Energy independence - 3 ways to freedom
Traveling is to be associated primarily with a feeling of freedom and independence. For many of us, the priority is the freedom to camp on our own terms, regardless of infrastructure and restrictions related to access to the media. An important aspect here is energy freedom, i.e. the ability to draw the energy needed in the way of alternative energy sources. Today we will tell you what options and benefits and disadvantages of individual solutions are currently available. Of course, we invite you to exchange experiences and discussions on our fanpage!
Energy from the sun
Solar panels are the most popular way to obtain energy. The vast majority of owners of recreational vehicles place them on the roofs of their motorhomes or caravans. However, there are also mobile panels, placed next to our camp, or mounted on suction cups / other attachments, e.g. to a glass or a body element. Such solutions will prove useful, for example, when traveling in a van / small tin, which becomes a "motorhome" only for the duration of holiday trips.
A simple solar installation consists of photovoltaic panels with a specific power (usually the power of the panel is 100-170W, but with technological development, more and more efficient and smaller units appear), a controller and a battery. The controller is an important and underestimated element of the entire installation by novices and bargain hunters. Tested and recommended by experts and users, MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) drivers are now standard in sensibly built installations. They are slightly more expensive than the cheapest on the market, but in order to obtain the highest possible output power from a specific cell in changing operating conditions, you need to constantly change the optimal load resistance - and this is what the heart should take care of, i.e. the controller. Of course, you should also choose the right battery. It will be best when a gel / AGM / LiFePO4 battery does not have a capacity greater than the cell's current in amperes multiplied by 10. For example: a 130 W panel with a power of 7.2 A should support a battery with a capacity of about 70-80 Ah.
+ Relatively inexpensive investment
+ A safe solution provided that the devices are properly selected and installed
+ High efficiency on sunny days
- Dependence on exposure / sunshine / weather
- Reduced efficiency in the cold season and in the shade (and on hot summer days we are looking for shade spots)
- The additional weight of the installation reduces the load capacity of the vehicle
Electricity generators fired with liquid fuel (petrol / diesel) are very popular, e.g. in the USA, where practically every larger motorhome is equipped with this type of device. Of course, in European realities such solutions are not something common, but several manufacturers have appeared on the market offering neat mobile solutions. The most famous, even cult, model of a portable generator is, for example, Honda. Its latest model, EU32i, is just being introduced and it will probably take the motorhome market by storm soon. We write about this model because in the case of its predecessor, compactness, reliability, power quality and low noise level for a generator have become an unmatched model for the entire industry. An additional benefit is the use of inverter technology, i.e. variable operating characteristics, which significantly affects both the noise generated and the efficiency of the device. Of course, Honda is not the only manufacturer of compact aggregates, and when it comes to price it is certainly not a product for the masses. There are many price and design alternatives, but the principle of operation of a compact generator is the same in every case - from liquid fuel we get a 1-phase power source capable of recharging our on-board battery or powering devices with a total power of up to approx. 3 kW.
+ Electricity production regardless of the weather and conditions
+ Power efficiency and quality that allows even the supply of demanding, sensitive electronics
+ Mobility and no need for dedicated installations
+ Possibility to power a motorhome / caravan from a traditional 230V network, including stationary air conditioning
- The generated noise may be uncomfortable for users and neighbors
The so-called "fuel cell" has been on the market for years and has a loyal following of fans who consider it the best energy generator for the journey. It produces environmentally friendly electricity based on a chemical reaction that charges the on-board battery. This silent process is completely automatic. The fuel needed for the reaction is methanol. The manufacturer of the solution, EFOY, offers systems of various sizes and for various applications. Recreational vehicles, however, remain the company's primary focus area. After installing the system, it is practically maintenance-free. The methanol consumption (e.g. for the EFOY 80 BT model) is 0.9 l / kWh. Fuel is taken from cartridges with a capacity of 5 or 10 liters.
+ Offered with EFOY LiFePO4 battery, but works with most batteries
+ Compact and lightweight solution (weight less than 7 kg)
+ Noiseless operation
+ Can be connected to a photovoltaic system
- The need to purchase dedicated fuel cartridges in the manufacturer's partner network
- High price
- Balancing the power with the compact versions can be difficult for larger motorhomes (electricity production may be too low)
These are just 3 basic ways to survive and achieve energy independence. We are very curious about your experiences and ideas for optimizing energy consumption and obtaining it during the trip!
I feel best in the form of trade fairs and meetings with enthusiasts. Technical freak. In my life I have dismantled many motorhomes for the first time. Fan of large vehicles, mountain biking and traveling without weight and financial restrictions. At CampRest, I am responsible for all publications on automotive topics.