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Discussion Starter #1
Hoping for this thread to eventually fill with brilliant ideas to help produce a viable electric Transit Campervan. I do expect some ev haters and naysayers, but hope any negative posts will lead to constructive suggestions aimed at overcoming the obstacles. I am looking for input from people with experience in electric propulsion - all contributions welcomed! So, put on your thinking caps and enjoy the ride.
I was, like others, waiting for the AWD before starting my build. Well, AWD is here, but CVD 19 got in the way. I now have my sights set on building my camper on the 2022 EV chassis.
There will be problems, for example, we probably won't be able to rely on an alternator to charge the house bank as we motor along. Regenerative braking will likely not completely solve that for us.
Emergency charging when off the beaten track might be accomplished with a small genset, 'though you would then have to carry some fossil fuel to power it. Of course you would need some diesel, gasoline or propane anyway, for cooking and heating.
OK, I've started the ball rolling, now what other problems do you anticipate?
Much of this discussion will of necessity be general in nature at the moment, because we do not have the details on the electrical format Ford is going to offer. (It will probably be Rivian)
Probably too much to hope for an electrical 4WD, with an electric motor on each wheel!
What do you guys think?
 

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Build your own. Why wait for Ford's empty promises?
 

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In my opinion, electric is not viable for a camping vehicle until recharging stations are as ubiquitous as gas stations are now. Once that happens, though, electric will be the easy choice.
 

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This has been in the back of my mind since I first heard it was coming. As you've noted, it solves some problems and adds others.

My initial thinking is that since I'm in a cold climate and need heat at least 8 months of the year, I'll need to have some sort of fossil fuel on board anyway. Heating with precious electricity is an inefficient waste with present technology. I do hope that the future yields something better, but there's a good reason the vast majority of heating is done by burning something. Micro-nuclear, anyone? ;)

Since the most readily-accessible and cost-effective fuel for me is propane, I'd be considering a propane generator. Maybe with the unit and the tank permanently mounted - if there's space with all those batteries taking up much of it. That adds another potential challenge for those people wanting to install everything in that vast under-floor space. The batteries will probably take up more space than the current fuel tank.

That said, if electric power usage is kept to a very conservative amount, using a portion of the vehicle battery's capacity to power everything else just reduces your range between "fill ups". Someone would have to work out the math for cost comparison with fossil fuel. Though the obvious costs aren't necessarily the most important. Figuring out the real cost of things is very, very difficult - like all of the non-renewable resources that will go into producing EVs and associated components (but let's leave that for another argument, ok?)

Of course, for people hopping from hookup to hookup with lots of major centres along the way, Electric RVs [Shall we coin the phrase e-RVs?] make a lot of sense.
 
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Hmm... I think a conventional electric vehicle that placed additional demands on the battery power for camping needs would have me running to a charge station too often.

What about a solution like the Chevy Volt? The motive power is via electric motors (on-demand AWD if you want) but an integrated fossil fuel "generator" using diesel, gasoline, or propane provides extra range when you need it. One large battery bank for both vehicle and house would be a significant cost savings over the premium we pay for a robust house Lithium battery bank. The generator fuel supply could also power the furnace and perhaps other power hungry utilities.

Solar power and charge stations would give OK range without even using the generator but no range anxiety with a moderate sized fuel tank (e.g. 15 gallons).
 
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There's a difference between a EV van and an off-grid tiny home that might be driven just a few times a month. A lot of "vanlifers" (homeless fulltimers living down by the river) are just parked and not commuting or hauling anything, so it might as well be an off-grid trailer. Being able to charge everywhere is irrelevant for that application because they're not going anywhere while they wait around to succumb to old age and death. Everything has a sweet spot regarding application, and cruising hundreds of miles a day is not very sweet for EV full size vans. Driving 100-200 miles a week between campsites and charging with solar or generator as needed would be viable, keeping in mind that it would take several days for a 2kw solar array to charge a vehicle; not using elec. for any other purposes, just charging.

The prospect of "free power" via solar really isn't; you pay for that power all upfront with the equipment. How many miles, or how many microwave meals, do you get for the $10k you spend on a system?

David's application would be viable, a van that could be used in town because there's charging at home and almost everywhere people live, and camped out for a week or two with supplemental charging to top it off enough to get to a charger on the way home.

From all the articles I've read, the expected range of EV full size vans will initially be between 50-100 miles.This is because they are designed as in-town fleet delivery vehicles, not consumer vehicles. In fact, you might have a VERY hard time buying one until Amazon or FedEx starts selling off their old ones. Eventually there will be 300-500 mile range full size van EVs, via new battery tech or excessive amount of batteries. But at the rate Ford and others move, I wouldn't expect that until 2030.

Within 2 years, you could get a CyberTruck and tow an offroad trailer equipped with 2kw solar array
134561
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Offroad trailer you can buy NOW:
134563



Solar charging trailer; use similar expanding system on your offroad trailer:
134564
 
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I never thought we would even get to this point with batteries. After installing 200Ah Lithium (Life Blue) on my Transit I was very pleasantly surprised w8th it’s capabilities (super-quick charging directly from the alternator via VSR, solar charging, induction cooking, electric hot water, etc.). It prompted me to buy a fully-electric SUV with which I am very happy and I really hope never to have to purchase another gasoline vehicle. But more fast charging stations are essential before I would go the electric Transit route, as I like to move around!
 

