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Hey everyone. I usually try to get something on the web site every week. But this time around, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted. There are reasons for that. I’ll share a few details here, with full posts or videos to come. But trust me, I haven’t been being lazy!
There have been three projects I’ve been trying to get completed before we leave for the Winnebago Grand National Rally. One large project, one medium, and one small. I’m happy to report, I’ve got them all wrapped up (for now), and we’re ready to hit the road. I’ll give you teasers on the large and medium projects, and all the details on the small one. Here we go:
The HUGE Project – The Electric Travato
Lance already had a whole-house inverter, and we were able to run 120 volt electrical loads without turning on the generator. But this project takes it to an entirely different level. Over the past several weeks, we’ve been converting Lance into a super-electric RV, with no need for the Onan generator. I say “we”, because I’ve been working with people from the following suppliers:
The folks at Xantrex have taken the lead on putting this system together, and I think they’ve done a good job as a systems integrator. The end result is something similar to what other RV manufacturers are offering in their vehicles, but with some key differences and improvements. The technical details are too much to go into in an overview post, but I can tell you that the system consists of the following key components:
Nations Dual Alternator for the ProMaster
I will not refer to this as an “underhood generator” or any other silly term invented by a marketing department. It’s an alternator, and a big one. This alternator puts out a reported 280 amps at idle. (That’s awesome, but I haven’t tested it yet!) Using a second alternator is key, because the alternator came with a voltage regulator by Balmar that’s programmed for lithium batteries, and contains a control circuit that works with the Battery Management System (BMS) on the lithium battery. In other words, this alternator “talks to” the battery to regulate charge output.
Lithionics 420 Amp-Hour Battery with NeverDie BMS
This beast of a battery provides about four times the usable capacity of the stock system our Travato came with. Considering I never saw our AGM batteries fall below 90% full (thanks to all our solar panels), this may initially seem like overkill. BUT – this battery should allow us to run the air conditioner for about 3 hours on battery alone. Since 3 hours is about the longest bike race I typically compete in, Stef is OK with that. The battery management system is really the star here, and apparently prevents me from flat-lining the battery, over-charging the battery, or asking too much of the battery without taking it out to dinner and a movie first. I’ll be putting this battery through its paces in the coming weeks. Oh, and due to our love of winter RVing, this battery is mounted INSIDE the heated and cooled space of our RV!
Xantrex Freedom SW 3012 Inverter/Charger
We already had a Magnum 2000 watt inverter. That was replaced with this 3000 watt unit. The main reason for that was the air conditioner. The Xantrex has tremendous surge capacity, and should be able to start and run the AC with no problem. (I mean, yes, we have already. I just haven’t done it like a million times yet.) Other loads in our coach should be well within its capabilities. I’ve already tested its ability to switch power sources from battery to alternator while running the AC. (The air conditioner doesn’t notice).
Fit RV Yard Sale?
A side-benefit of all this is that we were able to remove A LOT of stuff from our factory setup. I have enough RV components sitting around now that I’m considering some sort of yard sale!
There are other parts to the system as well – including some that we have yet to install. Those will all be added shortly, and for now the system is fully functional. That’s good, because we need to get on the road to Iowa! Those of you who will be at the Winnebago GNR, you’ll have a chance to see the system in action, watch us test it, watch me try to kill it, whatever. Maybe we’ll even shoot a video about this system while we’re there. Anyway, it will all be fun.
The Medium Project –Curtains
If you’ve seen our Facebook page, you’ve seen Stef’s amused reactions to my latest undertaking. I had previously designed a curtain for the window in the sliding door of our RV. But I couldn’t implement it because I didn’t know how to sew.
Well, I eventually found someone to sew me that curtain (Thank you, Jenn!), but not being able to do it myself really bugged me. It bothered me so much, I signed up for sewing classes. I took the beginning course from Sew What, here in Salt Lake City, and hoped that was enough knowledge to sew curtains.
In practice, sewing a thick curtain of over 60 square feet is considerably more challenging than sewing the little napkins and pillow cases we worked on in class. But I got it done. I even had time to make a tie-back.
So now, we have a cab curtain that will either seal off the cab, or can be configured to include the cab in the living area. Both with complete privacy. I’ll share the details of how I did this, what track I used, and all that good stuff in an upcoming post.
The Small Project – More Storage!
This one started with a post by Daniel Senie over in the Travato Owner’s Group on Facebook. He posted pictures of a removable panel under the toilet in his Travato 59G. Since Lance is a G (more or less), I was interested. And since Lance has a composting toilet, I was especially interested. And when I removed the panel, I was thrilled.
You see, with a composting toilet, we don’t have a large-diameter pipe running down through that space to the black tank. On Lance, that space was pretty empty. Hello, additional storage! This space is brought to you courtesy of Winnebago. They go the extra mile in the design stage, and they ensure that you can get to all the parts of the RV you might need to for service without tearing the RV apart. That’s why this panel was removable. There are a couple plumbing connections back there.
Besides being mindful of what I store there (to keep from damaging the aforementioned connections), all I had to do to make use of the space was cut in an opening. Well, that was easy enough. Then I needed a door of some sort. I could have tried to make something of wood, stained it to match (or tried to), and figured out some hinges or latches. But since Stefany had recently made me purchase a separate band saw specifically to cut metal (I’ll let her tell you about that one…), I thought I’d just go the simple route, and make a metal door.
It’s just a square of metal with a hole drilled into it for a handle. I then just spray painted it a hopefully unobtrusive black.
To mount the door, I simply used magnets. Strong ones, but still, just magnets. These were dead simple to mount, and since the door is steel, they work like a champ. No rattles. No popping open. And with the exception of the handle, it takes up very little space. (We store bikes in that area, so the door had to be slim.)
And finally, FINALLY, I have a place to store my bike pump that’s out of the way!
So there you have it. That’s why I haven’t had much time to write in the past few weeks. I should get the rest of the details on the curtain project up soon, and the electrical system will be a continuing effort in the coming weeks.
But that’s all the time I have for now. We have to hit the road!!