Vans and skoolies offer a unique experience when stacked up against other RVs on the road. The option to build from a blank canvas allows the owner to create their own masterpiece on wheels. The ability to create a floor plan built around your lifestyle and needs has created a surge of interest in these vehicles. A flood of creative individuals have taken the opportunity to build one-of-a-kind vehicles ranging from a minimalist van, a decked out skoolie, or a Pinterest palace on four wheels. The sky is the limit.
A power system for a van or skoolie is no different. Battle Born Batteries can build the system needed to support your vision and bring it to life with lithium. From a single auxiliary battery to power your basic needs, or a roof full of solar panels and enough batteries to power a mobile editing studio, work space or a home on four wheels, the van life options are limitless.
Along with batteries, we sell the components and accessories that can outfit a mobile power solution in any vehicle you’re looking to build. We have gathered a few frequently answered questions about vans, skoolies, and more below.
What Components Do I Need?
A standard inverter is an electrical device that turns direct current (DC) power into alternating current (AC). A battery charger (converter) takes standard 120 V AC power and converts it to DC power to charge your batteries.
An inverter charger, much like the name states, is a combination of an inverter and a battery charger. It can take the AC power from a generator or shore power and charge your DC battery bank. It will also turn your battery’s DC power into AC power for any household appliances or electronics.
The Battle Born Shop carries multiple inverter/chargers for various power requirements from brands such as Victron and Magnum.
*One should note that additional components may need to be purchased alongside an inverter charger to best fit the needs of a system
A converter is a device that will convert the voltage from alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC). This varies from an inverter, which converts the voltage from DC to AC.
As you may know, most of the on-board electrical components in your RV run off DC power, while most household appliances will run off AC power. A converter charger will allow you to charge your battery bank from an AC power source, such as shore power or a generator. It will also allow you to take this DC power and distribute it to your on-board electrical components.
The Battle Born Shop carries converters from brands such as Progressive Dynamics, Sterling Power, and Victron which you can find here.
Battery Isolation Manager
A Battery Isolation Manager (BIM) is essential for alternator charging in 12 V systems only.
Battle Born recommends using the BIM in systems with 3 or more batteries. The BIM is designed to allow up to 225 amps of current to the batteries during a charge cycle. For smaller battery banks, this could lead to overcharging, which could potentially shorten the cycle life of the batteries.
The BIM will connect for 15 minutes every 35 minutes. That means that the BIM will connect for 15 minutes, disconnect for 20 minutes, and repeat this cycle until the coach battery is charged.
If the coach battery resting voltage exceeds 13.4 V, then the BIM will disconnect. A resting voltage greater than 13.4 V indicates a fully charged battery. Note that “resting voltage” means that no current is flowing to the coach battery. The BIM will disconnect if the alternator voltage exceeds 14.4 V. This protects the coach battery from over charging.
The BIM will disconnect if the voltage difference between the alternator and the coach battery is less than 0.1 V. If the voltage difference is too low, then there is a negligible charging current, and no need to connect to the coach battery. The BIM will disconnect if the alternator voltage drops below 13.3 V. If the alternator voltage is too low, than it cannot adequately charge the coach battery, so there is no reason to connect. You can find this product here.
The Li-BIM 225 can monitor the voltages of your chassis and coach or auxiliary batteries. We recommend incorporating a BIM into your system when you want to charge your auxiliary batteries from your alternator. The BIM can monitor and regulate the voltages of your batteries in a variety of ways.
BIM Scenario 1
One of the scenarios a BIM would be used in would be if the engine was “on” with a chassis battery with a voltage greater than 13.4 V and the coach battery had a voltage less than 13.3 V. In response, the Li-BIM 225 would connect the batteries for 15 minutes, then disconnect the batteries for 20 minutes. After this duty cycle, a new voltage reading would be taken of each battery. If the voltages remain within the scenario’s parameters, the response would repeat.
BIM Scenario 2
Another scenario a BIM would be used in would be if the chassis battery voltage was below 12.5 V and the coach battery voltage was greater than 13.5 V. The Li-BIM 225 would connect the batteries for 1 hour, then disconnect the batteries for a wait time of 2 minutes.
