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Hi!
Just joined the forum, have been doing a lot of reading. We're in central Kentucky, and looking to get ourselves into van travel. As Covid has dragged on, we're looking to start a new phase. We're both mid-50s, and ready to retire or partially retire in order to get started with this new phase. My wife has some health issues, which have led us to being more restricted in travel due to Covid, but the flip side has shown us how much better her quality of life is while working from home, and seeing her in a better position than she's been in 10 years. Knowing her mobility is likely to only get worse as we get older, we're now operating under the "what are we waiting for?" motto.

We're both mechanically inclined and are looking to build our own van out to meet our needs. Our first problem, getting a van. After tossing around the idea of buying used, have settled on the most likely scenario of buying new - giving us warranty, and, theoretically, full life on all the pieces and parts. Obviously that's not as easy as it used to be right now. I have this vague awareness of allotments for vehicles, which I think makes it even harder. Any advice/tips on our van buying options in this part of the country are appreciated. We're leaning towards Eco-boost, AWD, high roof, extended length.

My next question, and I've seen discussions on here regarding this, but still don't really have a clear picture in my head, how are those of you who have the factory dual alternator utilizing this in your van life? It seems like there is conflicting thought on how it can (or should) be utilized, and I'm curious how people are actually using this alternator given there seem to be limitations on this factory installed version vs a stand alone (after market installed) 2nd alternator.

Sorry for the lengthy opening post, maybe should have split this into two different posts.
Nice to meet you guys - you're a wealth of information!

owa
 

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The factory dual alternator setup is very good if you are planning to use it to charge a house battery pack with up to ~ 1 kW if charging power. The actual loads are (usually) powered by the house battery pack but some people do directly connect to it.

If your plans include a need for (charging the battery pack) + ( loads ) that are in the 2 - 3 kW range then an after market alternator is better.

Just finished a customer project where we had a specialty company install a 4 kW continuous alternator in a sprinter and then did a 8 kW-hr battery pack for use with an RV air conditioner. Works great but the cost is not for the faint of heart.
 

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Hi!
Just joined the forum, have been doing a lot of reading. We're in central Kentucky, and looking to get ourselves into van travel. As Covid has dragged on, we're looking to start a new phase. We're both mid-50s, and ready to retire or partially retire in order to get started with this new phase. My wife has some health issues, which have led us to being more restricted in travel due to Covid, but the flip side has shown us how much better her quality of life is while working from home, and seeing her in a better position than she's been in 10 years. Knowing her mobility is likely to only get worse as we get older, we're now operating under the "what are we waiting for?" motto.

We're both mechanically inclined and are looking to build our own van out to meet our needs. Our first problem, getting a van. After tossing around the idea of buying used, have settled on the most likely scenario of buying new - giving us warranty, and, theoretically, full life on all the pieces and parts. Obviously that's not as easy as it used to be right now. I have this vague awareness of allotments for vehicles, which I think makes it even harder. Any advice/tips on our van buying options in this part of the country are appreciated. We're leaning towards Eco-boost, AWD, high roof, extended length.

My next question, and I've seen discussions on here regarding this, but still don't really have a clear picture in my head, how are those of you who have the factory dual alternator utilizing this in your van life? It seems like there is conflicting thought on how it can (or should) be utilized, and I'm curious how people are actually using this alternator given there seem to be limitations on this factory installed version vs a stand alone (after market installed) 2nd alternator.

Sorry for the lengthy opening post, maybe should have split this into two different posts.
Nice to meet you guys - you're a wealth of information!

owa
Welcome to the forum. I hope you find the info that you seek.


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Before worrying about the dual alternator, do a thorough energy audit. List the devices you must have, how much they use and how long you will use them. Then you can figure out what your watt hour requirements per day are.

Then, take a look at how you use the van. For example, I tend to move every day or two. I like to park in the shade if possible. I don't use a whole lot of power. So, a small house battery, a 50 amp charger and a standard alternator work great for me and I don't even have solar.

