Our Experience as Pure3 /Lithium Travato Test Pilots


A few weeks ago at their dealer event in San Diego, Winnebago announced their Pure3 Energy Management System, which brings 48 volt lithium power to two new models, the Travato 59GL and 59KL.  Russ (Winnebago’s Product Manager) and Stef hatched a plan to take a quick holiday in the new rigs after the dealer event. Besides being a cool Travato meet-up with friends, we just couldn’t pass up the chance to participate in Winnebago’s prototype evaluation program for the new Pure3 Lithium system. The units were just completed in time for the show (and after the show they were scheduled for 8 more weeks of usage testing and real world analysis). Russ said Winnebago was intent on making sure that user experience would be a critical part of the prototype testing, so getting us in one coach and he and his wife Kathy in the other on the first week of testing, well that would surely be some great feedback for the design team at Winnebago.  Our plan was to start in San Diego, stop in Joshua Tree National Park, and then head up the California coast, and finally home to Utah.  We planned to do some “regular camping” at first, and some “bench testing” once we returned home.  But the life of a test pilot, it turns out, can be a bit unpredictable.

A few days into our test camp, we identified an issue with the second alternator belt that cut our trip short, and prevented us from completing our planned testing.

But remember: this is a good thing!  This is exactly why Winnebago wanted us testing the rig!  Based on our experience, they’ve identified the issue with the belt, and it won’t be affecting anyone else.  They’re also using our feedback to further dial in things like high-idle settings, autostart settings, inverter limits, and who knows what else.  We actually gave Winnebago about four pages of notes, so the production systems will be all that much better for everyone when they hit the roads.

So as you read, do bear in mind we were working with a prototype coach.  This isn’t a review of a production unit like you’d read in a trade magazine.  This prototype had not gone through Winnebago’s own usage testing yet.  But I think they knew that getting Stef and me (both very familiar with Travatos and lithium systems) into their prototype would be one of the best ways to get high quality feedback right away, giving them time to address any issues before production starts. With that understood, we’re here to tell you what we can, and what we learned from our experience.

 

OK.  So What Exactly Happened?

This is probably the first thing that people want to know, so I’ll start there.

The first thing to understand is that the second alternator in this rig – when the battery calls for it, is capable of throwing SIX THOUSAND WATTS at the battery.   That’s a good sized load, and turning that alternator can require quite a bit of torque.  So if the belt is not aligned properly, or if it’s not tensioned properly, or if it’s been stretched… any number of things could cause the belt to slip.  And if the belt slips, it can’t turn that big load, charging stops, the belt squeaks, etc. etc. etc.  And that’s precisely what happened in our case.

Everything was going well for the first three days.  But sometime into our fourth, the belt started slipping, and we weren’t getting any charge from the second alternator.  The temporary fix for this was really easy.  I simply unplugged a multi-pin connector and that shut off the second alternator.  After that, the second alternator was basically free-wheeling, which takes almost no power.  While we could still use most of the rig, this meant that we couldn’t use the alternator to charge the large lithium battery.

At this point, we could have limited our stay to full-service RV parks with shore power, but that wasn’t what we had planned.  We wanted to get off-grid with it!  Since we weren’t able to test the charging performance of the second alternator or auto-start, we just headed for home on day 5.

Those of you who follow our blog may recall that we also had a second alternator belt issue when we installed a lithium system in our RV, Lance.  But in that case, the belt cut through a coolant hose and dumped our radiator contents onto the highway – instantly disabling us.  This problem was nowhere near that catastrophic.  It didn’t require a tow truck.

We were talking to support people from both Winnebago and Volta all along the way, so we never felt unsafe, or abandoned.  They’ve since identified the issue as something unique to the GL prototype build due to a late-in-the-game alternator upgrade.  (The KL prototype, for example, didn’t have the issue.)  And they’ve obviously got all our feedback, so I think it’s pretty safe to say that this problem won’t be affecting anyone else.  (And speaking of everyone else, this is a good reminder to check your belts and hoses periodically. 🙂 )

 

How Are They Rating Battery Capacity?

They’re using watt-hours to rate the size of the battery, not amp-hours.  It’s not what people are used to, but this makes a lot more sense for a number of reasons.  I’ll give you two.

The first reason is because nobody rates the LOADS in terms of amps – or at least, not in everyday parlance.  Here’s an example:  How many amps does your hair dryer draw?  I’d bet you don’t know.  But you probably know how many watts your hair dryer uses.  Or if you personally don’t, I’d bet that someone in your house knows – and the number is likely plastered all over the device itself anyway.  So rating the battery in watt-hours makes more sense, because you can pretty quickly figure out capacities and loads.

The second reason to use watt-hours is nerdier… because two batteries with the same amp-hour capacity might not have the same amount of stored energy.  Meaning, a 100 amp-hour lithium battery at 14.4 volts has more stored energy than a 100 amp-hour lead acid battery at 12.6 volts.  Butt a Watt is a Watt is a Watt.  You can compare them directly without worrying about the chemistry of your battery and what the resting voltage is.

And now that you know that, it’s probably a good time to tell you that the battery pack in our test coach was only 2/3 the size of what will be delivered in the production Pure3 Travatos.  The batteries in the production coaches will contain an 8700 (useable) watt-hour battery.  Ours was less.

I want to commend the high road Winnebago is taking with their ratings here.  The battery is actually a 10,100 watt-hour battery pack.  Pretty much any company under the sun would want to use the bigger number in their marketing because; well, bigger is better when it comes to specs.  But Winnebago is publishing the **useable** watt-hour capacity of the battery.

You see, there’s a 10-15% (ish) reserve that the battery management system (BMS) will try to keep to avoid completely discharging the battery.  The battery is programmed to keep you from using those watt-hours.  Since you can’t use them, Winnebago is quoting the smaller, useable watt-hour number in their specs.  That’s pretty honest.

 

How Long Can It Run (insert something here)?

The fact that our test coach only had a 2/3 size battery was one big reason why we didn’t do any hard core “How long can I run X” kinds of tests.  The other big reason we didn’t do much of that is because the answer to those questions is always “it depends”.  If you want to know how long you could run the air conditioner, for example, it depends on

  • What’s the outside temperature?
  • What’s the humidity outside?
  • How cold do you have it set inside
  • Are you parked in the shade?
  • What else do you have running?
  • and so on and so on

But!  Since we’re rating the battery in watt-hours, there’s some simple rule of thumb math you can use to get an approximate duration for any appliance you might want to run.

Let’s say we want to run the air conditioner.  On this coach, that’s a Coleman Mach 10, and if you look it up, it says it runs at about 1410 watts.  Now, the battery is 8700 watt hours, and that’s all useable capacity.  So simply divide 1410 watts into 8700 watt-hours, and you’ll get 6.17 hours. (The units even work out correctly!)

But that calculation assumes a perfect world where there are no losses.  Since nothing is ever perfect, I’d personally downrate that by about 10% just to be on the safe side.  That leaves you with about 5.5 hours.  At the end of the 5.5 hours, either the system would shut down, or the auto-start would kick in and start charging the battery again if you had it enabled.

But that math assumes the AC runs the compressor all the time, which it hopefully doesn’t.  Once the air conditioner gets the rig to temperature, it should start cycling the compressor on and off.  When that happens, you’ll likely encounter something greater than 5.5 hours.

You can also use this approach to see how long you could run electric heat from the battery pack.  This is something we did test, briefly, and the Truma electric heat works the same off battery as it does on shore power.  There’s no difference to the end user.

On EL1 (for example), the Truma uses an 850 watt heating element.  So 850 into 8700 is about 10.2, and take another 10% off of that, and you get about 9.2 hours.  So, on EL1, I’d estimate you could run the Truma about 9.2 hours.  Subject to the same caveat that, once it got the rig to the right temperature, it would cycle on and off and you’d probably get more than 9.2 hours.

During our test-camp experience, temperatures were pretty mild, so we had little need for heat or air conditioning.  Regardless, we were able to verify the following:

  • We ran the air conditioner off of the inverter and battery pack for 15 minutes or so, until it got too cold. Operation was normal.
  • We ran the Truma on EL2 (about 1700 Watts AC) off of the inverter and battery pack for a half hour or so, and it worked just fine as well.
  • While we did not enable auto-start, we did observe the battery pack shutting itself down when the load dropped below the 10% neighborhood.

