Battle Born Lithium Provides Energy Independence for Truck Campers and Vans

Kelly’s rig with the front lighting on display.

We were all impressed with Kelly Lund’s restoration of his 2003 Northern Lite 6-10 truck camper. Restoring this old Northern Lite made a lot of sense. Not many were made originally, and after a fire destroyed the only fiberglass mold in 2014, the company inexplicably decided to shelve the diminutive model. Due to Northern Lite’s long-lasting quality, however, you can still buy a used Northern Lite 6-10, though they are becoming increasingly harder find. So when Kelly found one in an online classified listing, he bought it without hesitation. His six-month-long restoration included not only all-new appliances, including Dometic DC compressor refrigerator, but also a modern electrical system featuring three 100 amp hour Battle Born lithium batteries, a Victron 2,000 watt inverter, a Zamp 200 watt solar power system, and a Victron 30 amp DC to DC charger.

Kelly is particularly proud of his Battle Born 300 amp hour lithium battery setup. The original 100 amp hour group-24 lead-acid battery that came with his camper offered only a 50 percent usable capacity. Kelly’s new Battle Born battery setup provides a whopping 250 amp hours more of usable capacity. Better yet, the Battle Born batteries in Kelly’s camper are heated (BB10012H) to prevent damage from charging in freezing temperatures. Furthermore, each Battle Born lithium battery comes with its own battery monitoring system (BMS) that protects the battery from high and low temperatures, high and low voltage, and short circuits. When you couple these benefits with a 50 percent savings in weight (each battery weighs only 31 pounds), and a faster charging profile (lithium can be bulked charged up to 97 percent), you have a battery that is truly ideal for off-grid exploration.

Kelly and Loki relaxing with a friend.

Of course, the biggest concern going lithium is the cost. Battle Born’s standard 100 amp hour lithium battery sells for $874 while the heated version lists for $949. This is two-to-three times more than an archaic, lead-acid AGM battery. But when you consider all the benefits that lithium provides—less weight, more usable capacity, and a quicker charge rate—there really is no comparison for those who like to boondock. As a matter of fact, the three Battle Born lithium batteries completely transformed Kelly’s tired old Northern Lite 6-10 truck camper into an off-road, off-grid superstar.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to build a truck camper,” Kelly explained. “I wanted to just renovate the whole thing and have state-of-the-art everything. I think a big part of that is the lithium-ion batteries. They’re just they’re so superior to the alternatives. One of the biggest differences in what we built was the electrical system and the huge battery bank and the heated batteries and that’s not something that you typically see out of RV manufacturers right now. I built my system specifically, so that we could continue to travel throughout the winter and not have to worry about losing power. I never have had to worry about the batteries. Battle Born has been great to work with.”

Closeup of Kelly Lund’s Battle Born lithium battery bank.
Location of Kelly’s lithium battery electrical compartment.

Having a 300 amp hour lithium battery bank might seem like overkill for a small truck camper, but having the extra power is needed to keep his rig powered up on cloudy and wintery days. He upgraded his camper with a Dometic CRX 110 DC compressor refrigerator, which requires a lot more power than a standard two-way refrigerator—60 to 70 amp hours per day is the norm. Still, Kelly tells us, that his battery bank’s state of charge (SOC) rarely dips below 85 percent while boondocking on sunny days, which is pretty impressive for his 200 watt solar power system.

So how does Kelly keep his lithium setup charged? Like most of us, he uses three battery charging systems: solar power, a DC to DC charger that charges via the alternator while driving, and a converter-charger that charges while plugged into shore power or while running a generator. Having lithium-compatible battery chargers is important because only three charging stages are needed—bulk, absorption, and float. This is different from archaic, lead-acid batteries which require these three stages in addition to an equalization stage and a maintenance stage to prevent sulfation. As such, all of the lithium battery chargers in your rig should have either a “LiFePO4” setting or be made specifically for lithium, which requires 14.6 volts to fully charge and balance. While its true that any voltage between 13.6 volts and 14.4 volts can be used to charge lithium, 14.6 volts needed to engage the balancing mechanisms in each battery.

Has Kelly done anything to his Northern Lite 6-10 truck camper since we last spoke? I’ve done a few things,” he said. “I’ve added a C4 front bumper with a ComeUp winch, and Baja Designs lights. I also added a small custom roof rack to the truck by a company called UpTOP. On the roof rack, I have a shovel, a Pulaski, and more off-road lights for extra lighting. I also added some Sunrader inspired graphics and a wolf and bison scene across the front of the camper.”

So what has Kelly’s been up to since we last checked in with him? He’s been a nomad of sorts, seeing much of the western United States and has even spent a few sub-zero nights in it while on winter ski trips. He’s also taken his rig down to Baja, Mexico, where he blew up his Tundra’s transmission while covering the Mexican 1000 on a photography project a few years ago. As a matter of fact, that’s where he is now. Baja is one of his favorite destinations.

“I was photographing the Mexican 1000 for a race team and chasing the race for five days,” Kelly recalled. “I had been accelerating hard and driving fast to keep up with the race when the transmission started having trouble. I believe I had fried the torque converter. About two years before that, it would occasionally shift late when it was cold, so I wasn’t surprised when this happened. It had about $200k on the vehicle at that time. I limped it back to San Diego all the way from the Bay of LA.”

With his love for Baja, Mexico and his Battle Born 300 amp hour lithium battery bank, does he have any plan’s to install a DC air conditioner? I have no plans,” he said, “but I have been thinking about it a lot this past summer (mainly for my dogs). I’m not sure if my roof shape and configuration would really support it. I need to do a little research and get some measurements to see if it’s feasible.”

So what are in Kelly’s immediate plans for the future? “I’m working on a propane fire pit company called Howl Campfires with three other guys. Soon, I’ll have our production prototype in my hands. I’m planning on hitting the road with it for testing and meeting up with friends and interested people for feedback before it goes to production,” he said.

Boondocking in Baja, Mexico with Loki the Wolfdog.
About Mello Mike 728 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a certified RVIA Level 1 RV Technician, and has restored several Airstream travel trailers. A communications expert and licensed ham radio operator, he retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, worked in project management, and now runs Truck Camper Adventure full-time. He also does some RV consulting, repairs, and inspections on the side. He currently rolls in a 4WD Ram 3500 outfitted with a SherpTek truck bed with a Bundutec Roadrunner mounted on top. - KK7TCA

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