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Discussion Starter #1
Good Evening All,

I'm finally at a point where I can stop lurking and ask a question. I'm finally ready to upgrade my LiFePo4 charging / balancing set up and was hoping to get some insight from anyone who knows a little about the FMA CellPower PowerLab line.

I'm set on getting a PowerLab 8 so I can get diagnostics on my PC, but there's a sale right now that's kind of throwing my initial decision.

The Revolectrix USA OEM store website and ProgressiveRC website are both discounting the Dual PowerLab 8x2 model (two connected v1 versions) to $260ish and selling the new "v2" version of the single PowerLab 8 for $240ish. That means I can get 2 of the same-ish unit, albeit the v1 version, for only $20 more. Does anyone here know this brand well enough to give a little advice on choosing? Would it make more sense to get the Dual even though it's an older version or should I go with the single?

I've sent a customer service question to them to find out more of a discrete difference between the v1 and v2, but haven't heard back yet.

I didn't post links since I'm assuming it'd be against the forum policy but the pages are pretty easy to pull up. I'm grateful for any pointers.

Thanks a bunch all.
 

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I had the PL8 V2 and now have the Dual PL8. They are the same charger despite the PL8's "V2". The V2 simply means it's the upgraded version of the original PL8. The PL8 went V2 maybe 5-7 years ago. The DPL8 came out about a year or so after that. Since the DPL8 came along after the PL8 V2, it simply contains two, V2 PL8's in the same case. Neither one are "new" by any stretch. I believe the only difference between the original V1 PL8 and the V2 Pl8 was a firmware upgrade allowing more charge power. The FMA chargers do allow operation via a PC which I always use. If you don't have the PC interface running, the 2-line display makes operating the charger kind of clunky, lots of button pushes, in my humble opinion. You also get "graphing" with the FMA chargers. I don't think I'd call it diagnostics, though. Your mileage may vary on this.

FMA has just started delivering their "New" touchscreen PL6's, PL8's and DPL8's. A "Bump Controller" is built into them. A bump controller reads RFID tags attached to battery packs and automatically initiates a charge based on what data you programmed the RFID tag with. It tracks data attached to that tag so you know all kinds of info about the battery pack.

I also have an iCharger 4010. Progressive RC also sells this brand. If you're always going to be charging packs with balance harnesses, then the PL8/DPL8 is a good choice. If you want to charge packs that are not balance harness equipped, then the FMA chargers are very restrictive in what you can do charge power-wise. They take a VERY conservative safety approach with their chargers. You can charge 1 and 2S packs unbalanced at very low power levels. You cannot charge any 3S and larger non-balance harness equipped Series'd packs-period, end of story. I find myself using my iCharger probably 8 times out of 10 vs my DPL8. If you will be doing a lot of high power discharging, then the iCharger is a better choice. If you are using a battery as your power supply for the charger, both chargers do regenerative discharging back into the source battery pack. Icharger can discharge the battery on channel 1 back into a resistive load you have attached to channel 2. The FMA charger will not do this. Both brands can discharge internal to the charger but at only about 100 to 120 Watts per channel. The FMA chargers use up to an Amp in balancing current whereas the iCharger is 1.2 Amps. With the iCharger, you can combine channels for a 2.4 Amp balance current. And of course the FMA chargers can charge up to 8S packs whereas the iCharger can charge 10S packs. The iCharger can combine channels 1 and two for a 70 Amp max charger current. The FMA cannot do this and is max'd at 40 Amps per channel. Go to Progressive RC's web site and open up two tabs. Bring up the DPL8 and the 4010 and click on the "specifications" tab on each. Compare features and power levels. The iChargers Synchronous mode provides significantly higher charge and discharge capabilities.

If you are doing only balanced charging and you can get the DPL8 for near the PL8 cost, and you're set on an FMA, then I'd go with the DPL8. If you'll need to do unbalanced charging, I'd look into the iCharger 4010. I think the PL8 will do Node Only charging whereas the DPL8 will not. Meaning you can charge thru the balance harness only at small currents.

To sum it up, if I could have only 1 charger, it would definitely be the iCharger 4010. The FMA's are just to restrictive if you have only one charger.

Hope this helps you.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Whoa quick response! I'm I've spent a good hour trying to find an actual defined spec difference between the v1 and v2 and you've managed to give me the info in 10min or so.

This is exactly the type of info that I was looking for.Thank you BVH! And come to think I was so set on the PowerLab 8 vs the iCharger4010 you're starting to turn me back around again haha.

