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Discussion Starter #1
So, there's been a bit of talk (per search) about maintenance/trickle charging the starter batteries to overcome the high parasitic battery drain that Transit owners encounter. Nearly everything I can find is discussing AC to DC maintenance charger solutions that you plug in using shore power.

I'm looking for DC to DC solutions using solar panels. It just seems natural if you have solar to use them to energize a trickle charger to maintain the starter battery while the van is sitting.

I'm aware that CTEK and the Renogy DCC50S have this "maintain starter battery" feature built-in. I happen to be leaning towards a Victron B2B and MTTP controller for more flexibility down the road, and thus am looking for a DIY solution. I don't believe Victron offer this handy trickle charge feature (someone please correct me if I'm wrong). I've also seen the front-window solar panels that plug into a 12V outlet, and would consider this as an option but would love something integrated with the existing solar by preference.


So, is anyone using their solar to maintain their starter battery (excluding users of the brands above), and how are you doing it?

I've found these links:
This looked the most promising, but is unavailable: Votronic 2A 12V DC to DC battery to battery trickle charger/standby charger for motorhome, caravan, boat, yacht, RV, van, trailer: Amazon.co.uk: Electronics

This is a bit expensive, but might work: OptiMATE DC to DC 12v 2 Amp Smart Battery Charger TM-500
 

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Discussion Starter #2
I also meant to mention that I've also come across Toad Vehicle Chargers that are DC to DC chargers and might work. These run off the hitch 12V to trickle charge a towed vehicle battery and prevent it from becoming depleted on long trips. Any thoughts or advice are welcome. Thanks!
 

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If there's high parasitic drain, it's not normal. Fix it.
Sadly it is "normal" at least for 2020 MY. Yes, we can disconnect all the convenient features like vehicle tracking and remote start and etc that transit comes with.
 
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I just sorted this out - I'm using a power diode and 0.25 ohm resistor (2 x 0.5 ohm in parallel) . I connected it to the top unswitched CCP post. Also have fuses at both ends. The max current seems to be around 5 amps when the house batteries are charged to 14.4 and I start the van (starter battery voltage drops). Mostly it trickles and stops charging at 12.8 volts (starting battery). The diode seems to have a voltage drop of ~0.6 volts.

 

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With some vehicles being driven much less than before, I have put some of these 7 watt power film solar units in the cars.

The main claim to fame is that they produce power in really low light levels - even inside of a lit garage.

 

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Sadly it is "normal" at least for 2020 MY. Yes, we can disconnect all the convenient features like vehicle tracking and remote start and etc that transit comes with.
Oh. Another good reason to try and figure out how to disable the telematics "feature". Thanks
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Pulsetech is what the US Military uses for all of their ground vehicles. (Solar chargers)

Thanks for the link. I looked through their products, but it doesn't look like they sell just device to go from existing solar panels to the starter battery. That "circuit box" as they label it with their solar panel kit is basically the only part I'd want.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
If there's high parasitic drain, it's not normal. Fix it.
It sounded quite normal from what I've read. By high I mean the van is dead within 2-3 weeks of sitting, sorry to not have defined that more specifically. Many forum members have posted about this behavior of the stock vans, and I am a firm believer from my daily driver vehicles over the years that maintaining the lead acid battery easily doubles the life expectancy.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
With some vehicles being driven much less than before, I have put some of these 7 watt power film solar units in the cars.

The main claim to fame is that they produce power in really low light levels - even inside of a lit garage.

Thanks for the link. Interestingly, they sell an accessory which is a 4.5A charge controller. It's a bit spendy, but it might be possible to tap this into the incoming solar feed and run the output to the starter battery. Not sure what the maximum input voltage is, spec's are thin, as it's specifically designed to work with their panels.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I just sorted this out - I'm using a power diode and 0.25 ohm resistor (2 x 0.5 ohm in parallel) . I connected it to the top unswitched CCP post. Also have fuses at both ends. The max current seems to be around 5 amps when the house batteries are charged to 14.4 and I start the van (starter battery voltage drops). Mostly it trickles and stops charging at 12.8 volts (starting battery). The diode seems to have a voltage drop of ~0.6 volts.