 

So What CAN You Tell Us About The Loads?

Determining exact loads in the coach was tough.  Winnebago has opted to go with a simple analog gauge for displaying the battery level.  This is a fantastic way to go for 99.9% of the population, but it made it difficult for me to know how much load any one item was drawing.  There was no ammeter available. (The BMS probably knows how many watts are going in or out, but it’s not talking.)  Since we called the testing off before I started hooking meters up to the rig, I don’t have a list of “this device uses this many amps”.  However, many of the devices and appliances in this rig were the same as the ones used in my previous 12 volt test.  You can see that post here.

Anecdotally, I can say that the “regular” loads in this coach are pretty small.  And here I’m talking about those things that are on most of the time, like the refrigerator, the propane leak detector… those kinds of things you may not even actively control most of the time.

As an example: once we decided to head home, we left an RV park with the battery at 90%.  We drove home over a day and a half, with no charging at all from any source.  When we got home, the battery was still at about 35%.  During that time, the fridge was always on, Stef and I each took a shower, we made a lot of coffee (about 10 minutes of microwave), and I worked and had the inverter on charging a laptop for several hours.  Plus, we ran our usual lights, phone charging, water pump, blah blah blah.

And remember – the battery bank we were using is only 2/3 what will be in the production coaches!  I think this is pretty good news on the battery capacity front.

 

How Was the Inverter?

I’ve previously mentioned that the inverter was adequate enough to run the air conditioner, microwave, and Truma electric heater.  We were also able to run the electric heat (Truma, on EL1) and the microwave at the same time.  We didn’t have any need for more during our test camp, so that’s as far as we got with multiple loads.  The short story is that the inverter does seem to be capable of providing the full 3600 watts of power that’s claimed.  And since it started the air conditioner, we know it can surge to even more than that.  My opinion is that the inverter is no more limiting than a 30 amp shore power supply.

I do want to describe how we use an inverter, in case any newcomers are confused as to what exactly its function is.  The inverter doesn’t produce any power.  It only consumes it, and changes it from one form to another.  The inverter is what takes the battery power, and changes it to what you might call “regular household current”.   So if you need 120 volt AC power, you’ve got it, any time you want it.

But if you don’t need that 120 volt AC power, there’s not much reason to leave the inverter on, because the inverter DOES, even at idle, produce a load.  Now it’s small, maybe just a couple amps, but it is still going to be drawing on the batteries, just by being on.  And remember, this is a 48 volt battery, so even 2 amps is a 100 watt load.

We have this same situation in our own coach, Lance.  As a best practice, we’ve gotten in the habit of just turning the inverter off if we’re not using it.  It’s one button in our coach, and it’s one button in this one, so it’s not hard, and it conserves power.

 

Charging from the Alternator

Before we disabled it, we learned that the second alternator requires a high-idle in order to charge the battery.  So when the vehicle autostarts, it will also kick it into high idle to initiate charging.  The battery will also be charged while driving down the road and the RPMs are up.  That second alternator is rated at six thousand watts, so if it’s running at speed, it could charge a fully depleted battery in about an hour and a half.  (That math works the same way for charging as it does for discharging.)  Our coach had a 2/3 size battery, and we observed about a 30% charge increase in 30 minutes of easy stop-and-go driving, which seems to track with expectations.

We informally tested to see how the alternator would charge the battery while also running loads.  We had the Truma heating on EL1, and were running the microwave periodically, and the battery was still charging while the engine high-idled.  Without an ammeter, it’s tough to say at exactly what rate the vehicle was charging, but we did see the needle move “up”, and we did not detect the engine getting bogged down.

But why the high idle?  I asked about this, and the feeling was, with the power required to spin up that second alternator, they didn’t want to be doing it at a lazy idle.  When I observed it, the charging seemed to kick in at about 1600 RPM, but that exact number may change.

They’re also thinking a lot about the “automobile” part of the RV.  The Volta folks told me about an additional feature that we didn’t get to test specifically.  Basically, when you’re really revving the engine – like climbing a mountain pass – the alternator will back off so you have all the power available to you when you really need it.  They take information from the vehicle’s CAN bus to determine that.

 

Charging from the Inverter/Charger

This works as you would expect.  The 3600 watt inverter is also a battery charger, and the vehicle charges while plugged in to shore power.  This is another area where they are still determining the final settings.

The battery charger here is powerful enough that if they just let it run free, you could trip a breaker if you plugged in to a 15 amp outlet.  People who plugged in to prep for a trip could be pretty disappointed if this happened.  There are two places where the charging can be limited: via the control panel or via a switch on the back of the panel.   Winnebago and Volta are still working to determine the best way to set these to allow for full-speed charging when you have 30 amps, and to not trip a breaker when you don’t.

You’ll want to keep in mind that the inverter is *upstream* of the Precision Circuits Power Control Center.  So setting a limit there does not affect the settings on the inverter/charger.  Also, I noticed that the charge going to the batteries would drop as you called for more load in the coach.  In other words, while plugged in, the coach loads seemed to take priority over battery charging, while still observing the overall limit.  This is what you want.

In our use, I had flipped the switch on the back to allow for 30 Amp charging (yes, I was dismantling a borrowed rig), but did not change settings on the control panel.  This seemed to keep the charging limited to 15 amps.  Even so, we were able to fully charge a nearly-fully-depleted battery from about 5% to over 90% overnight while running other loads.  (It probably charged before that but we were asleep.)

 

Charging from Solar

The solar charging on our test coach was not working.  We only cared about this after the alternator stopped charging.  But under normal circumstances, you might not notice solar power at all.  Here’s why:

The rig had 200 watts of panels on the top.  200 watts of solar, on the equator, on the equinox, on a cloudless day would fully charge the big battery in over 43 hours of direct sun.  That could take a week or two depending on the weather.

But remember, the alternator does the same job in AN HOUR AND A HALF.  RAIN OR SHINE.  DAY OR NIGHT.  That’s literally over 30 times faster than solar.  So basically, compared to the size of the battery and the size of the second alternator, solar charging starts to look kind of silly.

Consider also that Class B owners (at least, the ones we know) rarely stay in one place for more than a few days without moving anyway.  That mobility is one of the main draws of a Class B in the first place.  So as soon as you turn on the engine to go somewhere, you’ve dwarfed any solar charging in the first few minutes.  So under normal circumstances, we’d probably not even notice solar.  Others who use their rigs differently might find it more useful.

Probably the best use for the solar on this rig would be just to keep the battery topped off while in storage.  You could leave the big button on, and solar would keep you at or close to full.  (Or you could store it with the button off.)

 

Cold Weather?

We didn’t encounter any cold weather on our trip, and I don’t have my own climate test chamber, so what I’m going to relay here is information I gathered from talking to Winnebago and Volta.

The big deal is that lithium batteries don’t like to be charged while they’re freezing.  It’s really bad for them.  So on this battery pack, charging is disabled if the battery temperature is below freezing – or actually a little above, like 40 degrees or so.  The BMS does this all on its own.  There’s nothing for the end user to do.

Now, obviously, you don’t want that to happen while you’re using the rig, so to keep the battery warm, when the battery temperature drops, the rig blows cabin air into the insulated battery box to keep it warm.  That’s the same air you’re already heating to keep yourself warm, so it kind of just makes the battery box an extension of the cabin.  This all happens automatically, so once you’re up and running, there’s nothing more to do.

The follow on questions to that are; what do you do about storage?  And how do you get the rig from cold storage UP TO running temperatures?  Here’s what I learned:

  • According to Volta, the battery is good for storage at minus twenty degrees Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit).
  • It can handle occasional dips, such as overnights, down to minus 30 Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit).
  • But that’s storage, you don’t want to use the battery at those temperatures. So the BMS cuts off even DIScharging the battery at -10 Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit).

Those are all internal battery temperatures, not outdoor temps.  So, if you’ve got the rig stored, and the internal temperature of the battery is anywhere over 14 degrees Fahrenheit, then all you do to get going is plug in the rig, turn on the heater, and wait until things warm up.

But if the internal battery temperature is below 14 degrees Fahrenheit, then you would have to warm it up to at least that using some external method – and the Volta guy suggested a space heater right under the battery box.  And then turn on the heater and warm up the rig.

