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Old 06-17-2015, 02:56 PM   #21
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I was all set to be impressed by the E-Trek but its a cruel joke. It's really pretty and I really wanted to like it. You basically need to run the engine to cook breakfast. The optional fuel cell from Efoy is neat technology but the biggest one produces 90 watts and you have to buy the special methanol fuel from them at $193 for 31 kWh, or about 50x what power costs at home.

400 watts of solar and some large batteries go a long way toward making it practical, especially with newer solar panels that are getting more efficient. We carry an extra 100 watt one that we put out in the sun when we're parked in the shade, and that usually works for a long weekend if we are careful.

AFAIK the fuel cell was only offered for one year and is no longer available. You can get an E-Trek with propane for cooking and heating. That makes a very useful B-van with big battery and solar capacity as you have pointed out. Of course you can also just add solar and more battery capacity to an Interstate. That's what I did. 😎


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Old 06-17-2015, 05:20 PM   #22
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How big is your small family and how comfortable can they be in an Interstate?
Baby and a dog..so I figure extended weekend or weeklong trips should be fine
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Old 06-17-2015, 10:26 PM   #23
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To get 12VDC and 600 amp hours from Lifeline 6ct batteries requires four of the 6Vdc 300 amp hour units at 92 pounds each for at total of 372 pounds. They will tolerate about a 50% power draw as compared to the 30% draw on the stock Interstate lead acid batteries.

Our 12Vdc 600 amp hour lithium iron phosphate battery weighs 168 pounds and we can us 80% of it's capacity. We have a 300 amp hour model on order that weighs about 84 pounds (the two stock Interstate SRM24 Airstream batteries weigh 90 pounds for the pair. The form factor in inches is about 11.25 by 14.5 by 9.5 tall. There is nearly 240 amp hours available.

There is still a significant cost penalty for the new technology.
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Old 06-18-2015, 09:38 AM   #24
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To get 12VDC and 600 amp hours from Lifeline 6ct batteries requires four of the 6Vdc 300 amp hour units at 92 pounds each for at total of 372 pounds. They will tolerate about a 50% power draw as compared to the 30% draw on the stock Interstate lead acid batteries.

Our 12Vdc 600 amp hour lithium iron phosphate battery weighs 168 pounds and we can us 80% of it's capacity. We have a 300 amp hour model on order that weighs about 84 pounds (the two stock Interstate SRM24 Airstream batteries weigh 90 pounds for the pair. The form factor in inches is about 11.25 by 14.5 by 9.5 tall. There is nearly 240 amp hours available.

There is still a significant cost penalty for the new technology.

The late model Interstates come with Lifeline AGM batteries so they can tolerate 50% draw down.

I did a lot of research on upgrading to LiFePO4 batteries. I like the power to weight they offer. But the issues of proper charging from Sprinter alternator and dealing with freezing temp issues made me stay with AGMs for now. Those issues can be solved, but it was too much work for me to take on right now.

To get a properly engineered lithium system means buying a new van for me.


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Old 06-18-2015, 10:48 AM   #25
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Mike,

No need to go out and spend $150K on a new AI. your existing rig can have LiPo batteries for a lot less than that! :-))


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Old 06-18-2015, 01:07 PM   #26
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Would it better to just buy an empty Sprinter (or more preferably, a more reliable cargo van.. maybe Nissan NV 3500? too bad the Toyota ones don't sell in USA) and find someone or company to convert it with all solar? Has anyone here seen a Nissan get converted?
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Old 06-18-2015, 01:39 PM   #27
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Would it better to just buy an empty Sprinter (or more preferably, a more reliable cargo van.. maybe Nissan NV 3500? too bad the Toyota ones don't sell in USA) and find someone or company to convert it with all solar? Has anyone here seen a Nissan get converted?
The NV3500 is basically a van body on a Nissan Titan pickup frame. You only have one wheelbase to choose from, 146½ inches, less than the Sprinter's 170 inches, and with the Nissan's long hood, actual living space inside isn't much— 323 cubic feet of cargo volume available for conversion, compared to the Sprinter's 428¾ cubic feet, or the Extended Sprinter's 467 cubic feet.

Sprinter cargo vans on the whole are very reliable. Automotive News still rates it best-in-class against other full-size cargo vans, though it is the most expensive of the current crop of cargo vans.

However, one area the NV3500 beats the competition hand-down is maximum towing capacity, 9500 pounds. It would make a much better tow vehicle for an Airstream trailer than it would as a base van for conversion to a Class B.
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Old 06-18-2015, 02:11 PM   #28
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Mike,

No need to go out and spend $150K on a new AI. your existing rig can have LiPo batteries for a lot less than that! :-))

...

Very true Lew. But how do you deal with freezing issue? Add a heater pad would probably work. It freezes often here in Maryland and I've been know to make trips to Minnesota in February - crazy but that's where I grew up.

