Skoolie

A school bus conversion, or skoolie for short, is typically a decommissioned and modified bus that has been transformed into a mobile home on wheels. You’re apt to see school buses, both long and short, along with Greyhounds and other types of public transportation that have been ripped apart, remodeled and restored into cherished skoolie treasures.

These buses still have the iconic clean lines and classic shape you’ll recognize from childhood, but step inside and you’ll find an area suited to build a modern living space much like you’d find in an RV.

Most skoolies were built with robust diesel engines that can last upwards of 1 million miles, making them a perfect mobile home.

Battle Born Batteries last between 3,000 and 5,000 cycles, weigh less than half of a lead-acid or AGM battery, and come with an industry-leading 10-year warranty. Other types of batteries can only be discharged down to 50% capacity, but Battle Born Batteries can be discharged fully which means you can keep your appliances, electronics and other toys powered while your skoolie cruises down the road.

What Is A Skoolie?

A skoolie is an old school bus someone has converted into a house on wheels. If you were to transform a “short bus,” it would be called a “mini skoolie.”

These buses are often DIY projects that allow for complete customization. So no matter your family size, there are plenty of options for making a school bus into a home.

Photo courtesy of Chris Penn, Off-Grid Skoolie

Do Skoolies Make Good RVs?

Skoolies aren’t just good RVs; they can be tremendous for getting you where you need to go! A correctly converted school bus often involves generous care and attention in quality.

The craftsmanship of a skoolie can differ significantly from a typical RV! On the one hand, some who convert a school bus into an RV are only amateur DIYers who may not know the ins and outs of constructing a solid home on wheels. There may be mistakes or shortcuts as a result.

On the other hand, many skoolie owners have given significant attention to detail without taking shortcuts. They may have been frustrated with shortcuts manufacturers have taken with previously-owned RVs and wanted something different. When you choose to convert a bus, you get to choose what shortcuts you take or don’t take during construction.

Photo courtesy of Chris Penn, Off-Grid Skoolie

A skoolie is also an incredibly safe vehicle for RVing. Because they must pass rigorous safety tests before children can ride in them, school buses provide optimal passenger safety. This means that you and your passengers have a higher chance of suffering no or minimal injuries if you’re in an accident.

Many choose skoolies because of the reliable motor. Bus engines often run for hundreds of thousands of miles, but school districts usually sell buses with a couple hundred thousand miles. That leaves several hundred thousand miles for you to go adventuring! So you can score an incredible deal and have a vehicle that can potentially last for years!

What Is the Best Kind of Bus to Convert?

The best bus for converting will largely depend on how much room you’ll need. If you’re a family, you’ll probably want a full-size bus. However, a couple could get by with a mini skoolie.

The smaller the bus, the easier it will be to find camping and parking spaces. The longer the bus, the harder it will be to maneuver around parking lots, roads, and campgrounds. A mini skoolie is usually 20-25ft long, but a full-size Skoolie will be 35+ ft. If you’ve never driven a long vehicle before, piloting a full-size bus will require some adjustment.

Factor in fuel usage, too. A diesel engine may require more expensive maintenance and cost more to fill. However, diesel engines usually last longer, have better gas mileage, and are more capable of inclines than gas engines.

Photo courtesy of Chris Penn, Off-Grid Skoolie

How Much Does a School Bus Conversion Cost?

According to Trusted Choice, 66.1% of bus conversions are DIY projects, and 13.6% are for professional use. Unfortunately, the price points for these two are very different, and it’s common to go over budget when converting a school bus, whether professional or DIY.

A DIY school bus conversion can cost upwards of $25,000 to $35,000. However, you can quickly exceed this price range based on the options you select. For example, a massive solar power system can cost $10,000-$15,000 alone.

Overall, converting a bus could mean finding more issues and spending more money than you initially anticipated. Many used buses require significant mechanical work to be road-worthy. You may need to replace tires and other essential equipment before hitting the road.

