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Discussion Starter #1
Hey!


So, I've given thought to becoming a nomad living in a camper conversion so many times that it's starting to be ridiculous that I haven't committed to it. Right now, I'm traveling, but I think once I return to the US, I'll become a nomad.


I've gone back and forth between a lot of different vehicles for a lot of reasons, but ultimately, I'd like to convert a vehicle that's at least the size of a high-top Sprinter. Box Trucks, Buses, delivery (or mail) vans/trucks have all been given consideration, too.


I remember hearing whispers of buses that are made of either aluminum or fiberglass, and I've been trying to track those down. Medium-length city buses are usually low to the ground and seem generally suitable for a camper conversion. When run on fossil fuel, they often have governors that stop them from going over 45-55mph if they're meant for cities, but if we're yanking that out it doesn't really matter.


Same goes for what I think are called "stepvans"? They're meant to hang around cities, so they're often made as light as possible with aluminum, and often have governors installed...


That said, looking it up, it seems like even Stepvans are 10,000+ pounds from the few examples I've found. That's quite heavy...


Basically, I'm wondering if it's feasible or sensible to convert such a heavy vehicle into an EV. If so, does it make sense to combine the camper's battery system and solar with the engine and controller's battery system?


Do you have any thoughts, input, or recommended reading for helping me get perspective on this? I've been trying to do a lot of homework on this by myself, but the scale of it is kind of on a different level since the weight is practically 5x a lot of conversions.


Thanks!
 

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Someone recently asked a similar thing yesterday, so, see some of our comments there:

http://www.diyelectriccar.com/forums/showthread.php?t=196402

Also, another great resource for nomad stuff in general (though the EV knowledge tends to be threadbare) is http://old.reddit.com/r/vandwellers . It's terrible in the sense of an archive, as everything fades immediately and there search is useless, but it's good in the conversation sense.

Basically, I'm wondering if it's feasible or sensible to convert such a heavy vehicle into an EV.

Feasible, absolutely. Sensible, ehn, that's the challenge.

If you're the kind of nomad to move 4 or 5 times a year but mostly travel around on national parks land, occasionally working, then just save yourself the trouble and keep a gas engine. You can circumnavigate the entire United States for around $1000 in gas. That's remarkably cheap.

The crippling pain, where you have to work no matter what, is vehicle insurance. Compared to insurance, which is probably $2000/year... even if your traveling cost was zero (solar/free electric), you're only cutting the cost of your vehicle ownership by 33%/year. So you don't buy yourself much economic freedom by going EV.

Despite the easy misconception, I don't think nomads actually put on that many miles in a year. People who put on a lot of miles are those with 9-5 jobs that commute 30 minutes each way 5 times a week. That's 5 hours in the car. Then with their driving-heavy lifestyle, it wouldn't be abnormal to spend 10 hours a week behind the wheel. That's 520 hours a year driving for a commuter. Enough to circumnavigate the United States 3.5 times! Commuters are looking at like, $3500/year in gas, so those are the ones that benefit from modest EVs the most.

Generally, nomads and vandwellers are looking to live cheap and minimalistic. So if you're looking to reduce costs as much as possible, EV probably isn't the way to go, especially with a heavy vehicle. You'll never pay off the initial expense.

But... this isn't the Don't DIY Electric Car Forums, so...

Motor you can scrounge for free. No problem there.

Controller you can scrounge for a crappy one (might need a couple), or build a good one for $600. That's decently affordable.

Batteries are where you'll get murdered. You just won't get any range, and you're going to have to plan very carefully how to travel to even find enough places to plug in to mooch power. You'd be looking at thousands of dollars investment for 60-80 miles between charges at best.

Honestly I'd just keep the gas engine and spend your money on solar and enough batteries to live off, but not travel off of. It'll be like, I dunno, 1-10% of the battery requirements as traveling. You get all the independence and free living, and the only cost is traveling.

