Especially for people who are cruising to remote locations, there is nothing like the independence of being able to be away from shore and still have the power run all of the electronic accessories and systems that you've probably put on your yacht in the last few years.
There's certainly nothing wrong with a conventional lead acid battery. You have one or perhaps several onboard now and they are reliable and inexpensive. They have been with us for a century or more and although there are new variants such as the absorbed glass mat and gel type batteries, in terms of improvements in power density, lifespan, size and weight, those older technologies seem to have reached the limits of development.
They remain heavy and recharging takes time. There's no fast way to recover the power. Addressing those needs, Mastervolt now offers a lithium-ion battery, constructed of lithium iron phosphate, for marine use and the specifications are most impressive.
So is the price…$7,500 US for the first units, but like many electronic products, expect that price to decline in coming years. The early adopters will help to get production rolling and you can be sure, there will be early adopters for this! While at first glance $7,500 may seem high, Mastervolt claims this battery has the potential to replace up to (4) 8D batteries and last 3-4 times as long. Looking at that big picture, the value becomes clearer.
Until now, how to maintain a battery's power, safety concerns and how to incorporate them into the onboard electrical system kept this technology from being introduced. But Mastervolt has developed solutions and investigated materials, construction and chemistries to overcome these challenges.
Two elements determine the useful power that a battery can deliver: the charge/discharge efficiency, and the extent of the authorized depth of discharge (DOD). Exceeding the recommended depth of discharge, can dramatically reduce the lifespan of conventional batteries.
Mastervolt claims their lithium-ion batteries are up to 15% more efficient than a traditional lead acid battery allowing shorter charging times, faster charging when being charged by a generator (so shorter hours on the generator) and more power from the battery of the same dimensions as comparable lead acid batteries.
Mastervolt gives the example of a lead acid battery that has a recommended DOD of 50% meaning that you can really only use up to 200 Ah (ampere hour) from a 400 Ah battery. The new Mastervolt lithium-ion battery has a DOD of 80%, so a 400 Ah lithium-ion phosphate battery actually provides a usable 320 Ah which is almost 60% more power.
The new lithium-ion battery is physically smaller than an equivalent lead acid battery. In fact, the Mastervolt replaces two separate 12 V lead acid batteries in terms of power delivery giving a yacht designer a 70% smaller footprint to accommodate. Since this battery requires less space, it can be more conveniently placed within the boat and it is both easier and faster to install.
In terms of installation, the weight of this battery is only 48 kg or 106 lbs. Although that's still a fair bit of weight, two men could easily swing one into an enclosed area where hustling comparable lead acid batteries into the same space could prove to be a real challenge, especially for those who are boating long distances or who are racing; lower weight has major benefits. The Mastervolt lithium-ion battery is up to 70% lighter than comparable lead acid batteries. A fast yacht with an average 800 Ah set of batteries onboard could save 600 kg and enjoy considerable performance gain.
There have been some concerns about safety in regard to lithium-ion and to address that, Mastervolt has equipped their battery with a battery management system including what they call Bidirectional Active Cell Balancing. This battery management system constantly equalizes the battery cells (eight 3.3volt cells) during charge, discharge and at rest. As we all know, a battery is only as good as its weakest link; this system ensures that every cell is always at maximum capacity. It also delivers current and temperature control.
This is also a Canbus-enabled battery and for best results it has been equipped with what is called the MasterBus™ communication network. To charge this battery, you use the MasterBus enabled battery charger for a quick and safe charging process. This more efficient charging process gives about 5% more capacity. It also means that consumption and available capacity are perfectly attuned to each other. The system gives you a good overview at any time of how much your battery is charged. The Mastervolt lithium-ion battery can also be charged with conventional three stage battery chargers. Mastervolt suggests that the Mastervolt Battery Contactor be used in this case. The battery actually tells the contactor when it sees high or low voltage, protecting the battery.
The impressive specifications become a bit more attractive at this price because Mastervolt says the battery will have a much longer lifespan as well. Because of this technology, it can deliver 2000 charge/discharge cycles at an 80% depth of discharge, which for many users means that it will last 3 to 4 times longer.
This first model is a 24-volt battery, but there's also 12-volt version that's coming. Although it's been on the market less than a year, the panel of marine experts at the International Boat Builders Exposition (IBEX) held in Miami this past October recognized Mastervolt's accomplishment with the prestigious IBEX Innovation Award for the electrical category.
It costs money to be one of the first to get this technology, but just imagine what it can do for your racer/cruiser to be able to recharge your batteries so much faster or to discharge them so deeply without damage.