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Old 08-19-2018, 03:22 PM   #1
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Question Can you run the Onan LP generator while driving?

I've been lurking for a while and really considering getting a class B+ (I'm having trouble fitting in class Bs being 6'4" and banging my head everywhere) but because they're all 24'+ I'm also thinking of getting a light (~210lbs without batteries) Zero electric motorbike on the hitch (https://www.zeromotorcycles.com/zero-fxs/ ) as a bike for fun & errands, just because they're really cool

Obvious problem of a 7.2kW electric bike (beside range) is charging. This bike has an 800W onboard charger but can also be optioned with a 1200W external charger that can be used to charge the bike in roughly 3.5h for a near full charge when combined. Aside from charging in a campground (or charging station) it would be nice to charge (or at least top off) when boondocking from the generator.

Another idea would be would be to use the 1200W external charger and the removed batteries (80lbs) and charge them from an Onan while driving the RV.
My rough estimate is that the normal van alternator/200Ah batteries/2000W inverter setup would be too taxed for this kind of load.

So I have two questions:

1) Anyone with experience with an electric motorbike with a RV setup? and if so how do you manage charging when off grid.

2) Is it a big no no to run the Onan while driving? (in most applications I assume it would be to power the coach A/C)

Thanks for any info you could give me and sorry if I rehash already explored themes or ask for newbie-ish questions.
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Old 08-19-2018, 03:36 PM   #2
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If you are mainly concerned about charging while driving, just run the bike charger off an inverter powered by the van engine alternator.
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Old 08-19-2018, 03:46 PM   #3
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Hi booster, thanks for the quick and informative reply.

a 1200Wh charger would probably draw 120+ amps from the alternator, isn't that a bit high for a regular b+ alternator (like a Sprinter 220A one)?

My understanding reading many threads here is that number is very far from the actual amperage you'll get in real life.
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Old 08-19-2018, 04:30 PM   #4
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There is no technical problem with running an Onan while under way. I have done it occasionally.

Of course, as you probably know, there is a subset of the community that believes that driving with the propane turned on for any purpose is foolishly dangerous. I have never seen a convincing rationale for this belief, and I don't subscribe to it myself. Of course, gas stations are a different matter. The consensus is to always shut down while refueling--especially if that fuel is gasoline.
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Old 08-19-2018, 04:31 PM   #5
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I've been lurking for a while and really considering getting a class B+ (I'm having trouble fitting in class Bs being 6'4" and banging my head everywhere) . . .


First, you don't stand up inside that much.
I know, I know, the problem is when you need to stand up.

You can check out the Advanced RV. . .
they build their RV on the Mercedes Sprinter Super-High Roof Chassis.
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Old 08-19-2018, 04:44 PM   #6
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Hi avanti, thanks for confirming what I had kinda gathered from reading around, you can run the Onan in the same way people do run with the fridge in LP mode while driving (by forgetting to set it to 12v or on purpose), I would see doing it in cases where all other alternatives aren't available, but also thinking about booster's suggestion to have an invertor directly hooked up on the alternator/chassis battery, although I'd see the numbers work better with the onboard 800W charger vs the 1200W external one, but the practicalities while driving aren't good (it means leaving the 80lbs of battery on the bike dangling off the hitch vs inside or a in a storage compartment)

I guess I'll have to try and experiment!

Thanks for all the input.
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Old 08-19-2018, 04:50 PM   #7
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Quote:
First, you don't stand up inside that much.
I know, I know, the problem is when you need to stand up.

You can check out the Advanced RV. . .
they build their RV on the Mercedes Sprinter Super-High Roof Chassis.
yes I've seen (and salivated) over the super-high roof ARV (plus all the lithium & UG!) but it's just a tad 100Ks over my budget. Maybe the less costly solution is to wear a bike helmet
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Old 08-19-2018, 07:08 PM   #8
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.

Bear in mind,
usually, RVs don't have as much LP on board compared to other types of fuel (gas or diesel).

ie it is easy to run short on LP if you are going run your Onan a lot.
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Old 08-19-2018, 07:32 PM   #9
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yes I've seen (and salivated) over the super-high roof ARV (plus all the lithium & UG!) but it's just a tad 100Ks over my budget. Maybe the less costly solution is to wear a bike helmet
First thing to consider is you will hit your head. But you'll only do it once (ok, maybe twice or three times) and then avoidance becomes automatic and you'll no longer even think about it. It helps to not wear a hat or cap inside, so just take it off so the brim doesn't block you from seeing your "duck now" cues.

