A smooth transition: Retrofitting an Airstream Interstate with a Volta system

Apr 23, 2019 | RV, Stories

As sightseers across the country search for off-grid camping capabilities, Holland Motor Homes recently did its part by retrofitting a Class B 2018 Airstream Interstate with a new complete lithium-ion energy system from Volta Power Systems.

The process started a few months ago when an RV owner contacted Holland Motor Homes to discuss the possibility of eliminating the generator from his RV, built on the Mercedes Sprinter platform.

The RV owner used the vehicle for long distance trips from Texas to Montana, using the vehicle much like their own private plane and hotel to get from point A to B. Their goal was to have the ability to operate all appliances in the vehicle when stopped overnight, without the noise and inconvenience of a generator.

 

We worked with Scott Vroon, service manager at Holland Motor Homes, on this project, retrofitting the Class B RV with the latest Volta system on the market. The process started with the phone conversation where they discussed benefits and details about the system and from there, they planned the installation.

With the details hashed out, their customer drove the RV from Texas to Holland Motor Homes to receive the custom installation.

“Holland Motor Homes did an exquisite job converting this Airstream to the exact specifications this customer wanted,” said Jack Johnson, co-founder of Volta Power Systems. “The retrofitted installation was professionally completed by the team at Holland Motor Homes and honestly, you’d never know it was a retrofit.”

Part of the installation process included installing our custom made State of Charge (SOC) gauge, an easy-to-use on and off switch and an inverter display, all completed with a factory-installed look.

Vroon said the most challenging and rewarding aspect of the installation was making the system look like it belonged in the RV. To accomplish that, the team at Holland Motor Homes mastered the art of utilizing space, installing a 12-VDC converter in the existing electronics area under the rear passenger seat.

“There are a couple of fairly large components to this system and we first had to figure out where they’d go,” Vroon said. “The hardest and yet most enjoyable part of this project was finding unused spaces and maximizing that space. On this project, I found a few nooks and crannies we could use and modified other spaces for a flawless installation.”

Vroon and his team spent nearly two weeks installing the system and then another week testing it out. The new system included the Volta alternator, which provided the energy generation to refill the pack with energy. The goal was to never have to idle the vehicle unless the RV is at a location for more than one day.

When retrofitting a factory built vehicle, Vroon works with what is already in place and then found creative ways to install the different elements of the Volta system. A successful installation meant the customer could operate the RV the same way as before, but with the higher performing Volta system in place.

To save our customer time and money, we installed 58V power distribution points allowing us to provide an electrical circuit from a single input source to the different parts of our complete system.

Our system also included a Volta 3600W pure sine inverter that’s discreetly hidden under the sink in the RV. To make it fit, Scott and his team modified the existing cabinetry to provide a factory-fitted appearance. This unit provides a 30amp 120V service which makes the customer feel plugged into shore power at all times.

To recharge the system when shore power isn’t available, Holland Motor Home installed a 160 amp, 58V alternator that’s mounted to the auxiliary drive on the Mercedes diesel engine. The alternator is the energy generation tool used to refill the pack with energy. The goal is to allow the owner to travel, never having to idle the vehicle unless at a site for more than a day.

The Onan generator was replaced with a 12kWh pack mounted in the same place as the generator. Despite the change, we used the original generator brackets and enclosed the pack with insulation and protection, all while maintaining the same ground clearance as with the original generator.

“With this installation, we accomplished our goals without sacrificing very much space,” Vroon said. “We never want to disrupt the aesthetics or the usability of why the customer purchased the RV originally. At first, we expected to tap into some of the RV’s storage space but we accomplished our goals without doing that.”

For more information about retrofitting a vehicle with a Volta system, visit Holland Motor Homes at www.holland-motorhomes.com.