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Discussion Starter #41
Winston,

It looks do-able but a knee knocker for sure. I suppose if the seat backs were a bit more upright, you might gain another 5 or 6" between the seats.

Ed
Ed, no such luck. We adjusted the seat backs to the 'vertical', then tried to slide the seats away from one-another only to discover that the seats were already at their ends-of-travel (fully back or, as rotated, as close to the driver's and passenger's sidewalls as they will go). See photo.



It looks like if you tilt and slide the passenger seat correctly you could swivel 180 without opening the door? What about driver?
We concur with TGBLAKE that the doors aren't a factor . . . depending on seat adjustment (i.e. how far back the seat is and/or how 'vertical' the seat back is, you may encounter the "A-post" or steering wheel while swiveling.

On a passenger lower seat base - any chance it moves you closer to the door too? The seat is just far enough from the door that it is uncomfortable to use it as an armrest.
These bases and swivels do not appear to have any left/right offset. There will be a 'rotating offset' depending on how far "forward or back" ones seat is prior to 'swiveling'. But when the seats are locked forward, we think you'll discover that the arm-rest is just as distant as it was before modification.
 

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These bases and swivels do not appear to have any left/right offset. There will be a 'rotating offset' depending on how far "forward or back" ones seat is prior to 'swiveling'. But when the seats are locked forward, we think you'll discover that the arm-rest is just as distant as it was before modification.
I guess I need to keep looking for a solution for this. Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter #43
Solar Panel Debut

The sun finally came out so we thought we would 'audition' the newly added set of three Kyocera 270 solar panels. These panels consume most of the roof real estate leaving just enough space for the Fantastic fan. Guess we're not going to have any A/C.



These panels are mounted with Z-brackets supplied by Northern Arizona Wind & Solar using holes provided in the panel frame near the ends of the panels. This being said because the Z-brackets were not high enough to overcome Promaster roof curvature - - the panels were rubbing against the center of the roof. Thus, the pictured hardwood spacers.



So, the van sits outside sampling its first sunny day as we record hourly output readings.
 

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Discussion Starter #45
Faux Pas #1

With all those drilled holes and jig-sawed gaping openings, who would have thought that our first faux pas would having nothing directly to do with the conversion project but would be our creeping senility in forgetting to fully raise the hangar door before backing out? This is particularly embarrassing because we have a back-up camera. But having easily walked underneath the door for six hours, then spending 10 minutes cleaning all the 'stuff' from behind the van, we knew there was nothing behind us . . . why look at the camera?

 

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I did that once, driving my mother's extended cab F150. Backing out of a parking spot. It was a fairly empty (minus the car I backed into) parking lot. I was home for a visit and borrowed her truck to run some errands. I checked the mirrors, checked over both shoulders, then looked back to the mirrors to back out. I start backing out and heard a crunch, not a loud crunch, but maybe like you back into a garbage can or something. I look at my brother who was with me and said, "what was that?" I was 100% sure there was nothing behind us and I could back up then pull off. nope. I was 100% wrong. I little bubble dent on the other car's bumper, and I had to go into the store to tell them I backed into someone. I now back into every parking spot I can. Even with my van.

I did not have a backup camera to use, I do on my own car, but don't use it to actually back up (unless I am inching into a parking spot - pretty proud of my parallel parking skills).
 

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When I drive my mothers truck I can NEVER pull in straight, neither can my mother. I give her a hard time about it.

Hopefully your mishap doesn't affect the closure of the doors, and that the repair costs are minimal. Where the doors open as you where backing out?

I took a tactical defensive driving course 7-8 years ago and they demonstrated through an obstacle course that backing up is actually more precise (or you can take a corner tighter) than if pulling into a spot. Ever since I feel more comfortable backing up. They were some great instructors.

The pivot point is at the rear tire, so you just place the tire or wheel well at the spot you want to turn crank the wheel/tires and back up. The wheel/vehicle will turn exactly around that point.
This article may help explain why we have such a difficult time pulling into a spot. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/quora/why-do-people-back-up-int_b_3194602.html

I've backed into a few spots that where too tight to even get out of my car. Did it twice in a row trying to find a "good" parking spot. I need to learn how to climb out of the sun/moon roof in my Forester.
 

