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Bikerumor Podcast Ep #028 – VanDOit, Part 2: All you need to know about solar, batteries & electrical

how to wire solar panels and battery banks into your camper van and conversion sprinter or ford transit custom van
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In this episode, VanDOit’s mad scientist Jared McCauslin talks us through everything we ever wanted to know (and didn’t know to ask) about custom electrical systems for your camper van, Sprinter, Transit or whatever adventure vehicle you’re building. Consider this your ultimate guide to planning out the complete electrical, charging and storage solution for your #Vanlife!

We talk about the pros and cons of Solar Power, how and why to use it, what it will and won’t do, and how much you need for your adventure camper van.

VanDOit puts a ~400W solar system on a standard install, and say it pays for itself in about year three by saving on battery replacements. More importantly, it helps keep everything electrical running efficiently, serves as a backup to make sure your car will start, and gives you enough juice to run a few conveniences in the evening.

But it’s about more than just the number of watts your solar panels can pump out. It’s also about the type of batteries you have. The most common battery types for custom vans are Lead Acid, Lithium Ion, or AGM. The latter is what VanDOit uses, and they all recharge and discharge at different rates, and in different ways. All of which can affect your ability to power equipment inside the vehicle when you’re off grid.

There’s also a lot of talk about battery type, technology and rates of charge and discharge. Sound too geeky? Not if you want to make smart decisions about which appliances you choose for your van, how you use them and ways to conserve power. We also talk about why Lithium Ion batteries aren’t always the best choice (they’re expensive, and require far more computer management to maintain), and why they use AGM Deep Cycle batteries.

We really go down the rabbit hole on this one, talking about everything from wire gauge and type, the differences between AC and DC power and how it’s used inside a camper van, how to properly use a generator, and more.

If you’re thinking about wiring your own custom van, this is a must listen because there is so, SOOOO much to consider. Even choosing the wrong type of wire can really mess things up down the road.

Huge thanks to VanDOit for taking the time to explain it all! Curious how they make their vans? Want to see how they wire it all together? Check out our factory tour in the video above, and check the full tour post here.


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Jon Maule
Jon Maule
4 years ago

IMO, their argument against lithium batteries is outdated. Most modern lithium batteries have built in Battery Management Systems. Factor in the ability to go deeper into the cycle, the cycle life, weight and suddenly a ~170ah capacity lithium battery is roughly equivalent to a 300ah AGM bank in terms of capacity and (again generally), roughly a third the weight and should last somewhere between 2-3x longer. but ymmv.

4 years ago

AGM batteries are heavy because they have lead. They are functionally the same as free electrolyte lead acid batteries. The main differences are that the electrolyte is held in the glass mat (think sponge) and they are sealed forcing oxygen recombination during the charge to prevent h2 and o2 converted from electrolysis from escaping, this is why they are maintenance free

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