October 24, 2020

Ultimate Solar Powered Lance Truck Camper (DIY Spotlight)

DIY Spotlight - Solar Powered Lance 1172 Truck Camper

Meet Bud from Oak Harbor, Washington. Inspired by a video series on YouTube, Bud transformed his Lance truck camper into an ultimate off-grid solar and lithium powered camper. Find out why he took on this DIY project and what he learned along the way. 

Bud was kind enough to answer a few questions about his project and share some photos of his install. Here’s what he had to say.

What Kind of RV Do You Have?

I have a 2017 Lance 1172 truck camper that we are living in for the near and distant future.

Tell Us About Your Project

I got inspired to upgrade the electrical system in our Lance truck camper and install solar from your videos. The spark really came from the Go North Series of the YouTube channel Mortons on the Move

Tom Morton did a 500 Ah Battle Born upgrade to an identical Lance camper. I went a bit farther. I also ditched the generator.

Before the upgrade, my truck camper had a 100W solar panel, a PWM 30 Amp solar charge controller and two group 24 batteries installed.

I replaced the two batteries with two Battle Born 100 Ah lithium batteries, then added three more in the nearby storage compartment for a total of 500 Ah of lithium capacity. A bluetooth battery monitor and large inverter/charger were also added. 

Battle Born Lithium Drop In Replacement Batteries
2 x Battle Born 100 Ah BCG2 Drop In Replacement Batteries – Step compartment near main equipment bay

Finally, I installed a lithium compatible DC-to-DC charger to recharge the lithium batteries from my alternator while driving.

My 100W solar panel was replaced with 680 watts of lightweight high efficiency flexible solar panels on the roof to keep my lithium batteries charged up. 

New Components of my Off-Grid System

DIY Solar and lithium off-grid components
Bud’s equipment bay with battery, inverter and solar charging equipment – two more batteries are located in another compartment
  • 4 x 170 Watt SunPower Flexible solar panels
  • 5 x Battle Born 100AH BCG2 LiFePO4 Lithium Batteries
  • Victron 100/50 MPPT Solar Charge Controller
  • 3000 Watt Victron Multiplus Hybrid Inverter
  • Victron BMV 712 and Shunt
  • Victron Orion 12|12 30A DC-DC Charger

Parts List Inspired by Bud’s Solar Project

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Why Did You Choose Flexible Solar Panels?

I decided to go with the flex panels for two reasons. Primarily because I didn’t want to drill into my roof mounting rigid metal framed panels. Second was the extra weight metal framed panels would add to an already heavy load

I saw your episode where you mounted SunPower 110 watt panels and your clever mounting technique. That sealed the deal. 

170 watt SunPower flexible solar panels
4 x 170 watt SunPower Semi Flexible Solar Panels mounted on the roof of the truck camper

Knowing what I wanted and the limited roof area I have, there wasn’t enough room to mount the number of 100 watt panels for the power I wanted. 

Sunpower offered a 170 watt panel where I could mount four and get the power I was looking for. They are two parallel arrays in series connected to a Victron 100V/50A MPPT charge controller. 

Since the solar panels are all identical, I connected them in series. 

What Did You Learn?

The first thing I learned was to plan and plan some more and never get into a hurry or grow impatient.

Living in Australia while my camper was stored here at home presented some unique challenges in solar and power upgrades. I took advantage of what I could while living Down Under (Battle Born Black Friday Sale) and waited until we got home in February this year to get good measurements and make smart and informed choices (solar panels). 

The other thing I came to learn is that there are a lot of like minded folks out there who want to see us succeed with our projects (like yourself) that I can ask questions and get answers and solutions for things I’m struggling with. 

What Part of the Project Was More Difficult Than Expected?

The hardest part for me has been working with my truck camper and the tiny spaces. 

Although the 1172 is the top line of Lance Camper, the manufacturing techniques Lance uses to build their coaches leaves very little room to chase and pull wiring for the upgrades. 

Thankfully I was able to reutilize much of the OEM wiring due to Lance’s excellent design. They were also available to answer questions and supply drawings when needed. 

What Part of the Project Was Easier Than Expected?

Easier? That’s a hard one! I think what came easiest was connecting all the components together. 

I spent 30 years in the Navy working on avionics. I’ve had a lot of training and experience with connectors, wires, and installation and removal of components from aircraft weapons systems. I felt pretty comfortable and confident going through the installations.

I also had some pretty good coaching through YouTube video channels. 

What Are Your Travel Plans Once You Get Back On The Road?

We’re pretty close to hitting the road. We started planning an Alaska adventure for this Summer in October of 2019 and then head to Georgia from there for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. 

Well, we all know what has happened with COVID-19 and the quarantine. Our plans have changed. 

We now plan to leave in a few weeks for a one year road trip across America

We’re heading to the Great Lakes and the UP of Michigan for a bit and then work our way across New England to visit friends in Maine. We served together in the 90s and haven’t seen each other since. We’re also going there because I’ve never seen New England. 

We’ll head south in the fall and observe the beautiful colors the NE is known for. We’re still planning to spend the holidays in GA and then continuing south to the keys and then across the Southern two lanes to the desert SW and explore the wonders of those areas. 

We’ll return home in June 2021 just in time to see two of my granddaughters graduate high school. Alaska may be added next year after graduation, but for now it’s off the table. 

That’s the plan, but we make plans so we can deviate from them when needed. Otherwise we’re just wandering.  

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