I wouldn't mess with the vehicle's 12v system. Don't create problems to solve, just throw a normal battery on there.

...

City busses tend to be really, really beat to shit by the time they're retired and you kind of need to be a specialized mechanic to work on them.

If you want something big-bus sized, go with a retired schoolbus. They'll be equally beat to shit but you can get an entire engine swap for a couple hundred bucks in any town, and no shortage of wrenchers who know how to work on it. And they're cheap as soup.

But I wouldn't go that big. Drive something you can drive in traffic and park anywhere, otherwise, for a "nomad" you'll find yourself hesitant to actually ever move around and you'll wish you had a second vehicle. A Sprinter sounds about right. You'll probably learn more about what kind of nomad you want to be, so I suggest your first vehicle you go as cheap and small as you can tolerate, live the lifestyle 6-12 months to learn what bothers you and what doesn't matter to you, and then decide what to buy next. Until you've been at it a year, you'll just be committing to things you might not want.

My two cents. Good luck.
 

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I've gone back and forth between a lot of different vehicles for a lot of reasons, but ultimately, I'd like to convert a vehicle that's at least the size of a high-top Sprinter. Box Trucks, Buses, delivery (or mail) vans/trucks have all been given consideration, too.
As Matt already posted, there is another discussion of converting a vehicle of this size... and it refers to other discussions.

I remember hearing whispers of buses that are made of either aluminum or fiberglass, and I've been trying to track those down.
Aluminum and fiberglass bodies, yes... but sitting on traditional steel frames. Buses which are built like a Class C motorhome, with the cab (looking like the front of a van or a conventional truck) supplied by the chassis manufacturer and a body added by the bus manufacturer, often have steel cab and a body with fiberglass or aluminum panels.

Medium-length city buses are usually low to the ground and seem generally suitable for a camper conversion
The low floor (how low depends on the design) makes it convenient to get in and out; however, under-floor space is valuable in an RV for tanks (fresh water and waste), other services, and storage. Matt suggested a school bus - those are built on a medium-duty truck chassis and are very tall, which provides lots of under-floor space.

When run on fossil fuel, they often have governors that stop them from going over 45-55mph if they're meant for cities, but if we're yanking that out it doesn't really matter.
Some are slow because they geared for low-speed operation, but they can also have low-speed tires. With any vehicle, you need to consider all aspects of the powertrain and chassis to ensure that it is suitable.

Same goes for what I think are called "stepvans"? They're meant to hang around cities, so they're often made as light as possible with aluminum, and often have governors installed...

That said, looking it up, it seems like even Stepvans are 10,000+ pounds from the few examples I've found. That's quite heavy...
Stepvan was a brand name, but "step van" has been used as a general term for delivery trucks.

They're heavy because they are built on a truck frame and designed to carry a lot of load. Even if the body is a reasonable weight, it has poor aerodynamics (might not matter so much if you drive very little) and it usually has sliding driver and passenger doors which don't work well for a body which needs to be secure and weather-tight.

When General Motors made these it was their P-series chassis, which was sold to Workhorse. The P-series (as a GM or as a Workhorse) was used for many medium-sized buses... and a lot of Class A motorhomes. Motorhome manufacturers built their own bodies (that's what Class A means); they didn't use step van bodies, which are pretty crudely built and not specifically suited for motorhome use.

The most common conversion of delivery vans appears to be for food trucks.

If so, does it make sense to combine the camper's battery system and solar with the engine and controller's battery system?!
I can't imagine wanting to set up two entirely separate large battery-based electrical systems an RV EV... so yes, I think it makes sense. The trick might be choosing a battery voltage and finding the components to make it work well for both purposes, with minimal energy loss to voltage conversions, and conversions between AC and DC power. Part of that would be deciding what functions (appliances, etc) to run on 12 V DC and what to run on 120 V AC.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks so much for the thorough replies, friends. I looked through that other thread and there was a lot of helpful info, thanks.