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OUCH! I feel your pain! We've all done something similar at some point... I backed into a car while I was stopped at a stop light. I wanted to change lanes, and when I looked back, I didn't see anything so I backed up... right into the car behind me! In my defense, the car was loaded with stuff for the dump, and the car behind was the same color as the dump stuff!

I've backed into a few spots that where too tight to even get out of my car. Did it twice in a row trying to find a "good" parking spot. I need to learn how to climb out of the sun/moon roof in my Forester.
That's why they put a back door in the Promaster. I use it all the time... even at home, I usually get in the back door!
 

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Discussion Starter #50
The ELECTRICAL - Part I - Overview & The Battery & BMS

There is no shortage of ‘ideas’ and opinions on this forum concerning ‘electricity’ - - what’s really necessary for camping and how to achieve it. And often these discussions are centered on cost. We’ll concede, our system is arguably ‘over-kill’ and, in any event, not the cheapest alternative. But then, that’s one of the benefits in doing ones our own campervan conversion - - we get what we want and - - the money we’re saving - - helps fund our ‘electrical extravagance.’

Although we’re now completing assembly of this system, we suspect it will be several months before we fully understand what we have, its capabilities, and how to use it. We hope to share with this forum our personal discoveries - - possibly including a few nuggets that have not previously been examined by other forum contributors.

We have divided our system into four components: 1) the battery (lithium) and its BMS controller; 2) a combination sine wave inverter and lithium battery charger; 3) a second alternator with an external and programmable regulator; and, 4) solar with an appropriate ‘charge controller’ interface all shown in this Block Diagram:



Except for fuses/breakers and the two cut-off solenoids, everything is tied together - - all three charging sources are directly tied to the lithium batteries without any intervening ‘smart controllers’ or other isolation devices. This system is fully independent - - there are no ties or interconnections of any kind between this added system and the original Promaster electrical system.

This post, Part I, covers the battery and BMS/controller with 'reflections' on what we not-so-affectionately refer to as The White Albatross (charger/inverter/MMP) shown in this early photo:



The White Albatross is arguably the most dubious decision of our build - - that being, placing the MagnaSine inverter/charger with its integrally connected “MMP” switching unit right out in the middle of the living space. (There went our last chance for a porta-potty!) But when ‘things’ began to ‘fill-in’ around it, its inappropriateness all but got lost in its surroundings:





The MagnaSine (the White Albatross) is our charger/inverter. But the actual Magnum 2812 charger/inverter (the top portion) is only 40% of the overall tower - - the rest is Magnum’s “MMP” breaker and switching panel that is very large, for what it does.

Originally we had intended on placing all electronics out-of-sight, under the bed (with the batteries). But when, at that last minute, we decided to split the bed ‘into thirds’ and we added the Magnum MMP to its mating inverter/charger . . . placing the resulting ‘stack’ vertically in the living space seemed the best solution.

And if you’re still confused by the MMP - - what does it do and why do we have it, well, we’re a bit confused too . . . maybe later in this post we’ll talk about it more. But let’s turn to the ‘central feature’ of our system, the lithium.

LITHIUM

For those contemplating lithium we strongly urge reviewing these two very useful, maybe even, critical articles:

1) The Battery University:
http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/charging_lithium_ion_batteries

2) Compass University “How To”:
http://www.pbase.com/mainecruising/lifepo4_on_boats

“Lithium” is our battery. More specifically it is LiFePO. The good new is - - this is not the ‘high energy density’ chemistry of your Samsung phone battery and therefore these cells aren’t as likely to burn or explode. The bad new is . . . well, there are many ‘bad newes’ . . . the most obvious being the cost. Then there’s the inability to charge below 32 degrees F (you can continue to use and discharge in ‘sub-freezing’ temperatures), and the corresponding prohibition about subjecting the batteries to sub-zero temperatures (charging or not), and, finally, these batteries are intolerant to overcharging and excessive discharging. No, they probably won’t burn or explode, but your wallet will suffer.

