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Living with Lithionics—Some Tips, Tricks, and Observations


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Fritz, thanks for taking the time to compile all this information! It will be very helpful to many people,  I'm sure. Certainly helpful to me.

 

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2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12
 

 

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Thanks for the information. We have the lithium but not fully understanding how it all works yet. We have used it to run the AC a few times and other electrical stuff while dry camping.

 

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Charlie & Cindy / Cleburne, TX / 2021 Elite II Hull #743 / 2013 Ford F250 Diesel 4WD Supercab

States we've camped in our Oliver:

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Thanks for the info! For all the things I like about Oliver for the price point there are a few things that really bother me. I am very surprised they are still not using an MPPT controller. They do nice things with the solar setup but the lack of an MPPT controller and an inverter that creates a hum inside the trailer is a big miss IMHO. One that makes me question a money out lay like they ask. The loud non-ducted AC and the use of a 2x2 antenna instead of a 4x4 are a couple of the others. 

My first impression was they used quality components (as much as they could understanding they are limited by outside quality). The more I research though the more I am finding things like this were they seemed to just go on the cheep side. PMW? Really?

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The simplest solution for vibration control would be to add a single layer of stereo sound mat under the inverter charger. Unfortunately it is quite heavy, but I don’t think you would have to cover the entire cabin wall with it.

The standard “isolation mount” in aircraft avionics is the Lord mount. Normally four are used in a horizontal position, but they do offer ones suitable for vertical mounting, these might work but they would move the inverter much further away from the cabin wall and that might create clearance issues or hinder access to other electrical stuff nearby. I have no clue how big the inverter is, so you would need to get the dimensions, weight and mounting hole sizes, study the compartment clearances, and maybe consult with a Lord tech advisor…..

https://www.lord.com/products-and-solutions/vibration-and-motion-control/aerospace-and-defense/equipment-isolators/multiplane-mounts


These high capacity chargers (as well as the batteries themselves) need better cooling than the factory design, but cutting vent holes in the lower electronics compartments will also let out the noise. It’s a big catch 22. Having that unit located right under the sleeping area is very unfortunate. It gets quite hot in there in summer and the air can’t get out….

I agree about the lack of an MPPT solar controller, it is a head scratcher; I sold my Zamp and replaced it with a Victron one when I converted to Battle Born lithiums. It is a much more capable charger, and it is fully programmable and can be networked through the VictronConnect app. And the lack of vehicle charging is also disturbing. IMHO Oliver should at least run two large gauge cables from the battery area up to the tongue and terminate them there in a weatherproof junction box. The owner could then easily add a big dc to dc lithium charger in the truck with minimal hassles, before or after delivery... the factory lithium packages are definitely works in progress.

Yours is a most informative and professionally presented post. Thank you. I hope you will do more of them. See my “HOW TO” page for my lithium and other mods. I am glad those have been informative over the years, as will be this thread. 

John Davies

Spokane WA

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"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags, Safari snorkel.

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Well done Fritz. Thanks for taking the time and providing in-depth detail. We are scheduled for March 2021 pickup. I thought lithium was a no brainer to add but rethinking a bit. Might opt for AGMs and upgrade later. 

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19 hours ago, Zodd said:

more I research though the more I am finding things like this were they seemed to just go on the cheep side. PMW? Really?

I don't think that's  a "cheap out." I think it's more an easier option for most owners.  Zamp is in no way "cheap" equipment.  It's solid, well tested, well received, usa based, and an integral part of the Oliver  solar package for a long time. 

Is it appropriate or best for lifepo4 batteries? No, imo,  not really. I suspect that will change, in the future. In the meantime,  if I were buying a lithium option, I'd ask for an mppt controller,  and if turned down, I'd swap it out.  The more people who ask, the greater likelihood of change. Heck, maybe zamp will even come out with an mppt someday soon. 

A solid industry tested  mppt controller would be a great addition to the system,  imo . We have victron on the boat, blue sky in our trailer, and lithium in neither (yet.) Both solar controllers are capable of working with lithium. We may, or may not, change up to lifepo4 in the future. I'm personally not sold, yet, on the expense or necessity,  for our needs. 

But,  truth is, most relatively  small pv systems (like what fits on the Oliie rooftop) could not fully recharge the big lithium batteries being sold today, on a regular basis, if drawn down to zero. The math doesn't support it. So, reliable,  proven easy to use Zamp is not such a bad choice, either.

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2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12
 

 

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35 minutes ago, SeaDawg said:

I don't think that's  a "cheap out." I think it's more an easier option for most owners.  Zamp is in no way "cheap" equipment.  It's solid, well tested, well received, usa based, and an integral part of the Oliver  solar package for a long time. 

