High Powered eBike Camping: Enter the Realm of Highly Compromised Decisions and Deeply Ambivalent Feelings


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  • Skip to Simplification Rule #7:
  • Skip to Simplification Rule #9:
    • Add a Dedicated High Voltage, Plugin Battery to Mild Hybrid for eBike Charging and Camping Purposes
    • The 400 mile Grand Teton, WY to Steamboat Springs, CO leg of the Tour Divide is achievable on a Plugin battery. The Creo is a Class 3, or 28mph bike. That Tour Divide leg would be quick and fun! Imagine riding 250 miles in one day!
    • A Specialized Creo might have a 500 to 1,000 mile range using the Plugin battery. An eBike range longer than the Tesla Cybertruck!
    Skip to:
    Simplification Rule #11:
    • Build a Home Environment from USB Devices to Meet 80% of Your Needs, Powered by a 72Ah Portable Power Bank

The car is to ride about 200 miles per day, averaging 22mph, on the following trail.

You might have a technical background that helps you assimilate the vast amount of evidence presented in this series of articles. You might find the evidence totally meaningless. Either way, you will grapple with which car is best suited to eBike camping. I feel very ambivalent about the most appropriate choice: 2021 Toyota Sienna. I cringe with this compromise. Focusing my attention on how to improve weaknesses is the most productive use of time.

  • Colorado idling law eliminates all non-PHEVs from consideration for me!

Why 2021 Toyota Sienna?

  1. Toyota's history pioneering hybrid technology.
  2. A few bikes can fit inside the minivan.
  3. Has AWD option.
    1. Ottoman reclining second row seats seem incompatible.
    2. Electric motor in rear axle for extra braking power and electric generation
    3. While normal Priuses use a 3.6-amp-hour lithium-ion battery pack, the so-called
    4. AWD-e model has a 6.5-amp-hour nickel-metal hydride pack.
    5. This battery is better under colder conditions where all-wheel drive is necessary.Sep 12, 2019
    6. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_New_Global_Architecture#TNGA-K_(GA-K)
  4. The Sienna is a "mild hybrid" type
    1. Has some, but not much, High Voltage (HV) battery capacity.
    2. Hybrid power flow provides a substantial advantage for campin. Hybrids have an electric motor-generator, rather than an alternator-gas engine, architecture.
  5. The 110VAC outlet can recharge an eBike battery in cold temperatures, inside the vehicle.
    1. The 110AC can power appliances like toaster-oven or water heater.
  6. Has more space than an SUV.
  7. Ten year, 150,000 mile warranty on HV battery.
  8. Toyota cars can be serviced in remote locations.
    1. I plan to travel along the Great Divide trail paralleling Rocky Mountains, from Canada to Mexico.
  9. The second row heated, reclining Ottoman seats might make for a decent heated bed. Software to enable this capability would be the solution in this case, rather than adding more hardware.


How to compensate for weaknesses?

A software "recreational mode" feature is needed to allow existing hardware to be re-purposed for use when ignition is off. I am perfectly capable of hacking car software, but i do not want to waste my time.

