One of the most important things when you are building an Expedition truck is the electrical installation. Lots of choices to be made as there are many electrical ways that lead to Rome. We are not suggesting that we made the best choices or decisions possible, but they certainly suit our needs.
Our MAN HX60 has a 24V system, just like most trucks. So, it would be logical that 24V would be the basic voltage in our Box. This was pretty much the way we wanted to go until we spoke to Steve from Roamer Batteries. Steve mentioned that a 48V system would be more efficient and also cheaper: the battery cables can be half of the 24V setup and most 48V inverters, etc. are less pricy than the 24V components.
But best of all: we will be able to install the Safiery Scotty DC-DC charger 24V-48V. We will get back to Scotty in the course of this blog. In Australia and the US it is already pretty standard to choose a 48V system in large Expedition trucks and also in the Yachting industry it is common practice. So, 48V is the way to go for us!
We already had a Roamer 200 Xtreme battery in our Sprinter 4×4 which performed flawless so we were looking at Roamer batteries to power our Mountain Yacht. Unfortunately Steve was still in the testing phase with the 48V batteries so he would not be able to supply in time. So we decided to go for another option.
We contacted Mark from bluepowershop.nl A week later we have an appointment at their offices to discuss our needs & wishes. We have a list of all the appliances we want to use and the approximate power usage in winter and summer. Mark totally approves of the 48V setup: in his opinion this is the way forward.
Another week later Mark comes up with a plan and schedule that we can use as a blueprint for our installation. The whole installation will be Victron, except for the batteries. Mark advises two 24V 280Ah batteries from MG Energy Systems (48V setup) and the MG Master LV – an external BMS with build in fuses – that literally Masters the whole electrical system. They come at a price but are arguably the best and safest batteries on the market.
The basic plan
We decided to treat our Mountain Yacht as our Tiny house on Wheels and run as much as possible on 230V. Just like a ‘normal’ house. This means a large inverter that will be ‘on’ 24/7. And yes, loss of battery power because of this as a large inverter will consume energy by just staying ‘on’. It also has to do with the fact that there are still not many appliances on 48V but more important: we can buy standard of the shelf 230V appliances that are efficient and way cheaper than the 24V or 12V counterparts.
In case of breakage or malfunction we can just walk in any appliances shop and replace them. And yes, it might be a gamble to use the household appliances in an Expedition truck as they are not specifically designed for this use. Only time can tell and we will post a regular update on the appliances and how they hold out.
The electrical rough list
- Victron Quattro 48/8000
- Isolation guard NST-iBT 3
- Victron Smart Solar MPPT 100/20 (two)
- Victron Cerbo GX
- Victron GX Touch 70
- Victron Orion-Tr 48/12-360W (two)
- MG LFP battery 25,6V/280 Ah 7200Wh (two)
- MG Master LV-24-48V/400A
- Safiery Scotty 24 – 48V
- Solar panel 48V-375Wh (four)
- 12V fusebox
- 230V Group cabinet with breakers and 6 groups
There is a saying: you can never have enough battery capacity. We do agree, but to a certain point.
You have to take a couple of things into account when deciding what battery capacity you need: your average daily power usage, the amount of days that you want to be able to stay off grid, the space you have for batteries and of course budget.
An important factor that is often overlooked is: what capacity of batteries will you be able to charge in a certain amount of time?
We have thrown everything in the mix and for us the 280 Ah @48V is sufficient. In winter we can stand free for 3-5 days depending on our power consumption and if there is any solar power. In summer we can stand free indefinitely, thanks to the solar power.
Two extra batteries would double the capacity but also double the space needed. Furthermore an extra serious cash-out and for what?
Our limiting factor for extra batteries would be the time needed to fully charge them. In winter we will have little to no solar power so no means of charging the batteries when we are not driving. When we are driving we have Scotty with 3000 watts of charging power. We will typically only drive for a couple of hours to the next valley so no way to fully load a large battery pack in that period of time.
That is why we decided that the current setup is sufficient. When needed we can charge at a electrical car charger (16A), hookup at a camper place or camping or just let the truck run for some time so Scotty can work its magic.
We had a 2600 watts generator installed but took it out as Scotty delivers more power and turns our HX into a strong generator. We like the sound of the engine of the HX better as well. Last winter we hooked up only three days in total and had the truck run for a couple of hours over the course of almost 10 weeks in the snow.