Once you get an energy audit done and think about your use profile you can begin to size out your system. It is an un-sexy bit of work that many avoid and just guess at what they need. More often than not they get a system insufficient for their needs or spend way more than they have to on a systems that exceeds what they use.
 
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If your plans include a need for (charging the battery pack) + ( loads ) that are in the 2 - 3 kW range then an after market alternator is better.
I would be really interested in the detailed reasoning behind this. There seem to be plenty of folks who successfully draw large loads from the dual alternator, and it appears to have several advantages deriving from the intelligent power management and load-shedding mechanism, at least when set up as intended. I do understand people's frustration on the vagueness of the BEMM in this regard, but it looks to me that good designs have been puzzled out and shared.

I am still open-minded on this question, but buying into a single integrated engineered approach has its appeal.
 

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What you need really depends on your travel/life style. We seldom stay in one place more than overnight so the single alternator charges the two 100 Ah AGM batteries in our 2017 WGO Paseo nicely. Supplemented by the 140 watt solar panel when parked. No need for second alternator.

NovaKool 12Volt compressor Refrigerator/freezer is the principle load. Cook and heat with Propane.

If it’s hot the 2800 watt generator and the 13,500 BTU Coleman NDQ barely are enough in this poorly insulated commercial build.

If you want to say in off grid places for any length of time you’ll need lots of solar panels and/or a generator.


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Some of us are getting along just fine with the Transit Base Model 150 amp alternator, I am getting over 50 amps of house battery charging from mine. Enough amps to run almost anything except a aftermarket air conditioner.
 

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I would be really interested in the detailed reasoning behind this. There seem to be plenty of folks who successfully draw large loads from the dual alternator, and it appears to have several advantages deriving from the intelligent power management and load-shedding mechanism, at least when set up as intended. I do understand people's frustration on the vagueness of the BEMM in this regard, but it looks to me that good designs have been puzzled out and shared.

I am still open-minded on this question, but buying into a single integrated engineered approach has its appeal.
So it depends - as noted by others.

If the plan is fans, lights and cooking - many methods will work.

If the plan is to:
  • run a roof mount air conditioner
  • using power pulled from the CCP2 and the Ford Dual alternator system

This has been demonstrated by @gregoryx IIRC.

If the plan is to:
  • run an RV style roof mount air conditioner
  • on a very hot day
  • While driving AND recharge a large battery pack capable of 8 hrs of air conditioning when you get there
  • at the same time in 2 - 3 hrs of driving

Then I don't see a clear path to pulling this off with the Ford dual alternator system. But I have been wrong many times before.

I also don't really see a very clear path to doing this with a 12 volt setup either but I have worked jointly with a customer to do exactly this on a sprinter recently with a 48 volt aux alternator and setup. It wasn't completely straightforward but not terrible either. It mirrored some work I had done over the past 8 years with 48 volt systems, only it is now much easier with some of the components that have come into the market in the past 24 months.

Looking for a customer to do this with a Transit next.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I think right now all we'll have are ideas of how we think we'll travel until we can get a little time on the road under out belts. A few overnights, mixed with a few 2-3 day stays is kinda what we're thinking.

I think we're pretty sold on utilizing solar energy, probably with LiFePo4 batts, and are currently doing the math on the watt/amp hours we expect to need. We haven't yet figured out the AC issue - not being able to cool down is a potential problem for my wife (heat can sometimes exacerbate her mobility/fatigue), so I'm feeling like it should be in our figuring. If so, I am concerned that we'll need a generator, but would obviously prefer not to have to cart that around so want to do my due diligence on the power we can generate without one. Already eyeing one of the dogs (border collie) as a potential energy source...

I've really got to do some studying to make sure I'm up to speed on batteries, charging, loads, etc. I've been spoiled with not having to worry about generating and storing electricity, just getting it to where I want it. I don't want to just follow someone's schematics, but have a working understanding of what and why, so wanted to get a grip on the benefits (or lack thereof if using solar and LiFePo4 batts) and limitations on this dual alternator as it seems it was intended for different uses. I'll also be checking up on harryn's 24v discussions and watching all the new van builds I come across.
 

