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The Li-MITLESS ENERGY Podcast: Evolutions Through Off-Grid RVing

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One of the most well-known couples in the RVing world, Tom Morton joins us for this episode of the Li-MITLESS ENERGY Podcast. As some of the first to share their life on the road as full-time RVers, Tom and his wife Caitlin, love inspiring others to experience the freedom of the open road. Through educational videos, extensive travel guides, gear reviews, and more, Tom shares about how he and Caitlin have discovered their dream lifestyled and hope to help others do the same!

Off-Grid RVing and Sustainable Energy with Mortons on the Move

Tom and Caitlin Morton standing in front of their truck camper
After spending nearly a decade living and documenting their lives on the road, Tom and Caitlin Morton have become influential figures in the RVing community. With the success of their personal brand, Morton’s on the Move, and starring in the Discovery TV show, The RVers, the Mortons are revered for their technical know-how and vast amounts of experience. Following some experimentation with other types of lithium batteries, Tom and Caitlin became some of the first to put Battle Born Batteries in their RV in 2018. Since then, the Mortons have continued implementing new technology and experiencing every side of the RVing world.

In this episode of The Li-MITLESS ENERGY Podcast, host Denis Phares chats with Tom Morton about the evolution of off-grid RVing and how the capabilities and longevity of camping off the grid have transformed. They discuss Tom and Caitlin’s life on the road and how they turned their hobby into a career teaching aspiring RVers to adopt sustainable off-grid living practices. The conversation delves into the evolution of the RVing industry, with Tom discussing how early adopters like himself paved the way for lithium batteries to become standard in RVs today. Tom also provides insights into the future of RVing and off-grid living and looks forward to continued innovation of sustainable energy solutions in both RVing and stationary living.

Listen to the full episode or watch the recording on our YouTube channel and be sure to keep up with The Morton’s latest travels on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.

Podcast Transcript


Denis Phares  0:14 

Welcome to The Li-MITLESS ENERGY Podcast. And my guest today is influencer extraordinaire, RVer, star of the RVers, Morton’s on the Move, Mr. Tom Morton.


Tom Morton  0:27 

It’s quite the introduction. Thank you.


Denis Phares  0:28



Tom Morton  0:29

Glad to be here.


Denis Phares  0:29 

I’m so happy you’re here because I kind of know you a little bit. We met back in 2018, so about five years now, at an event in Wellington, Texas.


Tom Morton  0:43

Yeah, middle of nowhere.


Denis Phares  0:45

You remember that?


Tom Morton  0:46

Just a little bit.


Denis Phares  0:47

A little bit?


Tom Morton  0:47 

Yeah. We were out there shooting a movie about the RV lifestyle. And we had brought Battle Born as a sponsor, and it was exciting to get to see you guys there. We personally had been really starting to think about lithium. Lithium was really just kind of starting at that time.


Denis Phares  1:09 

It’s infancy.


Tom Morton  1:10 

Yeah. Really, very few people were starting to think about it. But batteries have just always been the crux of a big problem in RVs for extended time off-grid, and everything, and RVing was really taking off at that time. So, it was exciting to see you guys because, yeah, shortly before that, I had installed a Tesla battery in my RV to start playing with that whole lithium thing. And we’d reached out to you guys, actually, to just sort of learn a little bit about your batteries, stuff like that.


Denis Phares  1:48 

Yes, you did. Yeah. I’m going to apologize now in public because we, I guess, blew you off is what we did. I don’t know what happened exactly, but we didn’t get back to you.


Tom Morton  2:00

It was a long time ago, but yeah.


Denis Phares  2:01

So, because of that, instead of Battle Borns, you actually put in a Tesla?


Tom Morton  2:04 

Yeah. So, I had really known about just the immense benefits of lithium. And I was like, “I want to do this in my RV,” and there weren’t really a whole lot of manufacturers like you out there really producing these batteries yet. And I didn’t know a whole lot about even your technology or something, so I just kind of want to learn a little bit more about it and stuff. But I have an electrical engineering background, so I wanted to build my own battery if you will.


Denis Phares  2:33 

Right. To be clear, this wasn’t a powerwall, this was an actual module from a Model S or something.


Tom Morton  2:37 

I physically went to a recycler, if you will, a guy who heavily modifies Teslas as well, and he had some wrecked Teslas. And I actually saw a wrecked Tesla Model S that we removed one of the 16 packs, I think, at the time, in that year. We removed one of these modules, and I took it with me and modified it to work.


Denis Phares  3:05 

So, you kind of have to know what you’re doing. Not just electricity but a little bit of chemistry, safety and control.