Is it appropriate or best for lifepo4 batteries? No, imo,  not really. I suspect that will change, in the future. In the meantime,  if I were buying a lithium option, I'd ask for an mppt controller,  and if turned down, I'd swap it out.  The more people who ask, the greater likelihood of change. Heck, maybe zamp will even come out with an mppt someday soon. 

A solid industry tested  mppt controller would be a great addition to the system,  imo . We have victron on the boat, blue sky in our trailer, and lithium in neither (yet.) Both solar controllers are capable of working with lithium. We may, or may not, change up to lifepo4 in the future. I'm personally not sold, yet, on the expense or necessity,  for our needs. 

But,  truth is, most relatively  small pv systems (like what fits on the Oliie rooftop) could not fully recharge the big lithium batteries being sold today, on a regular basis, if drawn down to zero. The math doesn't support it. So, reliable,  proven easy to use Zamp is not such a bad choice, either.

I would agree with SeaDawg, I have recently completed a up grade to roof mounted panels and have had talked to Zamp about recommendations for charge controller for the rated watts of my solar array. They are very helpful and easy to talk to and for my size of system they recommend a mppt charge controller, they said they currently do not have one to offer to me but that in the future they will have one. It was in the process of being developed, I did purchase there panels for my project, I do think they make a quality product and I like the made in USA.    

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Thanks Fritz for the information about the Li batteries and related issues. Our Oliver is scheduled for delivery in March, and we’ve included the Li & solar options in our build sheet. I’m rethinking that now.

SeaDawg, I’ve made two requests for an MPPT solar charge controller, but have been told that still is not an option. Doesn’t make sense, unless it’s because, as you implied, Zamp doesn’t make an MPPT. But, if it’s easy to swap out, wonder why Oliver doesn’t just make it an option? Maybe they won’t mix and match brands? I’ve also expressed my concern about not being able to charge the Li batteries from the TV while towing, but I’ve not yet chatted with anyone other than my sales rep about these issues.

We’ve never owned an RV, but are long time sailers, and based on our experience with deep cycle AGM batteries and the notable concerns expressed in this thread about the Li system, we’re now thinking that good old AGMs might be the better choice until bugs are worked out of the Li system. I’ll certainly be following this forum closely over the next few months.

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@SeaDawg fair enough, cheap is probably not a great word here as they do make good stuff. My understanding with the Zamp ZS-30AP PWM charge controller is that you can only do 30 amps over it. So with 340 watt solar array you are right at the upper limit of it. So if you ever wanted to increase your array you would be forced to upgrade the charge controller. This plus as you noted if your draw down the battery all the way it will take you a few days of sun to get them fully charged back up with just the onboard solar array. If you had something to augment it with (generator, additional solar panels you can plug in to the side Zamp port, etc) the extra juice is nice. Just don't expect the solar array to charge it from "empty" to full in 5-6 of sun in a day. A MPPT controller sure would be nice though, especially for someone like me that lives in northern area of the US so the additional efficiency would help a lot. 

At about a 4k upgrade price that is about what 3 Lithionics batteries will cost you, plus you get the upgraded 3k watt inverter and AC soft start. And now you have batteries that will last longer, you can pull more power from them and they have a BMS which makes management/protection of those batteries easier for the owner (Assuming the firmware update makes the SOC reliable. If not maybe you would want to spend this money on different batteries that are reliable as it seems 50% of the list is all about SOC monitoring. Will be interesting to hear @Fritz follow up on it). 

Also reading this again if the inverter only causing the decibels to go to 60 that is not to bad (still in green and conversational level). But given how long it could take to charge these it means it could be running all day.

There is one thing that is throwing me off. In this video Jason says the inverter efficiency is 10x. However, my understanding is the inverter (assuming I have the correct one Xantrex 817-3000 Inverter) it has a 91% efficiency rating. So unless I am not understanding the math a 10x amp draw does not sound right. An 80amp draw from a laptop for someone like me who works remote on a 390 Ah battery is a concern (gives you 4-5 hours being plugged in). 

This thread has caused me to do a lot of researching and been very educational on the power front!

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9 hours ago, Paul and Santina said:

Maybe they won’t mix and match brands?