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You would expect the roof of the EV Transit to be all solar cells.
Yes?
.
It would be more gimmick than practical. And since it would be factory installed, it would cost 4-5x more than a better aftermarket charging system (like the radios).
 
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Discussion Starter #11
Timetogo - agreed, some sort of hybrid / electrical with diesel or gasoline generator would suit my needs just fine. So, if my ERV (thanks Sparky!) comes from the factory with an infernal combustion powerplant as well as electric propulsion, I would be OK with that.
As Bill points out, most use would be local (daily driver), so home charging would suffice most times. Three or four times a year, major off-road / boondocking adventures are going to take place. I manage this fine right now with my gasoline driven camper, but, until charge stations start appearing off in the boonies, a genset would relieve range anxiety.
I see fast chargers out there rated at 350kW - what size generator do you think would be required to put, say, a 50 mile charge into the batteries? I am relaxed enough to sit in the wilderness for an extra few days or a week waiting for the solar panels to give me enough charge to get back to civilization, but I don't want to run a generator for that long!
 

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Something not yet considered/mentioned is that current technology requires batteries to be above a certain temperature to charge. Being in northern Ontario means this has a potential impact for you. Being in southern Ontario, me too but to a lesser extent.

The likely implication is that some of your battery's capacity will be used to keep auxiliary battery heaters going when the temperature drops below around 4°C. Maybe they'll have figured out this limitation in battery technology by the time the vans come out.

It wouldn't be as big an issue if you aren't planning to be off grid for long in the winter. Because vehicle batteries are almost always outside the living space, internal heating wouldn't alleviate the problem.
 

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The likely implication is that some of your battery's capacity will be used to keep auxiliary battery heaters going when the temperature drops below around 4°C.
Given the hybrids and full EV's in the US and elsewhere, this problem must have been solved already. Not so elegant to heat batteries with a resistance element using battery power, but it would work.

The Chevy Volt has a 50 mile range on battery alone and 400 mile range combined. Seems like these numbers would scale fairly well to a Transit with larger batteries and a larger fuel capacity, except for an obvious aerodynamic penalty.

I think David's original post was intended to provoke us to think what is possible with existing technology as applied to an integrated powertrain/camper solution. Cool idea!
 
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Given the hybrids and full EV's in the US and elsewhere, this problem must have been solved already.
Show me a lithium battery that doesn't include a heater that can be charged below freezing. I'll retract my statement at that point. There are emerging chemistries, but nothing currently on the market I'm aware of.

There are more engineering problems that are just mitigated than elegantly resolved.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
The problem with the few heated lithium batteries currently available is that it takes about an hour to get them up to a temperature that precludes anode lithium plating when charged. This eliminates the possibility of fast charging!
In 2018, a group working at Pennsylvania State U (?) came up with a pretty straight forward solution that takes about 30 seconds to raise the internal battery temperature from 0*C to +20*C. They used very conventional Lion chemistry, and added a Ni foil inside the cell structure as a heating element. Tests indicate a fast charge capability of about ten minutes for a typical modern EV with a 200-300 mile range. The battery has been test charged down to -50*C. Check out pnas.org : Fast charging of lithium ion batteries at all temperatures.
I don't think such a battery is commercially available yet, but it is such a straight forward solution, that is openly presented for public consumption, that I am sure some battery manufacturer is working on it.
There are hundreds (thousands?) of EV's currently driving all over North America and the rest of the world, in winter conditions, so they must have already found a solution.
And, there are obviously more, and better solutions coming.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
ERROR* the LPF battery was “invented” at the University of California, not Pennsylvania, as stated. The Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection helped fund the research.
By the way, one of this batteries' advantages is that it does not involve or require any new lithium chemistry. It can be used with all existing lithium technologies.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Thanks for the link, M.Ophus.
Also interesting that Ford invested $500 million in Rivian. They won't be building EV's that can't take a fast charge in cold weather!
 

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Ford just cancelled plans to partner with Rivain. Or at least put the plan on hold.
 

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I'm having a hard time finding a map of ALL charging stations in the US, just ones from individual companies like Tesla, and chargeport and others. But this map comes close, and it's a year old:
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What I'm getting at is that there are few places in the country where charging is more than 100-150 miles apart, and most of those places are in the rural West. As Man Of The West, my idea of "remote" or "boonies" is over 100 road miles from a town with gas/food, and over 25 miles from a paved road. This type place is very rare East of the Rockies, and probably doesn't exist East of the Mississippi. It's all a matter of perspective. With planning, an EV campervan with 150 mile range should be able to go almost anywhere in the USA, but there may be some range anxiety involved. And it might take longer than a gas vehicle to get there, because of waiting for charging along the way.

Case in point: there are some very nice remote campsites in the BLM around Moab and all of them are within 50 miles of town. A trip to explore the San Rafael Swell might be problematic, but Green River isn't too far away.

UTV manufacturers are now making EV UTVs. Using one of those to explore while you've parked your EV van would be ideal, since the UTV can be charged via solar or generator much faster (smaller battery).
 
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