Li-Ion Booster Packs - Will I Ever Learn......

Discussion in 'Ask All Sailors' started by Maine Sail, Dec 4, 2018. Add this thread to a FAQ

  1. Maine Sail

    Maine Sail Moderator

    Joined Feb 6, 1998
    10,950 posts, 747 likes
    Canadian Sailcraft 36T
    US Casco Bay, ME
    So my saga of Li-Ion booster packs continues and I've not yet decided whether or not I will keep this one or not. I gave it a pretty hard first test. Please understand my use for these is not typical use for how they were designed.

    My debacle with these jump packs started years ago with a NOCO GB30. At first I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread until I actually had to use it to start a boat with a diesel that had glow plugs and a deeply depleted 8D battery. Click, click.... After a few attempts to start customers boats, who'd killed their banks, stuck bilge switches, forgot and left battery switch on, etc. I finally melted the solder right off the printed circuit board of the GB30. Dead....

    I then read about the new improved GB40. I bought one. On the first use it too failed to start the boat. This one was well within the return period so it went back. I then tried about 4 more various Chinese made Li-Ion jump packs, all claiming more Ah capacity, all with dismal results, and all were returned.

    These things are marketed as the be all end all of jump starting but what they fail to tell you is just how small the internal battery really is. On the GB30 & GB40 it was roughly 2Ah.. Guess what happens when you connect a 2Ah Li-Ion battery to a 200Ah+ bank that's sitting at 6V and then needs 15 seconds of a 30A-60A glow on top of cranking..... It really does not take much to suck the capacity right out of it before you can even hit the key... Click, click....

    I guess I am a glutton for punishment because I once again bought into the "convenience factor", I really do need one for me and the guys as lugging those heavy AGM jump packs is just not fun. I want to like them and have given them multiple tries..

    I purchased this massive NOCO GB150 Li-Ion jump pack last week. When I say massive, I mean it. This is a Balmar 6-Series 150A alternator next to it!!

    Because it's winter, and I am not jumping too many boats, I purposely discharged the 12V battery on my wife's antique Mercedes 240D to 6.54V and attempted to start the car. This car is a 2.4L 4 cylinder diesel and the GB150 claims it will start 10L engines easily. Her car also has glow plugs and arguably needs a bit of cranking, sometimes two or three rounds when cold (diesels don't like cold), to get going. Guess what....??? The car did not start before I wiped out the GB150. The cars battery is now re-charging and the $400.00 NOCO may get boxed up and returned.

    Why NOCO would only stick 8Ah of capacity in this HUGE booster is beyond me. When I called tech support I was told many guys with diesels buy two of them... Ah, okay that's about $750.00 !!!!! This thing should easily fit 25+ Ah of Li-Ion cells.

    I will say this, the new GB150 is quite well built and is now using 200C (392F) 4AWG silicone wire. Silicone wire of this quality is expensive! I know, because I use it when building custom alternators...... It needs that type of wire to deliver the kind of impulse current that it can.

    While my test above was very abusive it is not to say these things won't start cars or trucks with smaller banks and no glow plugs. My use case, as a marine electrician, is clearly much more abusive on these things than the general population. I understand why they get mostly glowing reviews and that is because most are not expecting what I am from them.

    The optimal way to use these is to jump the smallest battery on-board eg: the "start battery", not the large house bank. We also work on power boats where the start batteries are often also house or very large 8D's. I don't want to have to physically disconnect batteries, not very easy on some boats, just to do the jump.

    These days I see a lot of folks deciding to forego a reserve/start bank in favor of a Li-Ion jump pack. After my trials and tribulations I would urge strong caution on this. Many boaters fail to recognize that a reserve/start battery is also reserve house power.. It should be thought of not just for emergency starting but also to run the entire boat should the house bank malfunction or short internally. There are members of this forum a house bank catastrophic failure has happened to...

    Just be forewarned that a Li-Ion jump pack may not always work and certainly does not have the capacity to run/power the boat in an emergency.. There is not a lot of Ah capacity in these things and some times not enough to be connected to a large depleted bank, then do glow, then start the motor before that capacity is wiped out. Even this massive one, with 8Ah, could not start my wife's 2.4L Mercedes, in winter, with the small starting battery at 6.5V.

    capta likes this.
  2. The Shadow Knows

    The Shadow Knows

    Joined Jun 10, 2017
    152 posts, 60 likes
    Catalina 1980 Catalina 30 Mk II
    US South Pasadena / Tampa Bay

    This is just my personal take but, until Li-On batteries are made completely safe & dependable,
    I REFUSE to use them.

