non-drivers and vanlife

There have been a recent rash of posts from young adults in /r/vandwellers saying stuff like this:

>I want to live in a van but don’t know how to drive

What?  These aren’t high school underclassmen ineligible for drivers licenses.  These are young adults who have never had a license.  What is going on here?  None have mentioned living in NYC or some other place where driving is rare.

Continue reading “non-drivers and vanlife”

backchannel: vandwellers OBES

There is a thing in online forums called an Obligatory Brave Exit Speech (OBES), in which one stands in the doorway and explains why one is leaving.    This one really isn’t like that (it’s not grandstanding), and contains some ideas worth discussing.

I am well and am currently holed up until the pandemic situation ends and I can get back on the road.

This is a reasonable reaction to Covid-19.  I don’t think it’s necessary but I find no fault.

In the current situation, it’s simply not a good time to be vandwelling, especially for beginners, and I see no reason to encourage people to do it now.

I disagree.  Vandwelling is an excellent way to take shelter both from economic hardship and from urban populations.  Continue reading “backchannel: vandwellers OBES”

Backchannel: My homie lost his van…

from this reddit post

Please be careful with your wiring! My homie lost his van and I lost all my belongings since I was living out of it.

An uncharitable translation would be “I just burned down my buddy’s van after he let me crash in it for free.”


..and posts about his bong and rolling prowess in pot-related subreddits.

Is there any chance he didn’t burn the van down?  Is there any chance he will pay back the buddy?  Maybe give the buddy the “1976 Toyota Chinook with a 20r ” he’s restoring?

This is your free reminder:

  1. do not loan out vehicles, money, or anything else valuable
  2. do not associate with pothead losers




how much power from 100w solar and an isolator?

this response was unwieldy in the reddit editor so I moved it here.  I am chiming in on a helpful response by another commenter.

In this thread, OP stipulates:

  • 100w of panel w/pwm controller
  • 100Ah AGM
  • an isolator
  • 150w of loads

and wanted to know how many hours he could run the loads each day.


Impossible to know how much solar you’ll get.

Insolation averages to the rescue!

Using Phoenix as our example since OP is in AZ, on average in November he would see 3.52 hours of Full Sun Equivalent (FSE) per day.

The average daytime high in Phoenix in Nov is 73.3°F/22.94°C. This puts cell temps at 54.19°C, so we derate the output to by 14.01% to ~86w.

86w * 3.52 hours of FSE means his unshaded, flat-mounted 100w panel run at Vmp could produce 302.7w each day.

If he were running an MPPT controller we’d take away ~5% for DC-DC conversion losses, for about 288w. Since he is talking about PWM, I’m guessing the lower Vpanel would take about ~15% on average across the day, for about 257.3w. If he gets good isolator charging in the mornings the difference between our MPPT and PWM numbers would be decreased.

Say 40A for one hour, which would be roughly 500W

A 100Ah AGM of average consumer quality is likely to accept a max of C/3 charging. ~33A in this case. That would put us down closer to 400W if it accepted that amount for the hour. But current acceptance starts falling pretty quickly once we hit the alternator’s voltage, so we’d see a lower average current across the hour, maybe 15A? So my WAG on that would be 187.5w assuming the hour’s drive occurs when the battery bank is depleted.

So let’s say alt + solar output for any given day in November would be something like 445w, not including lead-acid charging inefficiencies. So maybe he gets 3 hours of power for his 150w load.

You could improve the efficiency of the alternator charging by getting a B2B charger

I really like Sterlings because their setpoints can be configured rather than just having predefined profiles like the others in that market segment.

I was going to push back on this since B2B chargers are typically limited to 20-30A in our price range. But then I remembered the C/3 figures from above and realized the 30A Sterling would be fine (even if $$$) for a 100Ah AGM.

The benefit of adding b2b to solar instead of adding a regular isolator would be found in two places:

  1. in the voltage range between the alternator’s highest voltage output (Valt?) and Vabs
  2. in early Absorption when acceptance is still greater than what solar alone could produce

article: /r/vandwellers hit 500k subscribers yesterday

/r/vandwellers is a subreddit (like a subforum on a forum). I had no idea it had that many folks reading it.  The majority are likely van-curious,  but there is a rocky core of ‘dwellers.  🙂

I prefer reddit to forums because it is more poster friendly:

  • easier to up/downvote posts
  • ability to edit posts
  • ability to use tools like Reddit Enhancement Suite to extend functionality
  • and, to misquote de Laclos, “even the worst subreddit is less trouble than a forum owner”

backchannel: ad hominem == blocked

This is how you get identified as not being worth the effort:

from lennyflank via vandwellers sent 3 hours ago: comment reply

Blah blah blah.

Unlike you, I care not only for MY “rights”, but for those of others too.

That’s because, unlike libertarians, I am not a selfish bastard.

and then …

from lennyflank via vandwellers sent 2 hours ago: comment reply


This must be the new word for “libertarian”, now that most people think “libertarians” are kooky.

Plus it sounds so much more rebelliousey and defiantey.

Typical teenage angst.