I’ve been a huge proponent of lithium-based portable power stations since they started making an appearance on the Australian market about six years ago. My first one was a Bluetti EB55, which formed the basis for an article in GoRV detailing this emerging technology.
Essentially, these power stations are self-contained systems with their own inbuilt battery, MPPT solar controller, a DC charger, 240V charging, a 240V inverter, and USB and 12V outlets. In a modern world where so much of our lives involves the use of electronic conveniences, they have become extremely popular and the technology is improving all the time.
SIZE VS CAPACITY
When shopping for a portable lithium power system, it is important to understand that the higher the capacity of the battery, the larger the unit must be. My Bluetti EB55 offered a good compromise with a useful 537-watt-hour (Wh) LiFePO battery and 700W inverter output. The new AC60 has a slightly lower 403Wh battery capacity and a 600W 240V inverter. This may seem like a step backwards but, in reality, the AC60 has other improvements that more than make up for this reduction.
First, the 240V AC charger is now built into the AC60, whereas with the EB55, it was a separate unit. Further, the AC60’s inverter has what Bluetti call ‘Power Lifting Mode’, which allows the 240V inverter to be used with high-power resistive loads up to 1200W. That is a staggering capability for such a small power station.
The other major change is the AC60’s battery capacity can be expanded by connecting up to two Bluetti B80 external expansion batteries. With a capacity of 806Wh each, the AC60 can have a 2015Wh total battery capacity. That is an incredible amount of battery reserve for such a small unit. It means you could set up the AC60 as a high-capacity backup battery at home and take just the base unit away with you for your camping and caravanning adventures.
BLUETTI: DESIGNED TO SURVIVE
Bluetti has shown that it understands its customers’ needs, particularly in Australia where our style of touring occurs in harsh outback conditions. With that, the AC60 is the first portable power station to be built to IP65 standard, making it water-resistant and dust-proof. I can’t begin to describe to you just how reassuring it is to have that level of confidence in a product that I use in a variety of situations and conditions.
On top of that, the AC60 feels very robust and well made. The carry handle is much stronger than the EB55’s and features contoured rubber grips. All the outlets have thick rubber covers and the base has four large rubber pads on the feet. The controls are simple, with just three large illuminated buttons that you can even use while wearing gloves. The AC60 looks and feels like a well-made, durable product.
FOR THE GEEK IN US ALL
If you like your gadgets as much as I do, you’re going to love the Bluetti control app for smart devices that support the AC60. I really missed this feature on the EB55 and having it on the AC60 brings a smile to my face.
The app is simple and intuitive. All of the AC60’s functions and settings can be accessed through the app and you can see at a glance how much power is being generated to recharge the unit as well as how much power you’re using and, subsequently, how much time remaining you have until the battery runs out.
The app also allows you to set the mains charging level to one of three modes: Standard, Silent and Turbo. I found this feature more useful than I imagined. For instance, if you want to recharge the AC60 overnight inside your van, you can set it to Silent mode, which reduces the charge rate, allowing the cooling fan to run much slower than normal.
More importantly, if you’re free camping and you need to recharge the AC60 from your caravan’s inverter, you can set the charge level to suit the available solar you have, limiting the impact on recharging your van’s batteries.
Set to Turbo mode, the AC60 will recharge from dead flat to 100 per cent in around 1.5 hours.
I’ve been saying for some time that these lithium portable power stations are ideal for caravanners, especially those with older vans that may not have a decent 12V system. You can plug your van’s 240V cable directly into one of these and power your van’s appliances as long as they fall within the unit’s inverter capacity.
The Bluetti AC60 expands on this by providing two 15A Australian power sockets as standard, meaning you can just plug your van’s 15A cable directly into the AC60 without needing a 15-10A adaptor, such as an Ampfibian.
The AC60 also retains the EB55’s excellent rear work light. This features a diffused lens cover that spreads the light evenly, making it ideal for illuminating those late-night repair jobs.
Another carryover feature is the wireless charging station on the top of the AC60 which worked with my iPhone. It also features a single USB-C outlet with up to 100W output. It easily recharged my MacBook Pro.
LONGEVITY AND SAFETY
The AC60 is built to last a long time. A key to this is that Bluetti uses LiFePO batteries whereas many other brands use lithium ion batteries. LiFePO batteries are much safer than lithium ion. They also last a lot longer – they can be recharged over 3000 times before reaching 80 per cent of their initial capacity.
Much of this extraordinary battery life can also be attributed to the improved battery management system, which does a much better job of managing simultaneous power output and charging input. It’s a subtle change but I noticed a difference when I was powering our Starlink system from the AC60 while also charging from an external solar panel.
Bluetti also now offers an industry-leading six-year warranty on the AC60. That shows a lot of confidence in these products, making them very good value for money.
The Bluetti AC60 is a great example of just how far these lithium portable power stations have developed in such a short amount of time. My EB55 was barely two years old and there was nothing wrong with it, but I love the AC60 as it has all the features I wished for in the EB55, plus a lot more. It is a much better product that is ideally suited to travellers touring Australia.
The ability to expand the AC60 with Bluetti’s B80 external batteries just adds to its versatility. With the expanded battery capacity, it will function as a large backup power supply at home, a rugged power system for the backyard shed, or just take the base unit in the knowledge it will have the power you need on your camping holidays.
In my opinion, it’s Bluetti’s best portable power station yet.