This electric section consists of the following with a flow at the bottom of each section: 



Now there's your vehicles engine battery, the power source that starts the vehicle. The battery you are purchase for the van build is termed, your "leisure" battery since it is the lifeline, the power source for your build. If feeds your lights, refrigeration, cooling, water pump and other equipment that you have onboard. Depending on the configuration, it will also feed your 120v outlets.

As I performed my research, I found out a lot about batteries and electrical equations, since determining what type of battery to purchase is important based your intended energy usage, termed load.

Batteries today will have an AH (amp hours) designation along with their battery type. For example, if you have a 100 amp hour 12v battery, we multiply 100 by 12 and determine that the battery will provide 1200 watt hours or 1.2 kWh (kilowatt hours). To put this into perspective, your 1850 watt hairdryer running for 30 mins will eat up most of your 1.2 kWh drawing about .937 kWh. You can imagine what an air conditioner will draw, the typical size being 9000 BTU is equivalent to about 3000 watts. Not worth spending your daily load for a few minutes of AC, now is it?

That number needs to be considered to determine. You do not need a math degree to perform these calculations, but you do need to determine your consumption, your batteries capacity and how you plan on charging the battery, since your leisure battery can be charged 1) while you’re driving via a split charging unit, 2) while you’re parked via shore power outlet and 3) via solar, or a combination of all these options. 

Battery Types

For the most part, there are four types of leisure batteries to choose from on the market: "wet" lead acid battery, gel, AGM and Lithium. Of these batteries the "wet" lead acid battery, gel and AGM are all versions of the lead acid battery.  When we speak about Deep Cycle batteries, these are versions of the above three amigos but configured to withstand discharges using most of the batteries capacity for a number of discharge cycles with a higher survival rate before replacement is required. 

"Wet Cell" Lead Acid Battery

The "wet-cell" battery gets it name from the fact that the fluid (battery acid) is free to move around the cells. These would be the flooded battery that I remember in my initial vehicles having to check the fluid levels in this battery in my '66 Chevy.  The "sealed" version of this battery still allows for fluid movement, but is called maintenance free because you and I do not have access to the cells to fill them.  I did not go any further with my research for these types of batteries, since I did not see anyone using them in their builds.

Gel Battery

The fluid in this type of lead acid battery has an additive that causes it to congeal to a gel. Research has uncovered that he recharge voltages on this type of cell are lower than the other styles of lead acid battery and this may be be prone to issues with continual over-voltage charging.

They do perform well in deep cycle applications and in how weather. 

What I liked: 

Renogy Deep Cycle Pure Gel Battery 12V 200 AH (more info) 

Why:  10 year projected service life and 1100 cycles.

AGM Battery

An "Absorbed Glass Mat," is a specific type of lead-acid battery with an efficient rate of charging and discharging.  This is the number 1 battery used in van's solar applications. AGM's life cycle is best maintained when your discharge rate does not fall below 50%.   

What I liked: 

VMAX XTR4D-200 4D 12V 200ah Deep Cycle AGM SLA Xtreme Battery (more info) 

Why: The robust temperature operating range and the in depth information I found on the batteries service life based on the percent of discharge prior to recharging:

% Discharge 10%     #Cycles: 3000+

% Discharge  25%    #Cycles: 1500 - 2000

% Discharge  50%    #Cycles: 900 - 1100

% Discharge  75%    #Cycles: 600 - 750

% Discharge  100%  #Cycles:  300

What I liked: 

Renogy Deep Cycle AGM Battery 12 Volt 200Ah for RV, Solar, Marine, and Off-Grid Applications (more info

Why: Price point for the project and Renogy's reputation with solar applications. 

Lithium Battery

People are funny about newer technology with folks that absolutely love lithium batteries and those that hate them. I was open to exploring this energy source.  The price however can destroy one's build budget, coming in at more than double the price of a good AGM.  I did discover the attractiveness of the it's light weight at under 30 pounds for a 100ah, longer service life and getting almost double the capacity in a 100ah battery due to the denser size and larger discharge capacity versus battery life, so in essence a 100ah would perform as well as a 200ah AGM. 

What I liked: 

Battleborn 100 Ah LiFePO4 12 Volt Deep Cycle Battery (more info

Why:  Weight, 8 year full replacement warranty, and the projected 3000-5000 cycles. Although it was more expensive, I chose the lithium batteries. At 29 lbs a piece I could easily move and position them in the van, it did not add the additional weight like other batteries would to the build.   

I connected my two 12v batteries together using 2/0 cable, positive to positive and negative to negative. For informational purposes,  2/0 AWG cable is not a 2 gauge wire, the 0 after the slash 2/0 pronounced "aught" is the wire size times the number of zeros. 

Other Components You'll Need

Below are links to the other components in the parts list I used in my build to complete this electric flow.

Below is the flow I used to connect my two  12v batteries together.

Split Charge


Split Charge

Split charging for our purposes is when both the van's engine battery and the leisure battery(s) are charged at the same time while we drive from one location to another. 