    C'mon, these batteries have taken down at least one plane & exploded in cell phones at someone's ear causing death.
    Several people have died from just being on the phone let alone flying.

    So, is it smarter of going Old-School, or going with a yet-SAFE (?) Unconfirmed battery.

    It's a free choice.......

  3. Stu Jackson

    Stu Jackson

    Joined Feb 26, 2004
    20,528 posts, 946 likes
    Catalina 34
    224 CA Maple Bay, BC, Canada
    In addition, I've never understood the concept where someone would actually choose to use something that required wiring a separate device up instead of just turning a switch. Mindless. The only [partially] rational reason I've ever heard is that the owner could use it elsewhere in his life.

    Of course, if they don't work, then why ever bother?

  4. weinie


    Joined Sep 6, 2010
    1,298 posts, 264 likes
    Jeanneau 349
    US port washington, ny
    If you have 3 identical batteries, each one 100AH w you can have a single house/starter bank of 300AH, versus a 200AH house/starter bank with a 100 reserve.

    In four years of owning my current boat, i've never had to switch banks to start it. So to increase my capacity by 50 percent by buying a Li pack from amazon for a few bucks is a big deal... if it worked when I needed it.
    But after reading MS's previous post some time ago, I never bought one despite rave reviews and testimonies where 18 wheelers were started with apparent ease.



    Joined Jun 15, 2012
    453 posts, 32 likes
    Hunter 50 AC
    US Greenport, NY
    I am not surprised that the battery pack would not start a diesel engine. I was amazed that a pocket sized Winplus was able to start my 350Z after sitting unused for 6 months with a discharged battery.

  6. kloudie1


    Joined Nov 6, 2006
    8,320 posts, 765 likes
    Hunter 34
    US Mandeville Louisiana
    Soooo, if one were to turn the battery switch to "OFF" so that the dead battery is isolated from the engine and then connect the jumper + to the starter motor or + solenoid.. then engage the starter and start the engine.. then with the engine running and the jumper still attached, turn on the battery switch.. should work on older "mechanical only" diesels (no computer, no electric pump, no electric kill switch, etc) and with everything running , probably wouldn't fry the alternator when the battery is switched on..?? Just thinking out loud on how to make it work.

  7. jviss


    Joined Feb 5, 2004
    3,125 posts, 412 likes
    Tartan 3800
    US Westport, MA
    I wouldn't even try that. I'd disconnect the house bank and the dead starting battery, if possible, before I'd try to start the boat diesel with the Li-Ion pack. With your 1-2-BOTH-OFF wiring scheme, @Maine Sail , and an engine batt disconnect, this is easy to do.

  8. sesmith


    Joined Jul 1, 2010
    657 posts, 135 likes
    Seaward 25, Catalina 350
    US Ithaca, NY
    Timely post, Maine Sail, as I recently saw an ad for the Weego branded ones, and thought that would be easier and lighter than carrying my old Jump n Carry unit which has started my diesel tractor several times when it was dead.

    However, for the price of one of the better jump packs, one could install a group 27 auxiliary battery for such emergencies, and like Stu said, flip a switch. That doesn't help the guy who needs to go out in the cold and jump a customer's boat, though, so let us know when you find a good one that can be trusted to do the job.

  9. Head Sail

    Head Sail

    Joined Nov 13, 2013
    470 posts, 158 likes
    Catalina 34
    US Tacoma
    As others have said, if the battery is that severely depleted, (if 10.5v is 0 SoC, then 6.5v must be a battery killer) better to take the dead battery out of the circuit completely. Probably would have started with either pack.
    But then you would have to reconnect cables to a battery that may be shorted.

  10. Stu Jackson

    Stu Jackson

    Joined Feb 26, 2004
    20,528 posts, 946 likes
    Catalina 34
    224 CA Maple Bay, BC, Canada
    kloudie, maybe, maybe not.

    But, but, but...once the alternator gets going, it better have a place for the + to go. If the AO is wired to the house bank, not so good if the bank is truly dead (physically or chemically), rather than just very, very depleted, i.e., low SOC.
    If the house bank is wired to the C post of the 1-2-B switch, and the switch is off, the AO has nowhere to go. Not a good idea.
    The AO always needs somewhere, uninterrupted, to go.

  11. kloudie1


    Joined Nov 6, 2006
    8,320 posts, 765 likes
    Hunter 34
    US Mandeville Louisiana
    Good thoughts, Stu.. I am not an alternator guy, but if the field is not energized, it seems like there'd be no output.. depends a lot on how things are wired up in the individual boat, I guess..

