Xantrex LLC, a supplier of power technology for OEMs and the aftermarket, installed an electrical system upgrade package on a Volkswagen Westfalia Camper May 3-4 to eventually educate consumers and make a point: By replacing or installing three components, consumers can go off-grid for days without a generator and still enjoy electronics and hot coffee.
The company filmed the step-by-step installation and will edit the footage into a series of educational consumer videos to be placed on the company’s YouTube channel at the end of the month. The supplier will follow up with the camper owner in six months to see how the new system affected his lifestyle on the road.
The three components Xantrex installed or replaced to enable a longer off-grid RVing experience were flexible solar panels, lithium-ion batteries and an inverter charger.
According to Mitul Chandrani, Xantrex VP of marketing, “These are the most significant upgrades to make. It is the difference between day and night.”
The company installed flexible solar paneling like the 110-watt Xantrex Solar Max Flex Panel as the first part of the upgrade package.
The panels peel and stick with 3M tape. The flexible solar paneling does not add power directly, but acts as a triple charger, extending battery life and appliance run time.
According to Chandrani, dealers often express concern about the safety and ease of a roof solar panel installation. The flexible solar paneling makes the choice to add solar a no brainer if an RVer has space on their roof, he said.
“The price premium for solar is worth it. It is peel-and-stick solar,” he said. “It is better to be able to offer RVers a flexible solar option. It can be rolled like a carpet. It is not solid glass and it can go on curved surfaces.”
Xantrex has put together three solar packages to meet consumer usage needs. The amount of added battery capacity and appliance run time depends on usage and geographic location.
- The 160-watt weekend getaway package can run lights, cell phones, a laptop and a fan for one to four days. It includes a 160-watt solar panel (780-0160), a 30-amp PWM charge controller (709-3024-01) and one set of solar and battery cables (708-0150).
- The 320-watt week-long trip package can run lights, cell phones, a laptop, a fan, a TV and a satellite dish for four to seven days. It includes two 160-watt solar panels (780-0160), one 30-amp MPPT charge controller (710-3024-01) one set of solar and battery cables (708-0150).
- The 440-watt off-grid trip package can run lights, cell phones, a fan, a TV, a satellite dish, a dishwasher and a refrigerator for seven-plus days. It includes two 220-watt Solar Max Flex Panels (784-0220), one 30-amp MPPT charge controller (710-3024-01) and one set of solar and battery cables (708-0150).
Lithium ion batteries
The Xantrex team upgraded the camper’s two traditional lead-acid batteries to lithium-ion (LiFePO4) batteries.
According to Chandrani, the lithium-ion battery offers more lifecycles than a traditional battery. A lithium-ion battery is half the weight of a traditional battery and the voltage remains consistent throughout the battery lifecycle.
Xantrex offers drop-in replacement of Group 27 and Group 31 lithium-ion batteries from 105-amp-hour to 410-amp-hour sizes.
The 410-amp-hour U.S.-made battery is new for Xantrex this year.
Finally, the Xantrex team replaced the camper’s aftermarket converter with an inverter/charger like the company’s Freedom XC or XC Pro Freedom.
The inverter/charger has a built-in converter that works with lithium-ion batteries, unlike the aftermarket converter. The system delivers AC power in all plugs as well as power transfer from shore to battery and vice-versa.
“These upgrades will give (the consumer) a very advanced and efficient electrical system,” Chandrani said. “(The camper owner) will have more power in the same space. He will have solar. He will have lithium-ion batteries. He will be upgraded from a converter to an inverter charger. He should notice a big difference in his RVing lifestyle. That is what we wanted to capture and demonstrate.”