Our trailer came with a Blue Sky controller and Zamp panels, so it’s not an issue of mixing brands.  I believe they went with the Zamp controller because it was simple to use and lithiums weren’t an option at the time.  Mike

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Texas Hill Country | Elite II #135 | Ram 2500 6.7L

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I just want to mention that earlier this year in April I spent ten days in Colorado and Utah with the Oliver with out shore power. The Oliver had 340 watts on the roof and Zamp 30 amp charge controller. The only up grade was four 100 ah Battle Born batteries and Victron battery monitor.  We used the furnace every night, inverter for coffee maker every morning and microwave a few times to thaw food. Plus lights, water pump, fan, music. I brought alone a generator but never needed it. We always had batteries top off with the morning sun. This was a big improvement over my previous experience with the AGM batteries.

 At this point I am happy that I kept my 2000 watt Inverter, it handles everything just fine including the new Houghton AC with out any of the new inverter charger issues. I recently up graded my roof mounted solar only because I live in MN and can not expect to harvest as much energy as Colorado or Utah. I do think simpler is better, like the Battle Born batteries are easy to use when coupled with Victron battery monitor and a cut off switch, which make it  easy to care for off season. So eventually they will work the kinks out but simpler is better.      

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Minnesota Oli-I have had the same experience. I upgraded to three Battle Born batteries and have the Blue Sky MPPT charge controller/system. The Blue Sky controller is fully programmable. I sent the BB folks a copy of the set-up page and asked them to put in the parameters that they wanted to see and it only took me a few minutes to program. My solar panel total back in 2017 was 320 watts. I do carry a portable 100 watt panel and have used it a couple of times just to test what the little extra can do but, have never really needed it or the 2000 watt generator. I have the usual installed electrical equipment plus a couple of years ago I switched out my unreliable propane fridge for a NovaKool compressor fridge so also have that constant load as well. 320 watts isn’t really ideal but, for reasonable power usage it does work. Even connected to shore power I never have needed the PD4045 shore power charger unless we have had several days of clouds and then only if the batteries were below 50%. All in all I’d say that the “older” factory set-up with the Blue Sky MPPT controller, three or four Battle Born batteries, and 2000 watt inverter is a great entry level system. 

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On 11/5/2021 at 4:23 AM, John E Davies said:

Yours is a most informative and professionally presented post. Thank you. I hope you will do more of them. See my “HOW TO” page for my lithium and other mods. I am glad those have been informative over the years, as will be this thread. 

Thank you, John.  You and others have set a very high standard!

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2021 Oliver LE2
Ram 2500 diesel

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I appreciate the effort that you put into this post. My soc percentage on the app and battery voltages never seemed to correlate. After reading your post I have flashed firmware. Hopefully the new firmware will do a better job. Thank you. 

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On 11/5/2021 at 4:23 AM, John E Davies said:

The simplest solution for vibration control would be to add a single layer of stereo sound mat under the inverter charger. Unfortunately it is quite heavy, but I don’t think you would have to cover the entire cabin wall with it.

The 3000W inverter is mounted vertically on the interior wall under the streetside bed (see photos below).  Are 2000W inverters mounted in the same location? Do the 2000W inverters have high speed fans?  What is the maximum charging amperage for the 2000W inverter?  (The 3000W inverters can charge at up to 100 amps.)

I'm not sure that stereo sound mat installed only underneath the inverter would fully accomplish the sound-deadening goal; the horizontal mounting bolts alone would would transmit vibration (and therefore noise) to the interior fiberglass wall under the bed (if the inverter were mounted horizontally, then the inverter could rest on rubber feet).  Given the vertical mounting, what might be a better way re-mount the inverter so that the inverter remains well-secured but reduces sound transmission?  Any re-mounting would be easiest if there were no wiring changes were needed.

That said, I think sound-deadening foam (or stereo mat material) would be a good thing to add to all the interior walls in the under-bed chamber to reduce reverberation.  The foam should probably extend under the battery box and into the space under the rear dinette seat, since the fan noise reverberates in this area as well.

Ideas?

 

2021 Oliver LE2
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57 minutes ago, Fritz said:

Ideas?

Personally before I spent a lot of time trying to mask the less than ideal systems I’d just spend a little more and replace some of the core components. My wallet is going to vote when they ask me to finalize my order.  Unless they update and integrate the electrical system I’ll spend my money elsewhere…

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I received this question as a private message (PM), but am posting it here as others may benefit from the discussion, or wish to weigh in...

 

"Does the inverter automatically shut off when the batteries reach their full charge state?  If so how would I know this?  Is there any setting that would tell me this? Since our fan keeps running I am thinking in my head that the inverter is still trying to charge the batteries...  I am thinking that the inverter is still drawing some power from our batteries when we are disconnected from shore power if that is at all possible. Maybe that is why our batteries are draining so fast with nothing on in the RV?"

