Leisure battery vs Portable power station! Which is right for you!?

We spent months working on a solution of having power when camping instead of using the Jimny’s starter battery, so this is what we decided on!

Hopefully this blog will help you decide on what might work best for you, if not, hopefully you may learn something new.

DISCLAIMER! We are not electricians nor do we have any profession in electrical systems. We do plenty of research to gain as much knowledge as we can, you can never learn too much. (If you need to learn a lot of in depth information we highly recommend Will Prowse on youtube 👍🏼) We also have no affiliation with EcoFlow, again with plenty of research we believed in the product and backed it on Kickstarter.

So we needed electrical power when camping to run our fridge and also recharge our camera batteries over a few nights.

We wanted a solution which would be simple to set up but also one which wasn’t permanently attached to the Jimny as we didn’t want to carry all the extra weight all the time. The overall set up also had to be as light weight as possible due to the low carrying capacity of the Jimny.

We spent a long time looking into possible solutions, with the first and most common solution being considered, fitting a generic leisure battery. Usually people fit a generic leisure battery under the bonnet and wire up all the extra components that would be required to have 230v and a constant live 12v socket with a few USB sockets. However, after doing plenty of research we learnt that the Jimny has a modern alternator which is usually known as a Smart Alternator which requires you to use a DC-DC charger for your leisure battery as the more basic Voltage Sensitive Relay would not work properly. (Smart Alternator explanation in ‘Extras 1′)

We also were not too sure about the placement of the leisure battery under the bonnet as the only place it could go was on the exhaust side. We would also be very limited to battery capacity due to the small amount of available space.

As you can see, it’s pretty packed under the bonnet!

As well as needing space for the battery we would also need a place for fuse holders, an inverter and of course the actual DC-DC charger… never mind all the loose cables you would have to connect up!

So far we wasn’t too keen on the leisure battery install so we started looking at other possible solutions.

Talking to our good mate Geordie Jimny who is obsessed with saving every gram in the Jimny but not on himself 😉 (love you really) we started to look into portable power stations as an option instead of the leisure batteries. (Click his name to see his set-up)

The first thing we noticed was the extreme prices of some of these power stations. Some costing almost an arm and a leg!! After doing more and more research into the power stations we actually started to realise that maybe they aren’t as expensive as they seem? Yes the initial price tag hits you in the face but with careful comparison the portable power stations are actually not that pricey when compared to the typical leisure battery set ups!

Let’s start with comparing the most important thing – Cost?

Staring with a typical leisure battery set up (rough average set up)
– DC-DC & Solar Charger: £236
– 230v Inverter 500w – £158
– 12v 100AH Leisure battery: £99
– Battery Isolator Switch – £9
– Main Battery Fuse Holder & Fuses – £9
– Accessory Fuse Holder – £16
– 12v Socket – £6
– Switches (x4) – £7
– Twin USB Socket – £10
– Main Positive and Negative Cables 4m – £28
– Accessory Power Cables 10m – £38

Thats a total of £616 to have a fully set up leisure battery system that can compete with the functions of our EcoFlow R600.

The EcoFlow R600 Max Costs – £534 (yes we have the pro, but it’s still not for sale yet, we got ours off Kickstarter as we backed it)

Both prices reflect roughly 600 Watt Hours useable capacity (Explanation about useable capacity in ‘Extras 2′). It is important to remember the term useable capacity as this is the capacity you will actually have to play with. As you can see currently the portable power station is winning with the cheaper price so you might think it is a no brainer to go for it. However once you have bought all the essential gear to run a leisure battery set up, you can spend another £200 and actually have double the capacity of the portable power station. Whereas if you wanted to double the capacity of the portable power station then you would effectively need to buy another one and that’s where portable power stations start to get expensive. It is important to note that for the EcoFlow R600 PRO, you can actually expand the capacity too without buying an entire extra power station (but they’ll be more on that later).

If price is not too much of a problem for you, then the next thing you might look at is the overwhelming job of wiring up the leisure battery set up. Wiring up a leisure battery system can be a minefield for some, but with so many videos on YouTube explaining how to wire up a leisure battery you may be able to easily figure it out! We won’t go into detail and explain how to wire it all up as we don’t want to be the reason why your car sets on fire…

So anyway! for us the biggest issue was WEIGHT! and space.

So why is the weight such a big deal?? For example, the leisure battery would weigh;
– Battery: 25kg
– Inverter: 3.9kg
– Charger: 0.7kg
– Plus quite a bit more when you add all the extra bits needed, especially cables.

