If you’ve not got the room or ability to have a permanent 12-volt system, the Dometic PLB40 might just be the product you’ve been waiting for…
Some of us have the luxury of a full-time dedicated adventure rig that stays set up, and we don’t really use it for much else aside from trips away from the daily grind. Others though, and I’m going to say most of us, use our four-wheel drives for many purposes. Whether it be as a tradie ute, family wagon, or you just need the room for activities other than getting off the grid.
With this in mind, I thought I’d have a look at, and put it through its paces, Dometic’s newest bit of kit; the PLB40 portable lithium battery system. Weighing in at under 8kg, this little jigger has enough juice to run a fridge for a couple of days; most likely enough for a full weekend away with the family in tow and takes up bugger all room.
First impressions we’re honestly more than a little reserved; “How’s this little thing going to keep the fridge running for a weekend?!”. Suffice it to say I finished the weekend with a hat sandwich – this is a magic bit of kit; let me tell you why.
You’ll see how big the unit is in the photos around the article, but it’s about the size of a four-litre juice bottle. It’s a rather solid little box that houses a 40Ah 12-volt lithium (LiFePO4) battery. It’s got an inbuilt three-way charging system, so it’ll charge from the 12V socket in your four-wheel drive, off a solar panel, or you can plug it into 240V mains power to charge up – it takes five hours to fully charge from flat. It’s got an in-built LCD display that lets you know how much power you’ve got in the battery as you charge it, this too keeps you in the know on how quickly you’re using it up. It’s also IP44 rated, so it’s pretty well water and dust sealed – protected against water splash from any angle.
There are three outputs on the PLB40 – you’ve got a standard 12V ciggy socket, two-pin 12V socket and a dual USB port too. As I said earlier, this little thing only weighs 7.5kg being lithium, so it’s easy to lug around with you – a regular deep-cycle battery weighs more than 20kg. Being lithium, aside from the weight savings, it more efficiently delivers power, maintaining voltage until it’s just about flat, and the battery itself will cycle many times more than the standard lead-acid we’re used to using.
Now to cost. Okay, so this little box retails at around $1000. Sounds pretty steep, right? Except when you think about it this way – a top-quality 100Ah lithium battery on its own is around the $2000 mark (sure, you get a cheap one, well, cheaper). So, you’re getting just under half the amp hour rating, with three different ways to charge it, with three different output methods. And it’s portable – add or remove it from your four-wheel drive as you need it. When you think of having a lithium charger, low voltage cut-off solenoid, all the wiring to go along with it, and the installation of the gear, this actually works out cheaper.
Wes’ thoughts and how we tested it
My initial thought was this just isn’t for me. I’ve got a dedicated play/work vehicle that will always have a dedicated 12V setup. But I’ve just bought a HiLux, and up until I can find the time (and money) to install a full 12V setup, this thing is an absolute pearler. Especially considering I’ve already pressed the HiLux into service as my new long-distance rig, heading 900-odd kilometres up to Toowoomba recently. Without a hard-mounted 12V setup, I had no way to keep the beers cool or the meat from spoiling.
Although it was just about charged to 100 per cent before leaving, the great thing about the PLB40 is that it can be plugged into the vehicle and charging while you’re driving. You can, in turn, have a fridge plugged into it and being powered. According to Dometic, the PLB40 was designed with its CFX 40W (41L) fridges in mind and can run one of them for more than 40 hours on a single charge.
For our test, we had it plugged into a little back-seat mounted 15-litre car fridge which was left in the back of my HiLux for 36-hours straight in 35-degree heat. And it worked incredibly well. When I checked on it as I was breaking camp, it still had 42 per cent power remaining. Yep, I was surprised too – So I’d used a little over 20Ah of the available 40Ah in 36 hours. Not sure about you, but in my book, it makes it just about perfect for those quick weekend camping runs.
The other side of the coin, apart from being able to use it without needing a hard-mounted 12V system, is the ability to pack it in the back of the four-wheel drive and take it fishing. Say I want to head down for a fish on a beach or rocks that I can’t legally take the four-wheel drive down, I can have this in one hand, one end of the fridge in the other, and the better half and I can lob the whole lot down wherever we want to go, instead of having to head back up to the ‘Lux for a drink.
As I said before, this setup isn’t for everyone, but it’d make a great addition to the camping gear for a lot of folks – strangely enough, despite having arguably some of the worlds angriest 12V systems over the years, I’m finding that I’m one of them.
Dometic PLB40 Specifications
POWER RATING 40Ah / 512Wh
POWER TECHNOLOGY LiFePO4
WEATHER RATING IP44
OUTPUT CURRENT 15.0A
DIMENSIONS 197mm x 257mm x 197mm
PRICED AT Around $950.00 depending on retailer
This article was originally published in Unsealed 4X4 Issue 70