Many of weakneses may be compensated for using cellphone software to intelligently control interior. Just another form of "Home" software. Perhaps, this is just a matter of adjusting to new circumstances?
  1. Use cellphone wireless ODBC connection to monitor or analyze HV battery state.
    1. Shutoff power to devices connected to 110VAC devices.
    2. Find Heating film that has hardware interface to obtain temperature.
    3. Install wireless thermometer to interface cellphone software to.
    4. Controlling power from cellphone app is much preferred over adding hardware.
    5. ? Does Toyota have an cellphone API?
    6. What size battery and how long to recharge battery while engine idles?
    7. Cooking with 110V appliances done while engine running, to conserve battery?
  2. How to compensate for low HV battery capacity?
    1. Use ODBC software to manage battery.
    2. Use FLIR video recordings to precisely identify thermal needs.
      1. Insulate to minimize heating needs.
      2. Add some sort of radiant heating film
      3. 360px-Radiant-based-HVAC-system-for-heating-and-cooling.png
    3. How to tap into powerful Hybrid Synergy Drive power flow???
      1. This will be key to success!
    4. Buy refrigerator trim option (Platinum)?
      1. Will probably push price to approach $50,000
      2. Freeze ice packs to use in cooler?
    5. A second electrical system based on li-ion, iron phosphate, deep-cycling battery?
  3. How to compensate for lack of plug-in recharging? Software interface?
    1. Use ODBC software to manage battery
      1. Start with a fully charged battery
      2. Put drive mode into "Hold" at 80% battery charge.
      3. Recharge every two hours for 30 minutes (4:1 operation-to-charge ratio)
      4. Sleep in cargo area with heated blanket plugged into 110VAC outlet
        • The power supply mode must be HV battery only to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning
  4. How to prevent engine from turning on automatically when heating the interior from 110V outlet on cold nights?
    1. Use ODBC software to manage battery.
    2. https://global.toyota/en/newsroom/toyota/32758042.html
    3. The new RAV4 comes with a maximum of 1,500 W (AC 100 V) external power supply function as standard equipment that are useful during blackouts and other emergencies, and for outdoor leisure activities. In addition to an accessory electrical socket in the luggage compartment, it is also equipped with a vehicle power connector which can be plugged into the regular charging inlet at the rear (right) of the vehicle for use as an external power socket.
    4. It offers two settings, either BEV or HEV external power supply mode, which can be selected according to the intended purpose.
    5. uses power from the battery, whereas
    6. HEV mode starts the engine if the remaining battery power is too low,
    7. enabling approximately three days'*7 of power supply on a full gasoline tank.

The 2021 Toyota Sienna will be available in 5 trims.
  • Buy refrigerator trim option? (Platinum)
  • LE - probably around $35,000
  • XLE - at least XLE Premium Package
    • moonroof required.
    • two 120V AC power outlets
    • Could push $45,000
  • XSE,
  • Platinum - i have a feeling this will be the final choice, although I feel reluctant.
  • Limited
  • All the trims of the Sienna will be mechanically similar.
The Sienna LE and some XLE models come equipped in eight-seat configurations with two captain chairs, a long slide second row seat and a stowable middle seat. Some XLE models, as well as the XSE, Limited and Platinum are seven-seat models featuring
  • the Super Long Slide second-row captain’s chairs
  • with the Limited and Platinum FWD models equipped with ottomans.

  • The 2021 Sienna Platinum comes standard with a 10-inch color head-up display, controlled via voice recognition and steering wheel switch. The display projects vital information at eye level, such as speed, navigation directions and TSS 2.0 functions.
  • Toyota Premium Audio with Dynamic Navigation and JBL® Premium Audio (standard on Limited and Platinum, optional for XLE and XSE):
  • adds 12 speakers including subwoofer and
  • 1,200-watt amplification, plus
  • Clari-Fi® digital restoration technology to Toyota Premium Audio with Dynamic Navigation.
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Unlike Chrysler Pacifica, Toyota will be putting hybrid system for ALL Sienna models, which means, the price need to be affordable.
They can put bigger batteries if they raise the price, but I think they have to make some kind of compromise somewhere in order to attract wide range of customers.
You're right. Compromise is the name of the game. I cannot have everything, just what works best for my situation.
Use Cellphone Software to Manage Devices Drawing Power from 110VAC Outlets (via HV Battery)

Hybrid power flow provides distinct advantages over traditional cars. The motor-generator 1 (MG1) starts the engine from the HV battery. The LV, 12V, is available for other, non-critical purposes.

In the most simple implementation, a cellphone could monitor engine state. Sound an alarm whenever the engine turns on because the HV battery needs to be charged. That might not suffice to guard against carbon monoxide posioning. The key point is solutions must be designed from the viewpoint of hybrid power flows, not gas-engine power flows. Also, software interfaces to the car diagnostics provide new alternatives.

Use cellphone wireless ODBC connection to monitor or analyze HV battery state. Try to avoid adding an entirely new electrical system. Try to make best use of what is already provided. Might be better compromise.

Existing Highlander or Lexus features might be good approximation. Perhaps, Prius is less similar?

As far as interfacing with car hardware is concerned, what can be used to improve security, e.g., LIDAR? If the hardware can detect pedestrians, why not criminals?

If 360 degree cameras are available for driving, why not also for surveillance while sleeping?