Excessive heat can also take a toll on the batteries, so as a corollary to cold weather operation, the same system works for hot temperatures as well.  We obviously didn’t test this in March, but if the battery gets too hot, it’s supposed to pump COOLER air from the cabin into the battery box to regulate things.

 

What Is Our Opinion of the Battery Location?

When the Travato first came out several years ago, people were concerned about the generator hanging underneath.  The ProMaster is a low-slung vehicle, and the generator just looked like it was in peril.  Well, time marched on, and – with a few exceptions – the generator placement hasn’t turned out to be that much of an issue.  The (expensive) lithium battery sits in pretty much the same place, so people are again questioning the placement.  I went out with a tape measure, and here’s what I found.

  • The bottom of our all-wheel-drive Subaru Impreza is less than 6 inches off the ground.
  • The bottom of the battery box, sitting in our driveway, was approximately 6.25 inches off the ground.
  • The bottom of the rear axle, for comparison, 7 inches off the ground.

So, with just ¾ inch of lift in the back, you will get the battery box at or above the level of the rear axle.  It seems many owners install something like Sumo Springs, which raise the rear axle about an inch.  Something like that would get the battery box over the rear axle.  But even without that, the Travato GL has better ground clearance than our Subaru (which seems weird, but I promise it’s true).

Bottom line: Me, I wouldn’t worry about the battery location.

 

Other Things We Noticed

The first one of these had to do with the DC to DC Converter.  That’s a device that takes the 48 volt power from the battery bank, and steps it down to the 12 volt power (14.4 volts in this case) that most RV stuff runs on.

It makes a little noise.  If it was just me that heard it, I might dismiss it, because small noises bother me.  But Stef heard it too, so it’s a thing.  It’s kind of a little hum or buzz, and it’s pretty constant.

We’ve provided our feedback on this to Winnebago, and they know they’ve got to do something about the noise from that component.  The DC to DC converter is in the same enclosure as the inverter/charger, which also makes noise.  So whatever they come up with for a solution will likely help with both of those components.

The next thing we noticed – and LOVED – were the dual paned acrylic windows.  We liked these more than I expected.  There was the unobstructed view, and the easy operation.  We were familiar with these as we have one of these windows in Lance.  But most of all what we noticed was the SOUND!  They provide a greater degree of sound isolation than the standard glass windows you may be used to.  You’ll really appreciate these if you ever have to overnight at a Flying J.  Trust us.

We also noticed that the water tank was different than the standard Travato G.  First, it’s a bit smaller.  This is because the water tank has been moved underneath the rig, and into an insulated box.  (And I actually felt around in there up through the drain hole and verified there is insulation in there.)  But since it’s moved, and some of the space is taken up by insulation now, the capacity is a bit smaller than a “regular” Travato G:  18 gallons in this one versus 21 gallons in a regular G.

Also, since the tank has moved, there’s no gravity fill.  This meant we couldn’t do something that we’re used to doing in Lance, and that’s filling through the top of the tank.

We did use the new cab blinds on a daily basis while we were in the rig.  Overall, we found the operation to be just as quick as we showed in our videos – even a bit quicker once you get the hang of it.  We did run the defroster in the mornings, and the cab blinds did not seem to affect its operation.   The darkening from the cab blinds and the new cassette blinds on the windows was sufficient to allow us to sleep in much longer than we really should have been.

 

Conclusion

So there you have it.  Besides learning a lot about the Pure3 Energy Management System in the new Travato models, we also had a blast trying one out!  We’re confident that our experience (and yes, even our problems) will be useful to Winnebago in making the new GL and KL model Travatos even better.

Despite the nits, the capabilities of the system seemed to live up to what the marketing claims.  And they totally nailed the easy-to-use aspect, so if you read this and your eyes rolled into the back of your head – don’t worry!  You don’t really need to know much of any of this in order to use the Pure3 system.  Because at the end of the day, it’s not supposed to be about temperature limits and watt-hours… it’s supposed to be about how much fun you can have with the capability.

See you on the road!

 



James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling certified coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.


    126 thoughts on “Our Experience as Pure3 /Lithium Travato Test Pilots

    1. gregory

      forgot to mention..if tesa battery replacements are min 15k,how much to replace the travato kl batts…nobody brought that up…what happens after the 8 year batt warranty ends..$$$$$$$….30k for the option,then 8 yrs later or sooner another 15k min…..what all does the warranty cover??..know before you buy…

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Jeez! Just because the warranty ends in 8 years doesn’t mean the battery is going to die at that time!
        There’s no expiration date on these batteries. So unless there is some issue, there will likely be no investment required at all in 8 years.
        The vehicle itself will be out of warranty too, but you don’t count on the vehicle exploding at the end of the warranty period.
        Besides, in the few years we’ve been watching them, lithium batteries have come way down in price.
        I don’t have a crystal ball, but if that trend continues, then I highly doubt they would be a $15k replacement.

        Reply
    2. gregory

      i have an experiment u can do….why dont people use swamp coolers to cool an rv..you only need a dinky 12v fan and a 2.00 styrofoam cooler to make one..also if there are energy efficient 12v fridges for rv’s,then can you do something like modify the door by installing a fan similar to the way a swamp cooler works..if the fridge compressor can be run by solar,then i dont see why this wouldnt work..or lets say you simply left the fridge door open,could it cool a b van…Sportys Pilot Shop sells a 12v swamp cooler for private airplanes,but you can make one yourself..on one youtube video test,the cool air was measured at 47 deg..so im wondering if you can convert a portable 12v fridge to work like a swamp cooler(air in/air out via fan).only difference is you are not using ice,you are using the compressor as the cooling source..im thinking of mentioning this to russ at winnebago,i was the one that convinced them to bring a 4×4 sprinter b van to market(told them of the (TRAKKA JABIRU 4×4)…rooftop a/c’s are so old school inefficient,when a 12v fridge has so much cooling power…someone needs to look into this and test the effiencies of 12v fridge compressors..and if they can be modified for use similar to a swamp cooler….something to ponder

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        There might be a few limited scenarios where a swamp cooler would make sense in an RV, but generally, it’s a bad idea.
        1. Swamp coolers don’t work when the ambient humidity is high. So you would only be able to use your RV in the desert southwest. (You won’t see a swamp cooler on a home in Florida for good reason.)
        2. Typically, in an RV, you’re much more concerned with getting humidity OUT of the rig. This keeps things from getting musty, mildewy, etc. It’s a big problem with humans in an enclosed space. Intentionally bringing extra humidity into your rig is not something you want to do (except perhaps in very limited scenarios).

        Reply
    3. Indy Cyclist

      James and Stefany thank you for all you do to promote and push to improve the RV manufacturing community. These are exciting times and I see the convergence of two technologies to improve RVs within the next few years.
      You are correct that a 48 volt system will improve the RVing experience. Here are several thoughts about the next big improvement:
      • The adoption of 48 volt and the associated sub systems such as power steering, fans and air conditioning will allow for more compact wiring and more efficient motors and alternators.
      • The hybrid drive system being adopted by Mercedes Benz on cars such as the S Class designed by Continental, yes the some company as our favorite road cycling tires, will accelerate the pace of change. Both an alternator/motor directly connected to the crankshaft.
      • My thinking the big missing link at this time is the utilization of the engine driven air conditioning for the entire RV when is the camping mode so to say. Dual utilization of the air conditioning system in the engine compartment for house air conditioning will be the next major advancement. Just thinking lower capital cost, one system to maintain, lower overall sound level as you have written about in the past and less weight. And you could have two evaporators, one from the dash and one back in the RV. Just like larger SUV have two evaporators to cool the passenger in the back of the SUV. Heck, why have it in the engine compartment, move it to a location the smart design engineers think would work the best.
      • The future is seamless integration of the electrically driven hybrid system using lithium batteries that will serve for the hybrid engine to move the RV and used to power the hotel power needs of the RV.
      • Another consequence will be the phasing out of diesel powered vehicles. The trend in Europe is to regulate diesel vehicle out of city centers now and more locations later. This new and improved hybrid system will be one more chink out of the diesel armor so to say.
      • You will be with leaders in the RV industry at Hershey and can influence the direction of the industry.
      On another note, I enjoy seeing your posts on Strava. Keep up the great running and riding.