Part of my thought process behind converting a bus is that out-of-commission buses can be had for sometimes as little as $100 in auction. Where as, a bus that's in "running condition" will normally be at least $3,000, and will probably end up needing TLC anyways. I'm assuming that a DIY EV setup--once it's more or less complete--would be more reliable than all the moving parts in a conventional, dated combustion setup but maybe I'm being idyllic.


So part of the motivation for the conversion is not exactly financial, but also built around principle (not using fossil fuel if I can help it), interest (seems like a rewarding project), and the assumption that it might be more dependable than a system that's older than I am and maybe hasn't been cared for properly.


All that said, let's try to address some of your individual points for conversation!


I do intend to be a pretty stationary nomad. I might not even travel the entire US, I just like the idea of being able to move my "house" by myself whenever I want. I came very close to buying a home last year, and being stuck in one place for 20+ (realistically ~40) years terrified me. So, I'll definitely concede your point that gas is "not really that expensive." I totally believe I'd spend more on the conversion than I would gas in a short stretch--maybe I should try to chart out some rough numbers and see at what cost an EV conversion is just paying extra to get around. Still, like I mentioned above, there are non-financial reasons to do the conversion. :)


Hm. I can't decide if that insurance is more or less than I expected it to be. Can I ask where you're getting that number from?


As far as scrounging a motor for free--do you think one would suffice? Is it possible or sensible to couple two different motors? If I needed more than one motor, how likely is it I could find two of the same one for free?


Re: Batteries,
I'm hoping to spend a lot of time recycling 18650 cells from things. Laptops in particular. More homework needs to be done about fully recycling laptops, and if I can possibly turn that into a for-profit thing. But basically, I want to tour thrift stores for their ~$30 laptops and crack them open, also snag junkers off of Ebay and Craigslist and similar.


The idea is to spend a fair amount of time pulling apart laptop batteries and sorting the cells according to their integrity (voltage and capacity), and hopefully do this enough to where I can resell the tested batteries and make a revolving door that way. I don't plan on sharking people, but maybe someone has a use for a cheap lot of 18650 cells that are not in the best of shape?


Re: School Bus vs City Bus,
The reason I like the low floor on city buses is because it theoretically allows for a higher roof-raise. Whether or not I have the skill or capabilities to actually utilize that is its own ordeal, though. Haha
I do just strongly prefer the aesthetic of the flat-front buses, which there are School buses of that variety... is it "just as easy" to have things swapped out on those for a few hundred bucks?


Again, I'm a lot less apprehensive about "beat to shit" if I'm doing a full replacement on the engine and possibly ditching the transmission, too. I know there are lots of other elements, but in a lot of cases "upgrading" those would be beneficial anyways. Like, "Hey, I need to replace the wheels, so I might as well get aluminum ones!" (I don't know how sensible that is, but that's my current thought process.)


Now to your points, brian_


I mentioned in my response to Matt that one of the reasons I like a low floor is that technically a roof raise can go even higher if the floor of your vehicle is lower. That's probably not a good reason, honestly.


Re: Lighter materials,

So, with an aluminum or fiberglass body... how much weight do you think that ultimately saves? How much more complicated would it make a roof raise?


Re: Powertrain,

Thanks for the pointer about tires and other factors influencing speed. I don't know if I would have considered that.


Re: Step Van history,

Interesting, it sounds like delivery vans are generally heavier than I would have thought.


Re: Battery,

I agree on not wanting to set up two battery packs, but voltage becomes kind of complicated. Like you mentioned, lots of camper gear is oriented towards 12v--but if I can keep things running on high voltage it's arguably more efficient, right?


My sights are set on a higher voltage motor if I can get my hands on it. In a perfect world, I can get a motor that runs at 220v, and I can also find some EU/Asia friendly appliances that can also run on 220v? Assuming that's actually efficient...


