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2021 Transit 148 HR
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397 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
“Sidetracked” captures so much of our experience already that my wife and I decided on that as our van name. We also like how it can be used jokingly as in “We got ‘sidetracked’ last weekend.” Sorry, I think that’s a bit of dad-level humor.

Our overall build objective is primarily just a comfortable place to hang out when we are in or near a beautiful place, but taking a break from outdoor activities. Think of it as a mobile living room with a couple of couches for sleeping and a small kitchen. We would also like it to serve adequately as an emergency get-away if we get caught in some kind of unfolding natural disaster that California specializes in lately. Also, as a “kitchen tent” when we go camping with our adult kids.

We expect to stay mostly in campgrounds or friends’ driveways, with only occasional dispersed camping or boondocking. The idea of just getting in the van and taking off for a week is pretty appealing.

I’m trying to keep the van operationally simple. I don’t expect my wife or kids to remember to turn on or off switches frequently to control the systems. Realistically, that’s just not going to happen. So I’m avoiding anything that has to be actively managed and anything in the engine compartment.

I’ve recently retired, so this is also a project to keep me busy ^-^

We bought a 2021 Ford Transit off a dealer lot in February of 2021. It was a canceled special order and we snapped it up immediately after our test drive for MSRP (remember those days?). It’s a 148HR AWD with factory swivel seats.

I’ve started the conversion, but everything has been moving slowly. Nevertheless there are a few interesting angles to this build and I’ll do some catch-up posts that focus on those. As a quick overview of some of the equipment and capacities:

HVAC
Dometic RTX2000 12V Air Conditioner
Propex HS2000 furnace
Floor-exiting fan
Opening passenger side window (Tern awning)

Electrical (mostly Victron and BlueSea Systems)
10,000 Wh of batteries (4 x 200AH at 12.8V)
640 watts of solar
800 watts of B2B charging
1,500 watts of shore power charging (15A shore power connection)
Victron Multiplus 12/3000 Inverter/Charger

Seating:
Front factory swivels
Two side-facing auxiliary seats in the back with seatbelts

Kitchen:
Microwave/broiler combo
Top opening chest refrigerator
Small sink / no water heater

Bathroom:
Folding toilet chair and wag bags
Sponge bath set up
Laundry bucket

Insulation:
Noico sound deadener
One layer of ⅝” Ensolite plus one layer of Thinsulate where feasible
Still working on how to deal with the back doors/side door/front cabin

Please share your feedback and suggestions as this unfolds. I very-frequently learn new things just by reading forum posts, so I know that many of you have a lot more knowledge than I do.
 

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2021 Transit 148 HR
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397 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Frame for two Victron Orion B2B charges in parallel.

Why:
Based on the HD alternator specs we should be getting about 110A at idle on a hot day, which translates to about 70A available to the house system at idle. So two Victron Orion B2B 12/12-30 chargers pulling 70A together are "about right" for the van to handle in almost any situation. At least the BEMM leads us to believe that Ford has some protections in place. There are two main reasons to use the Victron Orion chargers. (1) they have a relay switch that integrates with other Victron components that shuts down charging if the batteries are not in a condition to take a charge, and (2) they can be set to play nicely with other Victron components to provide a consistent charging profile. However, in an already complex electrical cabinet, two sets of connections rather than one is not appealing. This frame helps out. some Also, from the spec sheet you can see that ventilation of the cooling fins makes a big difference and this frame improves the ventilation. Since two of these chargers together generate about 100W of waste heat when they are at full power this is a significant consideration.