After this wait time, a new voltage reading would be taken of each battery. If the voltages were within this scenario’s parameters, the response would repeat. In this scenario, the BIM acts as a trickle charger for the chassis battery.
BIM Scenario 3
In the final scenario, the Normally Open Momentary Switch would be pressed, and the Li-BIM 225 would connect the batteries for as long as the switch was pressed.
For a basic connection diagram of the BIM please refer to the schematic below.
For the wiring of the BIM, the ignition terminal should be connected to the ignition switch. As shown, the signal terminal has two setup options.
In the first option,the signal terminal is connected to a Normally Open Momentary Switch, which is connected to a ground.
In the second option, the signal terminal is connected to a fuse (suggested 2 amps). This fuse is then connected to a Normally Open Momentary Switch followed by a connection to the coach positive voltage line.
The battery guardian (BG) is a great component if you are looking for a low voltage disconnect.
Restricted for only 12 V power systems, this component allows you to remotely disconnect the vehicle from the battery by sensing the voltages of the coach or auxiliary batteries. We recommend using a BG when you intend to store your system for long periods of time.
When a BG is incorporated into your system, it works as a direct current (DC) disconnect switch, and it will cut off loads once your batteries reach 11.5 V. This will protect your batteries during long-term storage as it prevents the loads from draining your batteries and will completely eliminate the cumbersome task of physically removing the battery cable from the bank of batteries. Check out the product listing for the Battery Guardian.
For a basic connection diagram of the Battery Guardian please refer to the schematic below.
There are two types of connections that you can make to your ignition connection on your BG.
We recommend Option A which leaves the ignition terminal disconnected. As a response, the BG will disconnect the coach battery when it sees it reach a voltage of 11.5 V.
The second option, Option B, would be to connect the ignition terminal to the ignition switch of the vehicle. As a response, the BG will not disconnect when the ignition switch is on. When the ignition switch is off, the batteries will disconnect at a voltage of 12.2 V.
There are three different wiring options when making the signal (sig) connection.
The first option, which we recommend, is referred to as the AUTO connection, where the signal terminal is connected directly to the ground. As a response, the BG will disconnect the batteries when the voltage goes below 11.5 V (or 12.2 V if using Option B for the ignition connection). In this setup, the BG will reconnect the batteries once their voltage is sensed to be above 13.3 V after 20 seconds.
The second option is referred to as the non-AUTO disconnect option. For this setup, the signal terminal is connected to a fuse (suggested 2 amps) and the toggle switch is connected to the positive terminal of the batteries. As a response, the toggle switch will act as a regular disconnect. When the toggle switch is closed, the batteries will not disconnect from the load. When the toggle switch is open, the batteries will be disconnected from the load.
The third option is an AUTO with a disconnect option. For this setup, the signal terminal is connected to the toggle switch, followed by a connection to the ground. In response to this, if the toggle switch is closed, the batteries will disconnect when the voltage goes below 11.5 V (or 12.2 V if using Option B for the ignition connection) for 2 minutes. The batteries will reconnect when the voltage is above 13.3 V after 20 seconds. If the toggle switch is open, the batteries will be disconnected from the load.
Implementing a solar system can be confusing to say the least. Solar panels come in a wide array of shapes, sizes, wattage, voltages and types. Should you go with Monocrystalline (MPPT), Polycristalline (PWM), thin film, or amorphous? Do you need 12 V panels, 24, 48, or maybe even 72 volts?
The good news is, by following a few basic rules, you can figure out how many watts you need for properly charging your Battle Born Batteries.
How many watts?
As a basic rule, match 200-250 watts of any solar type, for each 100 Ah of your lithium battery bank. This should allow charging from nearly empty to full in one full day of direct sunlight. Just make sure that your solar charge controller is compatible for charging lithium.
What voltage of panel?
Select your solar charge controller, then choose the voltage of your solar panels. MPPT solar charge controllers handle voltages of 75 V up to 250 V, depending on the model, meaning you can easily build a solar array with almost all voltage types. The less efficient PWM solar controllers usually only handle 12 or 24 volts, limiting your choices of solar panels.
Connect my solar array in series or parallel?