Talking with nerdy computer friends, we have all kind of drooled over the idea of using DC-DC power supplies in a setup like this to save power (instead of going from DC batteries to an AC outlet, AC-DC in the power supply to the motherboard's DC-in...) there are separate AC-DC and DC-DC solutions that have been gaining popularity in small PC builds, and they are getting better and better. Nowadays you can power top-of-the-line computer components directly from DC. (Granted, I'm more interested in energy efficient components.)


Most computer DC power supplies can take a range of ~19v-24v. Some go as low as 12v or 16v. For whatever that's worth.
 

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My sights are set on a higher voltage motor if I can get my hands on it. In a perfect world, I can get a motor that runs at 220v, and I can also find some EU/Asia friendly appliances that can also run on 220v? Assuming that's actually efficient...
You can't compare DC and AC voltage like that.

With a 220v AC supply, 220v is the RMS voltage of the sinusoidal wave. The peak voltage will be about 300v.

It would be more efficient to use a DC-DC converter to step down to 12v or 24v and run appliances designed for the RV or marine market. More expensive upfront though.
 

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Hi
Re - Voltage
My solar inverter runs at 400v - and converts that to our 230v mains
Which ties in quite well with OEM battery packs inverters and motors at about the 400 v level
 

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I'm assuming that a DIY EV setup--once it's more or less complete--would be more reliable than all the moving parts in a conventional, dated combustion setup but maybe I'm being idyllic.
Certainly, an electric motor will outlive a gasoline engine and all the things that can go wrong.

Hm. I can't decide if that insurance is more or less than I expected it to be. Can I ask where you're getting that number from?

Rough ballpark for average person. Just using it to illustrate, you start thinking "I can drive for free" but, no, not really, you're still paying $5/day for the privilege of being allowed to drive.

A bit of a dick move, but most insurance companies will let you "relocate" a vehicle. If you're not moving much, you could pay for 2-7 days to move your bus, then park it until you have to move it again. I wouldn't push it more often than every couple months.

Most insurance companies will punish you if you've ever had gaps in your insurance (like, they'll reset you to a 16-year old with no history). The way they determine that is whether you are insured to drive any vehicle. To get around that, see if you can insure a moped. If you don't have a moped, grab a frame from a junkyard and claim the VIN. Moped insurance is like, $50-150/year. Poof. No gaps, a few cents a day.

As far as scrounging a motor for free--do you think one would suffice? Is it possible or sensible to couple two different motors? If I needed more than one motor, how likely is it I could find two of the same one for free?

One is plenty to move a cruise ship, if it's big enough :p

You can gang up motors, sure. You can probably even gang up dissimilar motors. You could make it AWD by separate drivetrain if you want.

City busses have 200-400 hp engines.

Suppose you stuff 150v into a 48v forklift motor (fairly standard). It needs to shove 1000 amps to make 200 hp. Most bigger forklift motors can handle that, but I dunno that they'd handle it continuously the way a bus might need to if it was climbing a hill. Others can give better advice I'm sure.

The good thing about series-DC motors is that they don't have an RPM they're trying to reach, they just accelerate when you give them voltage, so, generally ganging some up will result in them sharing fairly equally.

I'm hoping to spend a lot of time recycling 18650 cells from things. Laptops in particular. More homework needs to be done about fully recycling laptops, and if I can possibly turn that into a for-profit thing. But basically, I want to tour thrift stores for their ~$30 laptops and crack them open, also snag junkers off of Ebay and Craigslist and similar.

That's what I'm doing. I recommend against it. It's not worth your time.

You get, oh, 8 watt-hours of energy out of a single cell. You'll need 80,000 watt-hours to get 80 miles of highway range (maybe more).

Just think of how long it will take to disassemble and test 10,000 batteries.

An average laptop has 6-8 cells in it. 2 are usually bad. You want to pay $30 each for that 6-pack? That's $5/cell. You can purchase brand new cells in bulk for less than that. Even if you can get them for free, I advise against it unless you're an absolute penny-pinching thrifter like me with my $20 motorbike build.

