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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi folks,

I'm in the process of converting a 2019 350 HD Transit into a camper to travel in full time. In anticipation of possibly adding A/C in the future, and also wanting to run everything (heat, hot water, cooking, etc) off electricity, I will be installing 8 x 100 amp hour lithium batteries (Lion Energy batteries). I hope to keep these charged through a combination of solar (730 watts on the roof) as well as alternator charging. I will have a 30a shore power connection as well, but hope I'll never need to use this.

For the alternator charging I purchased the 200A Alternator Charger Kit https://amsolar.com/rv-battery-accessories/98-altcv4200 from AM Solar. The folks at AM Solar have been very helpful and have informed me they've installed many of these units and they have all worked flawlessly to charge house battery banks. However, I've also spoken to some other folks that have warned me that this system will fry my alternator. I have the HD Alternator which I think is 250a but I have no idea how much it can actually output and for how long before it overheats or kills itself.

I know as much about electrical systems as I do about nuclear physics or brain surgery . . . so I'm hoping someone with more knowledge and experience than I have can offer some feedback, advice, etc. on this alternator charging system and if it will work.

I've attached a copy of my wiring diagram . . . which is still a work in progress so don't crucify me too much if you spot any mistakes! As always, any feedback, advice, recommendations, etc. would be much appreciated.

Many thanks

133695
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Just realized I should probably have posted this in the electrical section. Mods . . . is there any way to swap it over to that section? Thanks
 

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Not that this is helpful, but that has to be the prettiest wiring diagram I've ever seen. I'm thinking maybe a graphic design background?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Not that this is helpful, but that has to be the prettiest wiring diagram I've ever seen. I'm thinking maybe a graphic design background?
Yes you are spot on. I am a graphic designer. Thanks for the compliment. Just wish I knew as much about electrics as I do about making things look pretty :LOL:
 

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It looks like you are relying on solar for all automatic charge control of your very expensive lithium battery bank and direct alternator charging is only basic manually selectable. Why spend so much money on batteries and leave out a proper DC-DC or Alternator-DC charge controller?

I'll add with a 200 amp charging capacity, it will take 5 hours of driving to charge up a 800ah battery bank.
 

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I'm just emerging from this rabbit hole myself: how to get the most out of my alternator and into a big battery bank without frying my alternator. The core of the problem is that, if there isn't some kind of current regulator, will draw as much as it can through the wiring/fusing. From what I understand about the AM Solar system, there is no current regulation. So, with systems like that, there might be a danger of our huge house banks demanding way too much current, and overloading something upstream (the wiring, the fuses, the alternator--the weak link will end up being the "current regulator" in a way that it wasn't really intended). But, it might be worth really probing the AM Solar folks with the question, if they're being helpful and responsive--how do they recommend regulating current? I'd be very curious myself.

Anyway, I looked into DC-DC chargers like sportcoupe suggests--there are options that work to regulate current and buck/boost the voltage to what your house bank needs for charging. There are also alternator charge controllers that do something similar, but are designed to hook directly to your alternators--some with thermocouples to monitor alternator temps and reduce current demand if they get too hot.

But, what I ended up with, since I have the exact same MultiPlus as you (I think) is this: Fast charging advice needed: dual alternators, 2020 Transit all electric LiFePO4 campervan. I'm embarrassed about my wiring diagram after seeing yours!

Turns out it is very similar to what another forum member orton came up with: Electrical | Orton Travel Transit

Basically, I'm using the Multiplus as the single battery charger in my van, whether I'm on shore power or alternator power. It has the smarts to limit how much current it demands (from the vehicle, or from a weak shore power generator); and, while driving, it can "pass through" extra available current directly into AC appliances (hot water heater is my big one). The inverter that I'm using to pull amps out of the alternator is about the same price/weight as a good DC-DC charger or alternator charge controller.

I'm not even sure yet if this solution is the best for me, so I certainly can't say it is the best for you either; but, it is one option that at least orton was able to make it work for regulating current and distributing it around the van. Best of luck!
 

