The 20k Project: Part 3 – Electrical Install!!


OK.  First off, sorry it’s been three weeks since I put up the last video.  That’s actually about how long it took me to do the work, but I never imagined it would take me that long to get up the video.  This one’s a bit different… Behold:

 

Most of the work I did in this video was done in bits and spurts.  I’d add a few zip ties between Zoom meetings; install solar after work; that kind of thing.  It was difficult to film, because I wasn’t ever totally sure what I was going to do next or when I was going to do it.  But hopefully this all makes sense in the video.  Here are some of the “sub-projects” you’ll see completed in the video:

  • 3D printing and fabricating duct collars for the inverter compartment ductwork.
  • Complete ventilation and ductwork install in the inverter compartment.
  • Fabricate and quality check cable end lugs.
  • Install solar panel port on rear bumper and wire in with main roof solar.
  • Run new 4/0 cable to the second alternator.
  • Make an audible change to the cable wrap I used to save space.
  • Run large-gauge wiring through the coach from inverter to load center.
  • Change plans on battery mounting and mount 5 Lithionics batteries.
  • Fabricate enclosure for 250A breakers (I wound up using two, not one.)
  • Install SmartPlug.
  • Modify load center to accommodate two independent sets of breakers.
  • Remove the power share device.
  • Replace the load center.
  • Build mounting board for Victron Lynx bus bars, solar charge controller, hardwired surge protector.
  • Install inverter/charger.
  • Install all large-gauge 12v components.
  • Install seat belt.
  • Smoke test 12v system with power.  (I was prepared for literal smoke…)
  • Try to get away with using the Xantrex 6-conductor control cable for the 8-conductor Victron control panel.
  • Fail at that.
  • Run new 8 conductor ethernet cable for the Victron inverter control panel.
  • Smoke test 120v system.
  • Fabricate trim rings and cover plates for solar switches, propane monitor, and Victron inverter control panel.
  • Re-seal inverter (formerly battery + inverter) compartment with thermostatic fan controls installed.
  • Finish and make work-safe electrical install.

 

Yeah.  So it was a lot.  If I had to do it over again, I could make a pretty good run book, but I didn’t have that knowledge from the start.

I didn’t list out the products that I used in this post, because there are literally hundreds of them.  If there is something you really want to know more about, ask a question down in the comments and I’ll try to post up a link, or explain myself, or both!

Happy Modding!!



James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling 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.


    64 thoughts on “The 20k Project: Part 3 – Electrical Install!!

    1. Phil

      This project inspired me to purchase a Lithionics (GTX315) battery to give our recently installed Nova Kool fridge more non-generator runtime.

      A question not answered for James’ installation from the Part 1 video is the capacity of the battery-to-main-breaker cables to handle the maximum short circuit current for five GTX320 batteries, which is (5x5818A = 29,090A). It appears from the Part 3 video that James is using two 250A breakers, each connected to the positive end of the battery string by 2/0 cables. So each cable needs to be able to withstand a short circuit current of at least 15,000A for 0.1 seconds (the maximum breaker interruption delay). James please correct me if I’m wrong on any of this.

      I found a “Short-Circuit Current Withstand Chart” that I think answers the question. Note that the chart is valid for both AC RMS Amps and DC Amps (they generate the same amount of heat), so you can ignore the “cycles” labels and focus on the time values on the capacity lines. The chart indicates that 2/0 cable can withstand 20,000 Amps for 0.13 seconds, which is more than James’ 15,000A requirement – so I see no problem with the cable sizing to/from the 250A breakers.

      https://www.eaton.com/content/dam/eaton/products/electrical-circuit-protection/fuses/solution-center/bus-ele-tech-lib-equipment-grounding-conductors.pdf

      Awesome project and videos!!

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        You are correct in your understanding of how I’ve got things wired up (2x 250A breakers each connected with 2/0 cable), and I commend you for digging in this deep!

        Best of luck with your GTX315! It’s a beast of a battery, and I’m sure you’ll dig it.