      Reply
      1. Kevin

        James (and Stef) — First, thanks to both of you for all the time taken to do these videos and such! After reading all the comments below regarding the new Pure 3 system and all the benefits and large cost, I have only one question:
        Why haven’t these companies just try to manufacture Gas/Diesel/Propane generators that are much more quiet? I have seen (and heard) James’ noise level comparisons and WOW!!—- I just don’t know why companies can spend so much time making advancements in their electrical systems, but not in making the gensets much quieter!! I have heard other generators (Honda, Yamaha, etc) that were very quiet. Why aren’t they used in RVs? People seem to not want to use the generators due to this fact that they are so loud! Would this not solve (to a large degree) having to spend so much money on lithium battery systems?

        Reply
        1. James - Post author

          Well, if Winnebago or Airstream or Coachmen were in the generator business, I’m sure they would have turned their attention to a quieter generator by now. But they’re not, so they’re focusing on what they can change.
          At least that’s my take on the situation.
          But beyond the noise issue, the generators still are burning fossil fuel. There will be a segment of the RVing population that wants to minimize that to the extent that they can.

        2. Kevin

          Thanks James for the quick response —- I guess I should have asked the question this way: Why don’t the RV companies use/purchase/install the quieter generators from other companies?(not just Onan)! It seems to me that if (ie. Honda/Yamana) have very quiet gensets (much quieter than Onan), then why won’t RV companies purchase and install them? I understand, and agree with, the less polution/fossil fuel usage, but one is still using the gas engine to charge the batteries.
          I guess my question is basically, if your going to install a generator in your units,— than why not purchase a very quiet one?
          Thanks James!

        3. James - Post author

          Ah. Well that one I can probably answer.
          The Honda/Yamaha generators are not made or rated to be mounted underneath a moving vehicle. At least not the ones I have seen.
          If an RV manufacturer rigged something up and mounted one, and it quit working after three months, they’d be left holding the rather expensive bag when Honda/Yamaha denied a warranty claim.

    4. Joe Holt

      HELLOooo James-

      I am taking you up on asking technical questions. I am planning to DIY Campervan EDD (Every Day Driver) The questions are these Best Inverter (True sign or Squared or 1/2 wave? Whats the difference?) and Battery (IE Battle Born BB10012 Lithium Ion LiFePO4 Battery 12V 100Ah vs Standard Lithium Batteries) Combo. Best Control Panel for them. Best solar panels fix or flexible. Heater AC Units etc. I know you are very busy but if could say tackle one question or two I would be very grateful Joe

      Reply
    5. Bill Walker

      Hi James,
      Does the 59KL or Gkl automatically charge the batteries when you drive from the 2nd alternator or do you have to push the Pure3 start button? My ordered Travato 59KL came in this past Wed. a drive of 1968 miles from Iowa. The battery level is on Empty, zero!. Shouldn’t it be FULL?! It is still at the dealer & I ask them to at least plug it in. How bad is it if the batteries are Empty? If it doesn’t charge according to the manual, the batteries could be defective. Or the belt slipped or broken. But what would cause the batters to Drain all the way?
      Do you have Bill Cavanaugh’s email or phone number for me to contact?
      Help
      B

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Well, the system has to be on (big button pressed so that things work). But assuming it is on, then yes, it should charge when you drive without you having to do anything.
        With the system “off”, the battery is disconnected from everything: disconnected from all loads and charging sources.
        So, if you left your battery off the whole trip, then I would expect no charging.
        But if it was on, then you may have a problem. I’d suggest a call to the dealer to sort it out.

        Reply
    6. Dave Duncan

      James, your video on the Travato generator’s noise levels was eye opening. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e41kvkEAcGs) It barely met the Natl Park std for noise, and that was with NO LOAD. I presume it gets louder with load.

      How did the GL/KL compare at 1600 rpm on the engine with the noise from the Onan? How was the noise inside? How did the vibration compare?

      If sleeping in the back, out in the boondocks, with the A/C on, what would more annoying: A/C noise or Onan noise/vibration? I’m guessing the engine at 1600 rpm would be less noise and less vibration than the Onan.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        The ProMaster engine, even at 1600 RPM is quieter than the Onan generators, and it’s smoother. We didn’t bust out the noise measuring equipment though. (We haven’t had a generator ourselves for a couple years now, so it’s just not on our radar.)

        If you were sleeping in the back, the noise from the a typical RV air conditioner is going to pretty much deafen you. You won’t notice the generator, honestly.
        Your neighbors, however, will notice it…

        Reply
    7. kevin long

      How difficult is it to find someone that can add a lithium upgrade to an existing 59k? I was to buy a 2017 or 2018 where would I go to even consider that? All I want to be able to do is occasionally run the microwave for a few minutes at a time, cuz I have eating disabilities.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Someone like AM Solar in Oregon could probably work up a “conventional” (12v) lithium system for you.
        I believe Volta actually sells their system as an upgrade. You should be able to find details on that their web site.
        But if you just want to run the microwave for a few minutes, you can probably do that with the standard batteries and a good inverter. (A much easier install, and most RV shops should be able to help you.)

        Reply
    8. Greg Helton

      James,
      This video includes an explanation of how one person uses 1185 watts of solar to run the RV’s air conditioner while still charging 2 AGM batteries & running appliances in the RV https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCZVAX-c4co

      While not practical for all, I like how this plan eliminates volt-start, the Onan & tens of thousands of dollars of lithium batteries and it seems like an adequate solution except for camping in the humid southeast where the AC would be needed throughout the night during much of the year.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        With only 2 AGM batteries, he doesn’t have much of a buffer.
        A hot but cloudy day would be a killer!
        Everyone has someplace on the convenience/cost scale where they’re comfortable.

        Reply
    9. Glenn Roberts

      Thanks James for awesome review and great job responding to excellent questions/feedback from so many folks.

      On subject of price premium associated with Pure3 “L”ithium system some have commented on, sales quotes I received this week from midwest “no hassle” low price Winnebago dealer suggest actual price difference between equally configured 59* versus 59*L is $20K.

      My understanding is that most significant key components of Pure3 system include the 8700 watt-hour lithium ion battery, 2nd alternator, pure sine wave inverter and dc-to-dc converter? Did I miss anything? Are all of these components from Winnebago partner, Volta systems? What is specific manufacturer and model for primary components of Pure3 system? I’m convinced the 59*L is the way to go (versus onan generator) and am interested to know how mature/proven supporting technologies and system components are … especially since 59*L production models don’t actually exist at present as I understand.

      You performed similar customization for your T, “Lance”, a couple years ago. Have there been any significant issues with any of the the principle components associated with your particular customization?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I think you’ve identified the key parts of the lithium system. There is also a new solar charge controller, which is more expensive than the standard one, to charge the 48v battery (vs. a 12v battery).
        As to sourcing, I’m struggling to picture them, but I believe the inverter was a Magnum product. I don’t remember who made the new solar charge controller. Since I don’t have a rig here, I can’t give you exact manufacturers and model numbers.
        As far as Lance goes, we’ve had no real major issues. We did have a wiring issue once that was confusing to chase down but ultimately probably related to something I did. And we had a problem with the battery that turned out to be a switch and not the battery itself. The second alternator had some install issues before the whole lithium system was even installed. All in all, nothing that I would consider out of the ordinary for a prototype system. Even as a prototype, the technology is basically solid.

        Reply
    10. Ed

      Thanks for you in-depth reviews and tips. Question from a self-professed science dummy: in the models with the lithium batteries, is there still propane, and, if so, what is it used for? Thanks, and sorry if you already covered this.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Not a bad question at all.
        Yes, there is still propane. It operates the Truma Combi heat and hot water appliance. It also operates the propane cooktop, and (if you hook one up) the exterior propane connection for a grill.
        On older units with an absorption refrigerator, it will also power the refrigerator.

        Reply
        1. Ed

          Thanks. Do you have an idea why not just go propane-less with the new lithium models, or maybe something down the road?

        2. James - Post author

          Propane-less would be difficult because it is still used for heat and hot water. If the ProMaster had a diesel powerplant, there are solid options for heat and hot water. Not so much with gasoline.
          And electric resistance heating of air and water is energy hungry and not terribly efficient.