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You are asking the right question when you said "I have no idea how much it can actually output and for how long before it overheats or kills itself." The good news is that alternators are self limiting in what they can put out, so you don't really have to worry about a large draw causing it to produce too much current. I would think all of the truck systems would be designed such that they are not overpowered by a stock alternator. So it seems to me the specific questions for AM Solar are:

1. Is the alternator designed to run continuously at 100% output?
2. If not, are there any built in protections?

Likely, they cannot answer these questions. Good luck getting straight answers from Ford. Another question for AM Solar, one that they should be able to answer is this:

Why do they say on their product page "Not for use on rigs with an ECU"?

As far as I know, all modern engines with fuel injection have an ECU (engine control unit). Based strictly on their product page, this product would be appropriate only for carburetor style engines, or perhaps throttle body injected engines, all relics of the past.
 

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If it was my $500 to spend on charging, I wouldn't have choose the AM Solar alternator charging "kit". That is a very overpriced ACR (automatic charge relay), IMO.

LiFePo4 battery banks in series for 12v use prefer to bulk charge at 14.4 volts and float at 13.6 volts. I don't know of an alternator that is adjustable for these settings. LiFePo4 also should be charged with at least a 2 stage charging profile. Your Victron solar controller has programmable charge algorithms that are user selectable, one is specifically for LiFePo4 batteries and does bulk charge at 14.2v (close enough) and float at 13.5v (also close enough). To my knowledge, a factory alternator alone cannot do this complex charge for maximum life of an expensive lithium battery.

Chart is a typical profile for a single cell LiFePo4 battery.
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
It looks like you are relying on solar for all automatic charge control of your very expensive lithium battery bank and direct alternator charging is only basic manually selectable. Why spend so much money on batteries and leave out a proper DC-DC or Alternator-DC charge controller?

I'll add with a 200 amp charging capacity, it will take 5 hours of driving to charge up a 800ah battery bank.
when I first started this project over a year ago I contacted Victron directly for advice on which of their components to use. They referred me to AM Solar and I worked with them to try and fig
It looks like you are relying on solar for all automatic charge control of your very expensive lithium battery bank and direct alternator charging is only basic manually selectable. Why spend so much money on batteries and leave out a proper DC-DC or Alternator-DC charge controller?

I'll add with a 200 amp charging capacity, it will take 5 hours of driving to charge up a 800ah battery bank.
When I first started this project (over a year ago), I contacted Victron directly to try and ascertain which of their systems would work for what I wanted. They didn't seem to give advice directly, but recommended that I contact AM Solar, a highly regarded dealer / installer of vehicle solar powered systems. I contacted AM Solar, explained my needs, desires, budgets, etc. and the Cyrix system was what they ultimately recommended. Trusting people who knew what they were doing, I purchased the system. I haven't installed it yet but a number of people I've spoken to are concerned that it may put too mush stress on the vehicles alternator or electrical system, as it will just suck all the power the alternator is able to produce. I've queried this with AM Solar and they informed me they've installed many of these systems and they worked flawlessly without any issues for the vehicle. So, I'm between a rock and a hard place in that electronics is not my area of expertise and I'm getting conflicting information from various people. I really just want to ensure I can charge my batteries from the alternator safely and efficiently without damaging anything . . . either the vehicles system or my house system. Given the size of my battery pack, I hope I'd never have to charge it from 0 back up to 800. Unless I install A/C, I think I will have much more power than I actually need on a daily basis. So am hoping that the 720 watts of solar on the roof combined with some supplemental charging from the alternator will keep the batteries topped up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I'm just emerging from this rabbit hole myself: how to get the most out of my alternator and into a big battery bank without frying my alternator. The core of the problem is that, if there isn't some kind of current regulator, will draw as much as it can through the wiring/fusing. From what I understand about the AM Solar system, there is no current regulation. So, with systems like that, there might be a danger of our huge house banks demanding way too much current, and overloading something upstream (the wiring, the fuses, the alternator--the weak link will end up being the "current regulator" in a way that it wasn't really intended). But, it might be worth really probing the AM Solar folks with the question, if they're being helpful and responsive--how do they recommend regulating current? I'd be very curious myself.

Anyway, I looked into DC-DC chargers like sportcoupe suggests--there are options that work to regulate current and buck/boost the voltage to what your house bank needs for charging. There are also alternator charge controllers that do something similar, but are designed to hook directly to your alternators--some with thermocouples to monitor alternator temps and reduce current demand if they get too hot.

