Going completely off grid is tough, especially with an EV. You can go almost anywhere with the right gas or diesel-powered vehicle, and once you get there, you can use solar power for creature comforts, refrigeration, and even cooking. But, you’re still dependent on fossil fuel infrastructure and supply chains, so you’re not truly off the grid. You’ll also run out of food and water at some point unless you’re parking next to a dependable stream and starting a fairly robust farm.
While no RV company can give you a food supply, there’s now an RV you can buy that takes care of everything else. Living Vehicle’s camper can not only give you a hefty dose of solar power (enough to charge your EV tow vehicle), but it also comes with an innovative water supply that uses solar power to give you several gallons of fresh drinking water every day, from thin air.
A Robust Solar System
Most RVs with solar only have enough power to keep their deep cycle battery (usually a lead-acid battery, like you’d find under the hood of a car) powered up. This deep cycle battery can only take care of things like running the lights. Heating, the fridge, hot water, and cooking are all generally powered by propane. Air conditioning? That’s only available if you find a campsite with electric hookups.
In recent years, that’s starting to change. Battery technology has improved drastically, and more efficient cooktops, water heaters, and air conditioners can all run with less power. So, if you can afford a good bank of batteries, you can power most things completely off grid now without needing propane.
But, as I pointed out earlier, most RVs are getting towed to remote locations by a gas or diesel truck or SUV. You can reasonably tow smaller trailers with EVs now, and larger ones are becoming easier as electric trucks come to the market. But on backroads, you’ll often find yourself needing to stay at an RV park to get a charge instead of “boondocking,” or camping in the woods with no utility access.
This is where a camper with robust solar power and backup options really shines.
The heart of their system is battery storage. As the skeptics say, “The sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow.” Huge battery packs are obviously very expensive, but not everyone’s needs will be the same. Living Vehicle gives buyers some guidance when deciding whether to go as small as 14 kWh of battery or whether to go as high as 60 kWh with heavier-duty cells.
One’s input power needs will also vary depending on how the camper is equipped, so there are options there, too. You can get as little as 1,320 watts if you’re not going to camp much, don’t need much power, or don’t think you’ll see much shade. Or, you can go as high as 3.5 kW of peak power to make sure you’ve got lots and lots of power. If you do encounter too much shade or cloudy weather, you can also rely on a backup generator, a connection to an ICE truck’s alternator, or shore power at RV parks to charge the batteries up.
With their largest battery and solar option, there should be plenty of power to give your tow vehicle a charge. With multiple inverters, lots of solar, and lots of battery, even a Level 2 charge shouldn’t be a big problem as long as you’re not trying to add too many miles each day. So, even the most wild backcountry adventures should be possible regardless of infrastructure.
Getting Water From Thin Air
No matter how big a camper’s fresh water tank is, it’s possible to camp away from a water supply long enough to run the tank empty. When that happens, you have to either go to town and get water or have someone come bring you some. Some people who boondock (camp away from utilities) spend every other or every third night at an RV park to top off their water and batteries, dump their sewer tanks, and otherwise get ready for more boondocking.
If you want to stay in the woods for weeks at a time (most US public lands allow up to 14 days in the same place), having more water available would be a great thing, so Living Vehicle got to work coming up with ways to supply water.
It turns out there’s water all around us in the air in most places. If you’ve ever run a window air conditioner, you’ve probably noticed that it drips sometimes, because the humidity in the air condens into liquid water. By doing this intentionally, the vehicle’s onboard water generator can produce up to five gallons per day of water. That’s not much, but keep in mind that the water you don’t drink on a given day gets purified and pumped into the fresh water tank, giving you “rollover” water you can depend on for longer journeys away from utilities.
If you do have to get water from a questionable source to supplement the air-drawn water (or you’re somewhere with too little humidity to produce water), they give you another option: a really good filtration and sterilization system. You can’t draw water out of a stream, as it’s not designed for that level of cleaning, but it makes sure any spigot you plug the RV into doesn’t give you nasty water or germs.
If you’re using this as some sort of survival shack, you could probably add more filtration and feed that into their final cleanup system, but be sure to check with them before doing that.
You Could Make This Home
While most people RV on the weekends or on time off, things are changing and many remote workers are able to live on the road now. Being able to park on any public land or parking lot (with the owner’s permission, and when allowed by local laws) gives people a lot of flexibility in how they’ll live and where from day to day.
People like Elon Musk might not be too happy with you, but if you’ve got an employer or other work that you can do on the road, this mobile power and water generation capability gives you the ability to live off grid and avoid expensive RV park rent or nightly fees. That makes it a lot easier to live in beautiful and fun places instead of an urban apartment or cookie-cutter suburban home.
Featured image: the vehicle’s water filtration system on a bench for testing. Photo by Living Vehicles.
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