My understanding (which is very far from complete, and may in fact be flat-out wrong) is that the Xantrex unit really has two components: (1) a charging function and (2) an inverting function.  When connected to shore power, the Xantrex unit is on, but its sole function is charging the batteries.  The Xantrex unit is not inverting (changing 12V current to 110 volts) because it doesn't need to; the 110V outlets (and A/C, microwave, etc) are powered with shore power.  The uppermost "esc" light on the remote panel is lit when the trailer is plugged into shore power and the Xantrex unit is set up to charge.  The only way that I know to really "turn off" the Xantrex entirely is to trip the 300A breaker under the streetside bed.

When in charge mode (i.e., plugged in to shore power) the Xantrex fan is running while charging.  When the batteries are full the fan kicks on for about a minute every 15 minutes or so.  When the batteries are full (or as full as you want them to be), you can set the charger ignition control in the Xantrex app to "auto-on" (again, thanks to NCEagle for this tip). In this mode the 110 outlets, the A/C, and the fridge get electricity from shore power, but the Xantrex unit is not charging the batteries.  

The inverter portion of the Xantrex unit is (or should be) active only when the trailer is not connected to shore power and the inverter is turned on (i.e., the button on the remote inverter panel is pressed in).  The "bat" light on the remote panel is lit when the inverter is on.  The Xantrex fan may run briefly when the inverter is first turned on (I suppose the fan could also run if the inverter is inverting to meet a large load).

If the batteries are draining overnight there is likely another problem.  Here are some ideas for troubleshooting the problem:

  1. Update the battery firmware to version 1.0.07 if you have not yet done so.  In my experience, the SOC is completely unreliable if this is not done.  Unreliable SOC might lead you to think there is a drain when there really is not.  If updating the firmware, be sure to fully charge the batteries to 14.4 volts afterward to calibrate the SOC.
  2. When disconnected from shore power, turn off the solar (by turning off the the knob at the front of the streetside bed upper cabinet), turn off all lights, fans (including the toilet fan), etc., and check to see if there is a load on the batteries by checking the Lithionics app (2 upper right boxes below the SOC).  The current and power should both be zero.  Then...
  3. With updated firmware (and solar off, and no obvious load on the batteries), record the SOC and battery voltage on the Lithionics app.  Let the trailer sit overnight and check again.  The batteries should have a SOC and voltage very close to where you left it.  If not, then...
  4. Turn off the inverter by tripping the 300 amp breaker under the streetside bed and letting the trailer sit overnight again.  The SOC and battery voltage after a day or so should be the same as when you started the test.  If this is the case, then there may be something in the inverter.  If this is not the case, then there may be some other phantom load that is drawing down the batteries.  (smoke, propane, etc detectors will draw down the batteries some, but it should not be very much over 24 hours).
  5. Record the SOC and battery voltage.  Turn off each of the 3 batteries (button on top of the battery) and let them sit for a day or so.  The SOC and battery voltages should be the same as when you started the test.  This should confirm that the problem is not in the batteries.  Next, ....
  6. Call Oliver.  Any suggestions of mine are those of a well-meaning amateur, not to be confused with those of a real professional.  They really should be able to help with this stuff; hopefully the results from some of the above-described steps will help them.

Good luck!

 

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2021 Oliver LE2
Ram 2500 diesel

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1 hour ago, Fritz said:

 Any suggestions of mine are those of a well-meaning amateur, not to be confused with those of a real professional.

Did you stay at a Holiday Inn last night?😁

Seriously, thanks for the work you are putting in to this thread.

Bill

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2017 Ford F150 Lariat 3.5EB FX4 Max Towing 2016 Oliver Elite II - Hull #117 "Twist"

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Hi, we're coming from experience with Battleborn batteries and Victron equipment in an Airstream Interstate motorhome.  Having recently purchased a 2020 Oliver E2, we're now selling our Airstream.  I wanted to note that our experiences with Battleborn as a company over the past several years has been exceptional.  With 4 BBGC100s, 350 watts of solar, a Victron 100/30 MPPT, a Victron 712 shunt, a Victron 2000 Multiplex and a PC lithium battery isolator for alternator charging - we frequently went a week boondocking without using the on-board generator.  In fact, the black tank was the frequent limiter to longer boondocking.

Our "new to us" 2020 Oliver E2 came with three Battleborn batteries hooked up as one would connect a "dumb" lead battery.  I spend Saturday building new cables so we could make the three lithium batteries compatible with each other - I'm specifically referring to their BIMs.  Now the number one battery is the system's positive and the number three battery is the system's negative.  I was amazed the 2020 Oliver E2 has no readily available "master switch" to isolate batteries.  So now, we have the main positive running to a battery switch before going to other positive connections via a buss.