Shutoff power to devices connected to 110VAC devices when HV battery low.
  1. Find Heating film that has cellphone API to obtain temperature.
  2. Install wireless thermometer to interface cellphone software to.
  3. Controlling power from cellphone app is much preferred over adding hardware.
  4. ? Does Toyota have an cellphone API?
  5. What size and how long to recharge battery while engine idles?
  6. Cooking with 110V appliances done while engine running, to conserve HV battery?
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Perplexing Hybrid Car Manufacturer Marketing
Hybrid vehicles have not been marketed as great camping vehicles until now. Hybrid cars are designed to efficiently generate AC power. Why this obvious advantage was overlooked seems very confounding.

I am also convinced that minivans can be efficiently heated in cold temperatures. The key is collecting information before deciding on a solution. Insulation and ventilation preempts heating. Some sort of heating film enclosure of the cargo area can supply heat without draining the battery, when computer controlled. The solution is a matter of conservation, rather than blasting heat with a fan.

A least effort solution might simply take advantage of existing hardware. The second row heated, reclining Ottoman seats might make for a decent heated bed. Software would be the solution in this case, rather than adding more hardware.

Existing detection hardware can repurposed for security and surveillance.

A software "recreational mode" feature is needed to allow existing hardware to be re-purposed for use when ignition is off. I am perfectly capable of hacking car software, but i do not want to waste my time.
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The Winnebago Revel can serve as a reference vehicle for features or layout that benefit your application. The Revel is heated by diesel fuel.

Winnebago recently provided a 2021 Revel sneak peek with a short teaser video and some details on the van. The biggest news comes in the form of a fully redesigned kitchen block that starts with a

  • portable induction cooktop in place of the inbuilt cooktop.
The new single-burner can be used

  • indoors or
  • out and
  • frees up countertop space when it's stored away in the drawer,
a nice advantage for the Revel's slim kitchen block that previously relied solely on its foldaway counter extension and sink lid for prep space. The new rectangular sink gets pushed to the rear of the kitchen, and Winnebago moves the

  • 85-L fridge over to the front end of the block,
  • where it can be accessed from indoors or outdoors.

On the outside of the kitchen block, Winnebago dumps the pedestal in favor of a cable support for the drop-down table, an adjustment aimed at easier use on non-level ground.
  • The Revel was always an off-grid van, and Winnebago streamlines that capability for 2021 by swapping the
  • triple-AGM battery system out for a
  • pair of 125-Ah lithium-iron-phosphate batteries.
  • The new batteries come complete with a
  • Bluetooth monitoring system and a
  • dedicated second alternator for direct charging during the ride.
  • A solar charging system and
  • 2,000-W inverter come standard.

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How to increase 6.5Ah Prius battery to 8Ah and how that helps performance.
  • The Outlander is 32Ah, for comparison sake.
  • I guess the RAV4 Prime is about 50 to 60 Ah?
  • The Winnebago Revel is 250Ah total.
Replacing the 12VDC battery with a higher capacity and/or additional one, might be a solution to power passive, radiant heat or a heated blanket. I believe 12VDC battery is a deep cycle AMG.

Some li-ion chemistries will not operate below 32F temperatures. The RAV4 has a battery heater.

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At Warm Your Floor, we recommend 120V systems for heated areas less than 150 square feet (at 12 W/sf), and 240V systems for heated areas more than 150 square feet. The reason for this is a single thermostat can control 15 amps.

Most heated tile floors and electric floor heating systems use 12 watts per hour per square foot, meaning a 100-square-foot room would use 1200 watts in total every hour, or 300 watts LESS than the average space heater.

How many amps do heated seats draw?

  • Wattage: 24~36 Watts per Pad,
  • 48~60 Watts per seat
  • Current Draw: 3 Amps on Low Heat Setting and
  • 5 Amps on High Setting per Seat.
  • under the perforated heat pads and the ambient air blows through the heat pads.
Doing the calculation in my head, a Prius HV battery might heat a car seat for a few days? I believe all the 12V devices draw their power from the LV battery, not the HV battery.

I believe the 110VAC outlets draw power from HV battery.

If li-ion batteries can be charged from the 110V, 1500W outlets, would that be a better solution to power heated blankets?

