Re: Converting my Amel 54 to lithium batteries: what I did, what I like and what I don't like (after one year of full time live aboard use)

Sv Garulfo
 

Hi all,

Scott, thanks a lot for your write up, I’ve just caught up on some of the forum topics after weeks offline and it’s a great source of info for the group. 

I’d like to add some info to the discussion and maybe some answers to Scott’s questions, based on our experience of upgrading our Amel 54 to Lithium 2 years ago. 

Intro:
When we decided to upgrade to Lithium, the design principles were the following:
- backward compatibility with previous battery types, we wanted to be able to easily go back to standard batteries (agm, gel, whatever) in case things didn’t work out, anywhere in the world. 
- minimal impact on the boat. Again, ability to undo all changes and no compromise with the boat build. 
- ease of implementation so that we could do it ourselves (Note we both are electrical engineers).
- maximum redundancy.


Previous system (all original from the yard):
As 54s are not all the same, it’s important to note where we started from:
- 12 x 12V 105Ah batteries, from 2009. Most were very much reaching end of life.1x 12V 105Ah starter battery, of the same type and age,
- MasterVolt ChargeMaster 24/100-3 battery charger,
- MasterVolt ChargeMaster 24/40 battery charger,
- MasterVolt 24/110 alternator with Alpha Pro regulator,
- MasterVolt Mass Sine 24/800 inverter, feeding a separate 230V circuit at the chart table. Located in the locker underneath the chart table. 
- xantrex battery monitor
- Onan 11.5KW generator,
- Dessalator Duo 100 watermaker,
- no dive compressor, sadly
- no passerelle
- simpsons electrical davits


Upgraded system changes:
- 2 MasterVolt MLI Ultra 24/5000 Lithium batteries (180Ah each), with 500A fuses and Blue Sea Systems ML deconnection relays,
- 1 extra 12V 105Ah spare starter battery,
- 3x 300W solar panels with 1 MasterVolt Solar ChargeMaster 60 MPPT-MB regulator,
- Alpha Pro 2 regulator to replace the Alpha Pro. 
- MasterVolt 24/3500-100 Combi Pro inverter charger,
- MasterBus network linking all MasterVolt components (except the 800W inverter that’s not compatible),
- MasterVolt EasyView 5 system controller,
- MasterVolt MasterBus USB interface to control/configure the system from a PC,
- Decommissioned 40A charger,
- other elements unchanged. 

(There are also a couple more MasterVolt products that we use for the Watt&Sea hydrogenerators, but it’s off topic)


1. MasterBus:
All MasterVolt components are daisy chained with a MasterBus network allowing them to be aware of each others and controlled centrally. 

All relevant MasterVolt components onboard were already compatible except the alternator regulator. That was a key point in our choice to go with a 100% MasterVolt solution.
So we ‘simply’ had to pass network cables from the batteries compartment to the chart table, to the engine room via the existing ceiling conduits.

The EasyView5 screen allows for monitoring and control of the MasterVolt components on the network. You can see voltages, currents, temp, wattages, charging phases and many others things for the batteries, chargers, solar controller, etc. You can touchscreen start/stop operation on all those too. We located it at the chart table on the panel hidding all the wiring. We retained the xantrex controller. 

The USB interface allows to connect a PC to the network to monitor, control and configure the components, for instance set the charger’s profile for Lithium (a simple choice in a drop down list). It’s also used to configure the various signals that let the BMS drive the charging components. 

2. Batteries:
We chose MasterVolt MLI for compatibility and ease of implementation. 2 fit easily in the battery compartment without modification. MasterVolt says they can be kept upright or on their long side. They would only fit on their long side. Keeping them upright would have required a reconstruction of the compartment that we were not prepared to do, although one could then fit more than 2. 
We worked some numbers and figured that 360Ah of Lithium would be enough for our needs.

The integrated Battery Management System  can disconnect the batteries if necessary by commanding the relays. 

In order to maintain the Amel redundancy between the starter battery and the service batteries, we have a spare 12V battery, in case. 

I second Scott’s point on the loss of weight (minus 210kg) and the subsequent port list...


3. Alternator and charge controller:
The Alpha Pro regulator is not MasterBus compatible so we changed it to it Alpha Pro 2 version. It’s relatively easy to do and has the same footprint. That way, the batteries can stop the charging from the alternator if required. As Jean-Pierre Germain said, it’s also a good way to have a button on the EasyView controller screen to stop the charging. 

4. Chargers:
Reconfigured to MLI charging profile and unplugged the temp sensors (as per documentation specs)

5. Solar:
3x300W Bisol BMO-300 solar panels, mounted on an arch above the davits. We chose cheaper panels, favouring watts per dollar, figuring they could be consumables exposed to marine abuse and didn’t want to go top of the range. 

