October 10, 2023

TT# 136 What about on-Board AC Power Systems?

By: Rob Lowe

In Technical Tip #135, I introduced the reality that built-in and portable generators as we know them, will become a thing of the past, as those equipment makers comply with stricter California Air Resources Board (CARB) standards. These power systems will also be required to comply with the Small Off-Road Engine (SORE) requirements.


Cummins acknowledges that their recently announced Hybrid system is a ‘stepping-stone’ along the path to an emission-free power system, that will become necessary as emission standards become even more stringent.


My expectation is that as the industry moves towards Electric Vehicle powertrains, the battery and charging system that provides power to that motive system will also supply power to the house systems. With low voltage (such as 48 Volt) motors powering air conditioners, the use of induction cooktops and other more efficient electric appliances, the need for a generator and an on-board propane system will diminish to zero. An integrated power system for the RV house and mobility (chassis) systems (with sufficient safeguards to maintain the powertrain system) will flip the concept of an RV with duplicate power systems to an integrated power system thereby eliminating substantial duplication of systems to meet the existing requirement that coach and chassis systems be independent. This collaboration is already evident on the newer, smaller EV RVs that are in various stages of testing at the time this article is be written in 2023. There will be a need for RV Chassis makers to allow RV ‘body’ makers to interface with the chassis systems which is often a stumbling block on smaller RVs at the present time. Each maker will need to comply with Federal standards and reduce the risk associated with a RV maker connecting into the chassis systems to produce a product that can be much simpler for the RV owner to manage and maintain.


One of the concerns expressed by existing Chassis makers is the potential for damage to the alternator due to the addition of substantial electrical requirements of the RV coach systems. Frequently those RV makers try to reduce the risk of damage by installing a second dedicated alternator powered by the vehicle engine, to eliminate any potential issue with the chassis power system. When Lithium Batteries were installed in RVs, the makers installed a battery-to-battery charging system to eliminate the risk of alternator damage due to the increased power requirements that these new battery systems could place on the Chassis maker’s charging system.  With EV powertrains the battery is more than large enough to power both the needs of the powertrain and the Coach systems. Charging will need to prioritize the powertrain side to ensure that while the coach is on the road. the needs of the coach are minimized to maximize travel range. When stopped the coach system will have priority provided that the appropriate range is maintained for travel.     


The concept of powering the coach at a campsite to operate will move to the campsite providing power to charge the towing vehicle and the trailer or to charge the EV RV for all onboard systems. The RVIA has been involved in communications with the campground industry to alert them to the changes that are imminent.  Many of the larger campground networks are already making the necessary improvements to accommodate the upcoming models.


Campgrounds of the future will have to update and maintain a more robust power system, most likely including substantial solar charging capability and updated and duplicate electrical connections. A powerful future lies ahead for those RV makers ready to take the leap to EV RV’s.


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