Tom Morton  3:13 



Denis Phares  3:14 

So, what is your background exactly, then why did you decide to do this?


Tom Morton  3:18 

So, I have an electrical engineering degree with a concentration in power. So, I primarily worked in industry, high powered applications in industry. I also did some transmission, I worked with relaying and substation design. So, I have some, just a little bit of experience, in electrical design. And I actually worked with batteries as well, I worked with very large lead acid battery banks in substations and industry that we use for backup power. We used a lot of batteries together, usually 110 to 120-volt DC battery banks. Very, very large, very, very dangerous.


Denis Phares  4:00 

You mean voltage-wise dangerous?


Tom Morton  4:02

No, primarily acid wise.


Denis Phares  4:04

Okay. A lot of acid, a lot of lead.


Tom Morton  4:06 

We had to cage off the batteries just to keep a certain distance away in case anything went wrong or something. But if we ever went in that cage, or had to do watering or anything like that, we had to wear full acid suits, full goggles. And yeah, so you are…


Denis Phares  4:22 

 In case of catastrophic failure.


Tom Morton  4:23 



Denis Phares  4:25 

It’s not like normal environment. Just because you have lead acid batteries there, you’re exposed to anything, necessarily.


Tom Morton  4:30 

Correct. It’s just we’re talking very, very large banks. There’s no protection on the lead acid battery either, right? So, if you shorted something out. or whatnot, you could have a massive explosion. They’re dangerous.


Denis Phares  4:43 

No, you’re right. It always cracked me up that people would be like, “Well, lithium is so scary and dangerous,” when, in fact, lead acid doesn’t have any protections at all. Typically, lithium has at least a management system.


Tom Morton  4:53 

Correct. If you were to drop a bar across the busbars of these battery banks, it would be catastrophic.


Denis Phares  5:01 

But your Tesla module, you made your own management system, or did it have one?


Tom Morton  5:05 

It did not, well it kind of did. So, the cars have sort of individual management systems on each individual battery, but they actually have kind of a head unit that manages the whole pack, all the packs together. And without, I guess, the proprietary technology, whatever they’ve programmed it, which I didn’t have, I wasn’t able to actually tap into any of that. So, I went ahead and I built my own monitoring and relaying system that would take it offline based on voltage, current, and temperature because you don’t… Current is not really too big of an issue with those packs because they can put out an enormous amount of power.


Denis Phares  5:45 

And they’re actually fused. Each one of those cells is fused, so you have that at least.


Tom Morton  5:50 

They are. If you were to short one of those packs out, almost all those fuses would pop instantly, and most likely, nothing would happen.


Denis Phares  5:57

But the bigger danger is high voltage.


Tom Morton  5:58

The biggest danger is definitely high voltage, is overcharging one of these packs and it’s very critical. So, I basically had two layers of backups that were watching the voltage and would take it offline if something went wrong. The chemistry that they use in the cars is far more volatile than the lithium iron phosphate, so I was kind of playing with fire, I guess.


Denis Phares  6:24

But you knew it. You knew how to do it.


Tom Morton  6:26

I did know it. Yes. We slept on top of the battery so…


Denis Phares  6:30 

Well, in terms of influencers in the RV space, you are pretty unique in your background. Maybe you and, like, Technomadia, and I had heard of Technomadia, another RVers star, by the way. I guess you’ve traveled with them.


Tom Morton  6:46 

Oh, we haven’t traveled, we do know them, though. We know him pretty well. They’re more conductivity, electrical, electronics, stuff like that. They were really big into conductivity. Although they actually were one of the first…


Denis Phares  6:58 

They were the earliest adopters.


Tom Morton  7:00

… To actually install a customized lithium-backed battery.


Denis Phares  7:01 

Bunch of prismatic, big prismatic cells. But you and them were, I would say, uniquely suited for this sort of exploratory work in RV electricity, right?


Tom Morton  7:15 

Willing to take the risk and design it ourselves, if you will. And since after that time, I did sort of publish a lot of my information about doing this in an RV, and a lot of people followed suit. There probably were a handful of accidents around that, I actually know there were a few.


Denis Phares  7:36

I know of a couple myself.


Tom Morton  7:38

Yeah, because if you’ve got something wrong with the design because you’re not having an electrical engineer overview in a lot of what you actually did… I showed you how to do it, but if you did it wrong, it could be catastrophic. There were definitely a handful of fires out there in those early days.


Denis Phares  7:54 

So, you were excited to apply LFP, apply a system with a well-understood BMS. So, let me go back to Wellington. Well, in Wellington, Texas, you guys actually have a Tesla module in your RV. And then, we met you were involved in the movie.


