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Old 10-19-2021, 12:51 AM   #1
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Alternator burn out from lithium batteries

In a MH (2006 Ford E450 Super duty, V10) with a stock alternator and three Battle Born lithium batteries how much of chance is there of alternator damage (diode burnout) from recharging the lithium batteries, especially at low idle speeds? The RV has a factory start boost circuit, house batteries to engine. I believe this same cable (a 2 ga +/- cable) is used to recharge the house batteries when the engine is running.

Another way of asking, if and when you converted to lithium batteries and have a battery boost feature, did you do anything to deal with potential alternator damage?

I did this battery upgrade in mid trip and was not thinking about the alternator issue at the time. Since we'll be on the road for another month+ and 1,000 miles or so, I'd like to defer dealing with the alternator issue until we get home and not try to do it as a filed modification, but not sure of the potential risks I'm running by deferring this work.

What are the real world experiences?
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Old 10-19-2021, 08:08 AM   #2
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I'm no expert but I've read that without a device (e.g. DC-DC charger) to limit draw on the alternator lithium batteries will draw too to much power from the alternator due to the low resistance of lithium compared to lead acid or AGM batteries. If you Google it there is lots of information out there. I've been researching it for my own rig because I'm moving to lithium in the Spring and DC-DC charger is the way to go. DC -DC chargers are also available in varying capacities, 20-100 amps so you can limit the draw on alternator. Good luck!
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Old 10-19-2021, 08:22 AM   #3
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Interesting.

Your condition reminds me going back to 2007, then my teenage son with his 1992 Toyota Camry. Against my better judgment, he installed a huge 110V inverter, placed his 4 speaker computer sound system with subwoofer inside the car, and it worked......for a while.

Within a month's time, his car died. He blew the alternator and more. Needless to say, he removed the sound system afterward.

I understand there is a higher-output alternator available for the Ford E350/E450 motorhome chassis. The motorhome package already has a higher amperage alternator than what is installed for box trucks, but there is yet a higher amperage installed in the ambulance package. I advise to call your Ford service center, provide your VIN (so the tech knows what you have now), and ask about the highest amperage alternator available. If the cost is prohibitive, search the internet for an aftermarket equivalent. I have seen some aftermarket alternators with extremely high amperage. I understand such alternators are interchangeable without complications.

Doing a quick search on eBay, I quickly found a brand new supposedly compatible 300 Amp alternator for $221.00 with free shipping and no core charge. There is also an abundance of 200 amp alternators.
CLICK HERE TO REVIEW THE 300 AMP ALTERNATOR.

For reference, I think the stock alternator for the 2006 E-series motorhome package is 110 Amp.
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Old 10-19-2021, 08:42 AM   #4
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I would shoot the alternator case with an IR gun while idling with the lithium batteries well discharged which should maximize current and see what you get. Anything over 200 F would be worrying, 250 would be burn out territory.

And FWiW an alternator rated for 200 amps will burn out if run at 200 amps for long. 200 is just the maximum and shouldn't be used for long. Kind of like engine rpms.

A DC to DC charger is probably the best solution. You could swap out your BIM if you have the Precision Circuits BIM 160 to the BIM L 225. It provides a crude solution by pulsing the alternator at 50% on and off every 15 minutes.
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Old 10-19-2021, 09:00 AM   #5
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A DC/DC charger is the ultimate solution. The next option is a Li-Battery Isolation Module. A third option, which I am currently using, is to prevent the two battery banks from becoming connected while driving.

On our coach, when the alternator has charged the chassis batteries to a certain voltage, a signal is sent to a large solenoid, which then closes and connects the two battery banks. I simply added a switch to the 12V signal wire which is left in the open position while driving. You may find another method to achieve the same goal, easier to implement.

Iíll assume your 3 batteries are 12V, in the neighborhood of 100Ahís and wired in series, giving you a 300Ah bank. When discharged, that set up could accept 300A of charging current, which likely exceeds the capacity of the alternator. A somewhat risky strategy is to only drive when the lithium batteries are fully charged, which reduces the demand on the alternator. Driving with the generator running to charge, might also provide some relief for the alternator.

I know of at least one owner who cooked his alternator after a lithium conversion.
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Old 10-19-2021, 09:11 AM   #6
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My system is still work in progress. I purchased a Renogy 40A dc2dc charger and I plan to install it similarly to the attached image. The diagram is for my Jayco Class C wiring, but likely similar to most Class C RV's. What is in color is my wiring plans for the dc2dc charger. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions as the drawing was simply for my usage and may not be clear to others.

My thoughts regarding the alternator is that there likely will not be a big issue if your lifepo4's are not extremely low (as they could be with boondocking) when you start your engine for a long drive of many hours. I would suggest until you have more time, to run your generator (or have shore power) to get your lifepo4 batteries charged up as much as you can prior to a long days drive.

In any case, I highly suspect with time and with having low batteries prior to running the big engine, that the heat will certainly reduce the lifespan of the alternator.

If you notice, there are two 80A breakers in the charge line on mine, I have yet to break either of them, however I am only running 1 x 130A lifepo4 battery at this time, I have about 300A more capacity to install when time allows, point being is that with more batteries inline that the alternator will certainly run higher amps for a longer period of time (more heat).

