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Old 06-08-2019, 12:10 PM   #1
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2020 Lithium RB 150 Low Roof PH Build

2020 SMB 144 RB Sprinter, Penthouse, and Lithium Build: Back from Fresno and have been discussing issues with Van Compass and Agile. Lots of thanks for the time spent by Fitz, rsamco, Backcountryguy, and others detailing their builds, Jesus at Agile and Mark at Van Compass for their product information, and Will at SMB. At this point my conclusions, subject to further work and due diligence are:

1. What I Considered: Looked at Earth Roamers, Earth Cruisers, GXV and others and keep coming back to the Sportsmobile for fun, maneuverability, and flexibility. They are all great vehicles but there are so many types and configurations for a reason. For our purposes, getting places and a few nights boondocking are the priorities. Harder to pull into small towns with an Earth Roamer, and around tight corners on Elwood Pass in Colorado, etc., with even a Sportsmobile. Then it came down to Classic versus Sprinter. As long distance travel is the priority and off-road secondary but desired, the Sprinter it is. Easier to make a Sprinter functional off-road than an Earth Roamer work in tight places. The Classic has the cool factor, but interior space of the Sprinter trumped the off-road secondary use. Home Port will be Pagasa Springs, Colorado for vehicle but home for us is Jupiter, Florida.

2. Weight Restrictions/Goals:

a. GVWR: 8,550
b. GAWRF: 3,970
c. Curb F: 3,009 (difference 961)
d. GAWRR: 5,360
e. Curb R: 2,304 (difference 3,056)
f. Max Load: 3,237 per Mercedes/4,017 on axle bearing

3. Component Weight Distributions:

a. Danhard- rear axle weight in spare tire location @ 50 lbs.
b. Espar 5- rear driver side @20 lbs.
c. Isotherm 130 midbody driver side - @ 95 lbs (50-50).
d. Inverter: Xantric Freedom 3000- rear axle (see lithium build below) @ 74 lbs.
e. Dual 300ah lithium battery system (600ah)- rear axle (see lithium build below) @ 174 lbs.
f. Agile 14 gallon fuel transfer tank or new Van Compass 40 gallon replacement- @ 87 lbs (6.217 x 14)- front axle.
g. Van Compass rock sliders- @ 144 lbs- midbody (50-50 axle distribution).
h. Solar panels - @ 100 lbs front axle.
i. Roof rack- @ 75 lbs rear axle.
j. Rear bumper with tire, box, and bikes - @ 250 lbs (guess).
k. Front bumper with winch- @ 200 lbs (guess).
l. RB 150 cabinetry- @ 300lbs (2/3 rear and 1/3 front) (guess).
m. Water 16 gal. (16 x 8) @ 128 (50-50 axle distribution).

Total: 1558 lbs
: 601 front axle and add 350 for two occupants- 951lbs or 10 lbs under
: 957 rear axle- 2,000 lbs under, but not counting gear, kayaks, etc.


4. Danhard AC

5. D5 heating system. No H88 but H12 is being added. Concluded in our use no need in the RB low top for secondary rear heat.

6. Lithium: Backcountryguy info, I would select Lithionics” package: - - -GTR12V300A-5D-DIN Battery x 2. Cost: $4100 each x2 = $8200
a. CTRL400-12V-FCC-RR-SOC-ACSense-DIN (battery management system w/ built in sensor to put power to “wake up” batteries if turned off due to low state of charge): Cost: $1650
b. Combiner box (2 port) –Cost: $925
c. Jumper for Combiner box – Cost: $120
d. SOC Meter (Optional, but really cool) – Cost; $350 ( this gives you an advanced battery meter that tells you specific state of charge at any one time, including how many usable amp/hours are left and how much power draw the system is currently using
e.Remote Reset on/off Lithionics – Cost: $175
f.Need to switch to a Xantrex Freedom 3012 - 3000W inverter: cost $1085
g. Xantrex Freedom Combox – Cost: $300
f. (Other parts needed you already have in your Order Entry sheet)

Total Cost to upgrade: $12811
- Main benefits: More advanced system in terms of battery protection and monitoring ability. [I am thinking there is also a possible redundancy here having two 300s.]

7. Van Compass and Agile:

a. Stage 6 likely or RIP. Also considering removable VC swaybar
b. 33” or 35” tires with beadlocks
c. Skid plates
d. Extra fuel cell- 14 reserved from Agile or 40 integral from VC, in design
e. Engine tuner
f. Understand VC bumper works with Parktronics (with winch)
g. Need to decide on SMB or ARB air compressor, with SMBs apparently in the way of fuel cells, etc.

