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Old 06-05-2019, 10:36 PM   #1
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Default Underhood vs. Generator (help me decide)

Ok guys,

Iíve been researching models for months (really years since this has been a dream for awhile now) and I still canít decide on which one. You guys may be able to help me narrow it down.

I can get one new RV that comes standard with a second alternator (AKA underhood generator), lithium batteries, 200 W solar, but NO GENERATOR.

Or, for about $10,000-$20,000 more I can get some more luxurious RVs with generators (2.5 or 2.8kw propane) and plain jane AGMís. These nicer RVS are at the higher end of my budget so I wonít be able to upgrade by adding solar and upgrading to lithium right away. That would take away from my repair fund, so it would not be a wise decision. As it turns out, the energy requirements may be non-negotiable.

So, there are three ways that I plan on utilizing my power source:

1. I plan on spending a lot of time in New Orleans (an hour from my home) where I will be stealth camping. My fiancť and I like to go to bars, but I am not about to drive while intoxicated like an idiot and put others in danger. The heat index in South Louisiana is currently 100-110 degrees (high temp) and 70-75 degrees (low temp), just to give you an idea of the heat. I have heard that the lithium batteries can run the AC for about 6-8 hours. Does that sound about right to you electrical gurus? Thatís just enough time for me to sleep it off before heading home or starting the engine to recharge the batteries. Iím guessing the AC will be quiet enough to not draw attention, but a generator will be too loud to stealth. I will only be using the AC at night to sleep.

2. I will also be taking a lot of day trips to tailgate at Saints games or to go to various festivals around the state. We wonít be staying the night, but itís nice to have a place for the kids to cool off if they get overheated, or use a private bathroom instead of a port-a-potty.

3. I will also be going on weekend trips to the Gulf Coast, but I will be hooked up to shore power most nights. However, I will have my dogs with me on these trips. They absolutely MUST be cool for obvious reasons. This is my #1 priority above all else, so I appreciate any input from pet owners. When I explore the city during the heat of the day and leave them inside the RV for a few hours at a time, I canít leave the generator running (doesnít seem safe at all), but I can run the AC off of the lithium batteries for them.

For all situations, it seems the underhood generator and lithiums would be the best bet, but the lack of power worries me. If I was taking longer trips or boondocking for long periods, I would definitely go with the generator, but right now we will be gone two or three days tops. Does this sound like a good decision or is there something I am not considering?

Thanks for any help to any of my numerous questions, and sorry for the long post!
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Old 06-05-2019, 11:52 PM   #2
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I suspect the estimated 6-8 hours ac run times are optimistic or calculated under ideal circumstances (not the heat of the deep South in Summer). That said, I have no personal experience in that regard.

I do thing lithium power will replace conventional generators in the next 10-15 years, but to accomplish what you are looking for, would require some sort of automatic engine start for the under hood generator to recharge batteries before they are depleted. Quieter than firing up a separate gas generator for sure, but not stealthy.

I believe such technology is available for your stealth scenario, but outside of your price range and will require a very specialized build. I hope technologies improve and prices come down substantially in the future, but it will probably happen too late for me.

That said, almost any rv with any type of generator will be perfect for your tailgaiting scenario. Both convential generators and under hood can provide ac to rear passengers while traveling.
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Old 06-06-2019, 04:26 AM   #3
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Just an opinion:

There is no scenario that will allow you to walk out of the club blotto and allow you to sleep comfortably in a hot climate. You need to solve that another way.

Staying overnight in an airconditioned unit without shore power requires a generator and the location to run it without ticking anyone off. An engine generator won't do it.
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Old 06-06-2019, 03:30 PM   #4
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Thanks RowieBowie. I forgot to mention that the item does have Voltstart as well. In addition, if I go with the cheaper unit that has the underhood generator and lithium, I do have an additional $10,000-$15,000 for modifications so it wouldn't be out of my price range. If I went with the model with the generator, that is at the top of my price range so no room for mods.
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Old 06-06-2019, 04:50 PM   #5
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Hi RowieBowie,

I think you just solved my problem! If I get the one with the lithium and underhood generators, it's actually the cheapest and at the low end of my budget. That would give me about $10,000 to modify it. I was planning on getting a good temperature sensor and a two way camera to keep an eye on my dogs. I would probably only leave them alone for 3-4 hours at a time while I explore whatever city I happen to be in. If the temp starts to go up, I wouldn't be more than a 10 minute walk away. And the camera would show the pups panting if the temperature sensor failed, so that gives me a backup. There is a product called Voltstart that automatically starts the engine when the batteries get low, but I've heard it doesn't work that well. A remote start would work though, since I can start it manually. The Voltstart idles the engine to recharge the batteries, so idling with the remote start would do the same. Now, the question is whether there is a remote start that does long range? Another option would be to add more lithium batteries if I have room for them. Which I could afford if I get this cheaper unit.
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Old 06-06-2019, 05:43 PM   #6
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Hi Tinktink,

In order to assist, some questions:

It appears that you are considering a New roadtrek etrek, yes?

If so, which one and how many AMP hours are available?

If so, would you purchase from the Baton Rouge dealer or elsewhere?

You have been on this forum since January, are you aware of the Etrek potential downsides?

I live in the Metro New Orleans area. Unless I misread your posts, #2 and #3 are doable without a conventional generator, #1 is very unlikely but dependent on which bars you are not going to drive off from after drinking, and on and on..............