So, with all these disadvantages, why go lithium? The answer includes ‘half the weight’, the ability to ‘use’ all of the Amp-Hour capacity (lead-acid deteriorates much faster when regularly discharged to low levels. Many say “don’t discharge lead-acids below 50%). So, a 100 AH lithium is half the weight and, in essence, twice the capacity of a 100 AH lead-acid. Very fast charge times . . . and the corresponding ability to draw unimaginable current levels are two more advantages. And, then, there’s the life-expectancy. Lead-acid batteries are good for 500 recharges (particularly if deep cycled) while it is generally argued that lithiums are good for at least 2,000 full cycles. This, alone, helps justify the added expense.

You can expect to spend at least $4 per ‘battery amp-hour’ to as much as $13/AH on Lithium.. We initially attempted to purchase through “China” (at less than $4/AH) but the language and cultural differences eventually led us to deal (and pay) stateside - - closer to $8/AH.

Lithium batteries fall generally into two categories. The first is the “here it is, just drop it in” category. There are a number of manufacturers that make these so-called lead-acid battery replacements including Stark Power and Smart Battery (at a mere $1300/100AH). This approach is often criticized because it suggests that it is ok to simply ‘drop’ a lithium ‘replacement’ into a system designed to charge lead-acid - - not a good idea. Our complaint was the difficulty, even after telephoning the manufacturer, in discovering ‘technical specifications’ about the batteries and their controllers and in combining 100AH packs into a larger capacity battery system.

Most serious electric car, yachter, and DIY RV’ers, however, go the second approach which is more ‘hands-on’. Here you’ll become more intimate with your batteries, actually physically combining individual cells in series/parallel combinations:



and often installing the actual battery protection circuitry yourself.



And, in any event, if you don’t want that wallet denting, you’ll learn how to monitor, control and charge your lithiums.

We finally selected the Elite Power Solutions approach through Larry at Starlight Solar Power Solutions of Yuma, Arizona. This was an accident. We were surfacing the Net one Sunday afternoon and clicked the ‘shipping’ tab on Larry’s website under the promise that, by doing so, we would discover the cost of shipping these ‘hazardous’ batteries. What we actually discovered was that we had $4,000 of batteries (and controllers) - - including 20 individual 100AH cells - - headed our direction.

We might have more vociferously objected - - but we’d been leaning toward this provider so we reconciled “what the heck?”.

We will discuss the Elite/Starlight system in several sections, particularly when reviewing the Magnum 2812 inverter/charger and MMP (as much of the Starlight control circuitry found refuge in the MMP bottom portion of the Magnum White Albatross), but for the present it should be noted that most lithium batteries come with, or have added, a Battery Management System or BMS. A BMS serves to protect lithium ‘cells’ from either ‘over’ or ‘under’ voltage situations and, in the case of the Starlight BMS, it provides handy ‘control’ and ‘monitoring/visualization’ capabilities. More specifically, the Starlight BMS opens a High Voltage Solenoid (relay) to terminate all charging (charger, alternator, solar) should any cell voltage exceed a given maximum. And, similarly, opens a Low Voltage Solenoid to ‘dump’ all loads if any cell voltage drops below a prescribed minimum.

Pictured here are two components of the Starlight BMS, a Control Panel (on the left) and an LCD Display in the center (the right-hand unit, to be discussed later, is the Magnum ME-ARC50 Remote Control and Display for, guess what, the Magnum 2812):



The Elite/Starlight approach to BMS battery protection is different than expected. We had intended on wiring 5 cells in parallel (4 times), then placing each of these 4 parallel ‘packs’ in series to create our 12 volt battery. This is the wisdom advanced by the above-noted Compass Marine article. In such a system, four controller/monitor boards would be positioned, one on each parallel pack of 5 cells. Starlight does it ‘oppositely’ - - they take four cells and place them in series (in our case, 5 times), then take each of the five 12 volt strings and place them in parallel. The problem (or depending on your point of view) the advantage of the Elite/Starlight system is that it requires 20 individual cell monitoring boards while, as noted, the alternative system advocated by Compass Marine would have required only 4.