Rectangle Font Circle Number Logo


What: I just used some scrap aluminum and scrap wood to make a frame to hold the two chargers. The overall dimensions are 12" high, 16" wide, and about 5" deep. The fusing on the incoming side is using an MRBF fuse block, but two ANL fuses bridged to take just one connection would work as well. In the top view you can see that the chargers are held off the vertical aluminum pieces by 1/4" spacers. That improves the ventilation of the cooling fins. In any case this frame makes the installation a little more modular and a bit more effective.
Circuit component Electrical wiring Electronic component Electronic engineering Gas


Top view, notice the spacers.
Rolling Bumper Gas Rolling stock Wood


One more view:
Circuit component Electrical wiring Hardware programmer Electronic engineering Electronic component


Issues: The main issue that I encountered in making this was binding of some of the stainless steel fasteners. I could have resolved this with a dab of anti-seize, but didn't. I had to cut off one fastener twice. Otherwise the install went smoothly. Obviously it will be a bit messier when the rest of the cables are in.
 

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So I assume your robust electrical system comes from the emergency shelter requirement? I think a lot of people would benefit from this if they stopped to think about it.

My only advice: remember that you will be spending more time in bed than anywhere else, and other than sleeping, you will be sitting at a table. Those two activities cover 95% of your time in the van, so give sleeping and sitting the high priority that they deserve.
 

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2021 Transit 148 HR
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397 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
So I assume your robust electrical system comes from the emergency shelter requirement?
My wife, early in the process, requested that we be able to run the AC on battery for about 10 hours. That would take about 6,000 Wh--that drove the battery size and voltage since that AC is 12V only. She also wanted to be able to use two kitchen appliances at the same time: think Instant Pot and microwave at the same time. Thus the large inverter/charger.

I'm quite far along with the electrical. It's not really that large of a system physically. I'll post pictures in the near future.
 

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2023 Ford Transit 250 AWD, HR, 148 LB
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9 Posts
@jkmann Great Van. She's a beauty. Wishing you the most success with it and your family.
If you don't mind. A few questions regarding your charging system.

1. Why not go with the new Sterling BB 120A charger instead of two Orions in parallell? You have a 250 Amp rated HD alternator, so as long as you can maintain your input voltage at around 14V, you should be able to generate full power from the device. CCP2 should also have large enough wires to supply this load without voltage drop.

2. How do you know your alternator at idyl outputs 100 amps? I have been trying to find out this information and not in the BEMM.

Thanks
 

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2021 Transit 148 HR
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397 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
@jkmann
1. Why not go with the new Sterling BB 120A charger instead of two Orions in parallell?
@NealCarney thanks for posting the alternator curves. I was a little off in my earlier post and edited it. I did look at these curves earlier, but mis-remembered the alternator idle output.

@RideOrDie, many people on this forum are trying to get every last ounce out of their alternator, and even getting a second alternator. This makes a lot of sense for some usage scenarios. I'm more in the mode of drive to a nice spot and stay there, or drive a long way and just stay overnight then drive on. So alternator charging, for me, is not really my primary focus, although I totally get that it would be nice to have more. So, why stop at a system that only draws 70A from CCP2?

There are situations where pulling more than 70 amps from CCP2 will be a challenge for the alternator. You notice that CCP1 is fused for a 60A maximum draw, so you want to be careful with any always-on loads that go above that. Extended idle on a hot day with the van AC on full means that the alternator is stretching to put out 110A and the van could be using 40A (I haven't been able to find a really definitive measurement of the van internal usage, but that's in the ball park). If you set the van for a high-idle you can get more at idle, of course. So, with a B2B charging that draws around 70A you have a charging system that is safe in virtually all situations, even extended idle. You don't need to put in switches to disable and enable anything. And, you don't need to worry that you will smoke your alternator.

I don't have anything against the Sterling product line. The Orion's are just a set-and-forget solution that integrates really seamlessly with the other Victron components, so that's why I picked them. Also, with alternator charging and solar charging happening at the same time, some people have had issues with the two systems not synching up in terms of charging profiles. Victron claims that they don't have this problem, but I'll have to see.

If you do put in a charger that draws 120A, just be aware that can exceed the Transit alternator's capacity at idle.
 

