Solar charging question - Ford Transit USA Forum
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post #1 of 64 (permalink) Old 10-20-2016, 12:22:PM Thread Starter
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Solar charging question

Assuming you have a battery/charger system assembled with no solar. When you add the solar do you just connect the solar output controller to the batteries? All the images I find show the MPPT controller connected directly to the batteries (with fuse).

I guess I am worried about some sort of conflict arising between the charger from the alternator and the MPPT. The MPPT I am interested in using can be programmed to specific charge profiles and would be good at topping the batteries to 100% even when the conventional charger from the alternator only gets them to 80%.

Is it reasonable to rely on the solar to top off the batteries to 100%?
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post #2 of 64 (permalink) Old 10-20-2016, 12:29:PM
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I was under the impression one needed a VSR or some sort of isolator to ensure you're not electrifying your panels...

Like this thing:

https://www.amazon.com/Smart-Battery.../dp/B00400IYTK

Solar can obviously be used to top off the batteries, but it depends on how much solar you want to run and how many AH your bank is.
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post #3 of 64 (permalink) Old 10-20-2016, 01:00:PM
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I was under the impression one needed a VSR or some sort of isolator to ensure you're not electrifying your panels...

Like this thing:

https://www.amazon.com/Smart-Battery.../dp/B00400IYTK
solar panels have blocking diodes built in to them that keep battery voltage from flowing back into the panel from the batteries!
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post #4 of 64 (permalink) Old 10-20-2016, 01:32:PM
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Originally Posted by rene12341 View Post
Assuming you have a battery/charger system assembled with no solar. When you add the solar do you just connect the solar output controller to the batteries? All the images I find show the MPPT controller connected directly to the batteries (with fuse).

I guess I am worried about some sort of conflict arising between the charger from the alternator and the MPPT. The MPPT I am interested in using can be programmed to specific charge profiles and would be good at topping the batteries to 100% even when the conventional charger from the alternator only gets them to 80%.

Is it reasonable to rely on the solar to top off the batteries to 100%?
batteries are self regulating, they only take what level of a charge that they need, then the charge amperage that the battery draws tapers off to near zero amps, this is how a standard mechanics shop battery charger works, most of them do not have any kind of electronics built into them to control the charge! but yeah i see your point: maybe ford does not want the transit batteries charged above a certain point? some modern vehicle charging systems are set up to regen when the vehicle slows or brakes to slightly increase the MPG. i do not know if the transit regens?
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post #5 of 64 (permalink) Old 10-20-2016, 01:44:PM
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Alternator Regen: (a quote from the Sterling battery to battery charger)
In order to increase the efficiency of new vehicles and improve their fuel consumption and carbon footprint a lot off work is being done on energy recovery during slowing down or braking cycle off a vehicle. This idea is to recover as much otherwise wasted energy during this process as possible and convert it to useful energy. The way the new systems achieve this is very simple and clever, (in lay mans terms) on starting the vehicle the vehicles software instructs the alternators voltage to rise higher than normal, usually around the 14.9V + level, this is to return the energy into the battery which has just been depleted a little during the start up process, however, there is another part of the program which says to the alternator “do not fully charge the starter battery but leave about 20% space in the battery” as the system cannot allow the starter battery to fully charge or the whole concept of the regen system will not work.
After the alternator has replaced the engine start power (within a few mins) alternator voltage drops way down to about 12.4V, at this voltage the vehicles auxiliary system can run but the battery is not charging, however once you take your foot off the accelerator to slow down or touch the brakes then the regen system leaps into action, the alternator shoots up to about 15.3 volts, this fully loads the alternator and blasts lots of power from the alternator into the 20% space in the starter battery, all this energy is literally “free power “ and the extra load on the alternator helps to break the vehicle (saving brake pads etc). Once you have stopped braking and continue to drive then the alternator voltage will drop again to 12.4V and all the “free power” you have acumilated in the battery during braking is released into the vehicles electrical system to run the engine, lights, heaters etc thus relieving the load on the alternator for a short time and so saving power and fuel, the system is simple and works

Last edited by Michael Ophus; 10-20-2016 at 01:52:PM.
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post #6 of 64 (permalink) Old 10-20-2016, 02:24:PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for that great information. This could really screw up my plans for the electrical system. I need to step back and reevaluate the hardware. I assume that Sterling has a way to deal with this constantly changing alternator output.

Has anyone confirmed the Transit uses a regen alternator setup?

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post #7 of 64 (permalink) Old 10-20-2016, 02:33:PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Ophus View Post
solar panels have blocking diodes built in to them that keep battery voltage from flowing back into the panel from the batteries!
Cheap chinese ones certainly do not, but like most thing you get what you pay for.

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post #8 of 64 (permalink) Old 10-20-2016, 03:34:PM Thread Starter
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I did some searching and Ford call it Smart Charge Technology. From what I have found the Transit has Smart Charge Technology. Here is a link to replacement alternator that specifically states it has Smart Charge Technology. http://www.americanpowerinc.com/t-%20vans.htm

Looks like I have to go with a Sterling charger.
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post #9 of 64 (permalink) Old 10-20-2016, 06:29:PM
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Originally Posted by rene12341 View Post
I did some searching and Ford call it Smart Charge Technology. From what I have found the Transit has Smart Charge Technology. Here is a link to replacement alternator that specifically states it has Smart Charge Technology. http://www.americanpowerinc.com/t-%20vans.htm

Looks like I have to go with a Sterling charger.
That's a great find about the alternator - thanks!
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post #10 of 64 (permalink) Old 10-20-2016, 07:09:PM
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An MPPT charge controller (and any decent - as in not ultra-cheap Chinese junk - PWM controller) will prevent power flowing to the panels at night. No worries there.

Do be sure to research what you intend to use. There are several fairly popular (because they're CHEAP!) controllers that *claim* to be MPPT but are NOT. I have also read about one or two others that actually are MPPT but they do such an abysmal job at power point tracking that a simple PWM controller can outperform them!

And yes, just hook the controller up to the battery bank and done. (I have buss bars in my van - two bars with six bolts on them. The batteries connect to one, the others connect to the charge controller, AC charger, DC-DC charger, inverter and fuse block for smaller loads.)

If you have two sources charging simultaneously what happens depends on their output voltage settings. If their outputs are fairly close to each other then they'll share the load - if you have 15A available from solar, it'll go into the batteries and any more charging current that the batteries can accept will come from the other source. If one charger has a higher voltage set point it is going to do most / all of the charging. This can happen even if they ordinarily cooperate - say one charger decides the battery is "full" and drops to float while the other is still in bulk, the bulk charger will be at a higher voltage and will keep supplying current while the "floating" charger will see the voltage is above its set point and do nothing. No problem with this unless one charger goes to a voltage higher than the other's max rating.

More info than you ever wanted, I'm sure... I spent a LOT of time on solar-power forums when I was designing and installing my home system!
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