If you’re not a DIYer or would prefer to purchase a pre-converted skoolie, that’s an option too. However, you’ll likely need deep pockets, as they usually come at a premium. An already-converted bus can cost upwards of $80,000. You lose the freedom to make some of the major decisions regarding bus layout and features, but you escape the incredible amount of work required to convert the bus.

Are Skoolies Allowed in RV Parks?

RV park restrictions vary from one park to the next, so confirm with every RV park whether or not they allow skoolies before making a reservation. RV parks may have stricter policies on older RVs and skoolies, too.

Major Components of the Skoolie Conversion

There are a few components that almost every school bus conversion includes. Let’s consider each of these significant components.

Walls & Rooms

After removing the seats in a school bus, you have a massive blank canvas and can create the layout of your bus to your liking. That means deciding where walls go and how large rooms will be. The bus’s length, height, and width will restrict you, but you have plenty of space to consider.

This freedom means you can create a home that meets your needs. If you plan to work from the road, you can set up your dream mobile workspace to increase your productivity. If kids are traveling with you, you can include adequate play space for days when they can’t play outside.

Electrical

An adequate electrical system in your skoolie can significantly increase your comfort level while adventuring. During the conversion process, pre-plan your electrical system. You’ll likely end up running wires and installing electrical sockets and lights before putting up walls. Doing so will keep wires safely hidden and out of the way.

A skoolie’s electrical system will be similar to many RV electrical systems. It should include a battery system and wiring for appliances, lights, and outlets. If you want to spend most of your time camping off-grid, include inverters and solar panels as well. Lithium batteries are a great choice to take your skoolie build or upgrade to the next level.

Photo courtesy of Brian Garcia & Erin Bick, BE Adventure Partners

Remember: If you’re unsure of installing electricity, seek professional assistance.

Plumbing

School buses rarely come with a shower, toilet, or sinks. Yet, these are items you’ll want in your bus, especially if you want to camp outside of established campgrounds. These conveniences mean running water lines and installing holding tanks for fresh, gray, and black water. It’s not uncommon for many buses to have composting toilets instead of a black tank. A composting toilet helps reduce water use and minimize smells.

Furniture

If you’re planning your skoolie conversion, consider furniture as well. You’ll want a table to enjoy your meals, a relaxing place to sit, and a bed for adequate rest. Planning your furniture needs helps increase your home’s comfort level.

Cabinets for storage and counters are also essential. You’ll want plenty of room for storing gear and generous counter space for optimal functionality.

Why Would You Want to Live in a Skoolie?

The reasons someone might choose to live in a bus vary. First, these conversions often have significant space–you don’t often hear RVers complaining about having too much space!

These buses can also be cheaper and could have better construction than many traditional RVs. They’re also easier to customize, especially if you’re the one doing the conversion.

Lastly, skoolies are ideal whether you want to be mobile or stationary. Having a house on wheels lets you decide where you’ll be and when. However, just because your home is portable doesn’t mean you have to be mobile. Some choose buses as their choice of residence in a permanent spot.

Would You Drive a Skoolie? 

Converting a school bus into a residence can be an incredible DIY journey and provide you with an amazing home on wheels. Traveling the country this way could be a remarkable experience you’ll never forget!

We love seeing these impressive pieces of creativity and talent on the roads. Would you ever consider converting a school bus into your home? If you do, consider adding Battle Born Batteries to supercharge your skoolie travels.

battle born batteries on skoolie
Photo courtesy of Chris Penn, Off-Grid Skoolie

Last 10 Times Longer than Lead Acid

Even after 3000-5000 life cycles Battle Born batteries retain 75-80% of their original capacity. For most users, it will take 10-15 years to reach this amount of life cycles.

2 to 3 times more power

Our batteries will supply you with two to three times the power in the same physical space of a lead acid battery.

Charge 5 Times Faster

With a high charge rate of half of your total bank and short absorption times, your batteries will charge in a fraction of the time of a lead acid. This faster charger allows you to use your generator less which means less fuel consumption, less noise, and less pollution.