Very cool. I've read that many of these trickle chargers are not much more than a diode, but not seen anyone make one yet. A couple questions:

1. by top unswitched CCP, you mean CCP1 that is always hot?
2. are your house batteries lithium? Since with a diode you'll always get that fixed voltage drop when forward biased, one thing I wasn't sure about was whether the different charging regimes (different voltage levels on the house side) would cause any problems on the starter side like overcharging. Any thoughts about this?
 

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Very cool. I've read that many of these trickle chargers are not much more than a diode, but not seen anyone make one yet. A couple questions:

1. by top unswitched CCP, you mean CCP1 that is always hot?
2. are your house batteries lithium? Since with a diode you'll always get that fixed voltage drop when forward biased, one thing I wasn't sure about was whether the different charging regimes (different voltage levels on the house side) would cause any problems on the starter side like overcharging. Any thoughts about this?
Yep I meant CCP1 - 60 amp always hot (I was confused on the location)

Yes lithium batts. The max charging voltage for my Lithiums is 14.4 so the max voltage my starter battery should see is around 13.8 at a couple of amps. Should not be a problem since the alternator charges at 14.4. I also plan to install a switch to turn it off when using the camper.

This took me a few iterations to get it right. First batch of cheap diodes did not work, second batch of cheap diodes worked fine but got crazy hot. Last diode with the heat sink worked fine but allowed too much current under certain circumstances. Added 0.5 ohm resistor and too little current. 0.25 ohms seems just right.

I did the same thing with a RV I owned and it was easier because both batts were lead acid.
 

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This is going to become an even bigger issue when the power sliding door becomes more popular.
Imagine camping out and using the PSD a dozen times in a weekend. The Sprinter guys are already cursing the PSD because of battery drain issues....
The problem with the AMP-L-Start above is it does not allow "pass through" charging of the house battery. Although it is an easy hook up it requires a whole separate set of wires than the ones charging the house battery off the starter battery.
Unless I'm understanding incorrectly. @jondrums
 

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Discussion Starter #18
This is going to become an even bigger issue when the power sliding door becomes more popular.
Imagine camping out and using the PSD a dozen times in a weekend. The Sprinter guys are already cursing the PSD because of battery drain issues....
The problem with the AMP-L-Start above is it does not allow "pass through" charging of the house battery. Although it is an easy hook up it requires a whole separate set of wires than the ones charging the house battery off the starter battery.
Unless I'm understanding incorrectly. @jondrums
Bingo. Our Forester has a power lift gate and I learned this the hard way. Used it a number of times while parked at the beach a few years back. Car wouldn't start when we went to leave. Weak stock battery that I hadn't maintained. Such a pain.

If you're charging off the CCP1, I'd think you could use the same wires that feed the input of the B2B charger as your starter connection for the Amp-L-Start? I plan to use CCP2 to feed my B2B, so I would have to run a separate wire since the maintenance charger needs to be on an always hot connection I believe.
 

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I've used the high current diode, fuse and series resistor option for years. No fuss, no muss.

Ron
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Yep I meant CCP1 - 60 amp always hot (I was confused on the location)

Yes lithium batts. The max charging voltage for my Lithiums is 14.4 so the max voltage my starter battery should see is around 13.8 at a couple of amps. Should not be a problem since the alternator charges at 14.4. I also plan to install a switch to turn it off when using the camper.

This took me a few iterations to get it right. First batch of cheap diodes did not work, second batch of cheap diodes worked fine but got crazy hot. Last diode with the heat sink worked fine but allowed too much current under certain circumstances. Added 0.5 ohm resistor and too little current. 0.25 ohms seems just right.

I did the same thing with a RV I owned and it was easier because both batts were lead acid.
I've used the high current diode, fuse and series resistor option for years. No fuss, no muss.

Ron
Can you share any advice on how you heatsinked the diode and resistors? Or is it not necessary with the current limiting?

Pictures would be great if you have any.
 
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