        Reply
    2. Charla Garth

      Fascinating! You are so talented. I didn’t understand all I heard…but I felt smarter just listening to you. Great job. Number One is a beast!

      Reply
    3. Kevin M

      James, I have a question about the MP x2. I have installed the same unit, also on its back with active ventilation. I am experiencing significantly louder noise coming from that unit while charging (over 50dB when measured about 6″ above the unit). The noise is much louder charging than when inverting. It’s a bit of a problem as it is under our bed. Any chance you could take a dB reading while charging on your MP?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Sounds coming from the inverter/charger are one of the big reasons I located it outside.
        I’ll see if I can remember to take a listen next time we plug in to charge.

        Anecdotally, I can tell you we’ve never heard our Multiplus II from the living space of the coach.

        Reply
        1. Kevin M

          Thank you James. I had the old MP 12/3000 in the same place under our bed and never heard it. I think the new unit I have has a fault. I can hear it in the front of my 38′ coach when charging so it appears it is louder than yours. I look forward to hearing your experience next time you plug in.

    4. Ed DiPaanfilo

      As a retired GE service engineer who has installed all from CT scanners, PET scanners and last many MRI systems. Your install with cabling and all brought back memories for all the MRI’s needed to have custom RF coax and Gradient cables cut to fit due to site considerations. I want to commend you on your work and say I felt like I was right there working with you. Steph, I can understand and imagine your thoughts when the breakers tripped because I have been in Computer rooms where 480v was shorted to ground. That will get anyone’s attention. I hope WBGO sees the quality you have demonstrated. Have been following you all and of course someday when you go to another rig, somebody better appreciate what they are getting just like whoever bought Lance. Great vid.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Thanks!
        It’s probably a good thing you just felt like you were working with me. Because if you had actually been working with me… you’d have been sweating!
        (And also swearing. I think there may have been a little swearing…)

        Reply
    5. Patrick Broos

      Hi James, You must be tired of my questions by now … this stuff is just so interesting to me. 🙂

      I’m curious … did Lithionics give you some kind of procedure to equalize the SOC of the 5 batteries before energizing them on the same bus?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        No special procedure given.
        I did keep the batteries on the charger until all of them registered 100% full. The last one to get there was the original EKKO battery, which was a bit of a laggard at first, but has since caught up to its new mates.

        Reply
    6. Patrick Broos

      James,
      Will there be some kind of sturdy structure that stops the batteries from sliding to starboard (away from the wall) if the coach rolls onto its right side? Perhaps the cabinetry in the next video will be strong enough to do that?

      The concern is of course that the positive terminals could contact the steel hold-down bar if the batteries moved a foot or so to starboard.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I’ve covered the terminals since this video.
        Also, there are angle brackets screwed to the floor to hold both the batteries and seating.

        Reply
    7. Patrick Broos

      James,
      The 20k project is amazing.

      Since it involved lots of new AC components and wiring, perhaps the final video should briefly walk viewers through a few basic safety verifications on the modified AC system. As a non-expert, the four tests I can think of are:

      1. At the Smart Plug, verify open circuit between the NEUTRAL and SAFETY GROUND pins (i.e. verify that those two conductors are NOT bonded anywhere in the coach, as required by the NEC).

      2. At the Smart Plug, verify low resistance between the chassis and the SAFETY GROUND pin (i.e. verify chassis is tied to earth ground by the shore power cord).

      3. Verify that there is no stray voltage (aka “hot chassis”, “hot skin”) condition (e.g. with shore power connected, verify <3V between the chassis and the HOT pin in a receptacle).

