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DIY Electrical System

When built in 1970, our Avion C11 truck camper ran on a combination of propane and shore power. Fifty years later, we are entirely remodeling this vintage aluminum beauty, including the electrical system. Along with such safety concerns over shorts from old wiring, this is an opportunity to take advantage of technological improvements since this camper's construction. We are ditching the propane in favor of a completely electric system powered by rooftop solar panels. This approach frees us from hookups and gas station fill-ups for our boondocking adventures.

Electricity 101

Learning the basics

Before we pick up a set of wire crimpers or bolt down a bus bar, we spend months researching each aspect of our proposed electrical system. Understanding the concepts behind RV electrical systems guide us into more informed decisions about our build. Instead of a 12-volt system, we build a 24-volt system. Instead of the two odd solar panels seen on most rigs of our size, we install ten. Instead of the battery brand du jour, we build our own. Instead of the common reliance on propane for RV heating, we go all-electric.  Because doing what’s popular has never been our style.


Preparing to Assembly the System

Before we start drilling mounting holes and making custom mounts, we want to test out our electric system to make sure everything is up and running smoothly. For starters, we hook up our battery cells, wire in our battery management system (BMS), and hook into our Victron Multiplus charger.  Better yet, we have our camera running, capturing the whole process.

Getting Road Legal

After gutting our truck camper interior, the first order of business is making sure the RV is roadworthy. On the electrical front, that is making sure that our break, clearance, and license plate lights are all working. These are controlled by a 7-pin pigtail that connects to our truck's rear bumper. It's up to us to install a new pigtail and lights as well as wiring all the connections to make sure we can safely drive.

A DIY Lithium Battery

Custom 24V 360Ah LiFePO4 batteries

While there are a lot of lithium batteries on the market, we decide to do it ourselves by assembling sixteen LiFePO4 battery cells into two 24-volt 360-amp-hour batteries. Along with diving deep into subjects of parallel vs. series connections, bus bars vs. cable, and battery management systems, we also make our battery box and bus bars.  The end result is a unique set of batteries.