High Discharging Capabilities

Our 100 Ah batteries give a continuous 100 amps of power, surge of up to 200 amps for 30 seconds and even higher loads for a ½ second

Efficient and High Performance

Our batteries have virtually no internal resistance and will not heat up or swell when charging or discharging. We also have a real power rating so whether you’re using 1 amp for 100 hours or 100 amps for one hour, you will receive the full amount of power your batteries are rated for. With a very flat discharge curve, power remains much more consistent with Battle Born Batteries even at a low state of charge.

Environmentally Safe and Non-Toxic

One lead acid battery can contaminate acres of municipal waste, but Battle Born Batteries are not toxic and are made with the safest lithium chemistry on the market. This allows you to place them anywhere in your rig whether it’s under a bed, a dinette, or even a small enclosed area without the fear of our batteries “off gassing” like lead acid.

Lighter

Our batteries are ½ to ⅔ the weight of a standard lead acid battery with less deliverable power.

Maintenance Free

Battle Born Batteries have a built-in management system to help protect you and your investment in the batteries in any strenuous situations such as high/low temperatures, high/low voltages, current surges, and short circuits. They also can be placed in your system with zero maintenance, so you no longer have to worry about adding water to your batteries or cleaning corroded terminals. Our batteries also have a very slow self-discharge rate so they can be left in storage for over a year without requiring you to hook them up to a trickle charger.

Made in the USA

Our batteries are designed and assembled in Sparks, Nevada. This makes it easier to receive support for your battery system and makes returns hassle-free.

Customer Service

We employ a team of experts at Battle Born Batteries to help with your customer service, sales and technical needs. Our industry-leading team utilizes clear communication via phone and email, along with product knowledge and problem-solving skills to assist with any questions you may have along the way.

Whether you’re looking to upgrade your batteries, a complete power system or anything in between our team can provide the expertise needed to guide you through a lithium conversion. Feel free to contact our team at 855-292-2831 or [email protected]

10-Year Warranty

We believe in our batteries and we want you to believe in them too. That’s why we ship every battery out with a 10-year warranty. If you have a problem, we want to fix it as quickly as possible so you can go on your next adventure!

Excellent Solar Systems

Battle Born Batteries allow you to take full advantage of solar by creating fast charging and fully sustainable power systems with a variety of applications.

Alternator Charging for a Lithium Bank

In motorized RVs, vans, and skoolies (converted school buses), the alternator will very often charge lithium batteries at the proper voltage (14.2 to 14.6 V).

We recommend not to exceed a 50% charge rate. This means a maximum of 50 amps for each 100 Ah battery. An example would be a high 220 amp alternator putting out its full charge to the electrical system.

An alternator charging the starter battery and running the electronics in the vehicle, if wired with thick enough cables, might have around 150 amps left over to charge your Battle Born Batteries. In this instance, three of our batteries would be a good match for the alternators charge. 

What to Consider

When connecting a starter battery (lead acid) to a lithium battery bank, remember:

  • With 2 lithium batteries or less, you will probably want to use a battery to battery charger, like the Sterling product on our website:
  • Higher amp units charge the batteries faster. These devices will not only regulate the charging current but also replace your existing isolator.
  • For 3 or more lithium batteries connected to a starter battery, we recommend our LI-BIM.

These are generalities. If you’re able to give us the amperage of your alternator, the model of your isolator, and how many lithium batteries you are planning to use, then we can give you a better suggestion as to what you may need.

Battery Isolation Manager

The battery isolation manager, or BIM, is typically used in motorized applications with 3 or more Battle Born Batteries. Lithium batteries tend to pull a lot of power off your alternator, which could cause it to overheat over time.

The BIM works on a duty cycle. It charges your house battery bank for 15 minutes, then takes 20 minutes to rest so your alternator can take a break and never has the opportunity to overheat.

Battery to Battery Charger

Battery to battery chargers are typically used in applications where you have 1 or 2 Battle Born Batteries. This is because our batteries have a recommended 50 amp charge rate.