We also corrected the Victron 712 shunt connection.  It had one terminal connected to one battery negative and the other terminal connected to a different battery negative.  Clearly it could not report total usage in and out as was intended.  So, we took the main negative lead to one side of the shunt and the other to the load side via a negative buss.  Now that it's connected correct, I need to manually go through the settings to check if everything else is OK and that the unit isn't "locked."  If it is locked, any settings made via the Victron app will not be saved!  I learned this the hard way by going from 200ah to 400ah and finding the reported SOCs were never correct.  I think I remember scrolling to somewhere near the mid-sixties in the manual menu settings to unlock the 712 and then used the Bluetooth app to make changes. 

BTW, I started this response to agree that SOCs are frequently reported differently by different instruments and to point out just one example - I had a Victron 712 which had the wrong inline fuse installed by the factory in some units.  That simple fuse caused the units to report the SOCs incorrectly.

Our next task for the 2020 Oliver will to place a master switch into the line before the solar controller to isolate the solar panels - I'm trying to decide whether to just bite the bullet and install a Victron 100/30 at the same time. 

Before Change.jpg

20211106_182432.jpg

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Arizona | 2020 Oliver Elite II Twin bed Hull #617 | 2021 Ram 1500 Hemi 4x4

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Congratulations on finding a nice new to you Ollie.

For those reading your post, Oliver has never installed Battleborn batteries, so you are dealing with a previous owner change up. Glad you have experience,  and know what to do. 

Best of luck, and happy camping!

2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12
 

 

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On 11/6/2021 at 12:44 AM, Zodd said:

An 80amp draw from a laptop for someone like me who works remote on a 390 Ah battery is a concern (gives you 4-5 hours being plugged in). 

You might want to check your numbers here...most computers use less than 1Ah, not 80.  Charging your laptop while you work will barely make a dent in your 390Ah system.

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21 hours ago, CnC said:

Hi, we're coming from experience with Battleborn batteries and Victron equipment in an Airstream Interstate motorhome.  Having recently purchased a 2020 Oliver E2, we're now selling our Airstream.  I wanted to note that our experiences with Battleborn as a company over the past several years has been exceptional.  With 4 BBGC100s, 350 watts of solar, a Victron 100/30 MPPT, a Victron 712 shunt, a Victron 2000 Multiplex and a PC lithium battery isolator for alternator charging - we frequently went a week boondocking without using the on-board generator.  In fact, the black tank was the frequent limiter to longer boondocking.

Our "new to us" 2020 Oliver E2 came with three Battleborn batteries hooked up as one would connect a "dumb" lead battery.  I spend Saturday building new cables so we could make the three lithium batteries compatible with each other - I'm specifically referring to their BIMs.  Now the number one battery is the system's positive and the number three battery is the system's negative.  I was amazed the 2020 Oliver E2 has no readily available "master switch" to isolate batteries.  So now, we have the main positive running to a battery switch before going to other positive connections via a buss.

We also corrected the Victron 712 shunt connection.  It had one terminal connected to one battery negative and the other terminal connected to a different battery negative.  Clearly it could not report total usage in and out as was intended.  So, we took the main negative lead to one side of the shunt and the other to the load side via a negative buss.  Now that it's connected correct, I need to manually go through the settings to check if everything else is OK and that the unit isn't "locked."  If it is locked, any settings made via the Victron app will not be saved!  I learned this the hard way by going from 200ah to 400ah and finding the reported SOCs were never correct.  I think I remember scrolling to somewhere near the mid-sixties in the manual menu settings to unlock the 712 and then used the Bluetooth app to make changes. 

BTW, I started this response to agree that SOCs are frequently reported differently by different instruments and to point out just one example - I had a Victron 712 which had the wrong inline fuse installed by the factory in some units.  That simple fuse caused the units to report the SOCs incorrectly.

Our next task for the 2020 Oliver will to place a master switch into the line before the solar controller to isolate the solar panels - I'm trying to decide whether to just bite the bullet and install a Victron 100/30 at the same time. 

Before Change.jpg

20211106_182432.jpg

Sorry, I'm a new to the forum and thought the file name of the pics would be shown.

The top pic is the way the previous owner connected the batteries and shunt.  The bottom pic is the way we changed them.  We used VHB tape to secure the switch and busses.

Arizona | 2020 Oliver Elite II Twin bed Hull #617 | 2021 Ram 1500 Hemi 4x4

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