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Charging on the road

While I was doing the build, the battery was big enough to power my needs the whole trip or a couple of my favorite state parks on the coast have hookups. For that reason, I have somehow put this last project on the back burner, even though it is pretty much at the hart of my system. Now it is time to get this done. The 2020 Transit came with an option of dual 250-amp alternators. I always wanted to go with a secondary alternator approach but was concerned that you could not split it from the Ford platform. For this reason, I reached out to Nations Alternator as they had a dual alternator kit you could install on the 2020 Ford Transit. Being that I have a Lithium Battery, especially one that has a BMS with CAN-Bus, I chose to add a Wakespeed WS 500 advanced regulator to control the charging while driving. The CAN-Bus communication can aid in alleviating some of the issues, as now the BMS can broadcast data to the Wakespeed controller. This unit should give me lots of control but also carry a good amount of charging power. Since purchasing the kit, a while back, I also have found that the whole thing can be integrated with my Victron Cerbo Monitoring System (it also speaks Can-bus) which will be an added plus for monitoring the unit. On a side note, I see now that Nations has a kit to utilize the Secondary Alternator

My goal was to do this in two stages, first get the alternator installed the proceed to do all the electrical hook up. The kit they provided to mount the alternator was from BCI, they provided pretty good instructions, but I knew this would push me out of my comfort zone. I reached out to my good friend MG for help, I knew he had taken the front the Transit front off a few times. It was also a good time to catch up on things. When I pulled up in front of his shop, he had a table ready to lay out all parts.

Mike made quick work pulling front, going through the process of various screws and clips that needed to pop out to make it happen. He made it look easier than it was, I’m sure.

The above picture is with the front removed and the intercooler removed, pretty much ready to start the kit installation.

My small contribution was to install the temperature probe and Deutsch connector on the control wires to mate to the control harness I would install later. Mike made quick work of adding all the parts. Most of my job was to stay out of the way and provide the occasional hand here of there. Here is a shot of the alternator installed before reinstalling the intercooler.

We started it back up and everything was good, so we proceeded to put it back together. So about 5 hours after starting it was back together and I was on my way home.

I can’t thank Mike enough for the help, it made the first stage of this go real easy

Step Two, the electrical hook up

I originally purchased the kit back in late 2020, at that time it came with the cable harness mounted to the alternator. It was only about six feet long, so somewhere there was going to need to be extension made for the harness. One of the good things was that between the and now, they started making a van harness, that was long enough to get the job done. Also, between that time I installed a Victron GX Cerbo monitoring system, and they recently started to support RV-C (CAN-Bus protocol) that my Lithionics battery puts out. There will be no need to hook up the field control circuit from the BMS.

Now we are moving to wiring up the alternator and wakespeed controller. I really have two major things to finish up, this and the side door walls. For whatever reason, I just didn’t put the wall panels up on the side door. I figured that it would be easier to do that job, and this one if I remove the refrigerator cabinet. Luckily it was made with that in mind but is still represents some poor forward planning.

Now, the big problem is getting the large 3/0 wires from the alternator to the battery distribution in the rear of the van. Much of it was a compromise on a path to choose, but after a couple of tries I settled on my path.

Alternator wired upped.

And the wires ran to the back of the van.

Then I ran into a little snag, upon trying to update the firmware on the Wakespeed module it failed. I was using a windows batch file they supplied on their website. Well, when I inquired about the failure, they told me they had issues with window driver updates. The best method would be to use an android device with their configuration utility and OTG cable. Well, I didn’t have one of those, I purchased a cheap tablet and tried again with the new utility. It also didn’t work. Being somewhat frustrated, and in a rush, I just purchased a new unit. It to would not update with the windows utility but did update with the newly purchased android tablet.

In the meantime, I Finished the wiring up the enable switch. Much like DC to DC converters, the wakespeed starts up with a 12 volt ignition feed.

This is somewhat convoluted with the Transit, as the don’t supply an ignition 12-volt signal that is only available when running. (it is generally available in both run and accessory mode. They do supply an engine running signal, it is a sink signal (250ma) that is low or ground when the engine is running. There are a couple of places to get this but the most common is the Vehicle Interface Connector C33-E.

This is located under the driver’s seat.

The plan is to use Pin 6, the 12-volt "Ignition" signal (10-amp fused) to run to the coil and pin 87 of a relay. I will use Pin 2, "Engine run signal" to turn on the relay and provide 12 volts (while the engine is running) to the switch on my console. The switch will allow me to disable the alt-charger when I want. I will also use Pin 1 "ground" and pin 7 "Switch illumination" for lighting features of the Switch . The harness is rapped in Tesa's Most Advanced High Heat Harness Tape

We then run this cable up the windshield pillar and over to the console. I took the picture after I got the trim back on. I could have taken it off again for a better photo, but we all know the trim piece would have then taken 3 times as long.

I now have access to enable or disable the Wakespeed charger from the diver seat.

Initial results have been good, I can run 150 amps charging no problem. My low idle output is null, I expected that to be somewhat better. There is a lot of programmability in this thing, so I might have to play with it. At the moment I am happy with 150 amps while going down the freeway.

This was a shot in my driveway (Idle was just coming down) so only 100 amps.

Here we have the first large charge, I shut it off before it fully charged.

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