You'll have to buy something like an Opus 3100 or Zanflare charger for $25-50. Each will charge and capacity test 4 cells at a time. The Opus does 1 amp discharge, so, you're going to charge (2 hours), discharge to capacity test (2 hours) and recharge (2 hours) each cell.

6 hours round-trip per cell. The Zanflare goes at half this speed.

6 hours round trip means 4 trips per day if you're setting an alarm in the middle of the night. There's 4 banks, so, that's 16 per day. You're looking at about 18 months of doing this perfectly.

I have 2 Zanflares, and I have been cycling batteries just about 24/7 for the last 4 months and I'm at 2500. You need 10,000.

I cheat and pre-charge with a separate cheapo DIY system, and recharge the same, so my capacity testers are only being used for capacity testing since that's the bottleneck.

Since you are not the only one having this idea, there is actually quite a competitive market for recycled 18650s. They are bought up by recyclers to be sent back to China to be capacity tested, sorted, and then thrown into those cell phone power packs you see at the dollar store.

Roughly speaking, if you can talk some shops into selling them to you, you'll be paying $1-3/lb of laptop battery (they're about a pound each). That's the going rate.

http://diypowerwall.com (actually, " http://secondlifestorage.com " now, to not being infringing on Tesla's trademark) is a whole community of people all competing for the same resources.

Comparatively, the DIY electric car community has a much higher barrier to entry so much fewer of us are competing for recycled Nissan Leaf/Tesla/Volt/etc packs. Damien is doing a $1000 BMW EV conversion (including vehicle cost), and I think $600 of that was the battery pack. Would you rather spend $600 or 6 months disassembling batteries and never being far from your capacity tester as if it's the toilet and you have dysentery?

I don't plan on sharking people, but maybe someone has a use for a cheap lot of 18650 cells that are not in the best of shape?

As above, you're 5 years too late. Recycled 18650s are worth $1-3/lb unsalvaged, maybe $1-2/cell tested and used. And good luck shipping them.

School buses of that variety... is it "just as easy" to have things swapped out on those for a few hundred bucks?

Out of my wheelhouse. Dunno.

I agree on not wanting to set up two battery packs, but voltage becomes kind of complicated. Like you mentioned, lots of camper gear is oriented towards 12v--but if I can keep things running on high voltage it's arguably more efficient, right?

Minimally, not enough to think about.

Get a big inverter or several and just buy normal appliances. RV stuff is as bad as boat stuff, a POS appliance will be several multiples the price. Then, don't buy most of your appliances because you'll have limited space and won't actually use most of them.

All the bus's 12v stuff is designed to use that, so I'd just leave it be as a solved problem. You're going to keep a 12v rail for that, so sure, beef it up a bit, and run the rest on 120v or 220v if you want.
 

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Part of my thought process behind converting a bus is that out-of-commission buses can be had for sometimes as little as $100 in auction. Where as, a bus that's in "running condition" will normally be at least $3,000, and will probably end up needing TLC anyways. I'm assuming that a DIY EV setup--once it's more or less complete--would be more reliable than all the moving parts in a conventional, dated combustion setup but maybe I'm being idyllic.
A couple of different views that I have heard regarding used buses as RVs:
  1. By the time a bus operator unloads a bus, it is too worn out to be worth operating, so major repairs to all components should be expected.
  2. Buses are used heavily in commercial services, so when a company unloads one because it only has a year left in it, that means a hundred thousand miles or more of life left and it will last in RV service for several years.
You pay your money, you take your chances...


Yes, the electric motor is simpler and more reliable than an engine. The axles, suspension, brakes and steering are no different than they would be with an engine.
 

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batteries from laptops

I'm hoping to spend a lot of time recycling 18650 cells from things. Laptops in particular. More homework needs to be done about fully recycling laptops, and if I can possibly turn that into a for-profit thing. But basically, I want to tour thrift stores for their ~$30 laptops and crack them open, also snag junkers off of Ebay and Craigslist and similar.