If your alternator is applying a higher amperage to your batteries than the recommended charge rate, you will need to limit the amperage. The battery to battery charger will limit the amperage coming off your alternator and will apply a safe charge to your batteries.

Also, both devices will properly isolate your lithium batteries from your starting battery.

To determine whether your devices are compatible with Battle Born batteries, take a look at the manual for each component and look at the specifications.

If the charging specs in the manual match up with the charging voltage of 14.4-14.6 V and the float voltage: 13.6 V or lower, then they are compatible with our batteries.

If you can adjust settings (such as a custom profile) on your devices to various charging and float voltages, then change the settings to match ours.

You are also more than welcome to give us a call at (855) 292-2831 or contact us at [email protected].

In some cases, you might have to replace the current converter charger that comes stock in the application due to the output voltage of 13.6 V. Some very common WFCO and Progressive Dynamics converters will rarely get to their higher boost of 14.4 volts when a lithium battery is connected.

Although these converters will charge your Battle Born Batteries (very slowly), they may never get to a 100% state of charge and will not trigger the passive balancing effect that starts at over 14 volts.  

In addition to their standard models, many converter manufacturers now offer LiFePO4 chargers and most are highly compatible with Battle Born Batteries. 

Answering this question can depend on the amount of space you have on your vehicle and how fast you want your bank to charge. 

As a general guideline we recommend 200 to 250 watts of solar per 100 amp-hours of battery. This will give you the ability to charge from nearly empty to full in a six to eight-hour time frame.

Many factors can change this calculation and you are invited to call at (855) 292-2831 or email us at [email protected] if you would like to discuss in greater detail.  

Many RVer’s run into trouble in deciding which solar charge controller to choose and there are many specific models with different voltage and amperage ratings.  Which one is right for your application?   

Victron’s standard “Blue Solar” model is a set and forget controller without readouts or internal Bluetooth.  If you would like a Bluetooth version with all viewable information via the “Victron Connect” application from your mobile device, then the “Smart Solar” version is your best choice.   

Second, decide how many watts of panels you want in your solar array and take a look at our compatibility table to determine the product that best fits your system, here.  

Upon request we will program your Victron solar charge controller for the number of Battle Born Batteries in your bank at no charge.   

Our charging parameters consist of the following: 

  • Bulk/absorb = 14.2 – 14.6 V
  • Float = 13.6 V or lower 
  • No equalization (or set it to 14.4 V) 
  • No temperature compensation 
  • Absorption time is 20 minutes per battery (if it’s an option

12 V 

Bulk/absorb 14.2 – 14.6 Volts (we usually recommend 14.4) float 13.6 Volts or lower 

No equalization (or set it to 14.4 V), no temperature compensation and absorption time is 20-30 minutes per battery (if it’s an option). 

24 V 

Bulk/absorb 28.4 – 29.2 V (we usually recommend 28.8 V) float 27.2 V or lower 

No equalization (or set it to 28.8 V), no temperature compensation and absorption time is 20 minutes per battery (if it’s an option).

To view the chargers in our Battle Born Shop, please click here.

If you need assistance with charging parameters or settings for a certain device, give us a call at (855) 292-2831 or email us at [email protected]

When considering cable sizing there are a few factors to consider.

First, what is the size of the load you are powering with the battery bank?

Second, how far away from the battery is the load? You can do voltage drop calculations to see if you need to step up your cable size.  

Here is an easy reference chart: 
Wire Cable Guide
As a rule of thumb, you can use these numbers as a guideline.

-4 AWG wire approximate max rating is 157 amps DC
-1/0 AWT wire approximate max rating is 291 amps DC
-4/0 AWT wire approximate max rating is 456 amps DC

Yes, you can mount your battery in any position. There is no acid inside of the battery, and the small amount of liquid electrolyte is contained within each sealed cell.

You can decide what is best for your application. Our lithium technology gives you the flexibility to put the battery in places you normally would not have placed a lead acid battery. 