8. Mercedes order is in to SMB-2020:
a. Silver Grey- its light blue
b. All heated items
c. H12
d. Leather where available
e. Parktronic
f. Mercedes Sat radio and Nav.
g. All parking, comfort, and driver assist items
h. 4.18 gear
i. Overhead box and seat nets
j. Swivel seats
k. Second Alternator (note, high idle no longer available)- bracket, but does Mercedes add the Alternator or does SMB?
l. Downhill speed assist
m. JW2 Deactivation lamps
n. 360 degree cameras

9. SMB
a. RB 150
b. Stainless Isotherm 130
c. Moderna
d. Grey fabrics
e. Leather where possible
f. Loncoin
g. Both showers (its an experiment and looking for a better rear enclosure design for the wife)
h. Curtains and nets
i. Raptor application and rails
j. Snorkel (thus no extra AGM battery)
k. Curved rigid front light bar
l. Led front and rear bumper lights
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Old 06-08-2019, 02:10 PM   #2
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Nice write up! Running out to work, thus no time for comments now, but they will come.
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Old 06-09-2019, 01:41 AM   #3
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Nice analysis, design, & writeup! I'm traveling so only able to make some quick comments:

* I question your axle weight projection -- my Starr van is probably a little lighter than yours will be (e.g., Aluminess nerfs instead of VC sliders, 1 vs 2 300 AH Lithiums, no A/C) and his "fully wet" weight, with almost no cargo & driver only, was 3700F/4300R (this was after Agile compressor & 2nd fuel tank add-ons, but before VC suspension, skid plate & F bumper add-ons => little heavier now)

* Your snorkle will not only preclude the aux battery but also the under-hood ARB compressor;

* The optional SMB-W compressor location is, in fact, where the 14g Agile aux fuel tank mounts;

I'm really interested in learning more about VC's upcoming 40g replacement fuel tank (e.g., does RB150 grey water plumbing get in the way? VC skid plate over stock tank still work?).
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Old 06-09-2019, 01:54 AM   #4
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Awesome FlaJoe! ����You’re going to love the lithium setup and that SOC meter is something I look at and use many times a day. It’s a huge benefit.

Having all that amp hours in the bank means never having to worry about power usage when boondocking. Truth of it is I think after ditching the rooftop a/c we’d have been fine with 400Ah.

Our SMB installed cair compressor underneath along with it’s associated tank have been trouble free to date.
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Old 06-09-2019, 03:04 AM   #5
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Awesome FlaJoe! You’ll love the lithium setup. After all the work getting that through with SMB we are very happy with it. Having all those amp hours in the bank means worry free boondocking power management. The SOC meter is one of the best features. I must scroll through the pages for a read on the battery bank 3-4x/day.

The SMB installed air compressors and tank underneath have been trouble free so far.

Both Agile and VC equipment the same. Both those companies and people associated are absolutely top-notch. We’re lucky to have them in the van community.
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Old 06-09-2019, 05:42 AM   #6
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Thanks for the comments guys and I'm hoping that this thread can pay it all forward:

1. My understanding is that the VC Stage 6 increases GAWR by approximately 15%. I am hoping not to need it, and most of my weights have been confirmed unless I have indicated it as a guess but I think they would be close. There is less than a 30 lb difference between the single 600 ah battery and two 300s, so that, the potential for redundancy, and the difference in controls mentioned in Backcountry's writeup are what trumped the single set up in my mind. That said, I am sure I am underestimating but using this as a constantly evolving build sheet, to track the progress, and wanted to get the info out there so it can be updated with comments, observations, and questions answered- like us all, hopefully to avoid mistakes and to learn from each other.

2. Rsamco, I see now why you don't have a snorkel. Given this vehicle will be used in the SW a lot and on dirt roads of Utah and Colorado working our way North (Canada, Alaska, et al), I am thinking the snorkel trumped the need for a secondary engine box battery. I wonder if it will ever get to Florida! I am also thinking that there has to be a way to jump the engine battery off the lithium and, dammit, I'm going to find a spot for a compressor- I hope!

3. My guess is that VC's 40 will occupy the same space as Agile's 14 plus the original, and I applied that extra weight in each case on the front axle. They haven't completed the design but state it will be longer. Perhaps both directions. A question I have is how the gauge(s) will work with the new VC. There are some pros and cons to both. I kind of like the "need" to transfer and the timer switch set up, but the 40 replacement would avoid an additional and separate system.

4. Got to have a compressor: I am likely limiting water to 16 gallons. Not sure yet where that goes, but there seems to be space on the passenger side. I don't intend to carry my grey water for very long. Seems like a compressor could be worked in on the driver side, to the side or under the muffler. This has become my new project. I have seem some nice portable compressors, but would love to a avoid it.

5. Would also like to have the VC XL storage box, but I am told the spare tire undercarriage space is where and only where the Danhard goes.