As for the balanced vs unbalanced charging, TBH I've only been doing a single cell at a time and top balancing each cell before reassembling back into the pack so I haven't done a proper balancing harness setup, but with a new charger I'm hoping to learn and get there. I'm still in my beginning stages I'd say as far as learning (other project took priority for the winter) so I've kept it cheap and simple over the winter, but I'm ready to expand my horizons coming into spring.

Is there anything else I should consider between these two brands? They seemed to be relatively equal otherwise (besides the reserved safety settings and the displays / PC connectivity). I'll probably be upgrading my 12v power supply to a 24v as well and have thought that the Mean Well RSP-1500-24 was a good option to actually future proof my tool set.

I can't say thank you enough. This was my first post so I was a little nervous with what I thought was a simple/dumb question.
 

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Read my response again. I have added a bunch of info. And the more I add, the more I'd go for the iCharger again if I was in your situation. There's just more flexibility and charge current, balance current and discharge capabilities. But even if you're dealing with only single cells, the FMA is limited because you're not using a balance harness. What a shame to cripple a fantastic charger.

I have a couple of LiFeP04 9-cell 100 Ah packs. I cannot charge them with the DPL8. What size packs are you working with? The larger your pack capacity, the more important balance current is as it relates to how long it takes to balance the cells. Almost two and a half times the the current, can mean less than half the time spent balancing.

Are you familiar with RCGroups forum? If not, there's a merchant member there that sells recycled Meanwells for real cheap. He has a very good reputation and his merchandise, both 12V and 24V, are of very good quality.
 

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I forgot to mention that the 4010 is very sensitive to clean, non-fluctuating input power. There were some early charger failures when they were powered with Series'd server power supplies. And if one supply fails, there's a good chance you'll have some charger damage. Something to think about when you choose a power supply. A single, 24 Volt supply would be safer. I use the Iota 24V/45A unit.
 

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That is exactly what I do. I run it off one of my 29V/100Ah LiFeP04 packs. I use the 4010 or DPL8 to recharge it powered by the Iota. I use these two 100Ah packs to power my 1000 and 1600 Watt aviation and military Short Arc searchlights and to feed a 1500 Watt Full Sine Wave inverter during power outages.
 

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I meant as the source power to feed the iCharger.

Mains charger (if needed) to

large AH capacity, high quality true deep cycling Battery bank, to

iCharger, to

LFP cells being tested, balanced etc
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thank you again BVT! I'll check out the RCGroup forums for power sources as well. I think I'm going to go with the iCharger over the FMA. If I'm feeling like I'm missing out later on I'll keep an eye on eBay for an FMA and probably pick one up as well.

I have been keeping an eye on my LiFePo4 pack in "storage" and noticed I have 2 cells that are really low on voltage so I'm going to try and determine the health of these as I learn more.
 

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There's a member there that designed and is marketing a "coolice" device that is supposed to protect your charger if one of the two server supplies takes a dump. His member name is the same: coolice Might be a good insurance purchase for any charger you get that will run from Series'd supplies.
 

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Could I please get some feedback on running the iCharger off an upstream battery bank?

There will be (many) times I'm off grid wanting to test or do maintenance on LFP packs.

Assuming solar or a genny keeps the bank from dropping too low, is it safe to assume the large source bank will buffer any variations enough?

Or should it really only be run off a grid power supply like MeanWell?
 

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John, I thought my previous post supplied what you needed? Here is my recommendation: For the safest scenario for the charger, run the icharger directly off the large battery bank by itself. Don't be supplying charge power to the battery bank at the same time with a mains charger. Yes, the large bank may buffer any voltage fluctuations from the mains charger but I don't know if it would buffer enough. Then re-charge the battery bank with the mains charger after you've finished using and disconnected the charger from the battery bank. The icharger does not like input voltage fluctuations. Same with other chargers but the icharger seems to be more sensitive.
 

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OK thanks. Only problem then is when I'm working with LFP cells at larger capacity than my "production" lead bank. But that'll likely be rare, just get myself to mains for that.

The mains chargers I usually use are very robust, in fact some have a "power supply" mode, but I think buffering through the bank is still a good idea.

Sorry didn't make a connection with the coolice recommendation since I'm not serialing PS, no idea about "servers"?
 

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I agree that when you have to use the mains, buffering thru the bank is better than straight to charger. It's the second-best way to protect the charger.
 
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