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Somehow it works on mine, I have a full size 2016 transit with a 150 amp alternator. I am using a 60 amp Sterling. The ecoboost engine and the few vehicle accessories I have draws about 45 amps so that is almost 100 amps right there. At idle. But the only idling I do is at stoplights, It has not caused a problem in six years. The often shallow depth of discharge on my house batteries may play a part in that.
 

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2021 Transit 148 HR
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397 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Somehow it works on mine, I have a full size 2016 transit with a 150 amp alternator. I am using a 60 amp Sterling. The ecoboost engine and the few vehicle accessories I have draws about 45 amps so that is almost 100 amps right there. At idle. But the only idling I do is at stoplights, It has not caused a problem in six years. The often shallow depth of discharge on my house batteries may play a part in that.
According to Ford your 150A alternator's total output at idle should be about 90A vs. 110A for the 250A alternator. In other words, the 150A alternator produces only about 20A less than the 250A at idle. Not intuitive right?

So maybe you are just sneaking in under 90A, or maybe your house battery is contributing briefly, or maybe these output curves are too conservative.

Rectangle Slope Font Parallel Pattern
 

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Yep, a single lead acid battery not Agm but that is enough to keep it going for a few minutes at a traffic light.
The early models are different then the newer models, There is no Regen the transit battery stays fully charged.
 

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2021 Transit 148 HR
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397 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
Artic Tern Window Install on Passenger Side
What:
Install a window on the passenger side. I used: Arctic Tern Double-Pane RV Window (450x610mm) 1 3/8"-1 3/4" (35-44mm) together with the Satsang Van Works Jamb.
Why: I wanted a double pane window since this is going to be part of the air conditioned area of the van.
How:
1) Use a Dremel tool and a small abrasive cutoff wheel to cut off two sheet metal stiffeners inside the van. This was reasonably quick and easy.
2) Mark out the exact install location with a Sharpie and tape around the edges to prevent scratches to the finish. Cut out using a jigsaw and a Starrett BU224 blade. Those blades are perfect for cutting the van sheet metal as they leave a very clean edge and don't bend the sheet metal. I put a zero-clearance insert on my jigsaw which probably also helps.
Hood Automotive design Art Creative arts Electric blue

3) Affix the inner jamb with Bostik 75-05A adhesive. To do this properly, you really need some way to clamp the inner ring to the van sheet metal. I cut out a piece of plywood to do this and used a bunch of clamps all around the edge. It looked pretty funny, but it did a great job of creating a flat surface for the window to be installed on. That Bostik adhesive is expensive, but I was pretty impressed by it and strongly recommend using it. In addition to being a really great adhesive it has very-good flexibility after installation. However, if it's not available, I think Liquid Nails Fuze-It Max would also work well. Once installed there is almost no movement or vibration of that sheet metal section.

Once the inner jamb is attached, you can fine tune the opening if needed. I cut the hole just very slightly smaller (like 1/16") and cleaned up the edges and enlarged the hole with a belt sander held parallel to the cut, not across. This took me about half an hour to get perfect, but it's better to have the hole exactly right than just a little off.
Gas Rectangle Sky Audio equipment Wood

4) The metal window retaining ring is a weak point for insulation, so I added foam tape in the channel. I don't remember the exact dimensions of the channel, but I think this is a good idea to improve the thermal performance of the window.
Bumper Automotive exterior Eyewear Wood Rim

5) After that it's just a matter of carefully screwing on the window retaining ring from the inside.
Window Motor vehicle Plant Mode of transport Fixture

And, then the hose test, of course.
Wheel Tire Window Vehicle Plant

My impression of these windows is that they are well made, but not quite as robust as I was expecting. You have to be careful to follow the instructions, and especially not to overtighten the screws when affixing the retaining rings. The operations of the opening mechanism feels solid and the window looks great. There is also a roll-down insect screen and shade that comes with the window.