The idea is to spend a fair amount of time pulling apart laptop batteries and sorting the cells according to their integrity (voltage and capacity), and hopefully do this enough to where I can resell the tested batteries and make a revolving door that way. I don't plan on sharking people, but maybe someone has a use for a cheap lot of 18650 cells that are not in the best of shape?
I would consider used laptops to be electronic waste, and so a liability rather than an asset. I certainly wouldn't pay for them, and would expect to be paid to take them. After taking out a couple of cells (if you're lucky), and going to the expense of appropriately disposing of the rest of the machine, the whole scheme might work financially if your time isn't worth much.

There's a reason that old electronic devices from North America are shipped to third-world countries for disposal.


By the way, I doubt laptops use 18650 cells now - they're too thick. I haven't had a laptop thick enough to have 18 mm diameter cylindrical cells in it for quite a few years.
 

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School Bus vs City Bus

The reason I like the low floor on city buses is because it theoretically allows for a higher roof-raise. Whether or not I have the skill or capabilities to actually utilize that is its own ordeal, though. Haha
I do just strongly prefer the aesthetic of the flat-front buses, which there are School buses of that variety... is it "just as easy" to have things swapped out on those for a few hundred bucks?
...
I mentioned in my response to Matt that one of the reasons I like a low floor is that technically a roof raise can go even higher if the floor of your vehicle is lower. That's probably not a good reason, honestly.
Unless you're planning a two-story RV, floor height versus overall vehicle height isn't a problem. The highest-floor buses made (high-floor versions of highway coaches) still have good headroom.

Full-sized school buses are probably as easy to work with in the interior as any other type, and have relatively small wheel housing intrusion (because they sit so high). Smaller school buses are a lot like shuttle buses and small transit buses.

Flat-front school buses come in two types: front-engine and rear-engine. The front-engine ones seem a bit awkward to me due to the engine cover (or "doghouse") hump in the front, but you could likely eliminate that. Most of the bus chassis and body are the same between a conventional school bus and a front-engine flat-front school bus; it's really just driver position (which changes the steering linkage) and front-of-body details.
 

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I agree on not wanting to set up two battery packs, but voltage becomes kind of complicated. Like you mentioned, lots of camper gear is oriented towards 12v--but if I can keep things running on high voltage it's arguably more efficient, right?


My sights are set on a higher voltage motor if I can get my hands on it. In a perfect world, I can get a motor that runs at 220v, and I can also find some EU/Asia friendly appliances that can also run on 220v? Assuming that's actually efficient...


Talking with nerdy computer friends, we have all kind of drooled over the idea of using DC-DC power supplies in a setup like this to save power (instead of going from DC batteries to an AC outlet, AC-DC in the power supply to the motherboard's DC-in...) there are separate AC-DC and DC-DC solutions that have been gaining popularity in small PC builds, and they are getting better and better. Nowadays you can power top-of-the-line computer components directly from DC. (Granted, I'm more interested in energy efficient components.)


Most computer DC power supplies can take a range of ~19v-24v. Some go as low as 12v or 16v. For whatever that's worth.
Certainly stuff which normally runs on 12 volts DC in a vehicle or RV coach should be run on 12 V DC. That includes lighting, the water pump, ventilation fans, and controls of appliances which need to work all of the time (refrigerator, furnace, water heater). Most of this stuff doesn't use much power and is well-suited to 12 volt DC operation.

Although some appliances which normally run on AC could theoretically run on DC (a kettle, perhaps?), it seems unlikely to me to be practical with unmodified appliances.

I noticed a few years ago that a few Prius owners had set up inverters running on their cars' high voltage packs (which were only about 200 V, which works since 120 V RMS would be 170 V peak-to-peak). The economical setup seemed to be to salvage the inverter from a UPS intended for 120 V AC systems, which is designed for a similar battery voltage. I don't know what range of input voltage they can handle, or what other inverters in a suitable motor operating voltage range might be available, but Duncan's solar system inverter seems like a good example.