  12. Maine Sail

    Maine Sail Moderator

    Joined Feb 6, 1998
    10,950 posts, 747 likes
    Canadian Sailcraft 36T
    US Casco Bay, ME

    We are surrounded daily with Li-Ion....

    I have seen far more dangerous explosions and unsafe failures of lead acid on and around boats than I have with Li-Ion. The failure rates you speak of are infinitesimal compared to the number of Li-Ion batteries that are out there. They are in everything these days. I can't even count how many Li-Ion batteries we have at our house but, it is likely over 50...

    4 Li-Ion Laptops
    1 Li-Ion Chromebook
    19 M-12 & M-18 Li-Ion power tool batteries
    6 Li-Ion powered tablets
    5 Li-Ion powered cell phones
    3 Li-Ion powered watches
    6 Li-Ion Home Phones
    1 Li-Ion photo frame
    1 Li-Ion Powered Tooth Brush
    1 Li-Ion Powered Beard Trimmer
    1 Li-Ion Powered dog groomer / clipper
    2 Li-Ion portable back-up battery packs for phones/tablets
    6 Li-Ion powered camping lights
    3 Li-Ion Bluetooth Headphone/Headsets
    2 Li-Ion VHF batteries
    2 Li-Ion Bluetooth portable speakers
    3 Li-Ion portable GPS batteries
    2 Li-Ion dog collars
    1 Li-Ion portable jump pack
    1 Li-Ion house bank
    Lots of - Li-Ion prismatic cells
    3 Li-Ion "drop-in" marine test batteries
    15 Li-Ion Remote Control (RC) car batteries
    8 Li-Ion camera batteries
    2 Li-Ion video recorder batteries
    3 Li-Ion CO detectors
    1 Li-Ion thermostat
    etc. etc....

    With the exception of marine Li-Ion batteries I don't think our household is all that unique in the number of Li-Ion batteries we have around here........

    Not a single failure.....

  13. Maine Sail

    Maine Sail Moderator

    Joined Feb 6, 1998
    10,950 posts, 747 likes
    Canadian Sailcraft 36T
    US Casco Bay, ME
    That would be the easiest way for the jump pack to start the motor but imposes other problems. The simple solution, when dealing with a large bank, is to jump the smallest battery you can even if it means physically disconnecting parallel wired batteries.

  14. jviss


    Joined Feb 5, 2004
    3,125 posts, 412 likes
    Tartan 3800
    US Westport, MA
    This is not necessarily the case, @Stu Jackson . What will happen with an alternator with no battery and is that the output voltage will go up - to 90, perhaps 100+V. The problem is that if there are electronics connected to that circuit they could fry. The alternator will likely be fine.

    In this case, of a dead house and a dead start battery, I would turn off the house main breaker, disconnect the start battery, and energize just the engine electronics (panel) and starter. It would be best to be able to turn the regulator off as well, so you don't have an immediate large load on the engine when you start. Mine has soft-start, but even that may be too soon.

    I'm not sure how my new boat is wired in this respect. It has the Maine Sale 1-2-Both setup, but I confess I don't know where the engine panel gets its power. I think it's on the starter circuit.

  15. Stu Jackson

    Stu Jackson

    Joined Feb 26, 2004
    20,528 posts, 946 likes
    Catalina 34
    224 CA Maple Bay, BC, Canada
    Agreed. But unless someone has said that the regulator has been disconnected, which they haven't, then the alternator will have been "requested" by the regulator to "produce." Folks using separate battery packs may not think to shut off the regulator.

  16. jviss


    Joined Feb 5, 2004
    3,125 posts, 412 likes
    Tartan 3800
    US Westport, MA
    By the way, me and my family all have the Anker 10 Ah 400A peak kits. These work really well. We've started 6 cylinder and 4 cylinder cars easily with this.

  17. Gunni


    Joined Mar 16, 2010
    5,943 posts, 1,489 likes
    Beneteau 411 Oceanis
    US Annapolis
    If you kill your house battery, and you kill your starter battery, you have reached “Plan C” and it probably should be something more robust than a 2Ah boutique Li ion booster and the need to put your electrical system at risk. My starter battery remains charged but disconnected and voltage monitored until needed in an emergency. Today it gets another test start up. On a cruise I lug the old jump starter with 18 Ah AGM aboard and it easily clips up to a dead starter battery and gets me going. Don’t think that would work if I was trying to use it with a 500 Ah house battery. You have to have a dedicated small starter battery to apply the jump.

    sesmith likes this.

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