But we like all the statistics and numbers. And with the Elite/Starlight system, we are now able to independently monitor the voltage and temperature of each of 20 cells. Here is “Page 2" of the Starlight BMS Display which reveals the individual voltages and temperatures for all cells:



Pictured below is our battery ‘pack’ - - now located adjacent the driver’s side rear wheel well, a WFCO 8930 (AC) distribution panel, all immediately adjacent the Magnum ‘White Albatross’.



This second photo shows the lithium pack in more detail with the plastic covers removed from the center two rows of cells (10) exposing the integrally mounted cell monitoring boards:



Bulk, Absorption, Float, Equalize and Who Knows What Else - The BAFE Nightmare

It is our contention that no commercially available charger/controller incorporates an intelligent lithium charging profile. First, all these units adopt the industries’ preoccupation with “Bulk, Absorption, Float and Equalize or “BAFE”, for short) stages. ‘Great chargers’ tout their wondrous 4-stage charging profiles. But these terms and their associated profiles all predate lithium - - they were ‘designed’ for lead-acid.

A second problem in attempting to adopt/apply these ‘terms’ to lithium is that no two manufactures treat these stages the same. Some require a certain voltage be attained before stage switching. Others require passage of a given ‘time interval’. And yet others look to ‘current’ as a criterion for switching. And some mix and match these criteria.

With such chaos, we step back and rhetorically inquire “what profile do we want”, thereafter, we look to each individual charging source to see how we can best apply that sources unique adoption of BAFE to our definition ‘lithium appropriate’.

Our Take on a Lithium Charge Profile

The above-cited Battery University article suggests that the first (shall we call it Bulk) stage should be one of constant current - - and this current can be quite high. For our system it could be as high as 1,500 amperes. Wow. Astronomical and, of course, impossible. This first stage should continue until a ‘predetermined’ battery voltage is attained. Nothing is easy - - the Lithites can’t agree on what this voltage should be. But we know it’s less than for lead-acid (wherein lies the difficulty in blindly charging lithiums on a lead-acid profile). We’ll leave this question unanswered for a moment (or forever, whichever comes first).

Battery University then advises to continue the charge (and we’ll humor the BAFE contingent by calling this the Absorption stage) at a Constant Voltage, the voltage that we’ve yet-to-determine, until the charging current drops from its previous Constant Current level to 3% of that level. No known charger/controller of which we are aware can form the required “current ratio” to assertain the end of this stage. And even if they could, we couldn’t use it as it assumes that the only activity is “one charger/controller charging the battery with no loads present”. This presents unrealistic conditions in that many of us have multiple chargers/controllers and, often, have DC loads present, e.g. a frig, running while charging.

Battery University further says “don’t Float charge” lithiums.

We add to this knowledge the wisdom of our other citation, the Compass Marine article, where we’re advised that many set their charge levels too high; that maintaining lithiums at 100% isn’t necessary and, indeed, may stress the battery. Compass Marine advocates operating lithiums in the 85% range which they note coincidentally corresponds the level of charge after the first (Bulk) Constant Current charge to that uncertain voltage. Forget Absorption and Float. That’s easy, we never remembered them.

Our preliminary tests reveal that the target Bulk charge target voltage is between 13.7 and 13.9 volts. Unfortunately, with the very flat Voltage vs Percent of Charge curve of LiFePO technology, this range is way too large. The good news is - - with the State of Charge reporting from the Starlight BMS (bottom line of Page 1 on the Display) - - we can experiment (and we are continuing to experiment) until we nail-down the voltage necessary to achieve an 85% charge level. In any event, notice how low - - less than 14 volts - - the expected target voltage is.

Here we depart from the ‘common wisdom’ and apply our personal engineering take on the ideal Lithium profile.