RV AC power (or "shore power") practices
In general, large RVs use 240 V AC split-phase service at 50 amps through a NEMA 14-50 connector, but nothing in them runs on 240 V: it is just used as 100 amps of 120 V capacity, with the two 50 amp lines sharing one neutral. When provided with only 120 V power, the single supply line is just fed to both lines of the 240 V service panel; all circuits work, but there is no 240 V available. This 50A service is typically provided so that the RV can run multiple air conditioners, or air conditioning (or electric space heating) in combination with electric water heating, a microwave oven, or other cooking appliances. No one is likely to run 12 kW (2 x 50 A x 120 V) of stuff on a battery for very long, so just 50 amps at 120 V (6 kW) would be lots.

The travel trailer standard is 120 V at 30 amps through a NEMA TT-30 connector, so 3.6 kW.

When off-grid, anything needing 120 V AC is run by an inverter from the 12 V battery. This is done sparingly, and many (probably most) RVs don't have a high-power inverter or an inverter at all.​

Certainly running anything using significant power at 120 V AC from an inverter powered by 12 V DC from a battery which in turn is charged from a higher-voltage battery is unnecessarily inefficient. An inverter which can handle direct feed from the high-voltage battery, and a battery voltage at least moderately higher than the peak-to-peak voltage of the desired output power (so over 170 V for 120 VRMS), would avoid any voltage up-conversion and would avoid any unnecessarily high current (due to transmitting power at a low voltage).
 

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Re: Lighter materials

So, with an aluminum or fiberglass body... how much weight do you think that ultimately saves?
When Ford changed from steel to aluminum for the entire cab and box of the F-150 pickup, it saved them a few hundred pounds. I think rust resistance is probably more significant than weight for this purpose.

How much more complicated would it make a roof raise?
Vehicle bodies are normally welded, which would make aluminum more difficult to work with than steel, but a roof raise is normally a rivet-together or bolt-together exercise. Aluminum commercial van and trailer bodies are normally riveted and/or adhesively bonded from sheet and formed or extruded sections, so shouldn't be too hard to modify. Not that this likely matters, because unless you're using an old-style North American van (such as the Express which Chevrolet still sells, the only one left in production) you can just start with enough headroom and not need to raise the roof.
 

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Winnebago's coming out with a motorhome EV.

https://www.curbed.com/2018/5/25/17391662/rv-motorhome-electric-winnebago-solar-panel

Oops I mean, Jesus how much will it weigh and cost? Err, we mean, it's only for mobile blood clinics and teaching things in and around the city and such. Don't try to get to another city in it.
First, the article says that Winnebago has introduced an electric chassis, but as Winnebago's announcement makes clear it's really Winnebago announcing that some of their products will be available on a Motiv chassis, which in turn is a Ford F-53 (the only common gasoline-engine Class A motorhome chassis in North America), purchased from Ford as an unpowered glider and EV equipped by Motiv.

They fill essentially all of the space between the frame rails with battery and motor (the motor is placed at stock location of the intermediate propeller shaft support), which is probably okay for Winnebago, but what kills the chance of being a useful motorhome (other than the range) is that they also fill the spaces outboard of the frame with boxes (presumably inverters and chargers)... that's where storage and RV services go in a motorhome. Even with no engine up front, it looks like they still pile enough hardware up there that the vehicle will still have the annoying "doghouse" of the stock F-53.

I find it interesting that Motiv doesn't mention how much heavier this is than the stock chassis. There's only one engine and transmission choice in an F-53 (a 6.8L V10 and corresponding automatic), so it's not as if there would be any uncertainty. We have a motorhome on an F-53 chassis, so I'm aware than remaining payload can be surprisingly low when a large and reasonably equipped motorhome body is fitted to it.
 
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