    11. David

      You watch, a new WGO model with a gasoline Sprinter chassis is coming our way with the demise of the Trend/Paseo.

      Reply
    12. William Walker

      Hi James, Question: Can you turn OFF the 2nd alternator with a switch? If your batteries are FULL & you don’t want the wear & tear of the 2nd Alt.?
      Also, could you add a Tri-Metric TM-2030-RV Battery Monitor System? I know you would like it. This gives you all the Nerdy Info. stuff on your battery Power. Seems like an easy add-on. Hook up the Shunt to the negative wire & wires to the monitor.
      Thanks

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Well, there is no switch to turn off the second alternator. It turns itself off when the battery management system tells it to. So basically, what you were thinking you wanted to do… it does it on its own.
        You could add a Tri-Metric monitor, yes. I’ve added one in the past to our old RV Das Bus. I’d suggest, however, that a smarter way to go would be to wait for Volta to open up an interface (or an app!) and you can get the information directly from the BMS. It would be more accurate than a Trimetric, and more in-depth.
        I don’t know for a fact that such capability is coming, but this system just screams out for it. I’d bet money it’ll happen.

        Reply
      2. Chris flynn

        Well if your inverting 3600 watts , in winter time , do the math , marginal at best , dont need the reefer, then redo the math it works sort out , at least in the marine industry u can have a switch for that

        Reply
      3. Chris flynn

        Oops, i want to by this rig travato gl , when is it coming out, i was a patagonia tester , help i will take this to middle of no where

        Reply
    13. Norm

      Some very interesting developments here. Air conditioning will always require AC power, and this looks like a way to do it with about 1/3 the generator hours. Maybe no generator at all if you’re on the highway most of the day and just doing overnight stops. The gas vs. electric fridge is a toss up in my mind, with the power budget described here.

      What I have a hard time accepting is using electricity for HEAT. Heat gobbles watts at an alarming rate, and it is so economically provided by fire. It would seem far more practical to me to keep all heat producing appliances on propane.

      Using the vehicle engine for generating electricity may take some getting used to, though I understand the Travato has been doing that for some time now. The vehicle engine is quieter than most generators, and I assume they’ve worked it out so that it can run continuously when parked and not overheat, etc. I don’t know how the economics works out for that many more hours on the vehicle engine (lightly loaded) vs. running a separate engine. At least it’s one less engine! Also, the engine heat through the dashboard vents may eliminate the need for a separate heating appliance, alleviating some of the heat/watt draw.

      Reply
        1. James - Post author

          You might think that until you live with it for a while. I did, initially.
          But besides the air conditioner, there’s the microwave, blender, toaster, hair dryer, etc. etc. etc.
          Until we had the option, we didn’t realize how much we were denying ourselves the use of all these other appliances because we just hated running the generator that much… even for just a couple minutes.
          So if you think of it only in terms of the air conditioning, then yes, it might not seem worth it. But if you look at all of the other AC appliances you might like to use without fuss, then the equation starts to tip.

      1. James - Post author

        Well, the range isn’t ideal for the way most people use motorhomes. But it’s interesting to see EVs coming to heavier vehicles.

        Reply
    14. Chris flynn

      Thank you for the review, finally something cool is out there. I have worked in the marine industry ( fisherman ) for 25 years and have inverted power for years using trace inverters to power all normal systems on a fishing boat. Im glad to see the rv world is catching up. As i would be using this particular model in the winter months in the lower 48 i would hope i could order one when they are in production a/c delete and put max solar for vamp system on roof. A tip from a saltwater enviro person, theres a product called boeshield t-9 made by boeing co.. I highly praise this product for all electrical steel and and corrosive app., its waxed based comes off with mineral spirits, thanks james and steph, grew up skiing in a mini winnie as a kid, been waiting,

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        We didn’t have the test rig long enough to talk maintenance. But I don’t think there’s anything that would prevent use of the Boeshield product.

        Reply
    15. Dmitriy

      Thanks James and Stef,

      great reviews and I enjoyed your report on the early testing of the GL model. Question for you. Did Volta and Winnebago discuss with you why they chose this specific capacity (10,500WtH) and supporting infrastructure (like 58V alternator)? I would imagine having a smaller lithium pack would not only make upgrade price easier to swallow for mainstream buyers who often buy upgrades on a whim, but also allow to make less sacrifices like shrinked water tank and maybe putting an alternator that can run off low idle.
      What was the benchmark that Winnebago tried to hit with this particular design? They talk a lot about replacing 30Amp shore power but you don’t need this battery capacity to hit this goal.
      I would be very interested in your thoughts on this subject.

      Cheers.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I know they put a bit of thought into the decision, but I don’t think it would have made any difference in most of the areas you’re describing. While Volta does offer different size battery packs, for example, they are all installed inside the same size enclosure. So that size won’t change. They also would still need to find a location for the dc/dc converter and inverter, so the water tanks would still likely have moved. And though I haven’t asked them, I’d bet Volta wouldn’t be willing to go with a less capable alternator.

        I know they gave a lot of thought to the “leaving my pet alone in the van” scenario. They wanted to provide for a long enough duration of run time without starting the van. That drove the size of the battery pack up. There are also competitive pressures from Roadtrek and Coachmen who offer lithium rigs. Nobody wants to be seen as the smallest battery.

        In the end, yes, it’s expensive. But having lived with a similar system for a couple years now, it’s just so much better than a generator based system.
        For those who want it, I seriously doubt the price will deter them.

        Reply
        1. Dmitriy

          $30K upgrade pushes Travato into luxury class B price range, so it’s not peanuts. And a lot of this increase goes into capacity that would very rarely be used. With auto start and smart charging strategy van could start every hour or so during peak consumption for 10 minutes to make sure batteries are in the optimal charge range. I bet quarter of capacity (around 2,800WtH) would be enough to cool the van for 4 hours (assuming 50% AC run at 1,300Wt) and it would require much smaller alternator to sufficiently charge it when depleted. The enclosure then can house not just the batteries, but also that massive inverter, freeing up space to move water tank back inside the van. And you can have “leave pet in van alone” with couple of engine starts to cool van for the entire hot hours duration. I am not sure why Winnebago would introduce auto start and then put all that lithium capacity to avoid using it. I don’t think users care about having the most capacity in the van this size. As long as the remaining capacity is practical to cover their needs, they would be OK. But having a $15K “L” upgrade vs $30K would be a big deal and open up the market for L models substantially. Smaller battery pack also moves solar panels back into equation as they would be able to replenish much larger percentage of the lost capacity.

    16. Bob Cruise

      I loved your review of the Travato KL, but one thing you didn’t mention. Are there outlets and a place to place and plug in CPAP machines at the head of the bed? And just a curious question, couldn’t you turn the table around so it would be centered over the isle so it can be used as a table for people on both sides.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Hi Bob.
        I do believe you could turn the table around the other way and it would be more centered.
        I’m afraid I don’t know much about CPAP machines, though. There are multiple outlets in the rig that run off the inverter. Worst case, I have to imagine you could get an extension cord and work something out.

        Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Offhand, I don’t know. Since they are still putting the final touches on the GL, I’d guess the official weights are a ways out yet.

        Reply
    17. William Walker

      I am very interested in a Travato 59KL, We just got back from camping & talked to a couple from Washington State who had a New 2018 59K, they showed us almost everything & answered all questions. They Love it. They downsized from a class A. One thing I did notice on the unit was it had Only 5 lug nut on the wheels?? This is supposed to be a 3500 (one Ton ) chassis isn’t it?? JI thought it should have to be 8 lugs…..Can you educate me on this please..5 lugs usually is a 1/2 ton 1500…???

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        We do have 5 lug nuts on our rig as well.
        I’m not aware if the lug-nut-counting algorithm (or the 3500 nomenclature, for that matter) works exactly the same on vans as it does on trucks.
        Interesting question though.
        On a day-to-day basis, we just go by the weight rating on the driver’s side door jamb sticker. 9350 pounds. (don’t remember the individual axles off the top of my head)
        We’ve weighed the rig several times, and we’re good with that.