Tom Morton  8:17

I was directing it.


Denis Phares  8:18

You were directing the movie. I remember it was Sean who brought it to my attention that there’s this movie, and we were going to sponsor it. And I was just like, “A movie about RVing?” I was just like, “All right, let’s do it.” Next thing we know, we’re in Wellington, in the middle of nowhere with all these RVers, which turned out to be kind of like a very early gathering of folks that ended up being fairly well-known RV influencers. You being one of them.


Tom Morton  8:49 

Yeah. We had quite a few people that were either directly involved with the movie or had come to what we put together for the release of the movie we called Nomad Fest. And we, I don’t remember quite the numbers, but we had a lot of people show up, and it was a lot of fun. It was a really, really good event. It was both influencers and just people who are excited about the RV community. And a lot of it kind of was around the… I guess the story behind it was really around the freedom that you can attain with RVing. And a big part of that was batteries and being able to get off-grid.


Denis Phares  9:29 

Yeah. We felt a big part of it. I was surprised, And I remember Sean and I were both interviewed in the movie, and I was asked all about boondocking, and I actually didn’t know what boondocking was at the time. Of course, I’ve come to learn a lot about it in the last five years, but I was more interested in the fact that the RVers were presenting this ability they were executing in terms of living off of solar. They were actually doing it, and I felt like this was really spearheading the whole living off of solar thing that could happen off grid. That’s what I wanted to focus on, and really focus more on, well, what is your idea of boondocking, but it’s living off-grid and how the batteries contribute to that.


Tom Morton  10:15 

Yeah, I think you’re right. It’s interesting. The RV is just such a good off-grid package. You manage all of your resources; waste, water, and power. So; I think the RV really kind of is and was a good catalyst for that exact thing. And it does just spill right over into off-grid homes, off-grid anything, really. But you’re right, I think everyone in the movie either had or wanted to install solar at that point because it was just so exciting. You were able to see your neighbor, and wait, you can not run your generator for a couple of days? That’s incredible.


Denis Phares  11:00 

Right. And be in the middle of nowhere.


Tom Morton  11:03 

Yeah. It really does just change the game. And going from a smaller lead acid battery bank, or even a large lead acid battery pack to lithium in an RV, it just absolutely changes the usability of the RV. Like right now, we’re parked out in the parking lot, we spent a very cold freezing night in the parking lot, but I didn’t have to worry about it at all. We had all the power that we needed, ran the microwave in the morning to warm up some tea, and it just functions. It functions great. You are your own utility, though. So you still have to manage that energy flow and stuff like that. But it’s almost fun in a way, especially in an RV.


Denis Phares  11:44 

But because you guys demonstrated… It’s funny how this is 2018, you’re the early adopters. Now we’re in 2023 and Keystone only puts out towables with lithium on them. It’s standard in a lot of…


Tom Morton  12:03

It should be.


Denis Phares  12:04

I agree. Of course, we’ve been driving that home for a while. But it’s incredible how the movement, I think, started with folks like you that put it out online and said, “This is how you do it.” Especially folks like you, Tom, that say, “This is why it works, these are the pitfalls, this is how you hook it all up.” And then, average people, average RVers could do it themselves. All of a sudden, they’re living off-grid, they’re boondocking. And then, it started to turn over to the OEMs, I think.


Tom Morton  12:34 

Yeah. I think that’s exactly how it went. The Tesla batteries, people were also using volt batteries, Chevy volt batteries, like cars because, acquiring lithium cells… You could procure a Chinese cell yourself, or something like that, but, a lot of times, actually procuring cells out of a used car pack was easier for a lot of people. That’s kind of I think where it started. And then, Battle Born came along and offered a drop-in solution that you didn’t have to know all that stuff, and that just really started to… It was the individuals, it wasn’t the OEMs. The OEMs weren’t even really taking notice yet at that time either, they were looking at it like it was just a side crazy thing. And then, they really did start seeing how much it improved the lifestyle. And I think it’s a battery that you could think of as something that’s a lifelong product in an RV instead of a disposable product, which the batteries they were putting in really were. It just absolutely changes how you can use…


Denis Phares  13:43 

This was investment now in your energy. You can actually keep the batteries often for longer than your RV. So, how did the RVers come along? So now there’s a television show. I said you were the star of the RVers, there was Technomadia, there was the RV Geeks. How did that come about?


