Monday, November 6, 2023

New technology makes battery "power stations" more interesting


We've spoken in the past about emergency power generation, usually through gasoline or propane generators, and recently by using so-called "power stations", effectively large batteries that deliver "clean" electrical power but tend to be more expensive than generators (sometimes much more).  Popular brands in power stations include (but are not limited to) Bluetti, Ecoflow and Jackery.  I own products from both of the latter companies, largely because I was able to catch a price break on them when I needed one.

New battery technology is making its way into such power stations, making it worthwhile to consider upgrading to newer models.  For example, the battery of the old-model Ecoflow River Pro power station (one of which I use) was rated for up to 800 charge/discharge cycles.  The new River 2 Pro model uses improved battery technology that's rated for up to 3,000 cycles, or up to 10 years of regular use, and charges faster and more efficiently to boot.  It's also smaller and lighter, and therefore more easily portable, than its predecessor.  Other models, and other manufacturers, are offering similar advances.

These power stations are of particular importance if you rely on electrically-powered medical equipment such as a CPAP machine, an oxygen generator, or the like.  Power failures can last long enough to pose a serious health risk to those dependent on such tools.  I haven't forgotten our big power crisis in Texas a couple of years ago, when some areas of the state lost power for a week or more.  Folks who had generators were OK for a few days, but many of them made the mistake of buying generators big enough to run most of their household appliances.  That's all very well, but they use a lot of fuel to do so.  By the third or fourth day, people were running out of fuel - and without power, the gas stations couldn't pump any, or process credit card payments.  (That's why I've chosen a smaller generator that produces less power, but also uses much less fuel.  We can do without most appliances until the power is reconnected.)  A power station like those mentioned above can provide all-night power to a medical appliance, and be recharged during the day using a generator, a solar panel, even a car's cigarette lighter socket.  If you have to use the unit 24/7/365, get two power stations, so that while one's in use, the other can be recharged.  That can be a literal life-saver.

Most of the companies offering power stations also offer solar panels to recharge them when the power's out, or you can use third-party solar recharging equipment (provided it's plug- and power-compatible with your equipment).  You can get adapters to connect one type of solar power plug to another type of socket.  It's a bit fiddly, and I wish they'd settle on a common standard so that we could all use the same thing without worrying, but I guess that's not likely to happen in the short term.  For now, you pays your money and takes your choice, and hope it works.  (Test it thoroughly before you really need it, just in case!)

The new model power stations often have a higher sticker price than older models, but frequently this is offset by coupons or discounts, particularly at store level.  For example, I've just replaced an old power station with a new Ecoflow River 2 Max model.  Buying direct from Ecoflow, the price was listed as $469.00;  buying from Amazon, it was $399.00;  and from Sams Club, taking advantage of a short-duration "Doorbuster" sale and ordering online, it was $279.00.  You can guess which one I bought!  I've also noticed older models being sold at a discount.  The latest technology and bells and whistles are all very well, but sometimes they're unaffordable, so keep an eye out for such sales.  Shop around, compare prices, and don't be afraid to ask for discounts.  Given the poor economy right now, shops are probably going to be willing to cut a deal now and then.



Old NFO said...

I do need to upgrade mine... sigh

lynn said...

I have a 38 kW natural gas whole generator for my house that I ordered right before Winter Storm Uri in Feb 2021. It was installed by Generator Supercenter in August 2021. It probably has powered my house at least a dozen times since then. We don't even know when the power goes out as it is up and running in ten seconds. The only things that get reset are the microwave and double oven clocks. The generator supposedly has a ten year life and will run as long as the natural gas holds out, it needs 2 psig from the house line. Now if it runs for a week or more, it needs an oil change and possibly new plugs. The generator is a liquid cooled four cylinder Mitsubishi turbo charged Generac that runs at 1,800 rpm, fairly quiet.

When I replace my 2019 F-150 XLT 4x4 in a few years, I would like to get one of the new hybrid trucks. Ford's hybrid F-150 4x4 with the Powercenter looks very interesting.

Anonymous said...

I also rely upon a medical device, and so bought a deep cycle battery as a dedicated back up. I use it exclusively to power my device when mains power is unavailable - ie when camping. Deep cycle batteries are relatively affordable - and sadly - modern batteries seem to die within 3 or so years these days so its simply not worth it to buy a fancy set up. My budget cannot stretch to a power bank device like you've discussed above.

I also purchased a folding solar panel designed for camping, that packs down to the size of a large laptop computer. It is fragile, but readily charges the deep cycle battery.

This set up works beautifully for the short term grid down situation, and if I had to I could use it longer, I cannot see why it won't last a couple of years - or until the battery dies.

Rick T said...

Lynn, we have one and are very happy with it. It is a SuperCab (4 door) with the FX4 4x4 package but I run it 99% of the time in 2WH, on the highway at legal speeds I get 600 miles of range on a regular basis. I haven't needed the 2500W power system yet so no comments there.

The Ford adaptive cruise control system takes care of speed, pacing the vehicle in front, and can even do some lane keeping if desired. It isn't a full autopilot so it doesn't turn for you even if the nav system is on a route.

Hightecrebel said...

Anyone even slightly handy can make a battery box that's 75-95% as capable for half the cost of the power stations, but in a slightly larger form factor that is fine for at home. There are videos on Odyssey, Rumble, & YouTube showing how to do it with anything from a plastic ammo can to a rolling toolbox. One guy has a whole Rigid toolbox set with batteries in the bottom rolling box w/ 12v outlets and charger connection, with additional boxes for an inverter or expansion batteries.

I'm planning to build one into a Hart Stack set personally (I like the colors), and it's looking like for around $700 I'll have 2.5KWH of battery (200AH @ 12V), and a 2KW pure sine wave inverter. Took a little time to get the parts for it, catching things on sale and such. Compared to an Ecoflow Delta 2 Max for $1600 with 2KW of power and a 3KW inverter. And mine'll have wheels and an extendable handle for ease of movement.

EricW said...

Everything isn't sunshine and roses - those big lithium batteries are burning down cars, houses and warehouses daily. Not something you want to leave in a closet, nor in your garage. Build a small bunker in your back yard. :)