Second, I'm 6'2" and own a Chevy Express-based class b which means I have one of the shortest ceilings. Still, I stand straight up under the Maxxfan vent (with shoes on). I don't really mind the ducking, because as others mention, you're not walking around that much inside.

If you choose a Sprinter-based class b for example, you will have an extra inch or two of roof height over my model, which should mean your roof vent is your friend. Should be just enough when you want to straighten up to avoid any kinks.

You need go check out some models for yourself, but within the cramped confines of a class b, headroom is not that bid a deal. You also need to consider looking for an 80" bed that can be found it the long Sprinters. Much more important than headroom, in my opinion.

Finally, the wise saying goes like this, "You don't live in a class b, you live out of a class b."
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Old 08-19-2018, 07:33 PM   #10
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.

Bear in mind,
usually, RVs don't have as much LP on board compared to other types of fuel (gas or diesel).

ie it is easy to run short on LP if you are going run your Onan a lot.
Thanks, I understand that the Onan is the least favored power source for many reasons, and also see the irony of using a fossil fuel source to charge an electric bike instead of going with a better range combustion engine motorbike...

Clearly the ideal setup would be an UG for recharging, as I believe it would provide enough power to charge the bike while driving or idling. At this point, I'm thinking of buying a 4-5yo used RV to use semi-permanently (6-7mo a year) and I don't think that I would find one with an UG although most do seem to have Onans. Maybe getting an UG installed aftermarket and getting rid of the Onan would be a better route.

My primary thinking was how light the electric motorbike is without the removable batteries, allowing it to be carried on the hitch (<200lbs vs 350-500lbs tongue capacity) so there would be no need for a trailer. But maybe it's too soon, once UGs and lithium are more common (or less costly) it might make more sense.

As I've read many times on this forum, it's all a matter of finding the right compromises.
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Old 08-19-2018, 07:47 PM   #11
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First thing to consider is you will hit your head. But you'll only do it once (ok, maybe twice or three times) and then avoidance becomes automatic and you'll no longer even think about it. It helps to not wear a hat or cap inside, so just take it off so the brim doesn't block you from seeing your "duck now" cues.

Second, I'm 6'2" and own a Chevy Express-based class b which means I have one of the shortest ceilings. Still, I stand straight up under the Maxxfan vent (with shoes on). I don't really mind the ducking, because as others mention, you're not walking around that much inside.

If you choose a Sprinter-based class b for example, you will have an extra inch or two of roof height over my model, which should mean your roof vent is your friend. Should be just enough when you want to straighten up to avoid any kinks.

You need go check out some models for yourself, but within the cramped confines of a class b, headroom is not that bid a deal. You also need to consider looking for an 80" bed that can be found it the long Sprinters. Much more important than headroom, in my opinion.

Finally, the wise saying goes like this, "You don't live in a class b, you live out of a class b."
That's very interesting first hand (or head? experience. I've tried a few Bs, the ones stating 6'1" height I've tried are just not possible for me (activ, axion, zion), the ones 6'3" and up I've stepped into (banff, crossfit, agile) The Banff kinda fit, but I could see it as a place for a weekend/week vacation not living for too long in it (or out of it

I've also been into other Bs that had other issues (crossfit bed/bath and agile bathroom are just too tight). Too bad for the crossfit because the overall height was very good. I think the rear bath and a decent length bed would work better for me. I haven't had a chance to step in a Travato K yet (specs says 6'3") and on paper it seems ok.

As for "b+", the fuse or older View/Navion Profile are now on my short list (or a LTV Wonder that looks very nice) I'm really open to any suggestions if I overlooked anything you think might fit the bill (height, bed length, rear bath with head/elbow room)
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Old 08-19-2018, 09:29 PM   #12
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That's very interesting first hand (or head? experience.

Do you really have to ask?