        Reply
    18. David

      Wow, Greg Helton’s comment on the possible demise of the Paseo too is interesting. Don’t want to add to a “rumor” but where there is smoke, there is usually fire. This would/could bode well for a Travato/ProMaster expansion. Hope WGO is working on it. If anyone could do it, it would be WGO! Russ, you out there? James has been wishing for five years now. And a lot of others. Eat your Wheaties and make it happen, please.

      Reply
      1. Greg Helton

        I bet that Winnebago is going to use the Trend and Paseo production capacity to build a new offering based on the new model Mercedes Sprinter. The gas engine option will be cheaper than the diesel.

        Reply
        1. James - Post author

          Maybe somewhat true, but the class C and B rigs are made in completely separate facilities about 30 minutes apart.

        2. David

          Greg, where did you see or hear of a gasoline Sprinter chassis option? I have been pushing Leisure Travel Vans to have MB offer a gasoline option for the last 18 months to no avail!

        3. David

          But I understand that MB won’t be offering a gas Sprinter with front wheel drive in North America. ProMaster will be alone there. Bet WGO working on a gas Sprinter rig to replace the Trend/Paseo.

      1. James - Post author

        It’s actually different in a great many ways.
        Probably the best way to sum it up is that the HymerTrek system is what you might call “first attempt” technology. Since that was released, we’ve come up with better ways to do things, and systems like the Volta product I would call “second generation” systems.

        As to whether or not it will show up on the Revel… who knows!?!

        Reply
    19. David

      Regarding the compressor refridge, I am with James on the elimination of huge holes in the sidewalls but more importantly, the elimination of an archaic absorption refrigeration technology requiring a live flame to super heat the ammonia. That flame is quite problematic, that technology obsolete, and fire in an unseen place is simply asking for trouble. And, the coach must be level to work and the pilot goes out and you have raw propane exiting into your coach. No thank you.

      Reply
    20. David

      I am one David of many who respond here; I am the nicer David 🙂 some caveats: own a 2017 59K with all options but the roof rack but have the ladder. Honorably discharged from the Navy twice, once as an enlisted man and then as an officer. I am no rocket scientist but have an appreciation of technology. I too just last night reviewed Lichtsinn’s site and their inventory. They list both basic Travatos and the L versions. L MSRP listed at a whopping $145,000. $30,000 for the Lithium package alone. Seems that Russ is going out on a limb with the 2019 ‘improvements’ in both the Lithium and windows. The cassette shades have caused the windows to shrink in size considerably and have bulbous frames infringing in the space inside. Makes one think of a submarine or cruise ship’s windows/portholes. They take away the panaramic view as the older style slider windows provided. They are offering acrylic dual pane windows too but some are closed due to the sliding side door. Certainly understand the R factor being better than single pane and lighter but they are simply not a durable choice. A few years ago solar was the buzz technology and now is becoming obsolete due the size of Lithium battery packages. Yes the generator is loud but works and doesn’t cost an extra $30,000. I am just not sure these improved offerings are the be all and end all items. It appears that they are improving the Travato to the stage of diminishing returns and Russ might end up in the Trend pile if he continues on this path. He established his legacy in the Travato but might be his dimise too if not careful. Sorry for the rant but had to chime in on the Lithium frency. It is almost comical that a $30,000 option is being treated as a minor item. Just say’n…

      Reply
      1. Aaron

        Heh David, Trend pile. That’s funny stuff. We have a Trend and love it. I wish Winnebago was using Volta’s system 2 years ago when we bought ours. Then we wouldn’t have upgraded to an inferior (but still very cool) 12 volt lithium setup.

        The Trend is a wonderful RV but Winnie made a few design mistakes that would have required a significant redesign. So they may end retiring the name and designs. I hope they introduce another Promaster based C in it’s place.

        The Travato’s lithium “option” is more likely 22-24k. It doesn’t make sense to use the inflated MSRP prices. No one should be paying those prices. And while 24k is probably not a “bargain”, there is definitely solid value here for many of us. The ability to run AC in insanely hot and sunny places like our FitRV friend’s home town *without using the genny* is priceless for people like me who can’t safely step outside without being heavily shielded from UV rays.

        I’m an edge case, but like they’ve said. Even something as simple as being able to use the microwave without starting a generator is a really useful feature for many of us.

        Reply
        1. David

          I agree with you on all points! I too fought the wife to get the Trend, loved it also. Such a cool unit, C, on a ProMaster. But she preferred the Travato 59K with compressor refridge. I too hope Winnebago explores another use of the ProMaster chassis but like James mentions, it does pose weight limitations that are a real engineering challenge. Certainly not knocking the Trend or Lithium for all the great benefits of that system. But cost and temperature environment still need to be enhanced in my opinion.

    21. David

      The Lithium package is $29 to 30,000! That is one huge expensive option. I just can’t cost justify that.

      Reply
      1. Ellis

        This is my first post but I have been loving the FitRV for some time now. Totally awesome work by James and Steph! I love pretty much everything you guys are doing.

        So what inspired me to finally comment? I have to agree with David. This is just too much. My local dealer said $25K for the lithium option (you get to the $29-$30 by adding other 2019 options). My dealer even said that they were surprised/concerned about that high cost. You are approaching Roadtrek E-Trek territory in MSRP!

        I happen to have a 2015 E-Trek and agree that it is clearly generation 1 technology which is very finicky. Plus Roadtrek is more opaque on how their system works than Winnebago, which makes it hard to work on when the “finicky” crops up. That is why I was so excited by the Travato 59GL. I was willing to trade from the excellent Sprinter chassis (which I love) for the improved Winnebago support network and this 2nd generation technology that seems more promising. My wife and I were really excited… until we saw the mark up. That killed any enthusiasm I had.

        As a point of comparison, look at the cost to add lithium packages to non-Etrek Roadtrek or Hymer models. Way less. Now we all agree that Winnebago has a better product (at least we are hoping it will play out that way)… but dang. I know that James and Steph (appropriately) stay out of debates on the monetary side of things but unfortunately it is a critical part of most people’s buying decision.

        Regardless, very cool coach and I look forward to see how this evolves.

        Reply
    22. Paul

      James,

      My wife and I RV’d for years while the kids were small. Then we went 20 years without. It was rough, 🙂

      When we were ready to reenter, we watched many vids. It was you and Steph who got us into our 2017.5 Travato G. We love it and love you guys!! Thanks!!

      Paul & Mary in Ohio

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Awww. You guys are too nice!
        Glad we could help get you into a rig that you love!
        We’ll see you out on the road. 🙂

        Reply
      1. Steve Stephenson

        James, You’re right. I watched the video, Lichtsinn’s does have a 59KL on site and it is priced but it is a prototype.

        Reply
    23. Steve Stephenson

      James and Stefany, I appreciate all of your in depth reviews, even though you couldn’t complete this one!

      Lichtsinn RV has a ‘19 Travato KL in stock with lots of pictures. I haven’t run through the pics or the video yet, but it’s there. Also, the ‘19 59G does come with a compressor fridge, no pictures on this one yet. Lichtsinn did do a video on 2019 Travatos in the flesh with the G, K and KL floorplans.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Strange that they have one, since theyre not in production yet. (Or so my sources tell me.) They may have had the KL prototype on loan? Pretty sure you couldnt buy it yet.

        Reply
    24. David

      What does your crystal ball say about a possible Trend replacement? The ProMaster gasoline chassis is in a class of its own but I believe it has so much more potential. And no dual tires, drive shaft or differential to weight it down unnecessarily.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I likr the ProMaster, I really do! But my feeling is that RV manufacturers here in North America are feeling constrained by its low cargo capacity relative to other platforms… I’d love to see more ProMaster based truly compact Cs, but I’m not holding my breath.

        Reply
        1. David

          Why won’t MB offer a gasoline powerplant in their Sprinter chassis? Sounds like the ProMaster is doomed to future development due to the weight limitations. That is too bad for it deserves better!

    25. David

      Couldn’t most of us just buy CARBOB FOAM batteries and get a lot of lithium benefits without the major cost of lithium?

      Reply
        1. James - Post author

          Glad you corrected it. When I first looked at it, I thought you said “CAROB FOAM”… which made me think of it was some kind of awful vegan dessert.
          I don’t have any experience with carbon foam batteries, so I can’t really comment.
          Although, a quick search tells me that to get an equivalent capacity to my existing lithium battery, I would have to add about 250 pounds and several cubic feet to change to carbon foam.
          But if you just wanted to replace the existing batteries in place, these might be an interesting option.

