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Old 01-14-2015, 05:26 AM   #1
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Default Wonder what big advances will hit "B"s next

We had the new Euro Van chassis models from Ford and Fiat hit the roads here in the US, giving competition to the Sprinter. Solar has gotten cheaper to the point where it is standard equipment. Same with LEDs and inverters. European companies are starting to step in, offering appliances which are a generation ahead from what have been in the US for ages, saving space (having one appliance work as a water heater and furnace saves a lot of room compared to two discrete items.) RT's "engine generation" technology is spreading, and using a second alternator to power batteries will be the norm and not the exception soon. Even beds have improved now that Froli is in the US market.

I wonder what advances will be next in the "B" market in the upcoming years?

I am guessing, there will be the incremental advances. A move to lithium-based batteries. Hybrid inverters that allow for appliances to run from the batteries, shore power, the engine's alternator, a generator, solar, or a combination of the above without issue.

Then, there will be the major advances. 4WD and AWD would become at least an option. Truma's VeGA propane and EFOY's methanol based fuel cells drop in price and become an option to keep the batteries topped off even at night. Flexible solar panels become inexpensive enough that they become part of awnings, and rigs get two awnings -- the normal one on the curbside, and one on the street side just for additional power generation.

I think we are probably going to hit a plateau (similar to how "B" development levelled off once things settled down after the T1N Sprinter was introduced) where evolutionary stuff is going to go on, as opposed to revolutionary.
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Old 01-14-2015, 02:12 PM   #2
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Default Re: Wonder what big advances will hit "B"s next

My guesses based on things you listed:

More Solar - yes
More Led's - yes
Truma heat / hot water combo type units - yes
Froli - I haven't tried it so no guess on that
Lithium-based batteries - yes in high priced units unless prices really drop
Inverters - yes
Alternators instead of separate generators - that's going to depend on Sprinter, Ram, Ford etc. operating guidelines IMO
Dual alternators - not sure if needed when you can have a single 280a alternator for example
Factory 4WD - yes it's coming
Solar on awnings - too risky IMO - stories of awnings ripped off by wind ......
Propane, gas or diesel fuel cell - yes, Methanol - I'd think no because it is an additional fuel to carry

Additionally:
App integration for systems monitoring and control, motorized window coverings, dual macerator/gravity dump systems,

We should begin to see some real data from lithium battery based units that will help determine "right sizing" capacity deployments.

Ford Transit based Class B's - yes

Shift to gasoline engined units - maybe
More manufacturer flexibility for custom options - yes

Some sort of same fuel as main engine fuel cell combined with lithium based batteries might just hit the right spot with buyers if it is super quiet and can run almost unnoticed for hours if needed.
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Old 01-14-2015, 02:36 PM   #3
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Default Re: Wonder what big advances will hit "B"s next

Maybe the industry will head toward higher DC voltages for the entire coach. Even at 48v, everything would be considered non-hazardous (if I remember my arcflash training correctly), but wire size could be 1/4 that of a 12v system. Of course, that would require the engine generator for coach to be a separate 48v one, but a lot of that is already done. 12v is really an inefficient voltage to run when you start talking about 1000 watt microwaves, hair dryers, etc through inverters, and very high charge rates.

I agree that we could see the gas engines make a comeback, especially if the diesels continue to have questions of idling. IIRC correctly, the diesel fuel has 11-13% more energy in it, so if the gassers get to that much less mileage difference, efficiency would be the same. Direct injection, turbo, gas engines, if as efficient as diesel, would have fewer downsides. The question might be if they can run at the higher loads imposed by an engine generator without a special catalytic converter to prevent overheating the converter.

Good fuel cells would totally get rid of the other generator questions, I would think.
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Old 01-14-2015, 03:13 PM   #4
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Default Re: Wonder what big advances will hit "B"s next

I don't have much experience with 48 volts other than working with it in a NEBS environment (telco.) I have read that above 12 volts, the charge can overcome skin resistance, especially when the skin is wet. With how quickly people sue, it may nix 48 volt usage. However, you are right -- 48 volts would be ideal, and stepping the voltage down to 12 and 5 volts is a lot less of a waste of power than passing it through an inverter. 48 volts also means skinnier wires, which is always a good thing.

Right now, diesel engines are going through what gas engines went through in 1973... Draconian EPA regs have sent every auto maker back to the drawing board, and what is out, has issues, be it biodiesel problems, clogged particulate filters, pump failures, and electronic engine issues. It may take a decade, but I am hoping that this should be ironed out soon, and diesels get back their iron-clad reliability status.

Gas engines are pretty solid. With the latest fuel rail fuel injection, they are getting to the point where not many more improvements can be made on a normally aspirated vehicle, so eventually supercharging or turbocharging may end up the norm, rather than just Ford's EcoBoost baby.

