Well, I took the plunge. After much debate, research, phone calling, and double-checking, I removed the combination of five 12-volt lead/acid batteries from my guide boat and replaced them with four lithium ion batteries. They have been onboard since June 28. After nearly two months of service and 29 guided trips, I am very pleased with their performance. Here is why I converted.
I replaced two Group 27 batteries weighing 46 pounds each with a single 80 amp-hour lithium ion battery weighing 26.5 pounds. I also replaced three Group 31 batteries weighing 62 pounds each with three 100 amp-hour lithium ion batteries weighing 32 pounds each. That is an overall weight reduction of 161 pounds. That translates into faster top end speed, faster planing, less fuel consumption, and more buoyancy. As a practical matter, ever since I had rotator cuff surgery a few seasons ago, the thought of not lugging those heavy lead/acid batteries ever again was a real selling point. As I age, I’m sure I will appreciate these powerful, lightweight packages even more.
The Smart Battery brand lithium ion batteries I bought are rated for 3,000 to 5,000 discharge/recharge cycles versus 300-500 cycles for lead/acid batteries. I’ve noticed manufacturer’s warranties have decreased over the years from a three-year full warranty, down to a two-year full warranty, with some now as low as a one-year warranty or a two-year pro-rated warranty. As a guide, I’m often fishing twice per day, multiple days per week, so a battery with an extended life is attractive to me. The Smart Battery products I installed have a five-year warranty and are repairable for life. This causes me to consider this as an investment versus an expenditure.
NEAR-ZERO VOLTAGE DROP
Traditional lead/acid batteries exhibit a steady voltage drop with usage on a given charge which can cause the voltage to drop below the minimum voltage required to power certain accessories, or at best, weaken with time. Lithium ion batteries do not experience this voltage drop, so, my lights, sonar, and livewell are all working as strong at the end of the trip as they did at the beginning of the trip. This feature actually allowed me to get rid of one of the two Group 27 batteries I had on board.
NO SPECIAL CHARGER REQUIRED
Although several companies I shopped wanted to sell me (expensive) charging accessories, Smart Battery has tested their products with common brands of on-board marine chargers. My batteries quickly and safely charge in under one hour after a typical four-hour, half-day guided trip when coupled to my Minn Kota MK460PC charger.
TRUE DROP-IN REPLACEMENT
When my four new batteries arrived, I took the old batteries out, put the new ones in their place, dropped one bolt each (with washer and lock washer for a secure connection) into the positive and negative threaded hole on the topside of the battery, and installation was complete. Their size and shape was nearly identical to the batteries they replaced.
NO ACID, NO WATERING
How many fishing shirts or pairs of fishing jeans or shorts have you had battery acid eat holes into? What about the rainwater and boat spray that accumulates in your battery boxes and then turns to acid? This is no longer a problem with the lithium ion product, as the units are completely sealed. This means no prying off the tops to check and/or refill fluids as is the case with lead/acid batteries.
Given the amount of use I put on my batteries and the extended life and repairability of lithium ion batteries, my decision to convert will pay for itself in the long run. That said, this is not a product one would want to buy into if they are not going to be kept for the long term (i.e. selling or trading your boat anytime soon).
GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE
There are so few companies currently dealing with lithium ion batteries in the 12-volt range, that I was able to call nearly all of them in the U.S. to compare products and service. Because it is important to size a lithium ion battery properly (especially one used to crank an outboard motor), nearly every company had readily available, live technical support standing by with little or no wait time. What impressed me most about Smart Battery is how well it understood angler-specific concerns and how it refused to refer me to a pre-published list of “frequently asked questions”, but rather answered every question I had in detail and in everyday language.
I’ll let you know around Christmas how these four batteries have held up after six months of heavy duty service. With any luck, perhaps a set will turn up in your stocking!