We opted to wire them in series, with cabling thick enough to change to parallel if required. The main reason is to limit the power loss in the rather long cabling to the MPPT. We thought of the shading problem but figured that in the trade winds at anchor, the mizzen mast rarely gets in the way of the sun. We move the SSB antenna out of the way from time to time.
Happy to be wrong on that choice. 

MPPT:
We had to choose a beefier MPPT to handle the wattage. Unfortunately that meant it’s big and couldn’t be located everywhere. We put it in the wet locker on the bulkhead shared by the batteries switches compartment. 

6. New MassCombi Pro 24V/3500W-100A charger/inverter:
A year later (Aug 2018) we installed an extra charger inverter. It’s mounted in the engine room, near the 100A charger on the perpendicular bulkhead, where I’ve seen the yard install a smaller inverter on other 54s. It’s a tight fit. 
We chose the Pro version over the Ultra version as we thought the extra small solar mppt didn’t justify the higher cost. 
Like Scott, we bypassed the 230V genset/dock  switch box as the unit handles the switch with configurable priorities. 

It takes 230V cables from both the genset and dock. Luckily those were long enough. The 230V cables to the 230V panels too. And amazingly fortunately, the 24V cables from the 40A charger were long and thick enough to handle the 100A of charging and the 3500W of inverting. So we simply decommissioned the 40A charger and used the cabling for the new combi. Amel installed the 40A charger for dock usage to avoid tripping 230V/16A fuses. We maintain that idea with a function of the combi whereby you can configure the max current it will take from shore power (and also separately, how much from the genset) and reduce charging to comply with those limits. 

We start/monitor/stop the charging process from the EasyView controller. We configured the max output taken from the genset to 40A/230V (about 80% capacity) and we charge the batteries with both 100A chargers, make water, heat water, run air con, induction cooker and let the combi adjust its own charging to comply. That way the generator is loaded up properly, whenever we use it (maybe  once a week/fortnight depending on sun).
The rest of the time, we enjoy 230V appliances without notice, if not without restriction. The joy of shop-vac cleaning the engine room at anchor is hard to describe. 


Questions:

The deconnection relays by Blue Seas are as recommended by MasterVolt. Scott, there might be a solution there for you. 

Regarding the shore power and 100% SOC issue, I don’t have an answer. We haven’t plugged into shore for 18 months. I would also wonder what 100% (or 90%) SOC means in terms of voltage/charge current as it’s otherwise relative and depends on the monitor.  Then we can see if the BMS can be configured to stop various chargers at those levels. 


Costs:

Solar:
Stainless arch: €2,274
Panels: €675
Mppt: €599
Cabling, fuse: €247
Total: €3,795 ($4,190)

Lithium:
MLI batteries: €10,331
Relays: €434
Cabling, Fuses: €319
MasterBus cables, crimping tool and crimps: €118 
EasyView 5: €319
Usb adaptor: €154
Alpha pro 2 regulator: €285
Labour:€120
Total: €12,080 ($13,336)

Mass Combi Pro inverter charger: $2,847


Now I feel a bit like a MasterVolt rep. I’m not, and the omnipresence of the brand on Garulfo is simply a continuation of the choices made by Amel. There may be better, cheaper or otherwise preferable alternatives but we tried to minimise the changes to our boat and get the best value for money. We hope it’s a sound investment, especially considering the added value of extra comfort while cruising. Only time will tell, though. 

Any questions/feedback, let us know. We might not be able to answer straight away as we are bandwidth impaired at the best of times and sometimes offline for weeks here in the Tuamotus. 

Best,

Thomas and Soraya
GARULFO 
A54-122
Rangiroa, Tuamotu, French Polynesia
Instagram: @svgarulfo



On Mon, 9 Sep 2019 at 09:27, svperegrinus@... via Groups.Io <svperegrinus=yahoo.com@groups.io> wrote:

With regard to

the sensing wire was loose at the alternator

Yes, this is a risk.  One way to reduce the risk is to have a MasterShunt in the battery box.  This is what we did.

When a MasterShunt is present on the MasterBus, the Alpha Pro regulator looks to get its battery charge info from the MasterShunt.  Since the MasterShunt is installed  in a vibration-free zone, and adjacent to the batteries, the chances of a damaged or loose wire are minimal.

A secondary way I manage this risk is by feeding a small B&G chart plotter we have on deck with 24V.  This Zeus2 chart plotter is set to display its VSUPPLY on its databar at all times.  After several years cruising, I've gotten quite used to peeking at that little square from time to time for the current voltage.

A tertiary way is to have a voltage monitor on at all times (an EasyView 5, in our case).  We have it highly visible from the companionway; it never sleeps.

We've never yet had an over-voltage event, so those cautions look unnecessary.  May it be so always!

Cheers,

 

sv Peregrinus
underway by sail, from the Ems to the Vliestroom 

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