We are defining, in essence, a two stage charge profile . . . the first being the above discussed voltage required to achieve 85% charge . . . the second we’re calling a “maintain” voltage level. We’re using this new term to avoid condemnation from Battery University and others who say “don’t Float lithiums”. We seek a “Maintain” voltage level that is equivalent to the lithiums ‘resting voltage’, at a given state-of-charge, which we define as being that voltage at which the lithium resides when neither under charge nor discharge.

Remember our oft-cited rule “current follows voltage” - - if we connect a charger of identical voltage to the battery, no current will pass in either direction. Call it “Maintain” of “Float” - - but we contend that under such circumstances, the lithium won’t know the charger is connected and that this regime can cause no consternation to the lithium battery.

Some disconnect their charger/controller rather than “maintain” it. The problem with this is, as loads come on-line, the lithium battery will have to supply the energy necessary for these loads. Why draw-from the lithiums if we have plenty of solar available or are connected to shore power? The theory underlying our “maintain” level is that the charger/controller stands idle/ready . . . and when a load is applied (remember that frig) . . . it will be the charger, not the lithiums, that will be providing that energy.

Starlight BMS & Battery Cell Balancing

Lithium battery cells should be balanced and there are techniques for doing this. This is equivalent to “equalization” in the lead-acid world. Cells are generally either “top” or “bottom” balanced. The difference being whether the cells are balanced when they’re close to fully discharged (Bottom Balancing) or close to fully charged (Top Balancing). Compass Marine suggests that electric-car and others who routinely discharge their lithiums close to full discharge should bottom balance while those, and we think RVers fall into this category, who normally operate their systems at higher charge levels should consider Top Balancing.

But Compass Marine offers us more wisdom. His studies (and this guy has lots of experience) suggest that once balanced (and he topped balanced his) you may not have to re-balance, maybe ever. (He has run his lithiums deliberately through over 750 discharge cycles without re-balance and notes that his cells remain balanced). But this is the guy who says you don’t need to charge to 100% and charges his to only 13.8 volts.

The Starlight BMS automatically balances any cell if/when it reaches 3.55 volts. This "top balancing" is equivalent to overall battery voltage of 14.2 volts. As we don’t routinely intend on charging above approximately 13.8 volts, we’ll never re-balance. But, hopefully, this isn’t a problem - - if Compass Marine can do 750 cycles without re-balance, maybe we can too. In any event, we have that sexy Page 2 of the BMS Display which permits monitoring of individual cell voltages . . . if we detect a divergence, we’ll temporarily reprogram one of our charging sources to force a re-balance.

Next - MAGNUM 2812 CHARGER/INVERTER AND MMP PANEL
 

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Discussion Starter #53
Faux Pas #1 - Revisited

* * * * Or, how much does stupid cost? * * * *

A few days ago we posted a photo of our unfortunate "backing up with eyes closed" incident (Post 45).

But all is well, now. Don't let anyone tell you that money doesn't buy happiness. This is what a $1,000 buys:



And we're happy.

But this got us thinking. In anticipation of our new 'retired' status, we'd recently completed a budget. Search as we might, we found no category in our budget covering 'stupid'. We'd totally forgotten to budget for stupidity. Now it might be argued that this is a rare event. But not so. Driving away with an expensive piece of electronics (or our coffee) on the roof. Dropping the camera. Leaving the cell phone . . . well, we don't know where . . . we ran out of fingers, counting.

So our query to the forum, what's a reasonable annual budget for stupidity?
 

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In your case - it looks as if $1000 should cover it. Others may need a substantially higher amount. ;)
 

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Fumbling for words....

Well looking into the silver-white sea of alkali metal I think how simplistic our build is. Your battery
bank is Neil Armstrong level....My little Samlex slinks away in the shadows and when I think of the complexity
of our connections I realize they are not! My sudden move to add the new gizmo from Australia is like an archer
looking at a satellite based laser.
So where is the rest of the build ???
 

