What's the Big Deal With an All-Electric Solar Trailer?
Lots of RVs Have Solar Panels But None Rely on Them Exclusively
Conventional wisdom says that relying entirely on solar power for an RV is impossible. The reason is simple physics. The sun doesn’t provide enough power on the trailer’s roof to run all the appliances inside.
Lots of trailers have solar panels now. Campers use them primarily to charge relatively small batteries that run low-energy devices, like computers and tv. The biggest energy users in an RV are a/c, heat, refrigeration and hot water. Heat, hot water and even the fridge can be powered with propane and often are. Of these four big energy hogs, only the A/C has to run on electricity. A gas-powered generator is a typical solution.
With propane and gas powering the top energy users, the trick is to keep the tanks filled, and with a few solar panels, you can explore the wilds off the grid for days at a time.
Our goal is to eliminate fossil fuels from ours. You may not share that goal, but you may be interested in following us to learn to avoid using a noisy generator.
Let’s be clear; we’re still figuring this out. We’re at the early stages. But we’re committed. We sold our condo, after all.
In broad strokes, we think the solutions involve some combination of the following:
Carrying solar panels in the truck or trailer that aren’t attached to the trailer
Adding big batteries
Sacrificing some temperature comfort
Looking for other efficiencies and tools like small wind turbines, solar water heaters and regenerative brakes
Ultimately, the backup source of power for us will be the truck we use to tow it. The Rivian we’ve ordered has a 175 kWh battery (almost three times as big as the battery in our Chevy Bolt). That’s enough to power a trailer for two weeks without solar panels.
Instead, we’d rather have enough solar panels that we can use some of the juice produced by the trailer to power the truck.
Once we get the trailer set up, we’ll be tracking how long we can go and how miserable we have to be to use only solar power. Please join us for the ride. If you have suggestions, please share!