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Old 05-13-2019, 06:45 PM   #1
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Default Generator or not for Roadtrek Agile SS

Hi, as (slightly) aging tent campers in our mid-late 50's, we are looking to become RVers. The Roadtrek Agile SS seems to meet our needs well. I've been looking at used ones and see that many earlier models have generators, later ones have the AGM or Lithium batteries with solar panels and VoltStart. And if I did not misread the used-ads, some have both.

Our camping will probably be include hot summer months and freezing winter months.

I would love to hear the pros and cons of generator vs. battery storage to help guide us to the specs that will help us the most. I'd like to get one that has the 2.1L engine and driver safety aids.

Thanks for any pointer/experiences/opinions!

Atle

PS - I'm an electrical engineer and not necessarily afraid of the battery option and what appears as common repairs needed to keep them going, but I'd rather camp than wrench!
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Old 05-13-2019, 07:48 PM   #2
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My wife and I are also tent campers. Last fall, we bought a 2015 Roadtrek Etrek with 9600 wh AGM's and no voltstart. It does have an under-hood generator that charges the batteries as we drive and a 240w solar panel that tops them off when we are stopped. It has no propane, the heat and hot water are diesel. The stovetop is electric induction.

We are in northern Minnesota and have camped in sub-zero weather with no problem. We did a winter trip and spent a week at Big Bend National Park in Texas at a campground with no water hookups or electricity. We haven't used the AC and don't really plan to in the future. When it got hot on that trip, the fan kept it within the comfort range. We did run the dashboard AC a couple times while driving.

My take is whether you need a separate generator depends on how you plan to use the RV. Our week in Big Bend included almost daily trips to trailheads. That recharged the batteries. If we had tried to stay the week without moving we might have had some problems. The downside of the generator is that you need to carry another fuel and they are noisy. They weren't allowed in the campground we stayed at in Big Bend

We have only rarely used either shore power or water. We just spent a couple days at an electric site and never bothered to plug in.

I would have preferred lithium when we bought, but have changed my mind. They have advantages but with weeks of sub-zero weather they are probably not that practical for winter camping in northern Minnesota, especially if you have no way to keep them warm. You can use them, but not charge them, below freezing. Whether you can use them at all in -20F is questionable.

So far, we have loved the no-hassle process. But we are looking to live out of our RV, not in it.
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Old 05-14-2019, 08:48 PM   #3
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Thank you for the input Ross!
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Old 05-14-2019, 09:35 PM   #4
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I have a 2013 Roadtrek RS that has the generator that I really donít use very much except to run the microwave when boondocking. I have also run it for maybe 10 hours in 6 years to use the AC when essential and we werenít plugged in to shore power. So, in practical use it has not been essential, and I rarely spend more than one night at a place without driving. So I have only used it once or twice to charge the 225Ah of batteries.

But Iíll tell you that I like the redundancy of having a propane system for cooking, heating, grilling and generating. If I needed to stay someplace for multiple nights without hookups and not enough sun for the 200W solar system I could. So it adds some flexibility to how I can use the RV. On the other hand it is one more thing to maintain.
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Old 05-15-2019, 01:43 PM   #5
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Thank you Knit! I guess the one's I've seen for sale with generators rarely have more than a few dozen hours on the generators, so perhaps batteries are all we need... I'd love to hear other's input too!
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Old 05-15-2019, 02:43 PM   #6
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Our generator had very low hours when I pulled it out and sold it on our 07 Roadtrek 190. The hours were probably 95% exercising and the rest for occasional microwave runs. We have been very happy with using batteries to cover the microwave part and even an occasional hair drier.


As has been mentioned, the only real need for a generator is long hour AC running, and IMO batteries aren't quite there yet if you need that AC all the time in a hot climate. There is just too much charge replacement needed and I am not a big fan of using the van engine to charge for hours several times a day.


We decided very early on that we would never be able to use the generator for long term cooling with us in the van, it was just too noisy.