At this moment we are on our way in the South of Italy and the solar power is more than enough to keep the batteries topped up. Even with the use of all of our appliances and the airconditioning running.
Lithium batteries are expensive but relatively light, they charge fast, you can drain the battery to 0% when needed without any loss of power in the process. A quality lithium battery will last a long time as well.
Installing all the bits & pieces
Once we have all the goodies we can start installing everything. We have a technical room under our bed where all the electrical, heating and water stuff will be installed. It is basically a room on its own and has an acces door from the inside and a hatch on the outside. Between our bed and the technical room we use special boards of 24 mm Okoume marine ply wood with a rubber core so it is well insulated from each other. We use the same material to mount all the Victron bits and pieces on.
As we have a large roof hatch over our bed and we want a little roof-top-terrace we can only install 4 large solar panels with a total of 1500 Wh. In summer we will have more than enough power to stay off-grid indefinitely (if there is sun of course) but the biggest problem will be during winter time. The sun stands low and the odds are that we will probably have snow on the panels.
We decided to have two frames that can be tilted so we can ‘catch’ the sun in winter time or when we are way up north.
The Smart Wall
The left side (seen from the front of the box) is mainly standard Victron equipment. The right side of the technical room can be described as the Smart Wall.
This is where the MG Energy Systems Master is located and the 230V Group cabinet with breakers and arguably the smartest of them all: the Safiery Scotty.
Scotty, beam me up
Nope, not a joke, but this is how Bruce from Safiery came up with the name Scotty for this incredible device.
As we will be travelling a lot in wintertime and will probably not have enough solar power to feed our batteries it is very important for us that we can charge fast during our travels from one resort to another. We do not want to drive all day long so it is imperative that our batteries are topped up with only a few hours of driving.
Scotty is an Australian device that can supply up to 3000 watts of power to charge our lithium MG Energy Systems batteries. Scotty gets 24V power from our 4 AGM Odyssey PC2250 truck batteries (and the alternator of course) and turns it into 48V to turbo feed our batteries in the Box.
Scotty has a direct cable towards the alternator and measures all kinds of things including temperature. When the alternator gets hot, Scotty will tune down until it is possible to crank up to 3000 watts again.
In our case Scotty delivers already 2300 watts when our HX is running idle (600 RPM) and from 1000 RPM onwards it delivers a maximum of 2975 watts. This means our batteries are topped up really fast and that is what it is all about in winter!
Cerbo Management info
Victron has a system where all information comes together. The Cerbo consist of a device where all information is gathered and a screen, in our case a 7 inch touch screen.
We also added our tankmeters and our Ruuvi temperature sensors so we have all the information at hand. As we have permanent wifi on board of our Mountain Yacht we can even tap into the system remotely.
Maybe not necessary but really nice to have.
Electrical appliances 230V
As described before the ‘main appliances’ are 230V:
- Siemens fridge 136 liters
- Liebherr freezer 68 liters
- Fabita induction plates (twin)
- Ninja oven with air fryer function
- Bob dishwasher
- Winia Mini washing machine (formerly Daewoo)
- Novy extractor hood
- Kabola KB20 Hybrid (diesel) central heating system
- Nespresso coffee machine
- Bosch water heater (for tea)
- LG Smartcool 3,5 Kw airconditioning
- Samsung ‘the frame’ TV
- Yamaha Dolby surround system
- Chargers for our eMTB’s
- Heaters for our ski boots
- Laptop chargers, mobile chargers, etc.
- Lighting in the whole box
Electrical appliances 12V
We have some 12V appliances as well:
- Water pump Marco
- Dirt water pump Whale (two)
- Air blowers central heating (three)
- Lighting garage and ski box
- Outside lights left and right
- Fan Compoost toilet
We are grateful to Mark from bluepowershop.nl for turning our needs and wishes into a plan and schematic that made installing all the bits & pieces easy. Mark also helped us with setting up and programming the Cerbo and parameters so we have a perfect functioning system with all the management info at hand.
We hope to have given you some insights of the why and how of our electrical system. We do not believe that there is a ‘best’ system as everybody’s needs and wishes are different, as well as budgets.
This setup suits us well, at the time of writing this blog we are in the South of Italy, on our way to Greece and the Balkan countries. We have been travelling for almost 10 weeks last winter in the Alps under severe snowy conditions. Winding mountain roads, very poor condition roads (extreme pot holes) and non-levelled camping spots.
So far, so good, but we will keep you posted on how the installation and appliances keep on performing.