I have spent two years researching the optimal battery to use in our Grand Design Momentum Toy Hauler. We are heavy power users and work from our camper. We needed reliable power. The worst thing that could happen is being in the middle of nowhere and have a battery failure.
Lion UT1300 Battery Review. Lion makes one of the best Lithium batteries on the market. Weighing in at 23 LB, the UT1300 delivers 1.5x more continuous amps than their competitors; it has an excellent BMS with low temperature protection; and its LiFePO4 Lithium chemistry is safe. 2 Lion batteries can power a 3000W Inverter.
Next I will discuss why I chose Lion Energy UT1300's over every other drop-in Lithium Battery on the market.
The UT1300 is a 1,344 Watt Hour (Wh) Lithium battery that is rated to deliver 105 Amp Hours (Ah) at a rated voltage of 12.8 Volts DC (VDC). The battery weights 23 pounds (lb). The small 23 lb battery holds 58.4 watts per pound of power — 4.6 Ah per pound. How does this compare to their competitors?
|Capacity by |
|Battle Born||10012||31 LB||1280Wh/100Ah||41.2Wh/3.2Ah|
The table above shows the weight of the top 5 drop in lithium battery vendors. They are all solid performing batteries, but weight is certainly an issue when every pound added to a rig takes away from payload. The Lion UT1300 is the clear winner in this category. It packs 58.4 Wh per pound. The Victron LFP100 is the most expensive on the list and it only delivers 38.8 Wh per pound.
One of the items that make the Lion UT1300 stand out over the crowed is the type of Lithium cells they use to construct the battery. They use what is called Prismatic cells.
The key to storing a lot of power per watt is having efficient battery packs. Lion utilizes a Prismatic cell design that can hold more power than Cylindrical cells used by most of their competitors. The rectangular shape of a Prismatic cell makes it easy to stack them next to each other getting more energy density in a smaller area. Cylindrical cells are obviously round. They cannot be stacked as efficiently.
The old saying comes to mind, “You can't fit a Round Peg in a Square hole.” The round shape of the most common lithium battery construction takes up more space and adds weight — this is why most other Lithium batteries on the market are bigger and weigh more than Lion.
Challenge with a Prismatic Design
The main challenge with a Prismatic cell design is the battery would be completely usable if one of the cells fail. A failed Prismatic cell would take a 12.8 VDC battery down to 9.6 VDC rendering it unusable in a camper.
There is no redundancy built into the Prismatic design.
Cylindrical cell batteries have redundancy built in. Each cell holds a smaller portion of the overall rated capacity. When a cell short circuits, it will take itself out of the loop while allowing the other batteries to continue to provide power. The capacity will drop some when a cell fails, but it would likely go unnoticed unless someone is capacity testing the battery.
There are two schools of thought on Cylindrical Vs Prismatic.
- Failed Cylindrical cells generally go unnoticed and the battery will keep operating. The advantage is the unit can stay in service and a trip would not be interrupted.
- Some prefer a complete failure of the battery if a cell goes bad. It can be difficult to know if a battery is bad after it is installed. Knowing 100% that a cell failed without needing to remove all batteries to test individually is a benefit. Lion has a lifetime warranty. If a UT1300 discovers a bad battery, Lion will replace it for free.
- Battle Born has a 10-year warranty. A few cells could fail during that time and the user may not know they needed send the battery in for replacement.
Lion has a small LED display on the top of the battery. Pressing the button next to the display shows the state of charge or if there is an internal issue. It is easy for an end-user to identify a battery that may have failed by pressing the test button on each battery. A failed battery would show a red LED in the 20% position.
The Lion Battery Management System (BMS) will take the battery out of service if an internal cell is damaged, which allows the rest of the battery bank to function as normal.
Continuous Output Amperage
What made me take a long and hard look at the Lion UT1300 is its continuous rated output. Most of the batteries on the market are capped at what is called a 1C rate.
A C–rate is a measure of the rate at which a battery is discharged relative to its maximum capacity. A 1C rate means that the discharge current will discharge the entire battery in 1 hour. For a battery with a capacity of 100 Amp-hrs, this equates to a discharge current of 100 Amps.Source MIT: A Guide to Understanding Battery Specifications, December 2008.