Again, this will depend on your solar charge controller. For most PWM controllers, parallel connections work best. Parallel connections keep voltage of your solar array low as these controllers can’t handle the higher volts. Series connecting is preferred with MPPT controllers as this can create more efficiency with the higher voltage that’s created connecting this way.
Parallel solar connections give a measure of shade tolerance, meaning if you cover one panel out of the array, the other panels still generate a good amount of power. Series solar connections give a bit more efficiency and power but tend to give much less power when one panel is shaded from the array. Many choose a hybrid of both series and parallel and will give the best of both worlds.
These are generalities and many factors can change recommendations. If you would like to discuss your solar array and the components involved, don’t hesitate to give us a call at (855) 292-2831 or email us at [email protected].
Solar Charge Controller
A solar charge controller is a current or voltage controller that manages the power that transfers from your solar array to your battery bank. A solar charge controller takes the power that comes from the solar array to charge your battery bank and acts as a one-way gate to prevent this power from transferring back to the solar array, which would subsequently drain the batteries.
There are two main types of solar charge controllers: Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) and Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT). Check out what solar charge controllers we offer here.
Pulse Width Modulation (PWM)
Pulse width modulation solar charge controllers are relatively simple controllers that are connected directly between your solar array and your battery bank. It will “pull down” the voltage of your solar array to match that of your battery bank.
As your battery bank approaches its maximum capacity, the PWM solar charge controller will begin to reduce the amount of power feeding into your batteries. A PWM solar charge controller will also trickle charge your batteries to keep them topped off once the battery bank is full.
An important thing to consider with these solar charge controllers is that the voltage of your solar array and your battery bank need to match so this makes it more ideal for smaller systems.
Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT)
Maximum Power Point Tracking solar charge controllers are a more complex option that also harvests more energy from the solar array, which leads to higher efficiencies. An MPPT solar charge controller will also act like a PWM in the sense that it will reduce the power flowing to your battery bank as it reaches maximum capacity.
Unlike a PWM, an MPPT controller can be used with a solar array and battery bank of different voltages. It will down convert the voltage of your solar array to match the battery voltage and will subsequently increase the current so more available solar power can be harvested. MPPT solar charge controllers are also 20-30% more efficient than PWM solar charge controllers, making them a great option for high power systems.
We offer a variety of sizes for solar charge controllers depending on the size of your solar array. We also offer Victron Solar Charge Controllers that can be pre-programmed for your specific system.
You can determine which solar charge controller is best for your system through this compatibility chart.
Battery monitors are great tools to help you keep track of your battery system. They can give you specific information, such as how much power you have left and total ampere-hours consumed. We carry three different types of battery monitors: the Victron BMV-712, the Victron BMV-702, and the Victron BMV-700. You can check these battery monitors out here.
The Victron BMV-700 and Victron BMV-702
The Victron BMV-700 and BMV-702 will calculate the remaining battery capacity based on your ampere-hours consumed, discharge current, and the age of your battery. The physical display can show voltage, current, ampere-hours consumed, the state of charge, time to go, and your power consumption in watts.
To install one of these monitors you just need to connect to the quick connect protection circuit board (PCB) on the current shunt. Some of the other features are that they offer include programmable audible and visible alarms, a programmable relay, and data storage which allows you to track battery usage and health.
The BMV-702 varies from the BMV-700 because it allows for an additional input to be able to measure the voltage of another battery, temperature, and midpoint voltage monitoring. Midpoint voltage monitoring gives you the voltage halfway along your string of batteries. This information can inform you if there is an issue with your battery system, which can prevent severe damage down the line. The BMV-702 also allows for alarm and relay settings for these additional features.
The Victron BMV-700 and-702 can become Bluetooth enabled by adding the Bluetooth Smart dongle to your system, which can be found here. This dongle simplifies the programming of your BMV and allows you to monitor your system on a smartphone, tablet, laptops, and other devices.
The Victron BMV-712
The Victron BMV-712 provides the same functionality as the BMV-702, but it also comes fully Bluetooth enabled. This will simplify the wireless communication between products and your overall installation process. To install it you make all electrical connected to your quick connect PCB on the current shunt, like you would do with the BMV-700 and BMV-702.
