Introducing The MEGA-LiFe Battery: An Ultra Light-Weight Lithium-Ion Battery – Product Overview, Impressions & Trail Review
As a self-proclaimed “overlander”, I am always looking for ways to improve my rig to better suit my needs and solve problems that I’ve encountered on the trail. In other words, I create problems for myself by adding more gear and then have to look for ways to fix them.
One perfect example to illustrate this “bad habit” is the overnight consumption of electricity. I keep my IceCo JP42 refrigerator in the back of my rig permanently and have been spoiled by it. When I drive the 4Runner to work, the fridge is always running and stocked. To power the fridge while the vehicle is not on, I use a Baldr 500W Portable Power Station. At home, I run an extra-long extension cord to both charge the Baldr and power the fridge.
I could just ditch the fridge and buy cold drinks, but did I mention that I am a self-proclaimed overlander? So, taking out the fridge was not going to work.
The process of plugging everything in at night worked fine for a while until I started tripping myself (and my landlord) several times. That’s when I began searching for a more permanent solution and came across MEGA-LiFe batteries.
Find It Online:
- MEGA-LiFe Direct: Check Price
The Possible Solutions
When I started my search for an upgraded battery option, I had a few factors to consider:
- Battery life – I prefer a system that I can just set and forget for a while.
- Weight – I didn’t want to upgrade my suspension as a result.
- Cost – I didn’t want to break the bank.
- Easy to install – I work at a shop and my specialty is electrical wiring. The last thing I want to do is to spend hours on this with my personal vehicle.
- Easy to use – I need to be able to start my vehicle without using a jumper.
There are a few tried and true solutions that are readily available for someone looking to upgrade their electrical system. However, they did not fit the bill for me due to the following reasons:
- Bigger Battery
- I will still need to use a jumper if the battery is dead
- Battery box modifications are required.
- Limited battery lifespan
- Dual Battery
- Extra weight
- Long installation time
- Limited battery lifespan
Then, I stumbled upon MEGA-LiFe batteries, which tick most of the boxes I stated earlier:
- A longer lifespan compared to traditional batteries
- Higher charge capacity
- Built-in reserve bank to start the vehicle
What is MEGA-LiFe?
The ‘LiFe’ in MEGA·LiFe batteries refers to the Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) chemistry used. LiFePO4 or LFP batteries retain all the benefits of a conventional lithium battery but are significantly safer and are not prone to the overheating and explosive issues found in other chemistries (LIPO or lithium polymer chemistry found in mobile phones for example). MegaLifeBattery.com
MEGA-LiFe is the result of a collaboration between BuddyClub (a Japanese racecar parts manufacturer) and Australian engineering firm Nine-W. In the beginning, MEGA-LiFe was developed for racecars for its lightweight and durability. Now, it can be found in all kinds of vehicle applications including motorcycles, streetcars, off-road rigs, and even boats.
I chose MEGA-LiFe for several reasons:
- If it is good enough to be on trophy-winning racecars, then it will be more than enough for my overland rig
- Growing up under Japanese cultural influence, I know Japanese products are reliable. I mean, look at the 4Runner!
- One-touch emergency reserve bank means that I do not need to use a jumper to start my rig should the battery die on me
- Note: Some other brands offer similar functionality with a remote switch. However, a remote switch can fail due to, ironically, a failed remote battery, and render the entire system useless.
- Lightweight – Only 16lbs!
- 15-minute charge time from completely drained to full compared to 4-6 hours with regular batteries
- 5-10 years of battery life compared to 1-3 years with regular batteries
- Built-in Battery Management System with short circuit protection
- Waterproof and shockproof
Of course, not all products are perfect, and there is one glaring issue with this one; cost. A regular battery can cost anywhere between $80 to $300, whereas the MEGA-LiFe is $799. However, the long-term benefit outweighs the cost for me.
Take Optima Red Top for example, which costs about $260 at the time of writing. It will cost me about $780 if I replace it every three years in a 10-year span. For $20 more, I can have an over-engineered battery that can handle everything I throw at it. Plus, it can self-revive if I accidentally drain it. That is $20 well spent!
Each battery comes wrapped in protective foam sheets in the box and is held in place by more foam blocks. Overpackaged? Yes, but that’s a good thing because this shows that each battery is thoroughly protected during storage and transit.
In addition, I couldn’t believe how lightweight the battery actually was. I read that it was light, but I underestimated the real-world weight savings. The group 24-sized MEGA-LiFe weighs in at around 16 lbs, while a regular group 24-sized battery can weigh anywhere between 43-57 lbs. That is about 1/3 of the original weight!
Installation of the battery is the easiest thing to do on the 4Runner. Below is a list of things needed to install this battery.