The PHEV compromise is steep, because the RAV4 Prime has an 18Wh HV battery, that can be controlled from car settings.

How long can a gas engine be idled for, without damaging the engine? A diesel only 30 minutes. Diesels are good at idling, too.

Over the past two decades, state legislatures have enacted various forms of legislation to minimize vehicle idling. Nine states—
  • Colorado, - the idling law limit eliminates all non-PHEVs from consideration for me!
  • Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Texas and Vermont—and Washington, D.C.,
  • limit idling to between three and five minutes for most vehicles.Sep 11, 2018
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Reflections on Hybrids

Winnebago Revel set the trend by putting 110VAC, 2000W outlets in 4x4 vehicles. The reality is high wattage 110VAC is a very expensive luxury item. High wattage 110VAC requires a very large battery to be practical.

Very large batteries require DC (not AC slow) fast charging. Without DC fast charging, the vehicle needs solar panels. The Revel has solar panels.

DC fast charging is impractical in homes, because that power level is beyond the reach of 99% of the population. Level 2 AC charging is a very expensive electrical circuit.

110VAC is one major reason the Revel costs $174,000. 110VAC cannot be manufactured on the cheap.

110VAC requires DC fast charging. Not even the reference model RAV4 Prime with adequate battery capacity is suitable for 110VAC, because it lacks DC fast charging. 110VAC requires the car owner to use public charging, because that is the only access point that can supply that power level to quickly charge a large battery.

A homeowner can DC fast charge with a large solar panel array and a giant wall battery. I don’t know how many years it would take for such a System to breakeven. Certainly very long run, like 10 to 20 years.
Mild hybrid is the only hybrid technology I would consider today. Mild hybrids should not have 110VAC because they are incapable of any kind of charging.
My feelings of deep ambivalence have turned to utter frustration and disappointment.

Now having said that, a case can be made for highway travel, but not camping. The case is further limited by battery capacity, or five to ten minutes of 1500W use.

Short activities like small microwave cooking or making toast and coffee are OK between driving stops when the battery is fully charged. They are within the Sienna battery capacity. The AWD has a larger battery than the FWD, to accommodate regenerative braking.

However, using the 110VAC to cook on an induction stove or heat water for a shower longer than five minutes means idling the engine.

The value of a 110VAC outlet is probably about $250 to $500. I Certainty would not upgrade to the Platinum trim model to get 110VAC outlets.

I would certainly use the 110VAC for Highway travel, if It were part of a package that wanted. The outlets are useless for camping.

A moonroof for ventilation during rain is one feature I am willing to pay for. But that doesn’t mean I would buy a trim model that included 110VAC. I would probably just get the second level trim model for the moonroof. I would pay extra for the 110VAC outlets to vent air during rain. I cannot imagine upgrading to a higher trim package for 110VAC.

All of this aggravation and frustration could have been avoided if Toyota had made clear how long the 1500W outlet could be used for, which is a matter of minutes, not hours. Certainly, 110ACV is unsuitable for heating during sleep. Toyota should not make the Sienna appear as something it is not. The 110VAC is definitely NOT for camping, although the Sienna is presented as a camping vehicle in the PR literature . The 110VAC is the feature that enables camping.

The most apt summary is: it will cover the 110VAC gap during travel, but it is not a substitute for 110VAC at the campsite.

I suspect the same bipolar sales in the Sienna as RAV4 Prime. Some trim models will sell out, while others sit on the lot for months with 10 to 20% discounts. The charger, not the batteries, is most important.

I will probably opt for the Premium package if the AWD option has Ottoman reclining chairs. The chairs are comfortable work long hours behind a laptop. Perhaps, they may work well as a bed?
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Certainly something i will seriously consider. Right now, i am trying to understand the most advantageous electrical platform to build on top of. I am actually in the education stages.
good luck. education can be a lot of fun, and low cost! I worked on electrical systems on boats. Lots of crossover to camping.
good luck. education can be a lot of fun, and low cost! I worked on electrical systems on boats. Lots of crossover to camping.
Thanks. I draw much inspiration from boats. I suppose i will buy components from West Marine after i develop a plan.