I was all set to buy a 400 AH LiPO system from AM Solar, along with a new 2000 watt Magnum inverter. They were not yet ready to ship their LiPO systems when I called them a few months ago.

But when I discovered that my Interstate only has a 4 gauge wire from the chassis battery to the house battery. I didn't think that was adequate to handle the current that could flow from my Sprinters 220 amp alternator to the 400 AH LiPO batteries. The new Interstates have upgraded this wire to 1/0 gauge.

I know the Magnum and my Blue Sky solar controller could be programmed to properly charge the LiPOs.


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Old 06-18-2015, 02:32 PM   #29
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Very true Lew. But how do you deal with freezing issue? Add a heater pad would probably work. It freezes often here in Maryland and I've been know to make trips to Minnesota in February - crazy but that's where I grew up.

I was all set to buy a 400 AH LiPO system from AM Solar, along with a new 2000 watt Magnum inverter. They were not yet ready to ship their LiPO systems when I called them a few months ago.

But when I discovered that my Interstate only has a 4 gauge wire from the chassis battery to the house battery. I didn't think that was adequate to handle the current that could flow from my Sprinters 220 amp alternator to the 400 AH LiPO batteries. The new Interstates have upgraded this wire to 1/0 gauge.

I know the Magnum and my Blue Sky solar controller could be programmed to properly charge the LiPOs.


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Stay tuned. We're working on the low temp. problem that will allow the batteries to work to -20 deg. C

Shipping, however, I'd still a problem. You'll just have to make a winter trip to FL to get some.


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Old 06-18-2015, 02:41 PM   #30
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Stay tuned. We're working on the low temp. problem that will allow the batteries to work to -20 deg. C

Shipping, however, I'd still a problem. You'll just have to make a winter trip to FL to get some.


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I travel to Florida every winter. Usually in January after the holidays and stay a month or so.

I should have stayed longer this year. I returned to Maryland in early February to face weeks of single digit temps. It was so cold that the flush valve on my toilet froze after I winterized it. Guess I didn't get all the water out of that valve.


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Old 06-18-2015, 10:01 PM   #31
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Come on down and we'll fix you up.


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Old 06-19-2015, 05:59 AM   #32
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Verizon charges more for a hotspot on my phone than the monthly fee for the MiFi. Plus the phone is free to be a phone.
Agreed. Using a phone for MiFi was one of those ideas that sounded great in theory but had a half dozen limitations and bugs in practice. My problems ended the day I added the standalone hotspot. Well worth the money.
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Old 06-20-2015, 12:04 AM   #33
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Mifi vs phone

Your mileage may vary. We have both phones and mifi on verizon and have tried sprint too. Sometimes one works better than another, and all of the cell networks have their own quirks depending on who is doing the maintenance this week (I dont work for them but I do consulting engineerlng for several.) It's a crap shoot and your results may be different tomorrow or in the next county.
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Old 06-20-2015, 06:41 AM   #34
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It would seem in an RV park with all the trailer metal surfaces to bounce radio waves off of, that getting any signal at all inside an Airstream is a minor miracle. I think the term multiplex was used in the FM radio days where signals bounced off buildings and the receiver was challenged to determine which were real signals versus reflections......

I did mount the MiFi external antenna on top of the refrigerator vent along with the WiFi Ranger box. When I connect the external antenna to the MiFi, we usually gain a bar to two on signal strength.
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Old 06-21-2015, 09:49 PM   #35
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The NV3500 is basically a van body on a Nissan Titan pickup frame. You only have one wheelbase to choose from, 146½ inches, less than the Sprinter's 170 inches, and with the Nissan's long hood, actual living space inside isn't much— 323 cubic feet of cargo volume available for conversion, compared to the Sprinter's 428¾ cubic feet, or the Extended Sprinter's 467 cubic feet.

Sprinter cargo vans on the whole are very reliable. Automotive News still rates it best-in-class against other full-size cargo vans, though it is the most expensive of the current crop of cargo vans.

However, one area the NV3500 beats the competition hand-down is maximum towing capacity, 9500 pounds. It would make a much better tow vehicle for an Airstream trailer than it would as a base van for conversion to a Class B.
Thanks for the breakdown. Yeah, the NV seems much smaller and therefore not as good.
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Old 06-21-2015, 09:56 PM   #36
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I was at Costco today and a sales rep for GoalZero recommended this to me: Sherpa 100 Power Pack | | Goal Zero
he said with this kit, I could power my laptop... which seemed like a easy solution to my need for telecommuting. Could it be too easy?

Also, started looking at the Winnebago Era ... wow, for $90K, I can get the same Sprinter van? Has anyone really tested/owned one of these newer models of Winnebago Era? they listed a lot of the same part vendors as AI... yet it seems about $40K cheaper than the AI?

