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Old 04-25-2019, 02:12 PM   #1
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2018 Sprinter 4x4 RB150S Lithium Build ("Starr Van")

After an almost 2 year gestation, we took delivery of a 2018 2500 4x4 RB150S Sprinter van from SMB-West last month. We are extremely pleased with the result and have christened him "Starr" (viz. Walter "Pete" Starr & "Starr's Guide"). I have posted a gallery of photos on my photography website: imageGallery.

Up front, I wish to give a HUGE thanks to everyone on this forum -- Starr would be a poor rendition of himself without the experiences & ideas that you documented on this forum. I'd like to especially thank Fitz, whose forum thread & hosted Flint visit, were especially invaluable. I intend for this thread to "pay forward" some of what is owed to all.

I think that the best way to efficiently describe Starr's details is to give you his birth documents (all attached to this post):

Mercedes Order
SMB-West Production Order
Color Selections
All Terrain Audio Order

And since taking delivery in Vegas, we have added the following to Starr:

14.5g aux. fuel tank (Agile Offroad)
Under-hood ARB air compressor (Agile Offroad)
Tied D5 Heater to engine's coolant loop (Rixen; for on-the-road rear heating)
Van Compass Stage 6 suspension lift & upgrade
Van Compass Front Receiver Hitch
Van Compass Skid Plate System
Winch wiring to both bumpers
Relion Battery Monitor

My only known remaining significant decision: a receiver-mount winch.

Starr seems to have blazed a somewhat new path in the area of Lithium power, and I plan to go into detail there in a future post.

Note that I did start a forum thread that helped me during design investigations, but I decided to start this new thread going forward.

That's it for now...
Attached Files
File Type: pdf Samco - Sprinter Order.pdf (502.0 KB, 65 views)
File Type: pdf Samco - PO Sheet.pdf (134.2 KB, 57 views)
File Type: pdf Samco - Color Select.pdf (119.4 KB, 38 views)
File Type: pdf Samco - Audio2.pdf (80.7 KB, 46 views)
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2018 Sprinter 4x4 RB150S w/PH Lithium Build ("Starr Van")
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Old 04-25-2019, 02:34 PM   #2
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did you consider 600amp batteries? Nice rig!
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Old 04-25-2019, 03:18 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlaJoe View Post
did you consider 600amp batteries? Nice rig!
Second this.

My van came with a standard (if not stronger than average) battery/solar setup but my needs are still likely beyond that (will find out for sure on our first big trip out east in 3 weeks). I will be aiming at 600 AH useable in time, probably starting at 400AH useable out of the gate to spread the cost around. 400 is my min need for any serious boondocking but 600 gives me just that extra bit of security

I was leaning very heavily toward lithium as well but after being pointed at the new Carbon Foam AGM from Firefly I am back on the fence. These offer the same 80 - 100% DOD without damage that lithium do and are less expensive. The only thing missing is the speed of charge and weight savings. But given you can buy a lot fewer batteries to get your useable AH the weight difference is much more manageable and brings the "how much am I willing to spend to save weight?" question back into view.

That said, as I upgrade any component of the overall system (charger/inverter/solar charge controller/secondary alternator/etc) I will be selection options with programmable support for all charging profiles from Lead-acid to AGM to Lithium to keep my overall system ready for whatever future battery choices I may make.
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Old 04-25-2019, 06:16 PM   #4
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Rick,

Very nice, can't wait to put Flint and Starr side-by-side! Thanks for gathering the information into one location, now get ready to start answering questions!
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Old 04-26-2019, 11:58 AM   #5
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Starr's Lithium Power Story
Lithium power options and pricing in general, and at SMB-West in particular, changed a lot during the 2 years that Starr was in development. Lithium's advantages over AGM (i.e., weight savings, depth of discharge/DOD, increased life/recharge cycles, and speed of recharging) were attractive; increased environmental constraints and highish price were not so much. During this time, long-established AGM technology/products appeared stable and unchanging (announcement of Carbon Foam AGMs is only very recent news). One huge change was that the RVIA removed the requirement that Lithium enclosures be vented.

SMB-W's Lithium offerings changed from a ala cart menu of 2-3 ever-changing battery choices to a single "No Brand" solution, where they were free to focus on designing a single configuration of pieces that "just works." It was reported on this forum that they had built a few Lithium powered vans, but apparently none in my popular RB150S floor plan. Last fall when I had to commit to a final design, I took a deep breath and took the leap with Lithium. When I was then given the final Production Order floorplan to approve, I noticed that the Lithium battery's enclosure box took up a full half of the rear under-bed storage area! Not only is this a huge loss of the obvious storage space, but precluded me from the planned installation of the Van Compass under-floor storage box. Not good! So, I STRONGLY pushed back on making the enclosure smaller, but I only got "that's the way it has to be" (one guess at the time: their single Lithium solution was designed for both 1 & 2 batteries). So, then I pushed to have the battery installed anywhere else so as to not loose all that storage space. I was lobbying to put it under the driver-side closets, losing as much of that less-valuable-to-me lower storage area as necessary. Still, no-go on anything other than SMB-W's proposed solution. And all this is happening at the eleventh hour -- my van was supposed to be starting production, at the front of the just-arrived 50+ van wave. I feared that every day's delay in the van design's signoff and production start, was allowing other vans to slip in front of Starr. So, when I learned that SMB-West could custom install one of their under-floor boxes off-center in the remaining under-bed area, I sucked-it-up & signed off on that design.