Tom Morton  14:04 

So, the RVers is a TV show produced by a man named Anthony Nalli who is actually a Canadian. And, at the time, he was just starting that. He was starting that show while we were doing the movie, and we had kind of heard about it through the grapevine. Like, “Oh, these RV movements,” we kind of thought like, “Oh, he’s copying us,” or something like that. But he wasn’t, he was doing completely his own thing. And through the movie, through just lots of connections that we knew, we kind of got involved with that show almost immediately after the movie. And the RVers TV show, originally, was produced for almost PBS exclusively. It was going to be kind of an educational show, but then it got picked up by Discovery Channel and a handful of other larger channels as well.


Denis Phares  14:58 

And the new season is just coming out now.


Tom Morton  15:01 

It is. I couldn’t tell you exactly when, I forget. Do you remember, hun?


Cait Morton (Tom’s Wife)  15:07 

Season 4 reruns started on the 1st, and then it rolls right into season five.


Denis Phares  15:12 

Okay. So, five seasons have been… And now you’re going out of the country.


Tom Morton  15:19 

Yeah. So, we did… What do you mean by ‘going out of the country’?


Denis Phares  15:25 

Didn’t you do a season in New Zealand?


Tom Morton  15:28 

So we did. We shot one kind of a whole episode in New Zealand. We rented RVs in New Zealand, we traveled both islands. However, that was during the pandemic, so that was like an interesting experience for us. But then, last fall, we actually toured Europe in RVs. We rented RVs in Europe, and we shot a lot for the show. So, there’s another…


Denis Phares  15:50

There you go. That’s what I meant by out of the country.


Tom Morton  15:52

Yeah. And then, we just got back from a trip down the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. We shot for the show as well.


Denis Phares  15:58 

All right. And that’s season five?


Tom Morton  16:00 

That’ll be season five.


Denis Phares  16:02 

Okay, great. That must be a lot of fun, actually. You’re used to filming yourselves and putting your own stories out. Now you’re the talent.


Tom Morton  16:14 

Yeah, It is fun. It’s sort of similar in a lot of ways. We are still crew. We’re a crew, although we’re not editing and producing, so we do have a larger team doing that.


Denis Phares  16:27 

Do you consider it still educational in terms of what you’re doing?


Tom Morton  16:30 

Definitely. Yeah, definitely. We’re reaching a slightly different audience than what we would reach ourselves. These are TV viewers. A lot of them are still very excited and love RVing as a whole, and we do a lot of educational content through it. That’s part of what we love to do is teach and tell people what they can do, “Here’s your RV, did you know you could do this with it?”


Denis Phares  16:57 

Where does it go from here? Where do you see the future? Are you going to get stationary? Are you going to get a house and do something similar?


Tom Morton  17:04 

I guess the future is still a little, it’s unwritten. But I think, for us, I would love to do some more… I would love to take what we’ve done with the RV and do some stationary applications. So, we primarily travel between properties in Michigan and Florida. And, in Florida, we have full hookups, and I still actually prioritize solar, so I do use a lot of the energy while we’re down there. But, in Michigan, we’re completely off-grid and we’ve primarily been using the RV as the sole source of energy. But, when we extend our stay into the fall and stuff like that, we are still limited with our solar energy capacity, stuff like that. So, I would love to do an off-grid energy bank that we could plug more people into and do more stuff with, really build kind of a whole off-grid property. But we are dreaming of purchasing a home in the future as well. And I would love to take that same concept because it’s so much easier than it’s ever been to actually take a property off-grid and manage your own utilities.


Denis Phares  18:11 

How has your experience with the mobile solution, do you think? How is that going to help you with a larger stationary solution?


Tom Morton  18:21 

Well, it’s all similar. It’s all really kind of the same thing. It’s the same stuff, it’s just bigger. Yeah, that’s basically it. So, I think, with a stationary application, I’m not as concerned about weight, weight is a huge thing with RV. So, how much solar can I put on the roof? Am I trying to go as lightweight as possible with the panels? And stuff like that. With a residential application, I would just… Big ol residential panels, and a big ol grid, weld it together. But actually sort of like managing it, doing the calculations to figure out how much I need, how much I plan to use, what the seasonality is going to be. That’s a big difference as well. What’s the lowest peak in the winter that I’m going to want to be able to produce, that kind of thing. So, that’s sort of part of it. And then, if you’re going to do grid tie at all, I think, like, am I going to use any energy from another source. If I purchase a home that already has a grid connection, I’m probably going to tie that in somehow. Even grid tie does exist to some extent with RVs because we’re actually bringing power shore. Shore power or generator, we toned down how much power we actually draw from… You can use a small generator and hybrid inverters so that you can actually charge at a much lower rate and not overpower a generator, run more appliances. You can run an air conditioner with some solar, some generator. You can mix these power sources, and things like that. You can do the same thing with residential applications with a grid tie.