    26. Greg Helton

      The battery is so big that solar is inconsequential … that is a problem no one foresaw.

      Your previous discussion about the total hours you spent running the air conditioner each year was food for thought and made me see the obvious, that there are options that don’t require an Onan generator or $20K of lithium. When you need the AC you have many options like move to a location with shore power, move to a cooler location, check in to hotel or connect to a Honda generator. I would much rather have a portable Honda than deal with an Onan. In light of what you wrote previously, the Onan and the big lithium options are expenses that may never pay for themselves.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Perhaps, but it’s better to think about more than just the air conditioning. I can’t tell you how many times now we’ve run the microwave off of the battery. It’s SO NICE not to have to run the generator just to warm something up. And being able to run the hair dryer without running the generator is also something we do (OK. Well, Stef does) a lot. There’s also my all-day-working-on-the-laptop sessions. The large battery means never having to run an engine. So, if you’re only worried about the air conditioning, maybe not; but for us, it’s a bigger picture.

        Reply
        1. Bob B

          I’m thinking of those users who do use the MW, run a hairdryer from time to time, maybe a coffee maker in the morning, charge their CPAP, laptop, watch a movie at night, but rarely need the A/C – if they do, they find a CG and plug in. They don’t go to the desert in the summer.

          I guess I am looking for the Goldilocks solution, something between the existing 200Ah AGM (50% usable so 100AH, 1200Wh?) OR spending $20K+ (if you get 30% off MSRP difference of $29k) for 8700 Wh. Where’s the base T with maybe 200-400Ah Lithium, where solar still does help?

    27. Ed Marks

      Thanks for another outstanding review and details about the L models. I have a question about the solar: it sounds like it doesn’t help all that much with such a massive battery bank. Do you think this is true for the solar on the non-L models with 2 AGM batteries? Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Ed

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        With the capacity of the AGMs, the solar starts to become a bigger part of the equation. The 378 Watt-Hours you might get from Solar on a good day is over a quarter of the useable capacity of the AGMs.
        So, on a standard Travato, it still makes sense.

        Reply
        1. Tom

          Another version of this question: does solar matter as much in a rig like Lance, with its 12v auxiliary alternator and lithium battery pack? (Not that I hate solar – but I’m going to be carrying kayaks atop a Travato…)

          Also – great review and videos! Love the effort you put into your content.

        2. James - Post author

          Honestly, I don’t think it matters much. Our battery is nearly always full. Solar is there, but it’s much more useful to me when the rig is stored.
          If I had kayaks to go on the roof, I wouldn’t hesitate at all because I might reduce solar output.
          (I might hesitate because of the hit on gas mileage… but that’s a different thing altogether!)

    28. Christian Rouleau

      HI James,
      As with everything you and Steph do, great review. I Am However VERY concerned about the batteries since I live in Quebec, where temperatures in the winter drop to minus 20 or minus 30C for a few days. Most Class B owners here park their vans for the winter but some of us still used them in the winter for skiing and touring. Of course we winterize and used the vans a bit differently but we still use them, including the electric systems. Would we still be able to do so on Lithium here? A concerned fan … Thanks for the advice

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        My personal opinion here: I wouldn’t let living in Quebec prevent me from using this technology.
        In the event it was predicted to get below minus 30C, I would warm up the rig and plug it in – heating on the lowest electric setting required to keep the interior of the rig above freezing. You could probably do that with the Truma on EL1. (It wouldn’t be comfortable in there by any means, but you should be able to keep it above freezing.)
        If you’ve done that, the system should be fine.

        Reply
    29. Terry

      I still see lithium batteries in RVs as a work in progress, but progress is obviously being made. Putting 6000 watts into batteries is impressive! Still issues of managing high/low temperatures and cost remain. Where implemented, it appears lithium batteries make solar pretty much moot.

      When these rigs go into production, I can’t help but wonder what the premium cost will be versus a more conventional rig and how willing the market will be to respond.

      Thanks for an honest and objective review.

      Reply
      1. David

        Terry, I agree with all your points/comments. I think you are spot on regardless of James’ enthusiasm, which is warranted but as you say, system needs more development on temperature issues and cost. The non-Lithium floorplans provide the greatest value per price point. Both of those floorplans are way out ahead of their competition. Go Winnebago and stay focused. You too James.

        Reply
    30. Tom Boles

      I wonder if the rating scheme W is using is conservative the way Chevy uses a similar idea on the Volt. They don’t use the entire capacity to run the car and the software manages the available energy so there is no apparent decline in capacity as seen by the driver. Combined with a very efficient and through temperature control system, thoughts about “how much capacity do I have over time” are pretty much non existent.

      Thanks for the candid review!

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Interesting thought. I know the simple analog-style gauge is programmable. So it’s possible that it could be programmed to continue to show the same range of values, even as the battery ages – it could also allow use of previously-disallowed-capacity as time goes on. There are a lot of possibilities!
        Obviously, we didn’t use the rig long enough for any of that to come into play. And I believe they are still working on the gauge programming.
        One thing I did not see in the rig was a place / a plug / a USB port to allow for programming updates as time goes on. If I had to guess, I’d think there *might* be one in that Volta box you see in the videos. If that’s the case, then firmware updates would likely be performed by dealer personnel. But that’s all conjecture. I didn’t see anything to support this.

        Reply
    31. Ron Merritt

      Great article! My confidence in ordering one of these is not shaken – it’s actually quite encouraging that this info is not being covered up. Nothing is perfect right out of the gate, but I’m sure Winnebago will get it nearly so before they ship to customers.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I think it took guts for Winnebago to put us… bloggers… in their very first prototype… *knowing* we would write about it.
        Kinda cool, actually.

        Reply
    32. Sam Pellegrino

      When the 2nd Alternator engages, while driving, do you feel the engine bog down?

      Could that belt-slip issue be resolved by using a toothed belt?

      How did the 2nd Alternator behavior compare with the system you have on Lance?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        No, you don’t notice the second alternator engage. We had to watch the gauge closely to see where it kicked in. It was an inexact science at best.
        I don’t think a toothed belt is an option, from what I remember of our own second alternator install. This one goes in the same spot. Besides, the issue was that the belt should have been replaced when they switched to an upgraded second alternator. So it wasn’t a wear problem.
        Lance’s second alternator will charge at idle. Not as much as it will when running at speed, but you do get something. Also, on Lance, since both alternators are 12 volts, I kind of have two. I can use both of them to charge the battery if I wanted to (I have a switch for that). The 48v alternator cannot be wired into the chassis electrical system for obvious reasons…

        Reply
    33. Bill H

      In the picture of you looking under the van, from the front, do you think the alternator might need extra protection/skid plate like Vance?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Not really. This alternator is considerably smaller than the one we have on Lance. It doesn’t hang down near as far. I was pulling over curbs like that the whole time we had the rig trying to determine if it was a problem. I eventually decided no problem.
        BTW – Stefany would panic each time I nosed over a curb. It was kind of funny!

        Reply
    34. David

      I hope too that maybe a Class C Trend replacement on a ProMaster gasoline chassis may have some of the Horizon’s design features built in. A little larger floor plan would be welcomed but keeping with the Travato’s wonderful maneuverability, nimbleness and manageability. James, keep mentioning that to friend Russ.

      Reply
    35. Stephen Monteith Albers

      As usual, your critique is a well organized thorough gold mine of information useful to anyone concerned with RV power and good mobile living.

      Reply
    36. Greg

      Thanks for the electrifying enlightenment. Appreciate the DC/DC clarification as it sounds like that is seamless and wouldn’t be draining power during minor uses when not using the inverter. Likewise noted the reminder here that the batteries don’t discharge when dormant. So, in a midwest winter when winterized and in storage the only time the batteries would need to be heated is when they are being charged? Is that correct?

      Reply
      1. Paul Zarnowski

        I was wondering about this too. The way I read it, is you shouldn’t store in cold weather where the battery temp falls to -4° F. If true, would it be recommended (and easy?) to remove the lithium batteries for winter storage?