Also, another quick thought is the ambient temperature, the cooler the ambient temp is the less internal heat the alternator will have, although you can't count on that to help in the long run as the heat of concern is being generated inside the alternator and hard to measure.

In any case, I wouldn't make any big changes until you have time to do so, I also wouldn't run down the lifepo4's so much that the alternator has to run full output for an extended period of time if at all possible.


~CA
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Old 10-19-2021, 05:19 PM   #7
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You need to install a Victron Orion 30 amp DC-DC charger controller. It limits the amps from your alternator to your house batteries while charging both your chassis and house batteries while driving down the road. Ive got 300ah of lithium and it works just fine. While Ive only used it once or twice, you can connect the controller to your phone and monitor your state of charge or change settings.
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Old 10-19-2021, 10:40 PM   #8
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Renogy, Victron, Red Arc all make good B2B units. Thats the safest bet and they have charge modes specifically for Lithium, and many have solar inputs also so no separate solar controller needed.

How to not blow up your Alternator when charging Lithium-Victron Energy video

Many people will say that the resistance in the wires will limit the current and not blow the alternator (yes I have read that several times in threads, posted by supposedly smart people) but I would not take a chance on it.

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Old 10-19-2021, 11:32 PM   #9
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Thanks to everyone who responded. You all confirmed what I thought. I have a Victron Orion 30 amp DC-DC charger on order with all necessary parts and will do the upgrade in the field when I meet up with the parts in couple of days. In the mean time I dropped the house battery cable from the existing battery isolation device so that the alternator can not charge the batteries.

When I get home I may still add a second dedicated large capacity alternator for house battery recharging.
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Old 10-19-2021, 11:59 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rarebear.nm View Post
Thanks to everyone who responded. You all confirmed what I thought. I have a Victron Orion 30 amp DC-DC charger on order with all necessary parts and will do the upgrade in the field when I meet up with the parts in couple of days. In the mean time I dropped the house battery cable from the existing battery isolation device so that the alternator can not charge the batteries.

When I get home I may still add a second dedicated large capacity alternator for house battery recharging.
Fred,
I did actually fry my alternator within a few months of installing 6 100Ah Lithium batteries. I was getting ready to upgrade the inverters and was waiting to add the DC-DC converter.......thinking that my 200Ah alternator would be OK for a while, especially if I used the generator to keep them topped off before hitting the road.....NOPE....fried it just that quickly!

I think you made the right decision to disconnect the alternator from the house batteries until you have the DC-DC installed..... you may want to think about adding a 2nd one of those if you want more charging but with only a couple of Batteries, one should be just fine.

I now have dual 24-12/15 Orions installed (after a huge upgrade/conversion) and we consistently see ~42-45A to the batteries underway, according to the pros these units consistently put out about 140 - 150% of rated capacity.
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Old 10-20-2021, 07:16 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by rarebear.nm View Post
When I get home I may still add a second dedicated large capacity alternator for house battery recharging.
The second alternator in my van was made by Nations, with a Balmer regulator, and was a kit made to fit the second alternator bracket M-B installed on the engine. Iíve researched it a bit since I like to know what my systems are.

Itís 280A rated and puts out more than 150A at idle; exactly how much more I donít recall but it charges the battery while my roof A/C is running, and that alone takes 150A. I donít know how much it puts out at high speed, as the BMS remote display is not where I can see it while driving and Iíve never fiddled with the high idle control other than to see that it works (it does).

Supposedly, there is thermal regulation in play also, to prevent damage from high output at low speed, though I havenít figured that part out yet. Mine works very well with my 600Ah battery. Itís supposedly designed for high output at idle engine speed, and seems to be aimed at the first-responder and work truck type market.

They have a kit for the E450 with 6.8L V10, with options for alternators from 200A up to 370A, with a choice of regulators (or no regulator). Beyond that I know nothing about it other than whatís in the link below.

https://www.nationsstarteralternator...8-e-series.htm
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Old 10-20-2021, 07:28 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by rarebear.nm View Post
Thanks to everyone who responded. You all confirmed what I thought. I have a Victron Orion 30 amp DC-DC charger on order with all necessary parts and will do the upgrade in the field when I meet up with the parts in couple of days. In the mean time I dropped the house battery cable from the existing battery isolation device so that the alternator can not charge the batteries.

When I get home I may still add a second dedicated large capacity alternator for house battery recharging.
If the charger limits input to 30 amps, isnt OUTPUT then also 30 amps? Seems way low to power anything...
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Old 10-20-2021, 08:28 AM   #13
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Great thread. I had no idea that lithium could burn up an alternator. I think I'm going to look for the lead to the alternator and simply remove it from the batteries when I swap out my lead acids next spring.

I'll just charge from the coach controller when plugged in or by running the generator.

Always amazed at the knowledge from the folks on this forum!
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Old 10-20-2021, 08:36 AM   #14
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If the charger limits input to 30 amps, isnt OUTPUT then also 30 amps? Seems way low to power anything...
The DC/DC charger allows 30 amps of the alternators output to charge the house batteries. The alternator will still be capable of outputting additional current to other loads.
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