6. Sramco, your Starr seems to be the closest to my build and I now see some of the compromises you made- no snorkel and no Danhard. Your switches, outlet, and dimmer locations will likely be where mine go.

7. A fundamental decision I made was to use the Mercedes stock Sat/Nav/etc., because I have had issues in my years in swapping out factory for aftermarket- electrical systems do funny things and having factory integrity and warranties make me sleep better. The 2020 supposedly has an updated counsel and screen. We will likely also add separate and independent systems installed by SMB for sound, wifi, backup Nav, Sat phone, computer monitor AV, etc.
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Old 06-09-2019, 11:17 AM   #7
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Additional comments, in no particular order:


1. My understanding is that the VC Stage 6 increases GAWR by approximately 15%. The reality of real-world use is that many fully built-out vans exceed GAWR. I doubt very much that you will get VC to agree in writing with the above statement, but many vans are out running down the road carrying the extra weight well with an improved suspension. Insurance issues come into this discussion, be sensitive to that when looking for comments.


2. You mention installing a Danhard AC. These go under the van and clearance must be a consideration. Have you ever crawled under a van that has one installed? If not, I suggest you find a van with one and determine if you want the unit hanging down there. The VC skid plate package does a great job of protecting things, but not this...

Also, note that in this picture (this is a 4wd 144) the unit is forward of the rear axle, thus it is not in conflict with the rear box option as you mentioned.


3. Tire sizes. Agile recommends 275/70/17's (32's) for their RIP kit. You say 33” or 35” tires with beadlocks, I believe that drives you to the VC Stage 6 (which I have and love). At 40k I am about to replace my tires, and I'm almost decided that I will be moving up to 285/70/17's (33's). This is a personal choice, but I do not want to install spacers and I am concerned that a tire much larger than this will require giving up too much performance (because of the NCV3's lack of ability to re-gear. It looks like the VS30 gives you a lower option, is this correct?). At 245/75/16 (stock size), the rear axle ratio is 3.92. With 265/70/17's (popular SMB option, what I am currently running) the rear axle ratio is 3.77, with 275/70/17's (popular Agile option) the rear axle ratio is 3.70. The 285/70/17's I am considering will put me at 3.60, if one were to go all the way to 35/12.5/17's they will be in the 3.4 range. This discussion and decision is integral to the overall weight question, I am very curious as the thoughts of you and others on this topic.


4. Related to the above, consider tire & wheel weight and the ability to change a flat tire in off-road conditions. The stock Continental tire that the van comes with weighs 46.6 pounds, a 35/12.5/17 Nitto Ridge Grappler weighs 75.5 pounds, and whatever wheel you select will weigh more also. Lifting the van means the stock MB jack is next to useless, AAA is not (for me) an option, thus the reason I carry both an ARB Air Jack and a High Lift jack and have the VC sliders that are designed to accept the High Lift jack. ARB has come out with a new hydraulic jack that may be an option to the High Lift jack, this is a consideration if Mark and Rob at VC will verify (or modify) that it will work with their sliders. Give this aspect of your build proper consideration. A flat tire on the trail is a bad day, not being prepared for it is much, much worse. FYI, John at Agile told me that price on the Hummer jack he sells is going up, this is another option if you don't mind (I do) having a jack that goes under the van in off-road conditions.


5. I am also thinking that there has to be a way to jump the engine battery off the lithium. Backcountryguy is working through this issue now, I believe his solution will be as simple as installing a small battery charger dedicated to the engine battery (normally connected to shore power) that can be powered from the lithium bank that will provide the ability to charge the engine battery in times of need. I am also confident that Blue Sea Systems has a switch option that would allow combining the batteries (not for charging) but just for combining in the case of a low engine (starter) battery. Scalf will know....


6. Additional fuel capacity. More and more options are becoming available, and that's a good thing. I talked to VC about this topic back when they were in Atascadero CA and they weren't interested, I'm glad to see that they are throwing their hat in the ring now and I'm sure their offering will be well-designed and well-built. I have the standard (driver's side) tank and the Agile/Aero 14 gallon (passenger's side) auxiliary tank, I like the weight distribution aspect of this combination. You say: my guess is that VC's 40 will occupy the same space as Agile's 14 plus the original, I think you meant to say 20 vs. 14. The 20 is mounted on the driver's side forward of the stock tank, the 14 is mounted on the passenger's side opposite the stock tank.


7. Solar panels. I have 200 watts and am glad that I do, but I also have an AGM house battery. I seriously question that solar panels are a necessity with a robust lithium system, I suggest you put this in the "nice-to-have" category and continue to ask questions from those with the lithium systems. My inclination would be to eliminate the panels or to reduce to one panel whose primary function would be to keep the engine battery topped up. I will be curious to see what discussion this generates!