Regarding the Roadtrek E-Trek, I saw some online video reviews. It seems to me the location of those 6 extra batteries at the rear is pretty dangerous in the event of a rear collision?
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Old 06-21-2015, 10:20 PM   #37
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It would seem in an RV park with all the trailer metal surfaces to bounce radio waves off of, that getting any signal at all inside an Airstream is a minor miracle. I think the term multiplex was used in the FM radio days where signals bounced off buildings and the receiver was challenged to determine which were real signals
That's multipath, not multiplex. But yes, it's still a problem.

Quote:

I did mount the MiFi external antenna on top of the refrigerator vent along with the WiFi Ranger box. When I connect the external antenna to the MiFi, we usually gain a bar to two on signal strength.
Yes, and more importantly you can connect an external directional antenna. More than one campground we've visited is served by several cell sites, none of them too strong so that phone/mifi/whatever is constantly trying to switch between them. A directional antenna allows you to select one direction, which helps a lot.
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Old 06-22-2015, 06:59 AM   #38
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Enough solar panel for telecommuting?

The ERA is cheaper for several reasons. First Winnebago starts with a cheaper Sprinter, without all the options, things like heated seats and dash computer controlled by buttons on steering wheel. Then they use cheaper materials to do their conversions. Also Winnebago probably get better prices from vendors due to their sales volume.
The ERA is good value for the money and I almost got one, but my wife liked the style and finish of the Interstate better.


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Old 06-22-2015, 01:31 PM   #39
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The ERA is cheaper for several reasons. First Winnebago starts with a cheaper Sprinter, without all the options, things like heated seats and dash computer controlled by buttons on steering wheel. Then they use cheaper materials to do their conversions. Also Winnebago probably get better prices from vendors due to their sales volume.
The ERA is good value for the money and I almost got one, but my wife liked the style and finish of the Interstate better.


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Hi Mike,
Thanks, were you looking at the 2013 or 12 Era? I read somewhere that Winnebago regrouped and revamped the 14+ Era?

As for me, I'm mainly concerned with whether the Sprinter has the safety features like ESP and accident avoidance... don't know if accident avoidance is a standard on the AI and whether the Era comes with it, or offer at least as an option. $40K is a lot of money to go towards any customizations and solar/battery upgrades. I don't like my cars to come with technological gadgets since they most likely will be ancient/obsolete in 3 years.

I saw from the Mercedes site that one can get a Sprinter 3500 with 4x4 now... wondering if I can just hire someone with experience converting a van to do a high-quality conversion similar to some of the low-cost conversion Youtube videos I saw...
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Old 02-13-2016, 10:31 AM   #40
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200 watts of solar and a 200 amp/hour lithium battery will more than suit your DC electrical needs for extended use. Most of the AI-EXTs that I have done had 300 watts of solar, but the small, high efficiency panels GS-100 @ 20" X 40") that we used are no longer available.

2 of our new 100 watt units should fill the bill nicely though.
^^ Reverting to this thread and this comment, within the context of the OP's original question, and also within the context of batteries --

Some of it needs to be assessed on a per-case basis, if I'm understanding correctly. Given that we have now finished our 300 watt GS-100 solar system and it works (!!), we are turning our attention to resolving the issue of what I would have to do to keep my mobile office sufficiently powered if I were to use it remotely during daylight working hours.

In other words, the next issue I need to prove up is similar to this OP's question. I'm not talking about casual computer use - I'm talking about no-holds-barred telecommuting, potentially using the computer for up to 8 hours per day.

For better and for worse, I use two somewhat rare "mobile workstations" (souped-up over-sized laptops) networked side by side in my brick and mortar. After trying many different hardware configurations, this is the one that proved to work like a charm for my business model, and I am not willing to fiddle with it.

Fortunately I only need one of those machines for telecommuting, although I'd sure like a peripheral second LCD monitor to go with it. My primary workstation's OEM AC/DC adapter puts out 239 watts per its spec sheet. My husband did the research last night and found that there are no DC/DC converters on the market that would do the job that apparently* needs to be done here, for me to hook this computer up to the Interstate and have the [solar plus battery system] supply its needs across a range of average working conditions. We might have to get a device made specially for it.

(* I say apparently because what the OEM adapter puts out is difficult to relate to exactly what the workstation absolutely must have. My next question to my husband was, how do we confirm what the workstation is actually drawing? There is no easy way... it's not like this information can be called up in Control Panel or whatever).

Anyway, that's my initial caveat to other folks who have this question. Depending on the nature of the telecommuting that you wish to do, don't assume the answer will be a slam dunk easy solution, plug your computer into your solarized rig and just go to work. I'll have more to say on the subject later.
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