But, what I ended up with, since I have the exact same MultiPlus as you (I think) is this: Fast charging advice needed: dual alternators, 2020 Transit all electric LiFePO4 campervan. I'm embarrassed about my wiring diagram after seeing yours!

Turns out it is very similar to what another forum member orton came up with: Electrical | Orton Travel Transit

Basically, I'm using the Multiplus as the single battery charger in my van, whether I'm on shore power or alternator power. It has the smarts to limit how much current it demands (from the vehicle, or from a weak shore power generator); and, while driving, it can "pass through" extra available current directly into AC appliances (hot water heater is my big one). The inverter that I'm using to pull amps out of the alternator is about the same price/weight as a good DC-DC charger or alternator charge controller.

I'm not even sure yet if this solution is the best for me, so I certainly can't say it is the best for you either; but, it is one option that at least orton was able to make it work for regulating current and distributing it around the van. Best of luck!
Thanks for the detailed reply. I'll go through and read the threads you linked. So if I understand what you are saying correctly, you are adding a second inverter to provide usable power to the Victron inverter and will charge you batteries from that? I wish the dual alternators was an option when I got my 2019 but at the time I could only get the single.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
You are asking the right question when you said "I have no idea how much it can actually output and for how long before it overheats or kills itself." The good news is that alternators are self limiting in what they can put out, so you don't really have to worry about a large draw causing it to produce too much current. I would think all of the truck systems would be designed such that they are not overpowered by a stock alternator. So it seems to me the specific questions for AM Solar are:

1. Is the alternator designed to run continuously at 100% output?
2. If not, are there any built in protections?

Likely, they cannot answer these questions. Good luck getting straight answers from Ford. Another question for AM Solar, one that they should be able to answer is this:

Why do they say on their product page "Not for use on rigs with an ECU"?

As far as I know, all modern engines with fuel injection have an ECU (engine control unit). Based strictly on their product page, this product would be appropriate only for carburetor style engines, or perhaps throttle body injected engines, all relics of the past.
Yeah, I will definitely go back to AM Solar again. I've made known my fears in the past and each time they've reassured me everything will be fine, but I can't get rid of this niggle in the back of my mind that its not the right solution. Perhaps its just my ignorance but i don't want to jeopardize my vehicle or my solar / battery system by overloading any part of it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
If it was my $500 to spend on charging, I wouldn't have choose the AM Solar alternator charging "kit". That is a very overpriced ACR (automatic charge relay), IMO.

LiFePo4 battery banks in series for 12v use prefer to bulk charge at 14.4 volts and float at 13.6 volts. I don't know of an alternator that is adjustable for these settings. LiFePo4 also should be charged with at least a 2 stage charging profile. Your Victron solar controller has programmable charge algorithms that are user selectable, one is specifically for LiFePo4 batteries and does bulk charge at 14.2v (close enough) and float at 13.5v (also close enough). To my knowledge, a factory alternator alone cannot do this complex charge for maximum life of an expensive lithium battery.

Chart is a typical profile for a single cell LiFePo4 battery.
View attachment 133697
Thanks for the info. Unfortunately the $500 was spent last year so I'm well past my return window on it. So my options are either to try and make it work, or to abandon it and go with something else. With the current Covid 19 situation all of my clients have shut their doors so I don't really want to invest more $$ if what i already have will work. If it won't work, then I'll have to invest in another system, but I'm hoping the investment I've already made won't need to be thrown away completely.
 

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The fact that the battery combiner has worked "flawlessly" on many vehicles doesn't really tell you much. Charging a 220 amp hour lead acid battery is nothing like charging an 800 amp hour LiPo battery. The LiPo will demand far more current than the lead acid example. The question that AM solar needs to answer specifically is how the system will perform when connected to a very large LiPo battery. Again, I am not saying it won't work, but the questions you ask are important.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
The fact that the battery combiner has worked "flawlessly" on many vehicles doesn't really tell you much. Charging a 220 amp hour lead acid battery is nothing like charging an 800 amp hour LiPo battery. The LiPo will demand far more current than the lead acid example. The question that AM solar needs to answer specifically is how the system will perform when connected to a very large LiPo battery. Again, I am not saying it won't work, but the questions you ask are important.
Agreed. I will definitely problem them for more information. Cheers
 

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The good and bad of what AM solar has done for you is that they have extended the use of 12 volt to about it's maximum power capability and in some cases gone beyond the ratings.