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Winston – I think you’re spot on with your Lithium power plant. Some observations:

I don’t “float” or keep a sustaining charge, but I do have four groups of three 180 Ah cells in parallel providing 12 volts at 540 Ah. The new conventional wisdom is to stop charging your cells when they reach the “currently undetermined voltage” you speak of, or they may be damaged by said constant float voltage.

This is one of those “sounds reasonable” comments until you realize that my 3 cells in parallel are “floating” each other. If this was going to cause damage, we could never achieve high Ah values as cells in parallel would destroy each other. Fact is, the Tesla vehicle battery is made up of groups of hundreds of small cells in parallel (individual cells are just a bit larger than a AA battery) of just a few Ah each. They create a battery of many KWh. Tesla monitors the groups, but not the individual tiny cells.

By setting your sustaining voltage properly, you’ll just be mimicking putting batteries in parallel.

Second thought: As you observed, our charge rate is going to be far below the maximum that the battery will accept. The 2nd stage “absorb to 3% of Ah capacity” would be a moot point for us. I have a maximum of 600 watts of solar which would be about 45 Amps max going into the battery at high noon on a summer day. This is only 8% of the Ah capacity and it only goes down from there. My whole charge profile is really at the 2nd stage level so when I reach 13.8 volts I cut charge, and after rethinking, may do as you’re doing and just reduce voltage just below the “currently undetermined” resting voltage of the battery at the currently undetermined state of charge – or something like that.

Anyway, thanks for the great post. Got me thinking again…..
Lex
 

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Discussion Starter #60 (Edited)
The ELECTRICAL - Part II - Magnum and the White Albatross

We spent much of Part I self-deprecating and rationalizing the purchase of the Magnum MMP which transformed an otherwise tractable, maybe even cute, comparatively diminimis white box (the Magnum 2812 inverter/charger) into a White Albatross - - a towering white assemblage, too large and too tall to call anywhere home.

The White Albatross is the combination of two Magnum products, the first being the Model 2812, 2800 watt sine-wave inverter and 125 amp charger. The second is what Magnum calls a “Mini Magnum Panel” or MMP - - a switch/breaker ‘box’ that, on first meeting, has too many vacant cubic inches with too few useful components (only 110/220 VAC main input/output breakers and one 250 amp DC breaker.) Initially we thought the MMP to be anything but “mini”. But, as one of the photos to follow will illustrate, its just about a perfect size for all of the electrical system components that we ultimately stuffed inside.

These two products can be ‘ganged’ into a single unit (creating a White Albatross) or separately mounted - - which increases placement/organization options. We did not initially intend on ‘ganging’ them, but the combination was so slick and ‘efficient’, we changed our mind.

Virtually all campervan builds incorporate a myriad of miscellaneous electrical components (you know - relays, solenoids, fuses, circuit breakers, switches, controllers (CPUs), etc,) that require someplace to reside. In many of the blogs we’ve reviewed, the builder creates a compartment, often wood, and attaches all these components to the various surfaces of this compartment. We expected to do the same. But here was that MMP with all of its unaccounted-for cubic inches - - it was a natural congregation point for our collection of still homeless electrical “stuff”.

Here is the ‘interior’ of the MMP just prior to slapping its front panel on:



First, notice how nicely the Magnum 2812 inverter/charger’s DC input/output interfaces with ‘all the DC’ in the MMP - - it’s those two large buss bars in the upper right.

Immediately to the left of those busses is the Starlight BMS CPU (computer). This CPU had to go somewhere . . . and it found its home here in the MMP.

Immediately below those buss bars are 6 DC breakers that distribute 12VDC throughout the Campervan and one dual 50amp breaker (100amp total). This last breaker is the solar controller input. These breakers were all added, although the DIN mounting rail for them (and the rectangular ‘punched-out’ opening in the cover-plate (see photo below) were part of the MMP.