8. You say: Engine tuner. Are you looking at a true tuner option (like a 5 Star) or are you talking about a PedalBox? I have the PedalBox and like it a lot, but it is not a tuner. If a true tune, what are you looking at?


9. You list a Roof Rack, that means you will most likely be looking for a ladder. There are several options on the market, what are you considering? Van Compass, Aluminess and Roambuilt come immediately to mind... Note that this ties into the jack discussion, as VC offers the option (which I have) to mount a High Lift jack in combination with their ladder and slider.


10. Snorkel. We often find ourselves in the dusty Southwest and I have yet to regret not having a snorkel. My opinion - the space is much better used to mount the twin ARB air compressor.


11. You say: Second Alternator (note, high idle no longer available)- bracket, but does Mercedes add the Alternator or does SMB? MB adds the alternator bracket, SMB will install the second alternator. Too bad about loosing the high idle feature, we use it often. But we also use it because we have a single 4D AGM house battery, the high capacity lithium system you will have will most likely make having this feature much less necessary.


Lots of us will be staying tuned to see your final direction and decisions. Thanks in advanced for letting us share the journey!


Fitz
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Old 06-09-2019, 12:17 PM   #8
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Good stuff and you have me thinking:

1. Understand, with the goal to be as light as possible. I was happy to hear the thought is the aftermarket suspension was believed to be more robust and not only smoother.

2. You have me questioning the Danhard and whether I really need it. It is the primary reason for the larger lithium system. With our travels likely mostly in the fall, at least until last child is out of college, may not be needed. It was clear from the guys working on the underside at SMB that the unit will be in the spare tire well. Perhaps it is a new design. I am going to look into this further. Thanks.

3. As I understand it, it is desirable to order the van with the 4.18 gear. My inclination is to use 285/70/17's (33's) but I am a novice with much of this, and particularly with gears, wheels, and tires. I am now on a mission to get better on this topic.

4. Beginning to look into high lift and your comments are appreciated.

5. Glad to here there appear to be various options on the engine battery backup and look forward to resolution of an optimum solution.

6. I may have misunderstood Jesus here, but I do like to here the 14 is on the passenger side. I was thinking the VC 40 replaced the stock 26 plus 14 Agile= VC 40. I might become concerned with too much driver side weight as this moves along.

7. That's an interesting observation on the need for solar with a robust lithium set up, given the use we and most others plan for these vehicles- the boondocking is relatively short stayed in any one place. That's part of the reason for a Van versus an Earth Roamer or other larger vehicles.

8. If there is anything that won't affect a warranty, that is what I would get. My sons are more knowledgeable of tuning and I will be catching up. I've seen the pedal box and understand it takes out some of the acceleration lag. I have been reading about Renntech tuners. This is an open issue for me with what I believe will be some compromising, with affect on warranty a significant consideration.

9. Part of my rock slider decision was based on the VC ladder. I like the top and bottom mounting systems. I am also interested in having an option for kayaks, and was leaning toward the solar panels in front of a basket rack but this is completely open at this time.

10. I appreciate this comment and I see Rsamco may have made this decision, and if there is no alternative on a compressor the twin ARB is the direction I would go and I would give up the snorkel as you guys did.

11. SMB is saying a couple companies are coming out with aftermarket high idle systems. I am not sure it is necessary either, but its on my list to further investigate.

Really appreciate the comments and I will be refining much of the above. Thanks,

Joe
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Old 06-09-2019, 02:20 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Fitz View Post
FYI, John at Agile told me that price on the Hummer jack he sells is going up...
Fitz
No Joke! I started looking for one less than a year ago and prices for new were in the $50-75 range. In April I looked again and prices were in the $100-125 range. I got a surplus one on Ebay, looks never used but a little banged up, shipped for about $90. Just looked and Agile has them for $149 plus shipping, HummerPartsGuy has them for $175 plus shipping now (this seller was one of the low-priced options when I first started looking)!

Add about $100 if you want the Agile cradle to go on top.

The jack is great, though. A very beefy scissor jack with lots of reach. We carry this and a hi-lift, but a tire change is pretty difficult with the hi-lift on these heavy vans. Fitz's pillow jack looks interesting, especially on soft ground.
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Old 06-09-2019, 08:25 PM   #10
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Couple more comments:
1. We have the Parktronic. Due to the Aluminess rear bumper and Agile hidden winch install it needs to be disabled every time we start the vehicle, otherwise it alarms continuously. We’re good with that but if you want to use it as designed the front and rear bumpers need to be unencumbered.
2. Solar: We have it, but don’t need it. I’d say it’s nice to have the extra monitor but knowing what I know now about our amp hour capacity I wouldn’t have installed it at build. In addition, SMB created a 2nd roof penetration for it which we could have eliminated.
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