Of course, if there is a major advance in battery density, everything goes out the window, as a hybrid "B" would bring another generation of electrical advances.

As of now, the fuel cells I've seen go up to around 240 watts, or about 10-20 amps. Good enough to keep the batteries going when the furnace fan is sucking its 7 amp-hours worth of energy, but definitely not good enough to handle a compressor or microwave. I don't see any real advances in fuel cells to allow for higher burn rates anytime soon, although it would be nice to get rid of the generator and have a fuel cell that can burn at a slow rate for keeping the batteries topped off, but go at full tilt to handle larger electrical loads.

Markopolo brings up a good point... I forgot about multiplexed wiring systems. Those are standard on Interstates and seem to be the norm across the board now.

Another item might be electrical controllers. A friend of mine is an embedded systems programmer and rigged an Arduino to not just monitor current and voltage across all major lines (shore power, generator, batteries, battery charger, solar CC, solar panels, etc.), but he has his system configured to fire up the generator (and the A/C) if the temperature rises past a certain point (due to pets), and as a backup if the generator fails, start the vehicle's engine and run the A/C from a secondary alternator. I wouldn't be surprised to see EMS models built in with load shedding and the ability to fire up a generator or the vehicle's engine even if the rig is in storage to keep the batteries charged.

High efficiency flexible solar panels will make things quite interesting. If they are within 90-95% of rigid panels with regard to light collection, they might just be useful in a number of ways. Solar panels themselves probably will improve, so shading a corner of a panel doesn't cut the amount of electrical output by 50-99%.
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Old 01-14-2015, 03:34 PM   #5
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Default Re: Wonder what big advances will hit "B"s next

Hopefully I am getting the state of the art in most things Marko listed. I was a tad too early for the Sprinter 4x4 for me. I am already jealous of the many ARV customers who have ordered. I'm not jealous of their late 2015 and 2016 delivery dates.

The second alternator issue: The biggest gain as I understand it is faster charging especially coupled with lithium ion batteries. I think the concern about idling is an issue that is a bit over blown because both Roadtrek and Advanced RV have dismissed it and the real truth is I won't have my RV as long as it takes to become a problem by even Mercedes Benz' estimates. The faster charging to me means I won't do much idling. I also think it will diminish my need for the solar panels. The nature of the Class B is we don't sit still. A quick trip into a town to replenish my beer supply will re-charge a day's worth of battery drain.

Even so, we are getting 480 watts of solar from three flexible solar panels each separated with diodes in sections to negate the shading factor diminishing the whole panel. Each panel will have its own MPPT controller. Maybe with that one rare time event of parking at Burning Man for four days in the Nevada desert it will pay dividends.

One advantage of the Sprinter diesel is we are getting Espar diesel fired heat and hot water. It is located under the chassis so that alone is saving the space those typical Suburban propane 6 gallon hot water heaters take up. All reports I have read is it works great. Avanti has it in his Great West Van.

There is one item, the VB Air Suspension on Sprinters that I think is super. It totally changes the feel and handling. I wonder how soon the other converters will look at that or other suspension improvements.

I can't wait to introduce my piece de resistance. I wish I could tell you now but I haven't seen it yet and I hope it comes off as I envisioned. January 26.
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Old 01-14-2015, 03:39 PM   #6
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Default Re: Wonder what big advances will hit "B"s next

Postscript: Boondocking spurred on big time by Roadtrek might drag the others in to breaking away from the big RV style of driving to formal campgrounds and hooking up. Right now that is how most Class Bs are designed. This alone will drive more innovation.
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Old 01-14-2015, 04:28 PM   #7
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Default Re: Wonder what big advances will hit "B"s next

We'll camp in Provincial Parks or National Parks etc. without any hookups for up to week but I'm pretty sure that's not what you are referring to with the term boondocking.

What does boondocking mean? Where do you do it? How long do you stay there?
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Old 01-14-2015, 04:43 PM   #8
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Default Re: Wonder what big advances will hit "B"s next

boondocking to me means no hookups NEEDED
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Old 01-14-2015, 04:47 PM   #9
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Default Re: Wonder what big advances will hit "B"s next

Quote:
Originally Posted by markopolo
We'll camp in Provincial Parks or National Parks etc. without any hookups for up to week but I'm pretty sure that's not what you are referring to with the term boondocking.

What does boondocking mean? Where do you do it? How long do you stay there?
And does boondocking mean no water or dump station available, or if it is, how far away? Take the water and dump out of the equation, and you can be out until you starve to death if you have enough solar
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Old 01-14-2015, 05:00 PM   #10
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Default Re: Wonder what big advances will hit "B"s next

I think I get it. No hookups = normal operation to me. Those are the best sites!

People in campervans have been "boondocking" for five decades now. Try it, if you haven't
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