As an example, the MC4 connectors on your panels are combining them together, resulting in a nearly 30 amps going through an MC-4. That is a real push of that connector.

If you turn that system on and the battery SOC is very low, it risks pulling so much power from the Ford electrical system that it shuts down.

It isn't that it can't work, but a large battery bank like that is sort of like a flying a space ship near a black hole and hoping that you don't get sucked into the event horizon. It might work, but it is a bit daring to do with just coasting and no controls.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
The good and bad of what AM solar has done for you is that they have extended the use of 12 volt to about it's maximum power capability and in some cases gone beyond the ratings.

As an example, the MC4 connectors on your panels are combining them together, resulting in a nearly 30 amps going through an MC-4. That is a real push of that connector.

If you turn that system on and the battery SOC is very low, it risks pulling so much power from the Ford electrical system that it shuts down.

It isn't that it can't work, but a large battery bank like that is sort of like a flying a space ship near a black hole and hoping that you don't get sucked into the event horizon. It might work, but it is a bit daring to do with just coasting and no controls.
Yeah, I don't want to be in a situation where I'm pulling so much power that anything shuts down, overheats, melt, disintegrates, etc. Would you recommend a different method to wire my panels?
 

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If I understand your alternator purchase correctly, it is an after market product that can be installed with no connection to the stock Ford electrical system. If that is correct, then the benefit as I understand it is that the alternator from AM solar can be dedicated solely to the house battery bank and would only need some regulation to prevent overdriving the alternator output and generating too much heat. With all of the controller options available to regulate alternator current demand, there should be no problem with drawing the maximum current that the alternator will safely output without self destructing.

I have no experience with AM Solar, but have read that they do solar well. Don't know about their level of expertise with alternator charging systems. That Victron stuff is not cheap but, like keitho says, it will allow control if the demand side similar to the Cyrix. All of your input 12 volt current is routed through the Multiplus, whether it is solar or alternator sourced and that unit should allow programming of output levels to the battery bank. Kinda odd that Victron would refer you to AM Solar. Seems like you have sent plenty enough money, if the schematic you provided is for things you already have, that you should have no problems with your install.

That's my official amateur opinion.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
If I understand your alternator purchase correctly, it is an after market product that can be installed with no connection to the stock Ford electrical system. If that is correct, then the benefit as I understand it is that the alternator from AM solar can be dedicated solely to the house battery bank and would only need some regulation to prevent overdriving the alternator output and generating too much heat. With all of the controller options available to regulate alternator current demand, there should be no problem with drawing the maximum current that the alternator will safely output without self destructing.

I have no experience with AM Solar, but have read that they do solar well. Don't know about their level of expertise with alternator charging systems. That Victron stuff is not cheap but, like keitho says, it will allow control if the demand side similar to the Cyrix. All of your input 12 volt current is routed through the Multiplus, whether it is solar or alternator sourced and that unit should allow programming of output levels to the battery bank. Kinda odd that Victron would refer you to AM Solar. Seems like you have sent plenty enough money, if the schematic you provided is for things you already have, that you should have no problems with your install.

That's my official amateur opinion.
Yes the schematic is for all of the components i currently have . . . . although I've yet to buy most of the cables, wire and some of the breakers and fuses. Most of the other components (inverter / charger, solar controller, cyrix, colour control, battery monitor, batteries, etc.) I already have. The kit I purchased from AM Solar is not an additional alternator, its basically a device that lets me charge my house batteries from the vehicle's existing alternator. It also allows me (in emergencies) to boost the vehicle battery from my house batteries in the event that I somehow run the vehicle batteries down and need to start the vehicle. Yeah I've spent a lot of $$ so far based on recommendations from people but before connecting everything together, I want to ensure its all correct. I can't afford to switch it on and have everything go "bang!" and go up in a puff of smoke. One problem I can't seem to find an answer to is how much the stock 250a alternator will output and for how long. It's all a bit confusing and overwhelming for someone like me who has no experience or knowledge of electrical systems
 
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