Bud
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Old 06-06-2019, 06:58 PM   #7
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Hi Bud,

Ah! Yours is the advice I need. I usually park my car on Elysian Fields since I like Frenchmen street and, of course, the Bourbon area. I've slept in my car there a few times (I have a Honda Fit so the seats fold down completely flat. I've never had a problem, but the RV is so tall that I was worried about cops knocking on the doors and telling me to move on. I also have a friend that lives off Veterans, so I could park at his place and we could take a cab there and back since his apartment offers him two parking spaces and he only uses one. But I was hoping to get within walking distance of the river. We like to walk down the riverwalk during the day, go to the aquarium, etc. I have no problem with a light trek to the vehicle.

And, yes, the etrek is what I am considering. I have heard that many people have trouble with VoltStart, but I am considering something else like Drone Mobile and Compustar in lieu of that. I have heard good things about that on this forum. The main advantage is that the solar is already set up and the lithium batteries are already installed. Have there been problems with the alternator? I can't imagine a second alternator would be too difficult to fix, since I have installed alternators before. But happy to hear about what problems others have had. : )
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Old 06-06-2019, 07:24 PM   #8
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Hi Bud,

Sorry, I didn't answer all of your questions. Yes, I have been on here for months. With such a large purchase, I want all the information I can get. It really is like buying a house when you pay that much money.

I would have the RV delivered or go pick it up in another state. I just haven't seen any RVs in Louisiana that I like at all. I am mostly looking in Florida and Texas. There is a Travato 59k nearby that I would consider, but they want me to pay less than 20% off the MSRP and so far have not been willing to negotiate with me. The underhood generator is 280 AMP hours. I am considering the Carado Banff, Axion, Sunlight V2 and Roadtrek Srt or Roadtrek Zion SRT. The Zion seems like a lot more money when there is very little difference between the Zion and the Roadtrek Srt.

I also saw a Regency National Traveler listed for $75,000 and I love the high quality finish compared to all the others I mentioned, but I just don't see many opportunities that I would be able to run a loud generator. I consider that better for rural areas and most of my travels will be in cities. A fancy interior and bells and whistles are nice, but that also means more stuff that can break. Being able to have adequate power is my number one priority, especially since my dogs will be with me (but not when I spend one night in New Orleans; that's no place for them).
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Old 06-06-2019, 07:45 PM   #9
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TinyTink, my typing skills are ok, but one question leads to another and...............

I'll assist, offering to, please give me a call at your convenience - new orleans area code then four 6, 7 six one oh 5. Warning, I'll start from the get go as though I've read none of these posts.

This is a terrific forum.

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Old 06-06-2019, 10:54 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TinyTink View Post
Hi Bud,

Ah! Yours is the advice I need. I usually park my car on Elysian Fields since I like Frenchmen street and, of course, the Bourbon area. I've slept in my car there a few times (I have a Honda Fit so the seats fold down completely flat. I've never had a problem, but the RV is so tall that I was worried about cops knocking on the doors and telling me to move on. I also have a friend that lives off Veterans, so I could park at his place and we could take a cab there and back since his apartment offers him two parking spaces and he only uses one. But I was hoping to get within walking distance of the river. We like to walk down the riverwalk during the day, go to the aquarium, etc. I have no problem with a light trek to the vehicle.

And, yes, the etrek is what I am considering. I have heard that many people have trouble with VoltStart, but I am considering something else like Drone Mobile and Compustar in lieu of that. I have heard good things about that on this forum. The main advantage is that the solar is already set up and the lithium batteries are already installed. Have there been problems with the alternator? I can't imagine a second alternator would be too difficult to fix, since I have installed alternators before. But happy to hear about what problems others have had. : )
If the etrek is what you're considering IMO you should reconsider. Their electrical system is obsolete. (How do I know? I own one.)

Considering the environment in which you intend to operate, I would go for the new Travato National Park edition which provides 11.6 kwh of battery support that would provide 8 hours of AC without engine support plus batteries with an 8 year warranty and a beefy 3.6kw inverter.
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Old 06-07-2019, 12:46 AM   #11
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Thanks cruising7388. If I could afford my dream camper, that would be it, but it is outside of my current budget. How many hours of AC do you get from fully charged batteries with your system?

What exactly is the problem with the etrek you have? Is it the alternator, inverter or batteries? Or all of the above? I was kind of thinking it would be a good base and I could upgrade parts of the electrical system as I went along.

The Travato is on the same Dodge Ram Promaster chassis, so maybe I could upgrade the alternator to what they use? It kind of sounds like if I upgrade the alternator, I also have to upgrade the inverter? Put a solar panel on my head and call me coocoo.

I think it's time for me and my brother (he's an electrician) to have a few beers and an electrical lesson.
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Old 06-07-2019, 02:59 AM   #12
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There’s lots of information on the RT lithiums on this forum found via search, but if you are looking to talk to owners the Roadtrek Owners group on Facebook would also be a great place to ask questions. It’s a very active group and you don’t need to own a RT to join.

One of the issues with the e-Trek lithiums is they use a proprietary electronic management system built into each battery module. With RT out of business owners are looking into alternatives or replacements, but lithiums are expensive.

IMO if you want to run AC for long periods not plugged into shore power a typical generator would be a better choice. You could ask owners but I don’t think it will run AC for 8 hours. We have a RT Agile with AGM batteries and underhood generator but only run the roof AC when the engine is running and not for hours (max 30 mins). However a standard generator won’t solve the on the street crash pad plan because it would most likely be too loud. Another alternative is an etrek and then buy a portable generator for tailgating...
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