The C rate is the continuous output rating of a battery. The vast majority of batteries only have internal electronics called a Battery Management System (BMS) that can withstand a max of the batteries rated amperage. The 1C rate is the most common since a full load at that rate would completely discharge a battery in 1 hour.
The challenge with C-ratings is that most of the time we are not running devices that pull over 100 amps for an hour, but the rating is the max a battery can deliver continuously. If exceeding 1C for more than a few seconds, most batteries will hard disconnect shutting down power completely. Everything connected to the battery shuts off instantly, which can cause serious damage to devices that have circuit boards, heating elements, and compressors.
Most of us don't need to pull 100 amps continuously for an hours, but we do use coffee makers, microwaves, vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, etc. that can pull 1500-1800 watts (117-140 amps at 12.8 VDC) for short periods of time.
Lion UT1300 has a 1.5C Rating
The Lion UT1300 has an awesome Battery Management System (BMS). The combination of the excellent BMS with Prismatic cells enables Lion to deliver the impressive 1.5C output. This means a Lion battery can deliver 150 amps continuously. Technically the UT1300 can deliver 157.5 amps continuously, but they detune it so the batteries do not overheat.
The reason a 1.5C rating is essential is when we need to power inventors or other high-surge devices from a battery bank.
An inverter is a device that converts DC power from a battery bank to standard AC power like one uses in a house.
A common inverter size used in RVs is 3000W. The Victron Multiplus 3000 12 VDC to 120 VAC is one of the most common inverters on the market. A Victron Multiplus can pull 3000 Watts from the batteries and it expects to have sufficient amperage available to do so.
The math is simple to determine how many amps the Victron can pull.
3000W ÷ 12 VDC = 250 Amps
It would be rare to run an inverter at 3000W for long periods of time, but a coffee maker and a few other items running in a Coach can easily push up against the 3000W limit.
The advantage of the 1.5C rating of the UT1300 is that two batteries can deliver 300 amps continuously until they are dead. Two UT1300's can run a 3000W inverter no problem whatsoever. A 3000W inverter at max load would still leave an additional 50A of continuous power to run the DC bus in the camper from the 2 UT1300's. The 150A continuous power output rating is a key differentiator for Lion.
Battle Born C rating Comparison
Battle Born is the most widely used Lithium battery by RVers. I am using them for comparison because most are familiar with their products. Battle Born makes an excellent battery. I am not trying to discourage anyone from buying Battle Born. They make high-quality products.
Each Battle Born battery can output 100A. Since the 3000W inverter needs 250A for surge, it will take 3 Battle Born batteries to power a 3000W inverter. 3 large Battle Born vs 2 small Lion batteries makes a meaningful difference in weight and space required.
3 Battle Born Batts
- Total Weight: 93 LB
- Continuous Output: 300A
- Run Time: ~2 hours
- Cost: $2,997 ($999 ea)
2 Lion Batts
- Total Weight: 46 LB
- Continuous Output: 300A
- Run Time: ~1.5 hours
- Cost: $1,998 ($999 ea)
The 3-battery Battle Born configuration would provide the additional benefit of running ~30 minutes longer due to having 300 Ah of stored energy vs 210 Ah for the Lion, but the Battle Born configuration adds nearly $1k more in up front cost and 47 more pounds.
It is a costly project to install inverters into a camper. Batteries can be added later to increase capacity if needed, but the minimum spec of 250A continuous for a 3000W inverter must be met or the inverter could be damaged. The $1K more for a 3rd battery would nearly pay for a $1,427 Victron Multiplus inverter.
The Lion UT1300 components are assembled inside of a hard plastic shell.
The Lion case is not completely sealed like a Battle Born battery. It is possible to disassemble a Lion battery by removing 14 small screws that hold the top of the battery housing to the case.
Although it is possible to disassemble a Lion battery, there are no user serviceable parts inside. It would also void the lifetime warranty.
Battle Born batteries are UL Listed and completely sealed from the environment. The case is epoxied during final assembly. It is impossible to disassemble a Battle Born battery without completely destroying the case.
Lion Batteries are not UL listed or completely sealed, but they are for all intense and purposes virtually indestructible. This video from Full Moon Adventure Club puts the Lion UT1300 battery through several 10 ft. drop tests. To kill one he shoot it with a gun. The shot ultimately destroyed the battery, but the video clearly shows how stable and reliable they are.