Lead acid battery manufacturers will state: “do not mix old and new batteries. Doing so will reduce overall performance and may cause battery leakage or rupture.” They also recommend replacing all batteries within a bank at the same time.

A partially used lead acid battery will drain energy from a new one, reducing the total amount of battery power available.

This is not the case with Battle Born LiFePO4 batteries. You can add new batteries to your original Battle Born bank up to two years down the road without damaging, reducing lifespan, or harming them in any way. 

As an update to this video, our batteries come with a 10-year warranty (8-year full replacement manufacturer’s defect warranty and 2 years prorated).

They are designed to last 3000 – 5000 cycles, at which point the battery will still hold 75 to 80% of its energy capacity.

Our batteries are drop-in replacements for typical lead acid batteries. This means that our batteries are designed to fit like a normal Group 27, 31 and GC2 battery in your bank.

This, however, does not mean our batteries are plug and play. Our batteries still may require specific components and programming to run your application.

To figure out if your components will work with our batteries, give us a call at (855) 292-2831 or send us an email at [email protected].

Our batteries are safe. All Battle Born Batteries use the safest and most stable components, including a LiFePO4 cathode and a built-in Battery Management System (BMS).

The BMS protects the cells against excessively high or low voltages, high currents, short circuits, and excessive heat or cold. These are the most common causes of battery failures, and we have taken every precaution to mitigate these risks in all of our batteries.

In addition, all of our cells are manufactured in a state-of-the-art automated facility, and each cell is cycled multiple times to ensure quality and consistency.

Li-ion batteries can be safer than lead acid batteries, which have no protection against ground faults. Our built-in BMS that protects against ground faults.

We strive to include all the best safety features into our battery, and this is what makes us a leader in the deep cycle replacement market. We are constantly developing new innovations to increase safety in our batteries.

Please watch the video above for more information on winterizing your Battle Born Batteries. 

The storage temperature range is -10°F to 140°F (-23°C to 60°C). We recommend bringing the Battle Born Batteries to a 100% charge and then disconnecting them completely for storage. After six months in storage your batteries will remain 75 – 80% charged. 

Storing batteries in subzero weather (-15°F or more) has the potential to crack the ABS plastic and more importantly could cause a faster loss of capacity, in some cases drastically more than the typical 2 – 4% per month loss. 

Battle Born Batteries protect themselves from charging in cold temperatures and won’t accept a charge once the internal cell temperature drops to 24°F. At this point they will continue to discharge even down to -4°F. At this temperature we recommend no longer pulling power to avoid damaging the batteries.

Insulated battery boxes, heating blankets, and placing your battery bank inside your RV will help keep the temperature stable. On the high end of temperature range, the batteries will shut down once 135°F is reached.

You can use any standard charger, solar or wind charge controller to charge our LiFePO4 deep cycle battery. There are some chargers and controllers that are programmable to get full usage out of your battery, but most will have an AGM setting which normally bulk charges about 14.4 volts and floats at 13.6 volts. These levels are great for your Battle Born battery.

Our Battery Monitoring System, or BMS is rated to 3 different levels.

  1. 100 amps continuous (1200 watts at 12 volts) – this means you can pull 100 amps out of the battery when you need it until the capacity is all used up.
  2. 200 amps for 30 seconds (2400 watts at 12 volts) – if your device has a surge an individual battery can deliver 2400 watts for 30 seconds.
  3. ½ second surge up to the max capacity of the battery. If you have a high momentary over 200 amps the battery will handle this for ½ second.

*Keep in mind that when you have two batteries in parallel you will double these surge numbers. With four batteries in parallel you will quadruple these figures.

Check Out Our Customer’s Systems!

Battle Born Systems

Chris Penn with his dog and skoolie conversion

Chris Penn has been living full time on the road for over a decade! He is travelling full-time in his 2002 Bluebird school bus conversion, which is powered by a solar system and a 9 Battle Born battery bank. To find out more information about him, check out his website here.