board, then stick with what you know and like. If you want something that is smaller and lighter, lithium should be your choice.

No matter which side of the AGM vs lithium battery debate you’re on, either option will give you reliable power for your overland journey. Just do your due diligence, invest in a quality battery, and enjoy your time out on the road!

My New Batteries

In the next weeks, I’ll be replacing the AGM batteries in my trailer with the Briter Products Ion-Ready batteries I mentioned earlier.

These batteries will give me longer-lasting power for my off-grid adventures while saving some space as compared to my old AGM batteries. The 5,000-cycle lifespan is certainly a bonus, as is the LCD display on the top of the battery that gives me the status of the batteries at a quick glance.

Additionally, Briter products offer a five-year warranty on these batteries, though I suspect I won’t need it because they are steel-cased for improved durability. Plus, this is a small, family-owned company, and I like the idea of supporting small businesses.

I’ll let you know how the install goes and how these suckers perform in the coming months!

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