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Deciding if we want a house battery
In almost every campervan with a combustion engine, you’ll find a house battery to power all appliances like the fridge, lights and waterpumps. One of the exciting prospects of a fully electric campervan is that you don’t necessarily need one, because you could use the van’s traction battery to power these appliances. The way this works is that all EVs have a built-in starter battery, or 12V battery, that’s powered by the traction battery, using a DC-DC converter. This starter battery can be hooked up to an inverter to power more demanding household appliances, like laptops and other 230VAC systems.
Even handier would be to have a regular wall outlet in the van, connected (via an inverter) to the traction battery. Unfortunately, our van, the Fiat E-Ducato (2021), doesn’t have this. So we had a choice: use our 12V battery to power our appliances, or go with a separate house battery like other regular campervans.
We decided to go with the latter, for two main reasons. First: we didn’t want to tamper with the van’s traction battery and lose our warranty. Second: we wanted a fully electric campervan, meaning no gas stovetop to cook with and no gas heater. Instead, we wanted to go with an induction cooktop and an electric convection heater. This meant we’d be drawing a lot of power, and we didn’t want something like cooking extensively or heating the van for an extended period of time to negatively impact our range by draining the traction battery.
Battery and solar panels
When we made our decision to go with a big, separate house battery, we also decided that we’d love to power it with clean energy, by filling our roof with solar panels. This would allow us to wild camp as well, as we’d have almost no need of shore power from a campground. We installed a MPPT regulator from Victron and a Multiplus as well. We went with a very large LiFePO4 house battery of 12V 906Ah, which Jurrien built himself using 12 LiFePO4 3.2V 302Ah cells. On the roof of our van, we installed three solar panels of 325WP each that were gifted to us by Sungevity.
It’s a big setup and on our seven-week road trip through Scandinavia this summer, we haven’t had the house batteries drain below 60% once. Meanwhile, we’ve cooked on our induction cooktop every day and have used our convection heater, the Duux Edge 2000, which was gifted to us by Duux, a lot too. So our setup is definitely a bit overkill in the summer, but we’re hoping it’ll be just enough in winter!
Charging our van and appliances with solar power
To us, the most exciting thing about our setup is that it allows us to charge the traction battery directly from the house battery (powered by our solar panels). Granted, this is slow going, with just 1,7kWh or 2% battery (which translates to about 5km or 3mi) every hour. But if we’re ever running on empty and are really in a pickle, we can use the house battery to charge the van to get us to the nearest charging station. Our house battery gets recharged by the solar panels, so we can repeat this trick whenever we like when there’s sun.
Besides our Thetford induction cooktop and Duux convection heater, we’ve got an Isotherm absorption fridge, a Maxxfan, a Nature’s Head composting toilet and plenty of outlets for our laptops and phones. All of these can run continuously without draining our house batteries. It’s such a great feeling to never have to worry about them!
Creating a comfortable home on wheels
We decided to go with a layout that would allow us to live in our van fulltime and still offer plenty of space. After going on a trial trip in a rented diesel-powered and factory-built Fiat Ducato back in 2020, we knew we could do without a shower. We used the onboard shower in our rental campervan only two times on that trip and felt that the added benefit of having an indoor shower just didn’t justify the amount of space it would take up, plus the water consumption it requires.
We decided to install a rotating tap in our kitchen instead, which we can turn into an outdoor shower to rinse off after a swim or hike. We went with a 64-liter (17 gallons) freshwater tank and a 32-liter (8.5 gallons) grey water tank, which lasts us about a week on the road (based on our 7-week trip through Scandinavia).
Even though we didn’t build a shower or bathroom cabinet, we did want to have a toilet. Apart from the freedom this gives us, we also think it’s important to have if you want to camp in the wild on a regular basis and leave nothing behind but footprints. We chose a Nature’s Head because we really love the concept of a composting toilet, as it’s the most environmental-friendly option for a campervan, and so easy to use! We have to empty out the pee bottle about once every two or three days, and we just flush it down a normal toilet or at a dedicated waste station. The composting container (where the poo goes) lasted us the entire trip through Scandinavia, we didn’t need to empty it once! It also doesn’t smell at all, which is great since the toilet sits under our desk, where we can easily pull it out using rails.
Our bed, storage space and seats
Unfortunately, Jurrien is just too tall to be able to sleep comfortably in a width bed, which is why we ended up ordering the extended H2 L3 Fiat E-Ducato (which is 6m / 12ft long) so we could have a length bed. Our bed’s 1.40m (4,6ft) by 2m (6,6ft), which leaves us with ample space on one side for storage. Jur created a cabinet using light-weight aluminium profiles and plastic Euro boxes. All of our clothes fit easily and we even have some space left!
He also built the kitchen and desk space area using the same aluminium construction. We converted our two front seats into swivel seats, so they function as our lounge chairs and office chairs when we’re parked. This does mean that we don’t have extra seats for guests, but we do have a camping table and two camping chairs to be able to fit more people if we want to. So far, we’ve always sat with guests outside, but we’ll see how this goes come winter!
Improvements to make
That’s our setup and layout in a nutshell. Hopefully, after reading this you’ll have a better understanding of the choices we made and our aims with the van. After the summer, when we’re back in the Netherlands, we’ll finish the build (we still have install the walls, a ceiling and new countertops) and we want to create an in-depth van tour video. Meanwhile, we have a 60-second van tour of our current setup up on our socials, which you can watch here on Instagram and here on YouTube. We’d love to hear what you think of our van build, so if you have any comments or questions, you can reach out to us via our contact form or send us a message via Youtube or Instagram