So, fast forward to this March and we're in Fresno to pick up Starr... lo & behold, the Lithium battery enclosure is half the size of what was shown on the Production Order! And the under-floor storage box is in its typical centered position. Hallelujah! And their "No Brand" battery solution was:
  • Battery -- Relion RB-300 (one of my top two choices!)
  • PV Panels -- two Zamp 115W (yay!)
  • Solar Charge Controller -- Blue Sky SB3000i (OK choice; I would have preferred a Zamp)
  • Battery Monitor -- BM Pro bluetooth wireless (see below)
The BM Pro was a disappointment -- it only displays SOC as a simple percentage on its smart phone app, which bluetooth-connects to the monitor hardware mounted on the battery. The app continually pops to the forefront of your phone's display as it gains and loses connection -- VERY annoying. Furthermore, I noticed that its displayed SOC % was never less than 100%. Digging deeper, I learned that it was not Lithium compatible -- it was programmed only for AGM's relatively steep voltage SOC slope. So I returned it to SMB-W and thankfully no evidence was left behind (e.g., a cabinetry hole). I installed a Relion Battery Monitor, which I love. [see attachment for picture] It measures the voltage drop across a shunt installed on a battery's neg terminal, and therefore it can measure the actual instantaneous current in or out of the battery. And, after setting it up with your battery's capacity (300AH), it keeps a running total of AH out & in, so you get a very accurate SOC (in % or AH). But you can also display that instantaneously-measured +/- current. So you can easily see:
  • Device draws (e.g., idle inverter, induction cooktop at various heat levels, etc.) AND
  • Charging currents (e.g., solar at various times/seasons, 2nd alternator at various idle speeds, & shore-power; no need for a clamp-on ammeter)
And all this is continuously displayed for all to easily see, whenever (rather than having to pull out a phone).

Now, regarding battery capacity... 300AH was at the bottom limit of my desired total battery capacity, but interior van space is more important to me than another 100-300AH. And if 300AH proves insufficient once in awhile, Starr has the 170A 2nd alternator and high-speed idle option (alternator puts out 90A when battery is 90% SOC; more measurements to come). We have not taken Starr on an extended outing yet, so ...

One regret -- I wish that I had the originally planned Van Compass under-floor storage box. I had planned to store a receiver-mount winch there, and the smaller SMB-W box severely constrains my winch choices.
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2018 Sprinter 4x4 RB150S w/PH Lithium Build ("Starr Van")
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Old 04-26-2019, 12:20 PM   #6
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Rick,
Thanks for the lithium write up. Curious if charging the lithium batteries in cold weather ever came up and if so, how you plan on handling the same. Lithium clearly the wave of the future so its interesting to see how your install unfolded. Please keep us posted with some use statistics!
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Old 04-26-2019, 12:33 PM   #7
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Charging in cold weather was definitely a concern. Relion's built-in BMS prevents it from occurring (so battery damage not possible), so I'm not worried about a freezing interior when van is unoccupied (e.g., in storage). When occupied, Starr's D5 heater with Rixen thermostat will keep battery (& me) from freezing. BTW, I haven't seen this reported elsewhere: Rixen thermostat setpoint can be adjusted all the way down to 32F!
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Old 04-26-2019, 12:41 PM   #8
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That’s a smart move by Rixen. Sounds similar to the Webasto Dual Top Evo which has a frost protection setting. That setting keeps the cabin heated above freezing. Designed to keep water lines/batteries at better operational temps. Brilliant engineering.
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Old 04-26-2019, 07:34 PM   #9
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Great write up, thanks.............
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Old 04-27-2019, 01:00 PM   #10
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New SMB-W Options in Starr

Starr has at least 4 SMB-W options which I believe are new and which I haven't seen reported on by others:
  • Dimmable LED overhead-cabin & galley-under-shelf lighting -- dimming controlled by turn-knob-rheostats mounted on galley wall; love them! [picture attached]
  • Removable shelves in rear closet -- I had SMB-W install 2 shelves identical to what are typically installed in the front closet. With shelves removed, closet still can be used for hanging items. [picture attached]
  • New privacy curtain material -- for the privacy curtain mountable behind the driver and passenger captain seats.
  • New roll down, insulating shades -- on galley and rear passenger-side windows.
I plan to have a separate post re privacy curtains & window coverings ... I'll include details & photos of the last 2 above items there.
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LED_Dimmers.jpg   ClosetShelving.jpg  
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