      4. Use a standard receptacle tester to look for other wiring faults, both when on shore power and when on inverter.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Interesting. Don’t know if it would make for very riveting video, but I’ll keep it in mind.
        “Hot Skin” shouldn’t be much of a problem in Number One… Not metal skin…

        Reply
    8. Tae Lee

      Hello Rick!
      Your montage was great. I ordered EKKO with two batteries. What would be best mod with two batteries. Change inverter to 3000 watt and what else can improve power management? I am solo traveler and living in my EKKO.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        The best mod with two batteries is whatever enhances your own enjoyment the most!
        It might be a 3000 watt inverter, or it might be something completely different, like a bed modification.
        Honestly, what I’d recommend is to use the RV for a while, and see where it falls short for your own unique RVing style.
        THAT’s going to be your best mod.

        Reply
    9. Dan Cogan

      Thanks for the videos. Even for those of us who will not follow in your footsteps it’s very helpful and useful to see how you accomplish certain tasks we may undertake on our own units. Loved the montage!

      Reply
    10. Luc

      Great video James, I like the montage and the sound is not that bad, we can hear you clearly over the fans. First, I would like to say that I would be completely drenched if I had to work in a 100F+ environment, especially in tight places. Second, I think the EKKO comes with a generator, remind me what you have done. Has it been removed or are you using it as a belt and suspender operation? Finally, it would be interesting if you posted a wiring diagram of the system.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        We ordered our EKKO without the generator. Our starting point was a single battery and no generator.
        I don’t have a wiring diagram per se. The closest I come to it is in “The Plan” video.
        It’s not too surprising though, you could probably find something similar on line.

        Reply
    11. Gary Rosen

      James, The montage was superb. I really have to salute you for your creative mind and ability to work when the temperature would melt asphalt.
      I can’t wait to see the replacement furnishings that you install.
      Thanks for the distraction while we wait a year for our EKKO delivery.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Glad you liked it.
        And as far as working over 110 degrees… Once I had my mind made up that I was just going to sweat and quit worrying about it, it really wasn’t too bad. Stef brought plenty of beverages, and, as they say… it was a dry heat!

        Reply
    12. Grace

      Hello, this is a non-technical reply. The camera perspective on the RV at the Weather Tech Speeway, gives the RV the appearance that the Ekko has a pull-out because of the way the open door frame’s alignment is to the top of the RV.

      Anyway, for sure I will not be doing this battery mod, but very interesting and I hope it works well for you all.

      Reply
    13. Blythe Tretick

      How much weight does all the 20k project add. Looks like it’s all on the driver’s side, too. Does it still come in under the Ekko GVWR?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        That’s a good question! And I don’t have an exact answer.
        It’s difficult for me to say how much this one mega-mod added, because I did other mods during the course of this one. And I had done other mods before, and other mods after.

        But, I can say that we’re currently on a month-long trip, and we weighed ourselves on the way out of town, with full water tanks, full propane, full gas, cat, wife, and enough groceries, supplies, and clothes for a month long trip. We even got ourselves a couple beverages before heading to the scale.
        And we’re still under the Transit’s GVWR.
        I can never imagine loading up more than this, so we’re good.

        Reply
    14. Mark

      So I love the montage and the project. When you added the second circuit and doubled the wires , what was the final shunt rating . I started with a 500 and ended on a 1000 amp on my last build?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I’m actually not using a shunt for battery monitoring in this project. I use the bluetooth monitoring built into each battery. Granted, I have to check each battery individually, but they’re always fairly close to each other, so I usually only check one of the batteries on the ends of the chain. If I were using a shunt, I would have gone straight for a 1000A one.

        If you’re wanting more information on the breakers and their ratings, I provided a whole bunch of that info and spec sheets, etc, in the comments on the video about the plan.