I bought this window from Campervan HQ. They have good install info, and carefully following the instructions is a good idea. I am glad that I got the Satsang Van Works inner jamb as this does improve the installation and would be a pain to make myself.
 

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2023 Ford Transit 250 AWD, HR, 148 LB
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9 Posts
@NealCarney thanks for posting the alternator curves. I was a little off in my earlier post and edited it. I did look at these curves earlier, but mis-remembered the alternator idle output.

@RideOrDie, many people on this forum are trying to get every last ounce out of their alternator, and even getting a second alternator. This makes a lot of sense for some usage scenarios. I'm more in the mode of drive to a nice spot and stay there, or drive a long way and just stay overnight then drive on. So alternator charging, for me, is not really my primary focus, although I totally get that it would be nice to have more. So, why stop at a system that only draws 70A from CCP2?

There are situations where pulling more than 70 amps from CCP2 will be a challenge for the alternator. You notice that CCP1 is fused for a 60A maximum draw, so you want to be careful with any always-on loads that go above that. Extended idle on a hot day with the van AC on full means that the alternator is stretching to put out 110A and the van could be using 40A (I haven't been able to find a really definitive measurement of the van internal usage, but that's in the ball park). If you set the van for a high-idle you can get more at idle, of course. So, with a B2B charging that draws around 70A you have a charging system that is safe in virtually all situations, even extended idle. You don't need to put in switches to disable and enable anything. And, you don't need to worry that you will smoke your alternator.

I don't have anything against the Sterling product line. The Orion's are just a set-and-forget solution that integrates really seamlessly with the other Victron components, so that's why I picked them. Also, with alternator charging and solar charging happening at the same time, some people have had issues with the two systems not synching up in terms of charging profiles. Victron claims that they don't have this problem, but I'll have to see.

If you do put in a charger that draws 120A, just be aware that can exceed the Transit alternator's capacity at idle.
Thanks! I can tell your a wise and diligent man, and I honestly agree with you, I don't want to worry about exceeding my alternator capacity at idle, and I am notorious for blasting my van AC at idle, but i'm getting mixed advice and I wanted your take on this.

So I have been emailing Ben from Sterling who apparently is one of the "engineers" and he is telling me this regarding the sterling BB120.

"The BB120 is always incredibly efficient, but whether it is running at full power or not is dependent on how much power is being made available. For example, if we have our 120A unit in your vehicle but your vehicle, in whatever state, can only provide 90A or so amps without the voltage collapsing, the BB120 will see the input voltage dropping and it will automatically begin downrating its own performance. It will drop to 80% and then 65% performance until the input voltage is stable. Once the input voltage is stable, the BB will stay there until conditions are good for it to try moving back to full power again.

Your alternator not being able to provide enough amperage will not affect the BB120 efficiency. It will affect the BB operating strength

If your alternator can only provide 90A at idle but the BB, on startup, tries to draw 120A then one of two things will happen.
1) Either the input voltage will be pulled down to 13.5V or below and therefore the BB will automatically downrate its power to a lower power rating (96A input and then further down to 78A input) and then the input voltage will stabilize and we will just run at the 78A rating OR
2) The alternator will see that there is high power going out of the starter battery and therefore the alternator will engage to operate at a higher power and will cover what we are taking out.

Once the input voltage becomes stable and stronger (either because 2 from above is met or because you start driving again) the unit will automatically go up to higher power again.
Does that make sense? "
-------------------------

So thats what he told me... For me, it sounds like a win win, as if the device is able to automatically downrate its strength to avoid larger current draw, then it really has a sliding scale of amperage inputs. This is the way i'm interpreting at least.

Your thoughts much appreciated.

Thanks
 

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2020 High-Extended AWD EcoBoost Cargo with windows
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4,425 Posts
Thanks! I can tell your a wise and diligent man, and I honestly agree with you, I don't want to worry about exceeding my alternator capacity at idle, and I am notorious for blasting my van AC at idle, but i'm getting mixed advice and I wanted your take on this.