This simultaneous charge first favors the van's engine battery until it reaches a voltage threshold monitored by the Voltage Sensitive Relay (VSR), typically 13.3 volts for the engine battery,, then starts charging your leisure battery as well. It's also equipped with the technology to ensure that one battery does not draw current from the other to ensure that your van's engine battery is always ready to start your vehicle.  

What I liked: 12V 140 Amp Dual Battery Smart Isolator 

Why: Reviews and price point 

Other Components You'll Need

Below are links to the other components in the parts list I used in my build to complete this electric flow.

Below is a diagram of the flow where I connected the following:

  • Positive Flow (Red): Engine Battery cable (4 AWG) to split charger to 100 AMP fuse to Kill Switch to Leisure Battery.
  • Negative Flow (Black): for Ground: Engine Battery cable (4 AWG) to the Leisure Battery.



I found it fascinating to learn that I was not going to be able to just add an outlet and plug in my 120 v appliances without another piece of equipment. Since the leisure batteries are 12 volt, I needed an inverter to convert this energy from the battery for my everyday appliances.  For those of you who do not know what this is, simply put, it coverts direct current (DC), the 12v stuff alternating current (AC) that 120v stuff that powers your microwave, hair dryer, etc. To add a layer of complication, you can also purchase an inverter/charger, which when you are plugged into an external power source, like 30 AMP shore power, it will also charge your batteries.

Some people can get away with only 12-volt connections in their build. I was just not one of those people, the thought of having to give up my Italian made perfect pump action espresso machine that brews the most absolutely orgasmic cup of morning brew was a deal breaker.   

In researching inverters I found many, with different price points.  Here are my top four in order:

I really liked the Goal Zero, but hated the price. For me, it was a tossup between the AIMS 3000 inverter charger and the Xantrex.  I ended up going with the Xantrex Freedom XC 2000.  I got on the phone with their support team who provided great information about its compatibility with Lead Acid (Gel and AGM) and lithium batteries, the charging feature, the optional Freedom Xc Digital Remote Panel that I purchased to easily shut down the inverter when not in use to save energy and a price point that was not off the charts.

Other Components You'll Need

Below are links to the other components in the parts list I used in my build to complete this electric flow.

Below is a diagram of the flow where I connected the following

  • Positive: RED 2/0 cable to a 200 AMP fuse to the leisure battery positive terminal.
  • Negative: Black – 2/0 cable to the leisure battery negative terminal.
  • Connection on inverter for output to the AC Distribution Panel (120v breaker panel)

Shore Power


Shore power is the supply of power from an external source, like a 30 AMP RV hookup. For rigs who splurge on air conditioners, you will definitely need to "plug in" if you want to use them.

If you have an inverter/charger, the battery will be charged when you plug into an external power source or outlet.  

Most campsites that offer power will do so in 30 AMP and 50 AMP flavors. If you have a large RV with lots of appliances, then, 50 AMP makes sense.  You do not, however need that kind of juice for a camper van. I opted for 30 AMP service. I also opted for a 15 AMP adapter so if I was at my friends house I could plug into their outside regular outlet and charge my batteries.

Components You'll Need

Below are links to the other components in the parts list I used in my build to complete this electric flow.

Other Components you need to consider purchasing:



Solar Panels

There are a couple of options that I researched when it comes to the type of solar panels

  • Monocrystalline Solar Panels
  • Polycrystalline Solar Panels

So what's the difference. Well, Mono means single and in this application it is single-crystalline silicon solar cells.  Poly panels are made with multi-crystalline silicon solar cells. As far as usage, Poly panels may cost less, but they are not as efficient as monocrystalline solar panels.

Let's add another layer to the mix here, in the way of the type of panel: rigid or semi-flexible. There are advantages to both of them, so let me spell it out for you:

  • Rigid solar panels have a longer life span than flexible solar panels. They are also at a lower price point. 
  • Flexible solar panels are lighter and thinner and can bend approximately 30 degrees.

My goal was to use adhesive to put my solar panels on the roof of my van. I also wanted to maximize the number of panels.

Below were my top options that made consideration in order:

Because of the placement of my fan and the available overhead space based on my Dodge Promaster 159 wheelbase, I optioned for the Renogy 100 Watt panels.. Staggering them on top of the roof, allowed me to place 500 watts of solar panels.

Solar Controllers

A solar controller regulates the voltage coming in from those wonderful energy absorbing panels on the roof of your van so the batteries will not be damaged by overcharging.  Depending on the number of total watts in your solar panels will determine what size solar controller you will need, 20 AMP, 30 AMP, 40 AMP, etc.

Below were my top options that made consideration in order:

I opted with the 40 AMP Solar Controller through EPEVER, since it has a Max 100V,  can take up to 520Watts of solar panel input (I have 500 watts) was compatible with both Lead-Acid and Lithium Batteries and included a small display monitoring unit all with a price point was not unreasonable.  

Other Components You'll Need

Below are links to the other components I used in my build to complete this electric flow.

Other Components to consider purchasing that I included in my build:

For 12 Volt Panel

For Solar Panels

Complete Electric Schematic

Below is the complete electrical schematic for connecting all the components for the build including, the 12v, the solar, the inverter, shore power and split charge.