        Reply
    15. Graham Smith

      While you didn’t spend much time talking solar, that is a whole complicated topic all on it’s own. Skipping over the debate about usefulness with a 4KW battery and PWM vs MPPT for now…
      The EKKO stock PWM controller is 30A or about [email protected] There are 40A PWM versions which should be supported by the wiring and get you to 720W. Spec’s on the 3 port roof cap are hard to find but an older version was limited to the same 30A but it’s not clear how hard that limit is.
      It makes little sense as to why WGO didn’t use the 40A controller and include a side port for a portable panel. As it is, even with a 40A controller, there does not appear to be a simple way to add a 4th port. Running a wire to the current controller location or moving the controller would appear to be a sizable task. And if the roof port is limited to 30A, then adding a parallel Y connector for a 4th panel would seem problematical.
      This is too big a topic for a short reply, but it would be nice if you did a whole vid on solar.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I do have plans for a whole solar video when I finally land on exactly what I want up there. For now, we have 680 watts (4×170) in 2 series/parallel strings.
        Couple points on the solar setup as provided. There is a 40a fuse inline between the solar panels and the controller. It is a regular automotive type fuse, so it’s only rated for 32 volts, which limits any kind of series configuration. The wiring is substantial, and while I believe it could handle 40 amps, the roof port itself is limited to 30 – at least that’s my understanding.
        Changing out the solar controller – in the spot where Winnebago puts it – would be a trivial operation. But running additional wiring to it is not. Similarly, moving it would also not be easy.

        Reply
    16. Tom Barr

      Were there any other options were to locate the batteries? Winnebago did a nice job laying out the dining/work area with the seats and table. Given that you didn’t get the outside kitchen, could that storage area been used to locate the extra batteries or other hardware to keep the passenger area as it was also using the original battery and generator areas. You do a very professional job on all your projects along with the way you do your videos, but it seems you lost some useful space in the passenger area.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Yes, there were other options for where to locate the batteries. There’s a very large gear garage in the back, for example. We could have used that if we wanted to give up riding bicycles. Our outside kitchen cabinet is being used by Mel’s washroom, so that location was out. I could have tried to fabricate a new compartment in that space just aft of the inverter compartment if I really wanted to learn to weld.

        The problem with all of these locations was that I would have had to arrange much longer wire runs in order to make them work. Longer wire runs – particularly with high amperage low voltage wiring = are a bad thing.

        The other problem is that we really disliked the original seats and table. Even if we had put the batteries elsewhere, we would have replaced the seats and table anyway… most likely with something nearly identical to what I installed in this video. This project was a win for us in terms of both power and storage space.

        Reply
    17. Don Wilson

      I really enjoyed all the three battery update vids. I’m not sure I would try this myself, mostly because of age and cost. But I certainly have loved to be there to watch the actual install. I had to watch twice to see the last vid so I didn’t miss anything and the montage. Put me down for another like on that part. Looking forward to the next installment in this install. And hope you enjoyed the festivities.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Glad you liked it.
        I actually don’t expect too many people will try to copy this one. I’m just hoping to show people what’s possible.
        Next ones should be up soon!

        Reply
    18. Dave

      James, your videos are SO helpful…as I sit here….and sit here…waiting for my Ekko ordered Nov 22, 2020, and originally scheduled to ship on 6.22.21. I don’t plan on a 20K project, but we will be traveling with our two cats and will use many more of your ideas and research. Thanks for sharing all this! Awesome work!

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Glad you find it useful!
        Even if you don’t plan a 5 battery monster, stuff like that power share device are just good for any owner to know.

        Reply
        1. Kandie

          James I notice the side decals are no longer on your Ekko. How hard were they to remove and how did you do it?

    19. Michael Janke

      I’m not sure I understand the purpose of the ‘Pleasureway hack” and splitting the neutral on the WFO breaker box. Can you elaborate a bit?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Sure.
        The thing is, I want two sets of breakers. One set is what you would think of as “regular” in your RV – A main breaker and some branch circuits. That’s all fine. But I also want to put a breaker in between the shore power inlet and the inverter. One option would have been to install a separate breaker in a box all by itself. But I decided I didn’t have the room to spare for that.

        The WFCO panel I used can be use in 50 amp, 240 V coaches, with two hots, a single neutral, and a ground. But I don’t need opposing phase 120v breakers. I need two *independent* sets of 120v breakers. By splitting the neutral bus, I have two sets of hots, two neutrals, and a ground.