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I think right now all we'll have are ideas of how we think we'll travel until we can get a little time on the road under out belts. A few overnights, mixed with a few 2-3 day stays is kinda what we're thinking.
It is always hard in the beginning to know what exactly you will do and how you will do it. Will you be staying for the longer periods where you have shore power?

I think we're pretty sold on utilizing solar energy, probably with LiFePo4 batts, and are currently doing the math on the watt/amp hours we expect to need. We haven't yet figured out the AC issue - not being able to cool down is a potential problem for my wife (heat can sometimes exacerbate her mobility/fatigue), so I'm feeling like it should be in our figuring. If so, I am concerned that we'll need a generator, but would obviously prefer not to have to cart that around so want to do my due diligence on the power we can generate without one.
AC is a big power consumer so getting a handle on your needs there is important.

Already eyeing one of the dogs (border collie) as a potential energy source...
Could save quite a bit on heating at night. Or maybe a hamster wheel, collies have a lot of energy!

I've really got to do some studying to make sure I'm up to speed on batteries, charging, loads, etc. I've been spoiled with not having to worry about generating and storing electricity, just getting it to where I want it. I don't want to just follow someone's schematics, but have a working understanding of what and why, so wanted to get a grip on the benefits (or lack thereof if using solar and LiFePo4 batts) and limitations on this dual alternator as it seems it was intended for different uses. I'll also be checking up on harryn's 24v discussions and watching all the new van builds I come across.
Just hold off on making large purchases until you get a handle on it. Read 'till your eyes bleed and ask questions. It is good you know how spoiled you have been, electricity seems like a little thing until you have to account for every watt yourself.
 
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There is absolutely nothing wrong with starting out with a lower cost approach like a honda or yamaha 3000 size generator and adding in other items as needed to reduce the run time.

More or less all of the solar + alternator + battery upgrades are just ways to reduce generator run time. Throw enough money at it and the generator run time goes to zero, but definitely not the investment required.

Really good generator capable of supporting a roof air conditioner. ~ $2 - 3K

Implementing enough stuff to replace the non air conditioning loads ~ $ 5 - 10K

Implementing enough of the other items to completely replace it. ~ $25 - 30K
 

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With global warming pretty sure AirCon is going to become more important in a van. Solar AC seems pretty demanding. Anyone using evaporative coolers and fans in less humid places like the Mountain West?
 

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Been looking at the 2022 transit order guide and it looks like a heavy duty 250 amp alternator
is standard
 

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If you want to get more than 120A battery charging at 12v, or do 24v or 48v system, then get a single alternator and add a third party second alternator dedicated to the house bank.

I have dual alternators, and am attempting to pull ~200A off them at 12v for my 12v rooftop AC. Doable, but going to be a pain, and a lot of thick wire.

If you think you might want AC when you’re off grid/no hookup, go single alternator and add a second alternator later
 

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I have dual alternator, dual battery setup and run a 2/0 wire from CCP2 thru a Victron Cyrix-Li-ct relay to my battery bank. During startup I see ~160+ Amps being pulled. In hindsight I might have went with a 3rd party dedicated alternator, to ensure fast charging. I still have to hook up 3rd party high power mode. Navigating the BEEM is not easy.
Circuit component Motor vehicle Hardware programmer Gas Computer hardware
 

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I'm one of those using the dual-alternator setup to pull up to ~150A - which is does reliably at idle. In theory, you can get up to 175A from CCP2 and ~200A with 3rd-party mode. I'm perfectly happy with ~150A - no extra stuff to figure out and it just works great.

2kW inverter on the right. Connected to CCP2. It feeds back to the inverter/charger on the left (with conveniently small-ish AC wire) and appears to the charger as "shore power" would.

Blue Motor vehicle Wood Automotive exterior Bumper


Funny looking at it versus @nealcallan setup: almost all the same components - just 24V vs 12V house setup and a very different layout.
 

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To me some of the best vans to convert into mobile homes are Mercedes Sprinter, Vauxhall Movano, Ford Transit. I like modern models like the 2020 Mercedes Sprinter, cutting-edge technology provides maximum support.
 
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