As for "b+", the fuse or older View/Navion Profile are now on my short list (or a LTV Wonder that looks very nice) I'm really open to any suggestions if I overlooked anything you think might fit the bill (height, bed length, rear bath with head/elbow room)
The smaller class c's you mention above should get you the extra head room you need, but still check out bed lengths as they don't necessarily guarantee you a longer bed.
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Old 08-26-2018, 05:10 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tooTallforB? View Post
I've been lurking for a while and really considering getting a class B+ (I'm having trouble fitting in class Bs being 6'4" and banging my head everywhere)
So I have two questions:

1) Anyone with experience with an electric motorbike with a RV setup? and if so how do you manage charging when off grid.

2) Is it a big no no to run the Onan while driving? (in most applications I assume it would be to power the coach A/C)
I travel with a Brompton H6L folding bike and two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in my B-van. There's no problem running the Onan going down the road. I run both the dash and roof air in particularly hot weather when I need to for the dogs. It actually helps to exercise the generator. Most people don't run them nearly as much as the generators want.

I'm 6'5" tall and I can stand fully through most of the center of my '95 Coachmen van with a couple of inches to spare. My '94 Airstream B-190 had similar head room. I can't help you with the headroom in the lastest generation of Euro-van based class B's. I'll have to leave that for others.
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Old 08-26-2018, 06:07 PM   #14
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Hi tooTall,

I have a Sprinter B+, a Phoenix Cruiser.
I have never hestitated to run the LP generator while driving for any purpose and have had zero issues except having to refill the propane tank more often than I'd like.

That said, the UHG idea is interesting and could be a solid solution to your needs. I like the idea in order to be able to power large loads and save propane for the fridge, water heater and furnace.

I have a Nations kit ready for installation, just waiting the motivation.

I am in Northern California, if you'd like to check out the Phoenix Cuiser or the alternator kit, don't hestitate to message me.

-Gordon
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Old 08-26-2018, 06:38 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by tooTallforB? View Post
Hi booster, thanks for the quick and informative reply.

a 1200Wh charger would probably draw 120+ amps from the alternator, isn't that a bit high for a regular b+ alternator (like a Sprinter 220A one)?

My understanding reading many threads here is that number is very far from the actual amperage you'll get in real life.
It depends a lot on how your van electrical system is set up. My van would easily handle the 800 watt load while driving and probably the 1,200 watt load. It has 650 watts of solar, a 2kw sine wave inverter, and a 220 watt alternator connected to the house batteries (four golf cart batteries/ 460 amp) with 2/O welding cable. In daytime the solar would provide a fair portion of the wattage with the remainder made up by the alternator. I've run a genset while driving in previous RV's but on my current Promaster van home conversion I specifically wanted to avoid a genset and propane. So far it's worked quite well.
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Old 08-26-2018, 07:44 PM   #16
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I hate to sound dense but what is UG or UHG? It sounds like an interesting power source in the context of this thread but I have no idea what it stands for.
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Old 08-26-2018, 08:04 PM   #17
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Thanks for all the new input with your use of the generator while driving, I think this confirm what I thought that there is no real reason to not do it.

I’m also looking about the combination alternator + solar associated with a power inverter while driving, although the electric motorbike I’m looking at has a 650W onboard charger so (~725W with a 90% efficient inverter that should work) but my idea was to not leave the roughly 90lbs of batteries on the bike while driving (to limit tongue weight) and use an off board “rapid” charger that draws 1200W, I think that’s a bit more tricky without an under hood generator.

I’ll probably try a mix of all solutions, the preferred one being to charge in a public charge station (they’re getting more common) or campground power and topping off with the generator or maybe inverter+solar+van alternator (either a sprinter or transit diesel at this point).
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Old 08-26-2018, 08:10 PM   #18
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I hate to sound dense but what is UG or UHG? It sounds like an interesting power source in the context of this thread but I have no idea what it stands for.
I believe both UG and UHG stand for “Underwood generator” a second alternator solution that is mostly used to quickly recharge big battery banks like lithium while running the engine in “high idle” mode, although apparently also used for big AGM banks and as a replacement to the very noisy Onan propane/gas/diesel generator. As as far as I know, some Roadtrek Ecotrek come with it as well as the newly released Winnebago Travato KL and GL. I think Advanced RVs have it standard too.
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Old 08-26-2018, 10:50 PM   #19
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UG = UHG = under-hood generator. These are typically some sort of alternator although there was a discussion here recently about some new under-hood generator technology that may be quite different than an alternator.
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Old 08-27-2018, 12:58 AM   #20
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Like others, we run the Onan while driving when it's hot, so we can run the roof AC.
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