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I have a 2003 Workhorse/Morgan Olsen Step Van (formerly UniFirst delivery vehicle) with a 15 foot cargo are that I and a friend are converting into a Tiny House/RV. I have 2250 Watts of solar panels on the roof (6X LG 36v 375w) and a 48 volt battery bank with 400ah, and more capacity on the way (LiFePO4). I can run air conditioning, microwave, whatever I need, but I was thinking it would be great if I could also use electric motors to replace the gasoline ICE. What would it take for me to be able to go like 10 to 25 miles a day?
 

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I have a 2003 Workhorse/Morgan Olsen Step Van
Didn't know what that was, for anyone else, looks like a FedEx van or something similar.

I have 2250 Watts of solar panels on the roof (6X LG 36v 375w) and a 48 volt battery bank with 400ah, and more capacity on the way (LiFePO4).
So ~20kwh of lead acid (so, more like 10kwh).

I can run air conditioning, microwave, whatever I need, but I was thinking it would be great if I could also use electric motors to replace the gasoline ICE. What would it take for me to be able to go like 10 to 25 miles a day?
Short answer:

No one does this, because there's very few combination of ways that it makes sense. Search for RVs on these forums, you'll see the same breakdowns every time, and no one ever even seems to start the projects after insisting they will.

That said, 10-25 miles a day is the lowest I've ever seen anyone ask for range, so, it might be possible.


Longer answer:

Roughly speaking, you're moving a brick, I'd expect around 1000 watt-hours per mile at highway speeds. You already have 20kwh, so, you might hit 20 miles range with your existing setup. If you can stick to small highways and sneak by with lower speed (45mph), you might get double that.

You'd need a motor connected the wheels and a speed controller.

RV builds usually get axed because: 1 - You need a really big motor to move something that heavy, especially uphill, and, 2 - RVs tend to want to travel, already lack extra space and weight, and would need a huge amount of batteries to have a high range.

EVs are well suited to vehicles that travel short distances every single day, and spend nights charging. RVs are vehicles that often travel large distances infrequently. They are well suited to combustion engines.

On range, consider that when you remove the ICE, you are forever stuck at 20 miles range, and it will take you several days in good sunlight to hump another 20 miles down the road.

If possible, I suggest trying to find a way to leave the ICE intact. Otherwise you'll probably never be able to road trip. Rest stops are more than 20 miles between. Presuming front engine RWD, that's a bit of a pain in the ass because there's no extra set of wheels to tap into.
 

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Didn't know what that was, for anyone else, looks like a FedEx van or something similar.
Since FedEx and other couriers use a wide range of van styles, the typical description is "bread van". "StepVan" was a specific brand name, but there were lots of brands and "step van" gets used as a generic term. The Workhorse chassis was originally a GM product, called the "P-van", and was also used for some motorhomes.

EVs are well suited to vehicles that travel short distances every single day, and spend nights charging. RVs are vehicles that often travel large distances infrequently. They are well suited to combustion engines.

On range, consider that when you remove the ICE, you are forever stuck at 20 miles range, and it will take you several days in good sunlight to hump another 20 miles down the road.
Good summary and observation. :)

The battery might drive the vehicle a few miles, but it will take much more than a day to recharge, especially while living on the same energy source and so leaving only part of the solar output for charging.

If possible, I suggest trying to find a way to leave the ICE intact. Otherwise you'll probably never be able to road trip. Rest stops are more than 20 miles between. Presuming front engine RWD, that's a bit of a pain in the ass because there's no extra set of wheels to tap into.
There have been a few hybrid conversions of the classic front engine and rear drive configuration. For OEMs, the solution is a motor-generator sandwiched between the engine and transmission, and transmission suppliers such as ZF even sell that as a regular production option (in OEM quantities). For the kind of conversion companies which make a lot of news and then go broke, a motor with a double-ended shaft is mounted in line with the shaft from the transmission to the rear axle, usually where there would be a joint and support bearing in the two-part shaft anyway.
 

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For OEMs, the solution is a motor-generator
*nod*

The problem with leaving the engine there at all is... now what is the point of having it be an EV?

If it was the situation where someone is driving long distances (need an engine) infrequently, but then short ranges frequently... then there is some fuel and environmental savings to be had to hybridize a vehicle.

But since their solar panels take multiple days to charge, they're looking at maybe 2 trips of 20 miles per week max. That's like, $10/week. Just spend the money.

If this was also a vehicle being used to commute, then maybe you'd rack enough miles to justify the conversion.

...

It's such an outlier solution, at the edge of thriftiness, I'd almost say just built a hitch-mounted booster-wheel. Trailer wheel, maybe a sprocket and chain, motor, and power it off the reserve battery. Cheap cheap cheap and no modifications. Don't replace the engine, and the engine will still run, but you'll shove some extra electricity at the road instead of worse fuel economy from the engine.

I can't see anything else being worthwhile if the goal is to avoid spending money on gas.
 

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Ok, so the first response to this post is "Don't do it".

I'm going to take a different tack and say "Cool - go for it"

I don't do a lot of long winded posts because I type super slow but I feel this one deserves the time.

This is going to be a bit stream of conciseness I'm typing this at work between patients. There are lots of ways to increase range. First, slow down. If he is only going 25 miles max at a time then he doesn't need to be in a hurry to get there. I've been behind plenty of RV's going 35mph and they had their ICE. Lots of people "Hop Camp" it's part of the thrill for them to figure out how to take a trip in short hops and stays. At least some of the stops will have an external power source that could aide in charging. Adding additional battery and solar later as funds allow is always an option. I know the battery trailer used to be standard for early conversions wanting to get extra range as well as a small diesel generator. Maybe an external battery trailer with a stack of solar panels that can be deployed at camp. Think "The martian".

A little time with a search engine shows that this has already been done for smaller campers.

Instead of immediately going to why this can't be done why don't we start with how it can be done.

I have assisted in a couple of bread truck -> camper conversions and my first bit of advice is keep the center of mass low and be prepared to remove a few springs from the leaf pack when you are done. Those things ride seriously rough when they are lightly loaded.
 
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