Thats a whopping 30kg+ for the leisure battery set up… whereas the R600 Max weighs 7.7kg for the same capacity as the 100AH Leisure battery set up!! (the weight difference is thanks to the lithium batteries inside the EcoFlow – More on that in the ‘Extras 3′)

Our EcoFlow Pro (768Watts) weighs 8.5KG

Portability was also another key factor for us. Like mentioned above we didn’t want to carry the extra weight in the Jimny when using it daily, so being able to remove our portable battery supply after a trip was handy, in return also freeing up space. We also like the idea that we can bring the portable power supply outside of the Jimny and use it wherever we need to. There are even advantages of using the portable power supply at home too!

As mentioned above with the R600 Pro you can actually expand the capacity of the portable power station with an extra piece of hardware that EcoFlow have created. We were really sold on the idea of this as we are hoping the EcoFlow will out live the Jimny and if we ever move onto a larger Overlander we will be able to upgrade the amount of power supplied without having to have 2 power stations. EcoFlow have created a piece of hardware called the ‘Pro Kit’ which allows you to attach as many 24v batteries as you would like to the R600. The R600 then takes care of the extra batteries attached by making sure they are recharged as you consume the power out of them. This is a fantastic idea if you have the extra space and weight carrying capacity.

But it’s not all magical with the portable power supply option. You will be limited with recharge times, power output and also adding extra features in the future. When building up your own leisure battery set up, you can build it to suit your needs. For example our EcoFlow will only accept a max of 10amps via the supplied in car charger, where as the DC-DC charger can recharge a leisure battery at 25amps+. This allows the battery to recharge faster whilst you are driving. Solar input is also limited to 200Watts whereas the DC-DC charger can actually accept solar input of 300Watts. For us we have a max power output of 600Watts, whereas when you build your own set up you can choose your own size inverter, ranging from 250Watts to 3000Watts.

So who is the portable power station option really for then? Well if you have a simple electrical demands, such as running a fridge, occasionally plugging in your laptop, needing to run your smoothie maker, charging your camera batteries or charging your phone then the portable power station might be for you. If you also need to save space, weight and don’t fancy doing a load of wiring up then it’s a no brainer to go with a portable power station. However, if you have a van of some sort where you want to be able to run a TV, a sound system, an induction hob and an electric kettle then of course you will need to build your own leisure battery set up capable of powering your entire van for a week or two! It all depends on your needs but it is key to consider when deciding, weight, portability, space required, wiring time and money needed!

Thank you for reading! If you have learnt anything new or have any questions feel free to leave a comment down below or even better get in touch with us on Instagram, we are always happy to chat!

EXTRAS:
1 – An old school alternator use to continuously pump out power to a regulator which would then charge your starter battery and the excess power would turn into heat which would be dumped via the heatsink onto the regulator. Where as smart alternators only kick in when the computer in the car notices a drop in voltage. Because of this newer system you can not rely on the old school methods to charge your leisure battery. This is why you need a DC-DC charger as these chargers take power from your starter battery to charge your leisure battery and in doing so the smart alternator will then notice a drop in voltage allowing the starter battery to charge whilst driving.

2 – Useable capacity and actual capacity is something very important that you need to understand!! The capacity of a battery is volts x amps = watts. So you might look at a 12v 100AH battery and think, Wow! I have 1200 watts of capacity to play with! But NO! You actually safely have 600Watts! Why, may you ask? Well a lead acid battery should only safely be discharged 50% of its capacity, otherwise you start to ruin the internals of the battery and you will run out of how many times you can actually cycle (charge and discharge) the battery. So in the long run your battery will not last as long (degrade). You also need to be aware of the term ‘watt hours’. Say for example you have a battery of 600 watts hours. Now let’s take your phone charger, typically 5v 2amp. Your phone charger is pulling 10 watts, every hour. So now we take the 600watts and divide by 10watts giving us 60 hours of recharging a phone.

3 – Lithium Battery advantages are a massive benefit but at a massive expense! Lithium batteries are far lighter than Lead Acid batteries, which is amazing! They can also withstand a much lower discharge percentage meaning you can get a lot more capacity from the same amount of Amp Hours from a Lead Acid. They are usually smaller in size too. But the price is more for lithium batteries?… Yes, they are a lot more expensive then lead acid, however you can usually cycle (charge & discharge) a lithium battery 2-3 times more than a Lead Acid. So for example Bob might buy three Lead Acid batteries whilst good ol’ John is still running on his first Lithium Battery. Therefore, Lithium batteries are more expensive but 1 can last the amount of time 2-3 lead acid batteries can meaning lithium batteries might work out cheaper in the end.

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