Today while sitting here working on a video about portable Comms, I received a question from the operator asking me about AGM batteries for hiking.
First of all, I never thought I’d see these words in the same sentence “AGM batteries and hiking”. The operator disagreed with my choice to build my own lithium iron phosphate battery packs, referring to the cheap price of AGM batteries. He said he wanted to use a MorningStar SunSaver 6 with an AGM battery and Alibaba “flexible’ solar panel. The operator believes he can achieve the same thing as my lithium iron phosphate battery with powerfilm solar panel and Genasun charge controller, for a fraction of the price. ,
Surprisingly, I have also at one time used the SunSaver 6 with an AGM battery for portable work “From my Motorcycle!”. In fact I still have the SunSaver 6 & 10 operating in the shack as backup power for other devices. Let’s take a moment to talk about the differences between AGM and LiFePO4.
AGM or LiFePO4?
- AGM batteries are cheaper to buy. This is an undeniable fact which can’t be disputed.
- AGM batteries offer the user 50% of the rated capacity of the equivalent lithium iron phosphate.
- The AGM battery comes in at more than double the weight of the equivalent lithium iron phosphate battery.
- lithium iron phosphate batteries (when cared for properly) will reach upwards of two thousand charge cycles, an AGM battery won’t.
- An AGM battery requires no special balancing, and the choice of charge controllers is quite vast.
- Lithium ion phosphate batteries need balancing & CCCV based charge controllers.
So for any fixed installation perhaps AGM batteries are still a valid choice. If I need to hike any distance at all, there is absolutely zero chance that I’m going to carry double the weight and half the capacity with an AGM battery.
As far as solar charge controllers go, I have absolutely nothing against the Morningstar charge controllers. I’ve used them successfully for years in the shack. I can only suggest making the slight modification required to reduce the noise caused by these controllers on HF.
In regards to solar panels, to each his own. It’s taken me years to figure out cheap isn’t always better, or that value & cheap will always be in conflict. You just can’t get something equally as good for almost no money.
Finally here’s some food for thought for you. I’m changing out all of the lead acid or AGM batteries in the shack to lithium iron phosphate. That means I’m also changing out the solar charge controllers from Morningstar to Genasun. The performance of the lithium iron phosphate batteries over lead-acid has been so much better, that I see no value in investing in lead acid or AGM batteries anymore. I’ll use the AGM batteries that I still have in the shack but when they die, the Morningstar charge controllers will be donated to someone who needs them, or thrown in a box and put up in the garage.
Bottom line. There isn’t that much difference between the price of an AGM battery with your Morningstar charge controller, than there is with a DIY lithium iron phosphate pack and Genasun controller. You’ll have to decide for yourself which of them, the cheap buy-in price AGM, or the value of a long term investment LiFePO4, are most compatible with your budget.