Denis Phares  19:56 

Well, whatever you do, I’m sure you’re going to keep educating. And you’ve garnered a pretty good reputation now, people do listen to you.


Tom Morton  20:02 

We’d love to keep educating and continue to share what we’re doing because we are always trying to kind of push the limits, like, what is the new thing? What can we do now? And that’s just part of something that we enjoy to do and we really do love to share that.


Denis Phares  20:21 

So, going way back, you started traveling in your RV, you started publicizing what you’re doing, putting it out online, and started making a living at it, right? You’ve gotten pretty good at, actually, getting… It’s a trick to get people to watch what you’re doing. You’ve gotten good at that, and you’re starting to learn more about that and expand from there, right?


Tom Morton  20:51 

Yeah, I suppose we went from vlogging, if you will, like the earliest days of it for us, it wasn’t to make a living. We hit the road with the intent to sort of find something new, find a new place…


Denis Phares  21:08 

I think that’s a common story, people who did this, they didn’t do it to make a living. A lot of folks managed to do it along the way, and you’re one of them.


Tom Morton  21:16 

Yeah. So, we’ve transitioned from vlogging to, I guess, vlogging, but on a larger scale that was able to bring in some income to blogging, and now, actually a lot of marketing, and even assisting others with marketing needs and stuff like that, because we’ve learned how to garner eyeballs, if you will. So, that’s been one of the ways that we have been able to make a living on the road. We did many other things as well, though. And a lot of people are able to work from the road these days. The conductivity has just gotten so much better that, particularly with Starlink now, we’re able to have high-speed internet from satellites, and you’re able to work from anywhere. But, as a whole, I think some of those early influencers have taken a similar path and sort of become… I guess it is almost marketing in a way.


Denis Phares  22:23 

Well, I guess that’s the new marketing. Marketing isn’t what it used to be and the internet changed that. And when you become a personality on the internet, you’ve got kind of an inside track.


Tom Morton  22:32 

Yeah. I think that’s exactly it. It’s an audience. Marketing is always an audience, whether it’s paid advertising, or following that you have, you’re trying to get those eyeballs.


Denis Phares  22:48 

Mm-hmm. So, I think it’s great, you kind of went full circle. You started as a tech guy, an engineer, you went on the road, you started educating, you became a little more well-known. And I think you’re going to be educating some more and doing some more tech as you move forward. I think you’re going to go stationary pretty soon. That’s my guess.


Tom Morton  23:11 

So, we’ve been on the road for, gosh, almost nine years now. And I do think that we are starting to feel like, oh, maybe we should put down some roots. And, from the tech side yeah, being able to actually build out a stationary power system is something that I definitely want to do. I talked about earlier, it really is being your own utility in a way. And it’s kind of fun. It’s a fun thing to do. But I guess, opposed to being a utility, particularly with solar, there’s so little you have to do. Most of the time, if you set it up right, it just works, it does its thing. So, you just have to occasionally monitor it, make sure everything’s working properly. You do watch those batteries, “What’s my state of charge?” Particularly in an RV. I guess, with lithium, if you run it too low, you just fire up a generator a lot of times, something like that. And it’s not that big a deal.


Denis Phares  24:15 

There’s some tricks of the trade as everything, but it’s really not rocket science.


Tom Morton  24:19 

No, it isn’t. And particularly with an off-grid type home, especially if there’s a grid tie,it can do its own thing and provide almost all of your energy needs. And then, backup itself if it needs to, either a generator or the grid when it gets low.


Denis Phares  24:37 

Well, that’s where we’re headed at Dragonfly as you know, and you and Cait have been a big part of our story. So, I want to thank you for that. You’ve been supportive, I think we’ve supported each other over the years.


Tom Morton  24:49 

We have. It’s been an awesome ride for sure, and it’s been great to see, really, where you guys have gone and what you’ve done for the industry, and RVing particularly, it’s changed the game. Itt’s taken it from those early days of playing with flammable Tesla batteries to something everyone can do. And it improves everyone’s life.


Denis Phares  25:15 

Yeah, thanks for saying that, it’s been a crazy ride.


Tom Morton  25:19

It’s been a lot of fun.


Denis Phares  25:21

So, on that note, thank you so much for being on the podcast, Tom, and hope to see you again soon.


Tom Morton  25:25  

Hey, it was great to be here.


Denis Phares  25:28 

Be sure to subscribe to The Li-MITLESS ENERGY Podcast on any of your favorite podcast platforms.



[End Of Recording]

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