We still need to have the new, quiet, large continuous running for recharging, power source to be developed to handle the big power uses like AC.
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Old 05-15-2019, 03:18 PM   #7
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Quote:
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Our generator had very low hours when I pulled it out and sold it on our 07 Roadtrek 190. ....

We decided very early on that we would never be able to use the generator for long term cooling with us in the van, it was just too noisy.

We still need to have the new, quiet, large continuous running for recharging, power source to be developed to handle the big power uses like AC.
So you ended up with an AGM or Li battery system for every day use in your current RV booster?
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Old 05-15-2019, 03:22 PM   #8
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So you ended up with an AGM or Li battery system for every day use in your current RV booster?

440ah of Lifeline AGM


Magnum MS2000 inverter/charger


300 watts solar Blue Sky controller



Dual alternators turned down to settable limits. Was 280 or 180 amps, now 180 and 120 amps


It all is working well together for the last 3 years or so.
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Old 05-15-2019, 03:29 PM   #9
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If I may ask booster, which RV do you have?
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Old 05-15-2019, 03:35 PM   #10
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Quote:
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If I may ask booster, which RV do you have?

07 Roadtrek 190 Popular.
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Old 05-19-2019, 05:28 PM   #11
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As mentioned above it depends on how you want to use it, but ultimately the question is regarding AC usage. We have an Agile with AGM batteries and all electric/diesel so no propane. We can dry camp no problem unless we need AC. If it’s that hot we choose a place to plug in. However as recovering backpackers the screen package and the roof top fan should be enough unless it’s super hot. We can open the side and rear doors with lots of air flow. We also use screens for the front door windows. Not running AC everything else will run for days.
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Old 05-19-2019, 05:31 PM   #12
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Also one of the things that we liked about RT was not having a standard generator. Given how we use the van we never would have used it but would have had the space weight and ongoing maintenance. If we wanted a standard gender I would have looked at a Pleasureway instead.
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Old 05-19-2019, 06:00 PM   #13
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Go with 800 amp (4 batt) lithium, voltstart, underhood generator, and diesel alde. Then you need only one hydrocarbon fuel source - Diesel. I have a 4x4 SS agile with this configuration. Works great. Plus if you drive to places in the brutal southwestern US summer heat you can run the roof AC while driving. You can't do that with a propane generator. My $0.02
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Old 05-19-2019, 09:19 PM   #14
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I have a 2017 road trek Zion with 240 watts solar and agm. Iím always so glad I donít have the noisy stinky generator. I try to find campgrounds that donít allow. I only needed the voltstart once at 9degrees in squaw valley, came on at 4 am and scared the heck out of me. The air will run for about an hour, on solar but I also find the air to be so loud I try to avoid that too.
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Old 05-19-2019, 10:25 PM   #15
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While I don’t have a RT, I do have a vintage class B. When I brought my campervan a few years ago i brought one without a generator, since I was only camping at campgrounds & they have electric hookups. At that time I wasn’t interested in boondocking. Then a year or two later, I was boondocking at airport parking lots & casinos. I now have decided that my next class b will have a genny. Also on viewing some you tubers that have solar, sometimes they need the genny to charge the house batteries because the weather is bad & the batteries aren’t charging with the solar.
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Old 05-19-2019, 11:20 PM   #16
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We have decent sized Lithiums and a 200 watts of solar on the roof. We also have an Onan. We rarely ever boondock, but do stop overnight at Flying J's, Cracker barrels, etc.

I'm pretty sure we could get by nicely without the gennie. We have a 2000 watt inverter and several times have camped without shore power, used teh microwave, tv's, instant pot etc and still had most of our battery capacity left - and it gets back to 100% on te next day's driving.

But still, I am not unhappy to have the Onan. I just like the peace of mind that I always have another option.

I guess Roadtrek's second alternator is another possibility, but I have often wondered if idling the Mercedes engine a long time is wise. (And whether that was why MB dropped RT from their list of master upfitters?)

No doubt the Onan is noisy though - and other than an emergency situation I suspect the only time I would use it would be the get the batteries up to 100% before quiet tie if needed - or maybe running the AC at a lunch stop en route somehere.