DC to DC Charger
DC to DC or battery to battery chargers are a great way to charge your Battle Born Batteries using your vehicle’s alternator and starting battery. These devices provide a quick and smart charge with the added benefit of isolating the chassis and coach batteries when not in use.
These devices are typically used in conjunction with one to two Battle Born Batteries as they reduce the charging current under the recommended charge rate. Check out the Sterling Power line of DC to DC charges we offer here.
EasyStart employs a 4-part start ramp sequence that results in the lowest possible start-up current for air conditioners. The EasyStart can reduce start current by 65-75% compared to a compressor’s LRA (locked-rotor amperage).
These devices offer a solution that allows an air conditioner to operate on a generator, inverter, or limited utility power when it would otherwise not have functioned. You can buy this product here.
ANL fuses are designed to melt and separate into two pieces for the purpose of breaking a circuit in the event of excessive current.
These fuses are essential components protecting against a catastrophic event and are typically placed between Battle Born Batteries and the inverter.
Our ANL fuse kits include the base, cover, and the fuse itself. Check out our fuse kits and bundles with them here.
This is a heat pad that provides uniform heat and is sized for our BB10012, BB5024, or BBGC2 batteries. You can purchase these heat pads here.
Adhesive allows the pad to sticks directly onto the case, wrapping around the battery. The heat pad runs off of 12 V, and can be off the battery itself, or another 12 V source like an engine alternator. It takes 30 watts of power when it is on, meaning it can run around 40 hours off of a full battery without a charging source.
Included with the heat pad is a temperature switch that turns the pad on when the temperature falls below 35 °F (1.6 °C), and stays on until the temperature rises above 45 °F (7 °C). This ensures that the heat pad is only on when needed.
*Disclaimer: All of our heat pads are tested with our Battle Born Batteries. Please do not use similar alternatives as they can cause the battery casing to deform.
The Color Control GX is the communication center of your installation. It offers live information at a glance and lets you control all products connected to it.
Full system control is available almost anywhere in the world by accessing your Color Control GX using our free-to-use Victron Remote Management Portal (VRM). You can view the Victron Color Control GX here.
*Necessary cables to connect your other Victron devices are NOT included.
This smart dongle will allow you to monitor your Victron Multiplus inverter charger via Bluetooth that will also act as a temperature and voltage sensing device. Use the Victron Connect App to monitor and operate the system.
You can purchase the VE.Bus Smart Dongle here.
This panel is intended both for Multis and Quattros. It allows PowerControl and PowerAssist current limit setting for two AC sources. For example, a generator and shore side current with a setting range of up to 200 amps.
The brightness of the LEDs is automatically reduced during nighttime. Check out the Victron Digital Mutli Control here.
Use the MK3-USB to connect the following products to a computer for configuration:
- Inverter (only models with aVE.Buscommunication port)
You can find this product here.
The Magnum Energy Remote Control (ME-ARC50) is designed to be simple to use while offering multiple functions in one place. The large LCD screen and at-a-glance LEDs display the inverter charger status in a straightforward way.
Soft keys give simple access to menus and a rotary encoder knob makes it easy to quickly scroll through menus and select settings. If you want to view the ME-ARC50 you can check it out here.
This product has been tested with Battle Born Batteries, and we suggest the following programmable options:
- Bulk Charge 14.4 V
- Float 13.4 V
- Low voltage cut off 10.5 V
The Current Surge Limiter (CSL500) is a field-effect transistor (FET) based current limiting device. They are to be used with Battle Born Batteries LiFePO4 battery packs when they are used in conjunction with large (4 kw or greater) inverter chargers.
The device is mounted permanently in series between the negative pole of the battery bank and the negative direct current (DC) input terminal of the inverter charger. The device protects the battery management system (BMS) from damage caused by the initial current spike that is created when connecting directly to the large capacitors (> 5 milliFarads) that are typically on the DC input side of the inverter chargers.
The limiting device allows the batteries to slowly charge the capacitors (within 1 ms). This soft start avoids the high-current shutoff inherent to the BMS of the batteries. Check out the CSL500 here.