        Long story short, the hack lets you use a single set of 240v breakers as two sets of 120v. So that breaker I wanted in between the shore power and the inverter? It’s now sitting on the other side of the WFCO box.

        Let me know if I’m still not explaining it right and I’ll try again.

        Thanks for watching (and asking)!

        Reply
    20. Mike Lem e

      Most impressive! To be fair, not sure I would ever need to recharge a Tesla off my Ekko but it looks like you can. When we decide to upgrade to an Ekko next year I may settle for two batteries. Having said that I sure enjoyed watching you work. A master you are.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Two batteries, with smart management, will get you pretty far! It’s more capacity than we had in Lance.

        Reply
    21. Joseph Hartman

      Very impressive. Like that Ekko gave the option to help avoid dc to dc converter or isolator. We have a class c and that is the one part of my upgrade (nothing close to the 20K) to lithium that I was leaning on hiring an expert but now am motivated to at least attempt it my self. Thanks for the great content and good luck with the new system.

      Reply
        1. jimi mackay

          I thought this channel was very ethical,i wonder how many children died digging cobalt for lithium batteries.

        2. James - Post author

          Uhhhhh…
          Since these are lithium iron phosphate batteries, which don’t contain cobalt, I’m going to say zero.

          If you’re just looking for something you can get outraged about, try watching the news.

    22. Mike

      Liked the montage! Should have included that scene from an old Frankenstein movie with the scientist yelling “It’s alive!!” for after you turned things on! 🙂

      Reply
    23. Graham Smith

      About that montage, there were a couple places where I think you went a little too Andy Warhol. Other than that, it was fine. Better than some of the fast-forward video segments I have seen.

      Reply
    24. Paul LeMair

      LOVED the Montage! Very fun! Thanks for the continued EKKO entertainment while we wait for ours to be delivered… and hopefully after we have ours too!

      Reply
    25. Eric

      Nice video, you mentioned you saw differences in fuse brands, can you expand on what issues you were seeing and what brand you settled on?
      Thanks!
      Eric

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Sure. The first fuses I used were labeled “Victron” on the baggie, but I suspected that they were counterfeit. The four tiny rivets holding them together would rip apart if you tried to torque them up to spec. But the biggest issue with them was voltage drop.
        By switching all the fuses to Littelfuse MEGA fuses, I reclaimed about 0.3 volts.
        We’ve got all Littelfuse fuses in the rig now.

        Reply
    26. Bob Garbe

      Great Job, I love the AC Infinity products also and have used then in a couple projects. It is interesting that the production EKKO’s have been having big issues with Xantrax inverter so you dodged that one.

      I use Balmar stuff exclusively on my sailboat with Carbon Foam batteries (no weight issues there), works great very flexible and adjustable..

      Look forward to your evaluation of things going forward.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        We had the same Balmar regulator on Lance, so I was glad to see that included in the EKKO.
        Loving the system so far!

        Reply
    27. rick

      Nice video James. I’m planning a conversion on my Airstream and will be using the 3000va victron MP. . Im also using the simple rotary know controller for limiting shore current and turning on an off the inverter (it’s wife friendly!). Im curious why you didn’t kick it up and use the Cerbo and CG display. I’m debating that. Also, go over how your alternator actually charges your lithium batteries. Are you using a DC to DC converter? -Rick

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Hi Rick.
        The Cerbo and enhanced display options seems like a lot of expense and stuff to install, and fluff for something that I honestly don’t need and wouldn’t use. I’ve never once wanted to turn on my van’s inverter from across the country. I’m a bit retro that way, and don’t think everything is necessarily made better by touch screens or phone apps.
        As far as the alternator… I didn’t discuss that because it’s actually something that I didn’t change!
        On a stock EKKO, Winnebago provides a second, 170 amp Balmar alternator dedicated to charging the lithium batteries. That second alternator is paired with a Balmar 614 charge controller, programmed to charge the batteries appropriately. No DC-DC converter was required or installed.

        Reply

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