Powering your RV

Max Taylor — 10 March 2015

Australia: an island, a country and a continent. You better believe there’s a lot to see between Melbourne and Broome, Cape York and Albany, and just as many kilometres and remote-area stays.

To see but a portion of what’s on offer requires a lot of juice. And I’m not just talking about diesel and petrol. No. I’m talking about electricity.

The rise of direct current as the juice of choice for modern electrical devices would probably have Thomas Edison smiling in his grave. Such a proponent of DC was Edison, he apparently electrocuted an elephant with a high-voltage dose of alternating current to show how dangerous AC could be (though at a high enough voltage, a shot of DC is no walk in the park, either).

Alternating current, of course, was the preference of Edison’s arch-rival, Nikola Tesla. And so played out the War of the Currents. AC or DC? Both vied for supremacy in the closing years of the 19th century, with AC as the more efficient and affordable option winning the day. Much to Edison’s chagrin, I imagine.

Mostly because AC power can’t be easily stored, it seems there has always been a place for DC power. But it has become even more relevant with the advent of lightweight, high-capacity batteries and the many portable electrical devices we take for granted.

The challenge for RVers, however, lies in how to harness the many natural sources of such power – the sun, the wind – as well as how to wring the optimal amount from the tow vehicle’s alternator, without resorting to mains AC or a generator. (The thought of people ‘sucking up’ to AC as a last resort would probably please Tesla no end.)

The good news is, getting the most out of your rig’s 12V system is not a black art. Confusing, perhaps, but a bit of advice and experience can go a long way. Though setting up a you-beaut efficient 12V system is potentially expensive, it all comes down to your needs.

If you prefer the convenience and camaraderie of caravan parks, then the system you have now is probably suitable.

As a power source, gas is a pretty neat back-up. But if touring beyond the black stump, where you won’t find a 15A outlet for love or money, let alone a gas refill, then you’d do well to explore your options.

Find out more about the ins and outs of an efficient 12V setup in our RV power solutions story.