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We’ve had Lithium-powered rigs exclusively for several years now.  And the question in the title of this post is hands-down the number one thing we get asked.  But the trouble is, it’s almost impossible to answer.  There are a lot of variables that can affect how long your battery power might run the AC, which means any answer we give has to be qualified with a whole bunch of modifiers.  But while we can’t give an absolute answer, we can answer for any given day – and that’s what we do in this video, which we made for WinnebaGoLife’s blog.


We shot this video during one full day of activity at Winnebago’s 2019 Grand National Rally.  We had a lot to do and wouldn’t be in the van much – but most of our activities were not “cat-friendly”.  So we volunteered Mel to stay in the van and keep an eye on the air conditioning performance.  Mel took this task on with his usual level of enthusiasm (which means he slept).  But in the end, I’m happy to report – everyone survived!

The video will show you what our day looked like, so what I want to do here is give you the data we have available on our test.

The Temperature:  We shot this video on July 23.  The official high temperature in Forest City that day was about 80 degrees according to Weather Underground.  It seemed to be a bit hotter than that on the rally grounds.  When I turned on the van (messing with the auto-start), for example, the dash thermometer said 83.

Humidity:  It was pretty humid when we started (80%), though the humidity dropped throughout the day.

The Van Itself:  Though they may call the color “granite” or whatever, let’s face it.  Parky is pretty dark colored!  It is usually significantly hotter inside Parky than it is outside.  So if you’re trying to compare these results to your own silver-colored rig, you may want to up-rate things accordingly.  On an 80 degree day, you would absolutely NOT want to leave a pet inside this closed up van.

The State of Charge:  The National Park Foundation Travato has 11,600 useable Watt-hours of battery power.  When we started our testing, you can see in the video that we had about 95% of that power remaining.  Call it 11,000 Watt Hours.  The air conditioner, when it’s really cranking in the desert, pulls about 12 amps at 120 volts.  From that, I would expect an absolute max of about 7.5 hours if the air conditioner never cycled off.  As you can see in the video, we beat that considerably,

Air Conditioner Settings:  Though in the video you can see that the AC was set to a chilly 58 degrees when we turned it on, we didn’t leave it there.  Mel likes things quite a bit warmer than Stef and I do.  So we set the air conditioner for 75 degrees.  We also set the AC to the “Auto Cool” mode.  This mode shuts off not just the compressor – but also the fan – when it reaches its set temperature.  Shutting off the fan saves even more energy than just letting it run, so we did use that setting to maximize our run time.

Other items running in the van:  Not much.  Mel’s monitoring and entertainment equipment was running, but that just amounts to a few watts.  The inverter was on in order to run the AC, so any other parasitic 120 volt loads like the microwave clock were running.  But beyond that, nothing much was going on in the van other than the breakfast you see in the video.

The Actual Runtime:  It really was about 12 hours – from 9am to 9pm – before the Auto-Start kicked on.  We plugged in overnight and were back at 100% the next morning.  We could have done the whole thing again!

The cat in this box is both alive and dead.
(Give yourself 100 Nerd Points if you got the joke!!)

Mel’s Equipment

I know we’re going to get asked about it, so I thought I’d share the “Mel Devices” you see in the video.

Mel’s Harness: It’s a Kitty Holster harness.  We get asked about it all the time.  Mel is so used to it, he hardly even notices it any more.  Honestly, this is the #1 question we get asked about Mel.

Mel’s Temperature Monitor:  It’s from RV Pet Safety.  It lives in the van full-time and we’ve had no issues with it.  RV Pet Safety also sponsored the Dog Park at this years rally that you see in the video.  (I’m nagging them for a “cat park” next year.)

Mel’s Treat-Cam:  Is the PetCube Bites.  Our internet connection at GNR wasn’t the greatest.  At home, the picture quality is normally quite a bit better than what you see in the video.

Mel’s Sign:  The sign you see in our window is a StickitFrame.  It’s a peel-and-stick reposition-able frame that sticks great to glass.  It’s easy to put up and take down.


So there you have it.  I can’t tell you how long you can run the air conditioner in your rig, but now you know kind of how long we can run it in Parky, and you can make you own assumptions and allowances from there.

Keep your pets safe and we’ll see you on the road!