We always carried a Honda gennie with our Airstream trailer and let it run in the back of teh truck when stopping on cold nights at Flying J's so we could be sure of keeping the furnace running + light's TV etc overnight and it was great for that. But the Airstream just had two small AGM's.
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Old 05-21-2019, 02:43 PM   #17
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I have recently purchased a 2014 Agile from a person I know very well. Much like others have said, generator need is really a function of AC usage. I have 3000 watt inverter and 300w of solar panels. That handles everything just fine. I am in the Northeast and don't expect to need the generator much. The previous owner was in the south and used it frequently especially for the dogs.

I really like the idea of no generator, but am suspect of it in the Mercedes Sprinter / Roadtrek combination - especially the earlier generations. The diesel engine emissions systems are problematic and I don't like the idea of anything requiring that to run "extra". Also, I believe that Roadtrek was an early adopter of the 2nd alternator and some owners have reported issues. I expect most will go this route in the future as there are so many benefits to it. For me personally, I like the reliability of the generator. and will wait until moving over to a non generator version.

One thing to note that the Agile (at least mine) is wired differently than most other RV's I have seen (not that I have seen many). There is no mechanical tie in between the sprinter and the coach. The Sprinter engine will not charge the coach batteries. Interestingly, neither will the propane generator. The only way to charge it is to plug in or solar. This definitely could put a limit on extended boondocking if you are a heavy power user and don't have a way to recharge. So far, I have been a very light user of electrical and haven't had any concerns.
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Old 05-21-2019, 02:50 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wantoworkless View Post
I have recently purchased a 2014 Agile from a person I know very well. Much like others have said, generator need is really a function of AC usage. I have 3000 watt inverter and 300w of solar panels. That handles everything just fine. I am in the Northeast and don't expect to need the generator much. The previous owner was in the south and used it frequently especially for the dogs.

I really like the idea of no generator, but am suspect of it in the Mercedes Sprinter / Roadtrek combination - especially the earlier generations. The diesel engine emissions systems are problematic and I don't like the idea of anything requiring that to run "extra". Also, I believe that Roadtrek was an early adopter of the 2nd alternator and some owners have reported issues. I expect most will go this route in the future as there are so many benefits to it. For me personally, I like the reliability of the generator. and will wait until moving over to a non generator version.



One thing to note that the Agile (at least mine) is wired differently than most other RV's I have seen (not that I have seen many). There is no mechanical tie in between the sprinter and the coach. The Sprinter engine will not charge the coach batteries. Interestingly, neither will the propane generator. The only way to charge it is to plug in or solar. This definitely could put a limit on extended boondocking if you are a heavy power user and don't have a way to recharge. So far, I have been a very light user of electrical and haven't had any concerns.

That is very odd wiring to be sure. I would think you could pretty easily add an automatic transfer switch to allow it to charge the coach off the generator. Could you have one already that isn't switching correctly? Also very odd to not have any engine charging as most they did would either charge from the MB alternator though a separator (I think on AGM) and from the add on alternator which was standalone to the coach (both AGM and lithium). What batteries do you have?


Here is a link to the owners manual for a 2014 Agile. Coach batteries are under the hood, and the generator should be charging them from a quick look at it.
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Old 05-21-2019, 03:02 PM   #19
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Thanks. I will take a look at that. I am most confused why the generator doesn't charge the batteries. With that, i have made zero effort to figure it out yet. I need to do that though.
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Old 05-22-2019, 06:29 AM   #20
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I like having a generator in my '07 Agile. I never stay in parks. Pretty much always Boondock. So it's useful for the microwave and to cool down the thermal soak with the AC at the end of the day before we settle in. The propane tank goes a very long way if you are cognizant of your usage. With hot showers, cooking and generator use I can still go a couple weeks easily. I inherited my RV as it is. So, I have not looked at other options beyond the possibility of a second alternator and a couple extra batteries, but I have been very happy with the way everything works so far and don't feel the need to spend any money on upgrades right now.
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