Moving to the bottom off the MMP, more Starlight BMS components that required a home, found one. The large red 2/0 cable entering from the left connects the lithium batteries to the Low Voltage Cut-Off Solenoid which, proceeding to the right, connects to the High Voltage Cut-Off Solenoid. These solenoids are part of the Starlight BMS. Finally, on the lower left, behind the Low Voltage Solenoid is a small, plastic DC fuse box - - these fuses are required and part of the BMS.

Notice also the nice charging buss at the lower right. All three charging sources converge on this buss with the MMP including the required breakers for two of three of these inputs (the 2nd Alternator charging source breaker ‘didn’t fit’).

But the MMP does not include branch breakers (to independently protect each 110VAC circuit, e.g. outlets and appliances.) For this we added a WFCO 8930 AC/DC Distribution Panel:



The WFCO panel also includes an array of DC fuses which we elected not used as the MMP includes space for 8 DC circuit breakers. We prefer the MMP circuit breaker approach as breakers also provide a switch function.

We’re quite happy with the MMP decision. Virtually all of its interior has been meaningfully utilized while creating a slick interface to the Magnum 2812 inverter/charger and an otherwise well organized focus and collection of most components required for the complete overall system. Go MMP Go! Here it is, done, front panel is installed:



We now turn to center stage - - the Magnum 2812.

The Magnum 2812 is of the ‘combination’ genre - - meaning it includes both charging and inverting functionality. Against few disadvantages, this device automatically switches between its charging and inverting functions as shore power “comes and goes”. We are very pleased with how well, and ‘smoothly’, the Magnum 2812 performs its mode switching obligations.

And we are impressed with how quiet the Magnum 2812 is while operating. It’s transparent. You don’t know its operating. We understand that the 2812 contains ‘fans’, but even after placing a 1600 watt electrical space heater on the inverter for 30 minutes and charging the lithiums at a rate in excess of 100 amps, no fan was heard (maybe things will get noisier in the summer).

We highly recommend the addition of the optional remote ME-ARC50 Controller and Display (pictured in our final photo, below). So critical to operation is it, that we don’t think it should be deemed optional. It displays charging current and current being drawn from the batteries while inverting. It provides buttons for enabling or disabling either Inverter Mode or Charging Mode and includes LEDs indicating whether each of these modes is enabled. But most importantly, it is required for the “programming” of the Magnum 2812 charge profiles. (The Magnum 2812 is delivered with a factory-set lead-acid charge profile.)

Speaking of profiles, we are ‘testing’ Magnum’s “Custom” and “CC/CV” (Constant Current/Constant Voltage) profiles. Despite our very favorable reaction to the Magnum 2812, it suffers the same “current follows voltage” limitation of all chargers. In order to obtain a sustained high 125 amp charge rate, the Magnum must be programmed to a voltage (“Bulk” or “Constant Voltage”) well above the desired final “charged” battery voltage. For us, this will require “manual monitoring” while charging, then, when the battery reaches its target charge, a reprogram of the charger.

In Part III we’ll explore our last two charging sources, the 800 watts of Kyocera solar panels with its MidNite Classic MPPT controller and the 280 amp Nations 2nd alternator with its incredibly obtuse external Balmar voltage regulator.

By way of foreshadowing . . . the large and incredibly ugly “art deco” MidNite Solar Classic controller (which reminds us of an old-time juke box) was, unlike the White Albatross, successfully hidden in the galley under the sink and induction cook-top. But we were getting cramps laying on our back - - head inside the galley - - trying to program and interpret the MidNite Solar’s display. Over the weekend, in desperation, we got on-line to see if a ‘remote control/display’ option was available and were delighted to learn that we didn’t have to buy anything, the control and display ‘system’ was detachable from the MPPT controller . . . so, after searching various stores for 6 pin RJ connectors and 6 pin telephone cable . . . the MidNite Solar control/display joined the increasing collection of electronics in the panel above our dinette table. This was also the motivation to finally re-fabric this panel. This panel was our first (failed) attempt at ‘gluing’ an automotive fabric to an underlying wood substrate (1/4" luan). We hope you’ll agree it looks much better without all those dark blotches:

 
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