        Reply
        1. James - Post author

          The batteries are not to be removed. At least, not by end users. I’m sure someone will try it, but I wouldn’t want to be around!

          The batteries can take hits to -4 occasionally, such as overnight.
          If it’s below -4 for a prolonged period of time, I’d plug in the van and run the Truma just enough to keep the battery temperature up.
          No. Scratch that. It it was below -4 for a prolonged period of time, I’d move!

      2. James - Post author

        The DC/DC converter is indeed running all the time. It has to, to power things like the propane leak detector. But from our testing, the draw from those things was very small relative to the capacity of the battery.

        As far as heating the batteries: remember, they have to have an internal temperature above 14 degrees in order to use them at all. So depending on the storage conditions, maybe you hit that? Once you’re over 14 degrees, then yes, you only need to warm them up in order to charge them.

        Reply
    37. Jack Monroe

      Wow, throwing 20 Grand on a system that is very questionable, then build it on the underpowered Dodge van with no dually’s really has me wondering what WGO is thinking. I’m not impressed. Should have added it to the Paseo with dualies and a higher GVWR. Instead WGO is no longer building the Paseo???

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I’m not sure I agree with your assessments.
        Having lived with a lithium battery system for over two years, I wouldn’t call the system questionable. The technology works just fine. But we were in a prototype coach, and the reason you build prototypes is to ferret out any issues. I think it says a lot that Winnebago put us… bloggers… into their prototype, *knowing* we would write about it. They’re honestly interested in making this thing bulletproof – our testing was part of that process.

        And having lived with a ProMaster chassis for nearly three years now, I can tell you it’s not underpowered, and I genuinely have no need or use for dual rear tires. This is a van, not a bus, and there is ample cargo capacity on the ProMaster for a Travato. The ProMaster handles better than any rear wheel drive van I’ve ever driven. Dual tires and stiffer suspension would make it ride more like a delivery van.

        Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Interesting!
        Part of me wants to believe this is because they are working on the new Compact C coach I really want someone to make…

        Reply
        1. Greg Helton

          Members of the Paseo group on FB says the Paseo is going out of production too. One member suggests that having an extra tall van that won’t sleep a six footer was poor product development. I bet that WGO can use the capacity in their attempt to satisfy the demand for Travatos.

      2. CJ

        That’s a shame. My husband and I really love that floor plan with the twin beds mid coach and the bath in the back, our favorite floor plan in a small rig. Could also occasionally bring another with the sofa bed, very open also. Our issue with the Trend is we didn’t like the outside décor white with gaudy stripes, preferring the plain solid colors of the Travato, and it needs more outside storage, but that was definitely one we were thinking of. I think if they change the outside with more storage and solid color look it would be more popular. Do like these new Travato’s and saw in another video of Fit Rv that the K has seat belts in the back now and upgraded seats in front and the G’s dinette looks more comfortable which was an issue when we looked at one.

        Reply
      3. Aaron

        That is interesting. I hope they do come back with a Euro style C with a garage on the Promaster. Fortunately resale value wasn’t a factor in our family (of 5) picking a Trend 23L. With 30k+ miles, two cross country trips, and 6 of 24 months lived on the road, I think we’re getting our money’s worth. We’ve even met the Fit RV duo in person in SLC.

        James, if Winnebago introduces a Euro style compact promaster C with a garage & Volta’s system, how long can you hold out before saying goodbye to Lance?

        Reply
        1. James - Post author

          That would be pretty tempting…
          We’ve been bugging the entire RV industry to give us a garage for 5 years now! Can’t wait to see who’s the first to do it.

    38. Bill H

      Nice write-up. I liked how you convinced me watts rating is better than amp/hr, then turned right around and referenced amp usage… Good thing I live by the rule “it is what it is”. 😉

      I’m getting a KL and wonder if there is any room on top for a small storage box?

      Also, do you think the provided solar would replenish ‘your’ typical daily battery usage?

      …kids in a candy shop are fun to watch…

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Room on top for a box? People have mounted bigger things than that up there, so I’d guess yes.
        Would solar replenish daily usage? I guess it depends on the day, how sunny it was, how long the day was, and what you did that day.
        I suppose it could. But not if you were running the air conditioner for any length of time. A couple minutes of microwave? Maybe.

        Reply
        1. Dave Duncan

          Some seat of the pants solar estimates (James can double-check me):

          200W of solar is standard on GL.

          200W X 8hrs (safe estimate on a typical sunny day) = 1600 W hrs. I think the microwave is 1100 W. Even with conversion losses (solar charger and inverter) that should get you an hour of microwaving per day, just from the charge the solar panels contribute to the battery pack.

          Or more realistically, 10 minutes of microwave (200 W Hr), 10 minutes of hair dryer (200 W Hr on medium), a few hours of recharging your laptop (80W charger = 160 W Hr), 1/2 hour of cooking in the small Instant Pot (700 W X 0.5 = 350 W Hr), phone recharging and some miscellaneous systems like the water pump and some LED lighting.

          Unless running the A/C and not driving at all, the 200 W of solar seems helpful, even though it would take several sunny days to recharge an empty battery pack from solar alone. (8700 WHr / 1600 W Hr per day = 5.44 days)

    39. Glenn

      Hi Guys,

      Nice work! Since it seems that solar is almost a “footnote” now, do you think WGO would make solar an option on the GL & KL? Rational: solar is an extra cost; it needs cleaning/maintenance/repair?; and it takes up valuable space up top.

      When you make your videos, I love to watch the love that flows between you two!

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Awww. How nice!
        I’m kind of wondering about the future of Solar on these rigs as well.
        The “battery maintainer while in storage” is useful. Especially if they could include the units that can charge both the chassis and house batteries…

        Reply
        1. Rick Young

          The chassis battery and coach battery while in storage. My Fuse, during the winter in storage, once a month I plug into shore power, while on shore power the 120 volt a/c outlets are hot, so I use a battery maintainer hooked up to my chassis batteries. Works for me. A garage for the RV is in my future. You guys get two dings for the great work you are doing ! Great insight into the lithium batteries.

      2. Glenn

        James,

        As a non-techie, may I ask the worst-case scenario of not having solar as a battery maintainer? Don’t some prefer to store their rigs in garages?

        Reply
        1. James - Post author

          If you have a tall enough garage, indoor storage is a bonus, yes.
          So for normal outdoor storage, you could just turn off the house battery with the big green button. It won’t discharge then. Solar not needed to maintain it.
          The Engine battery however, would still slowly discharge just like any vehicle.
          How long that might last depends on the vehicle. If you installed an alarm system or some other sort of device that ran on the vehicle’s electrical system, you might drain that battery more quickly.

        2. Terry

          I store my rig outdoors without solar or shore power and have done so for 5 years. I simply disconnect both house and chassis batteries (fully charged) via simple ground disconnects. Last check after 5 months house batteries were 12.5 volts. (With apolgies to James), it’s not rocket science.

    40. Bob B

      As usual, great write-up.

      “…the charging seemed to kick in at about 1600 RPM, but that exact number may change.” That seems to fairly common; on sailboats, if we have not motored much, we may need charge the batteries at anchor and 1400-1600 rpm is the usual recommended rpm for the alternator to kick in.

      I had heard about the 8700 Wh being the “usable” amount – nice explanation of how all those numbers worked.

      Hopefully, WGO will provide a gravity fill for the fresh water. Already, people have noticed and discussed the smaller tank and would like to bring along additional water, if needed. Mods to add a gravity fill have been mentioned.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Thanks, Bob!
        I know Winnebago is looking at that gravity fill, so I suspect the book is not closed on that front.

        Reply
        1. Sam Pellegrino

          Why can’t they just raise the external “Tank Fill” port up a foot, and provide a funnel, on a flexible tube? Wouldn’t that allow “Gravity Fill?”

        2. James - Post author

          Well, on the G, that would put the port somewhere on your left side if you were sitting at the dinette. I don’t know if gravity alone would work to fill from there. Might be incredibly slow.
          Also, there’s the check valve to deal with.

        3. Ron Merritt

          I would forgo having the gravity fill if it meant another hole in the side of the van. I strongly dislike the idea of having more plastic doodads on the body of the vehicle.

        4. James - Post author

          I’m with you on that one. One of the big draws of the compressor fridge was the elimination of silly holes.

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