The Ottoman feature is what i find most valuable about the Sienna so far. The Ottoman seems to transform space very well for the dimensions of the cargo area. Can sit or recline. Can fold out of the way. The only feature that strongly resonates with me, so far.

The Ottoman transforms like an accordion. Extending and collapsing along the length of the cargo area. I will use this concept when customizing the interior.

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good luck. education can be a lot of fun, and low cost! I worked on electrical systems on boats. Lots of crossover to camping.
Do you have an opinion about the small Sienna refrigerator? The refrigerator strikes me in the same manner as the 110VAC outlet. The refrigerator only seems useful while the motor-generator 1 (MG1) is running. Toyota takes advantage of the powerful compressor used to cool the 600V components.

But how useful is the refrigerator after turning off the engine? Do i need a separate refrigerator, anyhow? I am trying to use space wisely. I will probably fill the interior to the brim. Does it give me a way to take advantage of it for camping, that might not be obvious?

What would i do at a camp site, idle the engine every few hours for 30 minutes to recharge the battery and cool the refrigerator?

Now i am beginning to wonder whether the refrigerator automatically idles the engine when the refrigerator gets warm, like the car software does when the 110VAC drains the HV battery.

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I am starting to get the impression that Toyota expects you to use the Sienna in a cycling fashion when camping. Idle the car for long enough to replenish the resources, e.g., battery level, refrigerator temperature, etc.... Otherwise, i really don't understand the point of the features for camping. The features only seem relevant while the motor-generator 1 (MG1) is running. The HV battery is too small to be practical.

The car software behaves this way when you use the 110VAC and drain the HV battery. The software automatically starts the engine to supply electric power. There might be circumstances when this can be a benefit, but also a major problem if the windows are closed.
I'm starting to consider how to extend the battery capacity. I am considering buying a second 12V AMG deep cycling battery, identical to the Sienna battery. connecting the second battery to the existing one in parallel. I will put safety features between the two batteries, but i am just thinking conceptually, rather than specifically, at this point.

As with all gelled and sealed units, AGM batteries are sensitive to overcharging. A charge to 2.40V/cell (and higher) is fine; however, the float charge should be reduced to between 2.25 and 2.30V/cell (summer temperatures may require lower voltages). Automotive charging systems for flooded lead acid often have a fixed float voltage setting of 14.40V (2.40V/cell); a direct replacement with a sealed unit could overcharge the battery on a long drive. (See BU-403: Charging Lead Acid.)

AGM and other sealed batteries do not like heat and should be installed away from the engine compartment. Manufacturers recommend halting charge if the battery core reaches 49°C (120°F). Table 2 spells out the advantages and limitations of AGM.

I doubt this rumour is true.
With Toyota exploring new ways to expand its hybrid lineup, we wondered if Toyota plans to go one step further and produce a plug-in hybrid variant of the new Sienna. The automaker already offers the plug-in Prius Prime and is in the process of launching the plug-in RAV4 Prime. So, could a Sienna Prime be next?

Monte Kaehr, the chief engineer for the Sienna, confirmed the minivan's platform has been engineered to support a plug-in hybrid powertrain during a call with the media. Although this does not necessarily mean a Sienna Prime is a given, it does bode well for such a model finding its way to market. As is, Toyota expects the 2021 Sienna to deliver 33 mpg combined, and that number could increase dramatically with a plug-in hybrid powertrain.

A Sienna Prime may serve as an answer to those looking to recoup some of the 53 horses the newly hybridized, four-cylinder 2021 Sienna lost relative to its six-cylinder predecessor. In other words, a Sienna Prime might fill the performance shoes of the prior van, while still delivering fantastic fuel economy and plentiful interior space.

Chrysler is recalling 27,634 Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivans due to a fire risk. Until the vehicles can be repaired, the automaker says that they should be parked outdoors, away from other vehicles, and that owners should also be careful not to let any moisture get on the floor of the second row—including from wet umbrellas or drinks.

A Chrysler spokesman told CR that the fire risk is likely due to corrosion of an electrical connection involving the Pacifica’s 12-volt battery system, although the automaker is still investigating the cause. This system is used to power auxiliary features, including radios and garage door openers, and is not part of the vehicle’s plug-in hybrid propulsion system. However, only hybrid vehicles are included in this recall. The connection is located behind the driver seat.