So I have been emailing Ben from Sterling who apparently is one of the "engineers" and he is telling me this regarding the sterling BB120.

"The BB120 is always incredibly efficient, but whether it is running at full power or not is dependent on how much power is being made available. For example, if we have our 120A unit in your vehicle but your vehicle, in whatever state, can only provide 90A or so amps without the voltage collapsing, the BB120 will see the input voltage dropping and it will automatically begin downrating its own performance. It will drop to 80% and then 65% performance until the input voltage is stable. Once the input voltage is stable, the BB will stay there until conditions are good for it to try moving back to full power again.

Your alternator not being able to provide enough amperage will not affect the BB120 efficiency. It will affect the BB operating strength

If your alternator can only provide 90A at idle but the BB, on startup, tries to draw 120A then one of two things will happen.
1) Either the input voltage will be pulled down to 13.5V or below and therefore the BB will automatically downrate its power to a lower power rating (96A input and then further down to 78A input) and then the input voltage will stabilize and we will just run at the 78A rating OR
2) The alternator will see that there is high power going out of the starter battery and therefore the alternator will engage to operate at a higher power and will cover what we are taking out.

Once the input voltage becomes stable and stronger (either because 2 from above is met or because you start driving again) the unit will automatically go up to higher power again.
Does that make sense? "
-------------------------

So thats what he told me... For me, it sounds like a win win, as if the device is able to automatically downrate its strength to avoid larger current draw, then it really has a sliding scale of amperage inputs. This is the way i'm interpreting at least.

Your thoughts much appreciated.

Thanks
On the one hand... that is really useful input on the new Sterling. On the other hand, it makes me wonder what it's going to do with our "smart" alternators that shut themselves down - lowering voltage - even while driving. 🤔
 

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2023 Ford Transit 250 AWD, HR, 148 LB
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On the one hand... that is really useful input on the new Sterling. On the other hand, it makes me wonder what it's going to do with our "smart" alternators that shut themselves down - lowering voltage - even while driving. 🤔

Do the alternators actually shut off? I didn't read anywhere that were considered smart, actually sounds energy efficient, but also dumb if you need the extra charge. haha
 

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2021 Transit 148 HR
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397 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
... the device is able to automatically downrate its strength to avoid larger current draw, then it really has a sliding scale of amperage inputs. This is the way i'm interpreting at least.
That info from an engineer at Sterling sounds promising, but not necessarily relevant to how the Transit regulates the CCP2 output. If the Transit can't meet an amperage draw from CCP2, it's supposed to "load shed". Now it's a question of who is going to load shed first, the Transit or the Sterling. The Sterling people say that the transit will lower voltage if the amperage draw is too high. The Transit BEMM says that the Transit will load shed and drop the load. I don't really know how that will work in practice.

I'm solving for a different issue. Alternators are not always happy to run at their maximum output all the time as they can overheat. A tough scenario is stopped at idle on a hot day. In that case there is no rush of wind past the alternator cooling it. Burning out an alternator is rare, but it can happen.

I fully acknowledge that there are ways to get more out of your alternator than my design. If the Sterling operates together with the Transit as they describe, then that would be a great way to get more juice out of your alternator. If you implement the Sterling, it would be awesome if you could watch the CCP2 output amperage and see what actually happens as you drive and at idle and share that information.

The good news for you is that if you get the Sterling and have any issues with the Transit dropping the load at idle, then you can change the amperage draw in the Sterling settings. If I remember correctly there is a way to manually derate those chargers.
 

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2022 T350HD #11000 Avalanche Gray
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I wish Sterling made a 12v-24v 120amp charger that would put out 60 amps to the 24v batteries. The options for 24V systems is to use the Orton ways of DC-AC-DC or to use multiple Victron or other DC-DC chargers. The bummer is Victron only makes a 12/24/15, so I would need 4 of those to get a 120 amp in and 60 amps out.
 
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