Lion's suggested retail price (MSRP) for the UT1300 is $999, which is the same price for Battle Born. As of this writing, Battle Born has their batteries on sale for $949. That is the lowest price we have seen for a Battle Born battery.
Lion occasionally sells their batteries through Costco. When they do, the price cannot be beat. Costco offered 2 UT1300's for $1,399.99 ($699.99 ea) plus sales tax. Shipping was free. I was fortunate enough to buy 6 batteries from Costco. This is a copy of my receipt for 2 of them.
I have seen the Costco sale twice since I started researching Lion batteries. The last sale was in June 2020 and the one prior was March 2020. If you are planning on buying Lithium batteries and have time to wait, I would keep a eye on Costco and RV forums. Lion or Costco does not advertise the batteries when they are on sale.
I have no idea if Lion will ever sell through Costco again. They may have sold at a loss to introduce their batteries to the market. I have no idea how they will market in the future. I would not wait to buy hoping for a discount. I believe that even at full price they are worth the investment.
Lion UT1300 Life Expectancy
Life expectancy of the Lion UT1300 can be a controversial topic. The debate on how long a UT1300 will last gets people in discussion groups going. The comments generally center around how Lion Energy wrote their “Limited Lifetime Warranty.”
This warranty for the unit is extended to the original purchaser or user and it covers defects in materials and workmanship. The Safari UT 1300 has a limited lifetime warranty of the battery cells, rated at 80% of the capacity (105Ah x .8 = 84Ah).
Under extreme use (maximum charge and discharge rates) the battery cells expected life cycle is 3500. At “normal usage” the expected life cycles will be greater.Lion Energy UT1300 Limited Lifetime Warranty
80% Rated Capacity Exception
My main concern when reading the Lion warranty was the 80% capacity exception. Are they really selling 84 Ah batteries? I discussed this at length with the Lion support team. This is their response that came in via text.
Although the Lion warranty doesn't specifically spell this out, 80% is effectively prorated over 3,500 full cycles (fully charged to dead and back = 1 cycle). Another way to think about this is that the battery may lose up to 21 Ah of capacity over time — not all at once. Adding one or two more batteries to a bank would offset a loss in capacity.
The above graph shows the potential Lion UT1300 loss of Ah capacity by number of cycles. To reach 3,500 cycles, the batteries would need to be fully charged and then fully discharged every day for 9.5 years.
In an extreme use condition it is theoretically possible to get less than 9.5 years of life out of a UT1300. A battery would have to be cycled multiple times per day. Most RVers will not need to cycle batteries daily.
The solution for aggressive cycling is to increase capacity by adding more batteries to the bank. The added capacity will reduce battery cycles overall and increase battery life.
It is purely speculation about how long Lion or any Lithium battery will last at this point. The only data we have are from lab tests. To know for sure, we need to use Lithium batteries in the field for 10 or more years. Of course, the chances are that the next owner of the RV will be the one to find out. Most people sell their rigs every 3-5 years. The ones that do sell, can often get more money over their RV Book Value because they have installed Lithium batteries.
What Does My Install Look Like?
The key advantage for me was the small form factor of the UT1300 battery. Six batteries easily fit in my front generator compartment with room to spare. The 6 UT1300's store 7,560W (630 Ah) of power. It is nice to know I have power available if I need it.
I have a 900W (soon to be 1200W) solar system on the roof to keep the batteries charged when Boondocking. If they were dead it would take 8 hours to fully charge at 900W. It will take 6.3 hours to charge at 1200W (why I'm adding another panel). In reality, it isn't likely that I would fully discharge the battery bank. I would start the generator before getting to that point. The 5500W Owen Generator charges the battery bank quickly and efficiently when needed.
I try to capacity test the Lion UT1300 battery bank every month to ensure I am getting full capacity. I have yet to take them all down to shutting off, but I have pulled over 630 Ah and they kept going.
When discharging, the 100% full Lion UT1300 voltage will hover around 13 VDC. As the battery stabilizes the voltage will hold around 12.8-12.9 VDC. At 5%, the battery voltage will drop to about 12.5 VDC. At 1% I generally see around 12 VDC. The percentages are the Victron BMV-712‘s calculations. I have discharged past zero and they kept going!
The Lion UT1300 is a solid battery for the money. They have been working perfectly for us. Keeping weight down and power up was our priority. The Lion UT1300 fit our use case perfectly.