For many, the days of wet groceries in the bottom of an esky with ice are over. More and more people are investing in a 12-volt fridge for their camping adventures. The question is: what’s the best way to power it while travelling? Powering that fridge without draining your car’s starter battery means getting a separate 12-volt power supply. Perfect for weekend adventures, the Bluetti B80 expansion battery is just what you need.
Whether you need to power a portable fridge, your phone and laptop, or any other small devices, the B80 is an easy-to-use solution while on the road.
Powering a 12-volt fridge with the Bluetti B80
We have previously reviewed several Bluetti power stations, like the expandable AC200Max unit. These devices can provide both 240-volt AC power and 12-volt power, enabling you to run appliances when you’re away from mains power outlets. The Bluetti B80 expansion battery is primarily designed to add additional battery capacity to one of these power stations that include an inverter for 240W power.
However, the B80 does not have an inverter, but it does have a 12-volt cigarette outlet in addition to a USB-C and USB-A outlet. The 12-volt cig outlet is capable of 10 amps or 120-watt output, which is more than enough to run a camping or car fridge. This device is ideal if you don’t need 240-volt power and also want to charge a laptop, tablet, or phone. If you need to change down the track, you could buy another Bluetti power station, such as an AC180 or EB3A and use the B80 as an expansion battery giving you the best of both worlds.
Alternatives to power your 12-Volt fridge:
If you are driving while your fridge is on, you can plug into the 12-volt accessory/cig socket. The advantage is you already have the car, and nothing else needs to be purchased. While you can technically still supply power to the fridge when the car is off, you risk draining your vehicle’s start battery and ending up stranded. Most 12v fridges have a safety feature that will power them off if a battery goes lower than a certain voltage. However a start battery is not designed to power appliances over long periods; instead, they are designed to provide a high current briefly to start an engine.
Your next option is to build a solution from parts or a kit. This will require a battery, cables, fuses, switches, sockets, a battery monitor, and mounting hardware. Although this is a very popular solution, it requires expertise or extra expense to have it installed. On the likes of iTechworld, you can find kits starting at $1,449 with a 105Ah battery. This solution is permanent in your vehicle in most cases.
A portable power station is perfect, such as the units available from Ecoflow or Bluetti that include a 240-volt inverter. However, the inverter adds to the cost and weight. Prices start around the $1,100 mark, which enables you to run a fridge for a day.
Then there’s the 12-volt portable power solution. These all-in-one boxes include the battery, battery meter, 12-volt and USB outlets and safety mechanisms to stop something going wrong.
Here are several options picked from the various methods, with prices correct at the time of publishing.
Dometic $949 40Ah
Bluetti B80 $999 67Ah
Companion $1,299 100Ah
iTechworld $1,449 105Ah
KickAss $1,499 120Ah
Redarc GoBlock $3,198 100Ah
All these power stations run using lithium batteries which have more power, are lighter and will last longer (lifetime). Ah stands for Amp hours and, along with Wh, is a unit of measure of their capacity. The larger the number, the longer the battery will last. An average fridge will draw 40 watts or 3.3 Amps an hour. (Volts x Amps = Watts)
What are the Bluetti B80 features?
The weather-resistant Bluetti B80 is a standalone 12-volt power supply or an expansion battery for other Bluetti power stations. It has a LiFePO4 (Lithium Iron Phosphate) battery capacity of 806Wh, equivalent to 67Ah. The unit is highly portable, weighing just under 10kg and measuring 29 x 20 x21cm.
806Wh would run a 12v fridge for around a day and a half (fridge size and temperature dependent), charge a laptop ten times or a smartphone or GoPro more than 40 times.
The B80 is weather resistant with an IP65 rating, meaning it can withstand a rain shower or a dusty environment. It has an industry-leading six-year warranty, and its batteries are good for over 3,000 cycles. If you recharge it every day for almost 10 years, it will still provide more than 80% of its original capacity. Many other vendors use cheaper lithium batteries which are lighter but will have a life of around three years, like a smartphone.
The controls are very simple on this power supply with a master on-off button and a further DC on/off. Battery capacity is via five led lights, each indicating 20% capacity increments (20-40-60-80-100).
Unfortunately, Bluetti packages this product only with a cable to connect to an AC60 power station. To recharge, you must purchase either a 200W AC adapter for $149, a car charging cable for $19, or a yet-to-be-released solar cable. The maximum recharge rate is 200W meaning it would take around five hours to charge by 240v or solar (prime sunshine) or nine hours from your car. A Bluetti 200W solar panel retails for $819.
The B80 was designed as an expansion battery for the Bluetti AC60 power station. When connected with the included cable, it will receive and send power to the AC60, acting as if the two units were one. The display on the AC60 calculates the available charge and time to empty or full based on the combined 1209Wh.
The B80 will expand the capacity of the Bluetti EB3A, EB70, and AC180 power stations. You must purchase an Aviation Plug To DC7909 for $59 to achieve this. (Update: Bluetti will ship this cable with the B80 from September 2023). The power button must be held to activate the B80 as an expansion battery until it starts to flash green. This will then activate power to your attached power station at a charging rate of just under 200 watts. The power station will charge at this rate until the B80 is empty or the receiving power station is 100%.
If you have an EB3A, EB55, EB70, or AC180 to recharge the B80, you can use the power station’s supplied solar or car charger; otherwise, you must purchase the 200w AC adapter referenced in the previous section. A trick is to charge the B80 with the car charger cable attached to your power station, which will charge around 100 watts. Your power station could be charging from mains or solar simultaneously.
Who is the Bluetti B80 for?
The portable 10kg Bluetti B80 is sold as an expansion battery for Bluetti’s range of portable power stations. I, however, believe it is an excellent standalone 12-volt power solution. It’s well built, will survive the rain and dust of Australia and comes with a generous warranty and a 10-year battery life.
Priced at less than $1,000, this device is an excellent starter product for remote power with the ability to upgrade at a future point to a 240-volt power station and still benefit from the B80 to expand your total power capacity.
This product will power your 12v fridge to keep the beers cold whilst powering your laptop or smartphone. There’s not much else you need while on a weekend getaway.
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Bluetti B80 Expansion Battery
The weather-resistant Bluetti B80 is an easy way to keep your beers cold on a weekend getaway or add more juice to your power station.