- 10mm socket or wrench
- Towel and rubber band/ zip-tie
- A friend (if you want to do it my way)
I chose to leave my vehicle running while swapping out the battery since I track my maintenance through mileage recorded in Trip B and my per tank mileage through Trip A. If I turn off the vehicle and unplug the battery, I lose all of that plus my stored radio stations (and my navigation settings as well).
Important: Be incredibly careful if you choose to do it this way. If you accidentally touch the live (red) cable with the body of the vehicle or the ground (black) cable, you may do irreversible damage to your vehicle. I will not be held responsible if you choose to do it this way.
Step 1. Uninstall Original Battery
I had a friend help me during the battery swap, and it made the complete process a lot easier. Start by loosening the 10mm nuts holding the J-hooks that secure your battery tie-down and put them aside. Next, remove the J-hook and the tie-down. Loosen the 10mm nut securing the live cable terminal to the battery and detach the cable from the battery. Wrap a towel around the terminal and secure it with a rubber band or zip tie. Repeat the same steps for the ground cable.
Step 2. Remove The Original Battery
Before you remove the battery, I strongly recommend having a friend hold the live (red) cable out of the way for you. This will minimize any chance of the cable moving around and touching anything during the installation process. I recommend wrapping a towel around the cable terminal as an insurance policy. Be extremely careful when you remove the battery from the battery tray. It is very heavy, and you do risk injuring your back if lifted the wrong way.
Step 3. Install MEGA-LiFe Battery
Once the old battery is out, put the MEGA-LiFe battery into the battery tray in the correct orientation. When facing the windshield, the live (red) terminal cap should be on the left (passenger side) and the ground (blue) terminal cap on the driver side. Remove the ground cap and install the ground (black) cable with the 10mm nut that was removed earlier. Repeat the same steps for the live (red) side.
Now, reinstall the battery tiedown system by reversing the removal steps from earlier. Make sure the J-hooks are hooked to the holes on the bottom of the battery tray before tightening both 10mm nuts. Once everything is installed, double-check your work and work area to make sure there are no leftover parts. Finally, make sure everything is properly tightened.
Step 4. Test The New Battery
With the hood still open, start your vehicle to ensure you have done the installation correctly.
MEGA-LiFe Battery Review
A few things were immediately noticeable to me after the installation. First, crank-starting the 4Runner is a completely new experience. I like to compare the crank starting experience with how we wake up in the morning. With regular batteries, cranking the engine feels like you are waking up unexcited on a weekday. With the MEGA-LiFe, cranking the engine feels like you are waking up to go on an overland trip; overly excited and cannot wait to start.
The second improvement is the holding voltage. I installed a Blue Sea System OLED Voltage meter in the trunk where I mount all of my accessories. The voltage meter read an impressive 13v for the battery. With my previous battery, the battery would read mid to low 12v after a few hours.
Without getting too technical, both my old battery and MEGA-LiFe will run my fridge overnight with a low 60F ambient temperature. However, the MEGA-LiFe ensures that I can also run my camp lights late into the night while the old battery could not.
The least impressive feature is the self-jump function. I have not personally experienced the need for this function on my rig yet. Before picking mine up, I tested this function on a friend’s rig with the same battery. We drained the battery by leaving all the LED lights (total of 12 various sized LED bars and pods) on through the night.
It is mind-blowing to see this function at work; you hear the empty click as you try to crank the engine and realize the battery is out of juice. Then, you pop the hood, press the button on the battery, and go back to the driver’s seat to start the engine. Like magic, it cranks right up! Drive for 15 minutes and you will have a full battery again. I no longer have to worry about overusing my battery during overnight trips.
Having owned my 4Runner for 5 years, I am slowly transitioning my build away from the minimalist approach. During a weeklong trip in the Summer, my Baldr 500 died on me every night which spoiled my food. That was followed by my main battery not wanting to start after being stationary for one full day while the fridge was running off of it. I have also had that same 2-year-old battery die on me in Death Valley after camping overnight with a high of 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
I grew tired of the various problems that I encountered every year on solo overlanding trips and was getting discouraged going on them. To me, the biggest benefit of MEGA-LiFe is the self-revive button and larger charge capacity. I will not have to worry about my fridge and camp lighting draining my battery and leaving me stranded.
Other benefits such as weight savings and fast charging time are nice, but I didn’t notice much real-world difference. Sure, lighter weight means an easier installation process, but the next time I touch it will be 10 years from now. The MPG savings that I was hoping for did not deliver and there was no noticeable difference in driving dynamics either.
So, if you are going down the “overlander” route and run lots of accessories while the vehicle is off, I strongly recommend that you take a look at MEGA-LiFe. If you want something that is truly maintenance-free and will last for a decade, you won’t find a better option.
However, if you do not mind replacing your starting battery every other year or just going on day trips here and there, then the MEGA-LiFe may not be the right fit for you.