Home Life on the Road Burning Man

Lithium Ion Battery Success!! Playa Bound

There is nothing like hearing your air conditioner turn on via battery power!  Not that it’s any different of a sound.

So let’s back up a few days, and cover the journey since we left Phoenix – where we built our own lithium ion battery bank.

Building our bank was lots of fun, but it took away two days of time that we had put aside for doing our complete install.  So now we needed to somehow manage to cram in many hours of installation work of not only wiring up the inverter and battery bank, but new breaker boxes too.  All this while traveling up to Reno to rendezvous with the Camp Nomadians, Sam & Tracy.

And of course, needing to do general Burning Man preps.

From Las Vegas to Reno

So we hit the road towards Reno, with a planned stop along Lake Mead to meet up with some fellow bus nuts.   We then stopped in Las Vegas to drop Kiki off with travel writer JoAnna Haugen of Kaleidoscopic Wandering, as she and her hubby offered to keep Kiki for us while we’re at the burn (no pets allowed).  We made another stop just north of Beatty, NV at an RV Park rumored to have hot springs for soaking.

The rumors were true, and it was pure bliss.

We overnighted in Fallon, NV with dear friends – and got a surprise rendezvous with another friend out on a road trip.  (You might notice that we also had a lot of social time to fit in too.)

When we told our Fallon friends what we were up to with the battery install, it turns out he has the exact battery cabling we need to complete it – along with all the tools at his machine shop.

So our stay got extended in Fallon as Chris and he tried to hunt down all the parts that would be needed, which turned out to be more challenging than anticipated in such a small town.  Also, as we hadn’t yet mounted the batteries and inverter, we were unsure of what our cable sizes would need to be.

Projects in Reno

So we continued on to Reno for our rendezvous with Sam & Tracy. Our biggest mission (aside from catching up with friends) was to get our satellite dish re-activated for them to take to the playa.  We were able to cross paths with them in South Carolina when we were delivering the Oliver back in May, and they so kindly took that bulky dish off our hands so we had one less big thing to worry about.  They also took Chris’ Time Frame art project over for us, and scored early arrival as a result – which allows them to land grab at gate open for Camp Nomadia’s spot this year.

We spent a couple days hanging out, and doing Burning Man preps together (shopping, hair dyeing, etc.). We rented a car so that we would have local transportation, as we’re going without a tow behind vehicle (or ‘toad’) for now. There’s so many things that we needed to acquire, especially since a lot of our gear is actually in storage in Sacramento.

We were also running around Reno getting more and more parts for the battery install.  I swear, every time  I turn around this project is needing fuses, cables, nuts, bolts, screws, panel boxes, breakers, mounting boards, buses (don’t we have one already??),  relays, etc.  And frankly, the complexity of the project has seemed to grow, and it was frustrating me considering the time crunch and other projects to accomplish.  Chris and I definitely approach projects in very different ways.

And now, we had to plan in another trip back to Fallon once we knew our measurements.

All Nighter Battery, Inverter and Breaker Install

Chris and I both pulled a 12 hour all-nighter on Friday to run new wires down the length of the bus from what is now the battery bay to the breaker bay.

We then dismantled the old breaker box (which had so many code violations, it wasn’t even funny), and installed two new ones – one for the shore power to come into, and one for the inverter to take control of the AC power in the coach.  We decided to do this at night when it was cooler, so that the lack of air conditioning would not be as noticable.  While the highs in Reno were significantly cooler than they were in Arizona, mid-90s is still warm when working on projects.

Keith & Chris making battery cables

After getting a few hours sleep, we headed back to Fallon on Saturday to meet up with our friend to create the battery cables.  What should have been an hour of cable making – turned into another 5 hours on the project, as he had further ideas to make the system even safer by building better mounts. Safety is a good thing, and so are awesome friends.

Inverter on! Rainbow on!

At sunset (with a rainbow forming over the bus), everything was wired up. We turned on the inverter, and then turned on an air conditioner. All running off the sweetness of lithium ion batteries and 3000w pure sine inversion!

By our calculations, we should have enough battery power to run an A/C for almost 3 hours before needing to run the generator for a re-charge.. and all our wiring, cabling, fuses, etc. are scaled for this.

The battery bay - Phase 1 complete!

For now, phase 1 of the project is completed and good enough for Burning Man.

We’ll have power without needing to turn on the generator just to run water or lights.  After the playa, we have many other phases to implement, including a wiring schematic that our on-call electrical wizard, Sean of Our Odyssey, drew up for us that will give us many more awesome features.  (He’s been a tremendous guiding force to us these past few weeks – and we wish him and Louise well as they’re now deployed for the Red Cross in North Carolina).

Playa Bound

Tomorrow, we start the final leg to the playa.  Sam & Tracy currently are parked at the same location that Camp Nomadia was located at last year – the corner of 6 & H.  If you’re playa bound too, stop on by Thursday @ 3pm –  there will be a Nomadic Lifestyle Workshop, followed by a Nomadic Happy Hour.

Expect this blog space to be quiet until we return to the default world. I don’t believe we’ll be posting updates from the playa this year – as we’re taking this year to focus on us.


By the way, we should note – we are not trying to motivate anyone to follow us on this path. We are not selling these batteries, we are not affiliates with any battery dealer, we paid for all our components and nor do we have any financial stake in the technology beyond our own systems.  We are simply full time RVing technomads who are designing our own cutting edge home & office on wheels, and are sharing our research & project. Of course we’d love to have more folks out there pioneering and helping us take the arrows in our backs.  Right now, we do not consider this technology ready for the mainstream, and those contemplating this technology need to be a bit savvy with electrical and battery technology. 

Other Posts In this Series:

Promise of Lithium #1: Lead Acid Battery Downsides
Promise of Lithium #2: Lithium Ion Battery Advantages
All our Lithium Ion Battery Posts 

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  1. Sorry if you mentioned this before but did you do anything special or program the controls to send power from the bus alternator to the lithium bank while moving?

    • I have a 500A contactor controlled by a switch that bridges the chassis and house batteries together. When underway, I manually flip it on to send power over for charging or running the roof air.

      This way – I can flip it off if I need maximum engine power on a long uphill too.

      A more automatic system might be a nice eventual upgrade, but so far this simple setup works great.

      – Chris

  2. wow that’s really cool that you built your own battery just in time for the event, have a blast and take lots of pictures

  3. I am glad to know that your Lithium Ion Battery is a success. It is true that it is unusual and interesting to hear that air conditioner would be turned on by battery power. It is also interesting that the post indicated the details and the steps of your trip. I hope that your future bus trips will be successful.

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