Portable Power for Your Van Life

Portable Power for Your Van Life

Van life, or living in a converted van or bus, has become increasingly popular over the last several years. A lot of people are attracted to this life because of the minimalist approach and nomadic freedom that comes with it. Whether you are a long-time van lifer or you're just now doing your first conversion of a van, there's one problem you’ll inevitably run into - figuring out the best way to put electricity into your van so you can power what you need.

Why You Need a Power Source for Your Van

If you're planning on spending any extended amount of time in your van, then you'll probably need to power a lot more than just your cell phone. Cell phones can usually be charged while your car is running, and more power than that is usually not necessary. But not everything in a van can be charged that way.

Living in a van often means working on the road from your computer. After all, unless you have a lot of money in savings, you can't just quit your job and live unemployed. You still have to buy food and other things. Remote online work has made living in a converted van absolutely possible, but it does mean needing plenty of power to keep your computer going and other conveniences you need and want, like Wi-Fi, mini-fridge, TV, a drone and such things. 

Full-time van life also means needing to cook in your van. You need to be able to see at night when you can't rely on the Sun for light anymore. If you're living in your van full time, no matter how minimalistic you're trying to be, odds are that at some point you will need electricity in your van. So what is the best way to make sure you have access to the power you need in your van?

Clean, Sustainable Power Options for Van Life

There are a few common options for using clean and sustainable power in your van. People use all sorts of power sources from gas generators to batteries, but not every solution is as good as another. Ideally, what you want in your van’s power is something sustainable, easy to use, silent, safe, and portable...and that usually means lithium energy storage.

Challenging Option: Wire Your Van With Solar Power + Batteries

This first option is a little more challenging than the second option. It requires learning a lot about electricity and how to work with it safely. If working with electricity and wiring your own system is not something you want to deal with, you may want to just skip to the next section which is a much simpler option. But if you really want a full-out electrical system built into your van, here's a bit of information to get you started.

** Working with electricity can be risky if you don't know what you're doing, so if you are going to wire your van, make sure you learn some basic safety practices for working with electricity. Doing so should help keep you safe as you work on your van. **

That being said, it is entirely possible to wire an electrical system in your van on your own. But it takes a lot of learning. Many people have written detailed guides for how to wire a van well and safely, but in this article, we're just briefly talking about what you can do to set up a complete electrical system in your home in your van.

Portable solar power is one of the best ways to get clean, sustainable energy off of the grid. To make the most of solar power in your van, you'll need to attach solar panels to the top. There are various solar panel kits like this Beginner DIY Solar Panel Kit from Lion Energy that make installing a solar panel very easy, and we definitely recommend that you use something like that to make the job as easy for you as possible. Keep in mind, the solar panels alone are not enough to keep your van’s electricity running especially if you run into bad weather and don't have much direct sunlight.

So you have to have something to attach the solar panels to. Along with solar panels, you can purchase large-capacity lithium iron phosphate batteries that can store the solar energy and convert it to electricity that you can use. Essentially, you’ll wire these batteries into the electrical system as the source for the power and you’ll need a charge controller and an inverter. Again, if this is a route you want to take, look for a more detailed guide of how to do this safely on the web.

Simpler Option: Use Solar + Standalone Power Unit

Now, the simpler option for electricity in your van also uses portable solar power, so you will still need solar panels to attach to the roof. But instead of attaching the panels to batteries that then power the electrical system in your van, you would connect the panels to a power unit. 

While these power units contain lithium batteries, they are much more than just batteries. The Lion Safari ME, for example, can store a lot of power for a long time, and it also has USB/USB-C, AC, and 12V outputs as well. So, instead of wiring your whole van, you would just run a cable from the panels to the power unit, which would then have the capacity to power everything you need electricity for in your van.

The benefit of choosing this option, aside from not needing to wire your whole van, is that a power unit can easily be moved from one place to another. So if you need the power unit in your kitchen area, you can set it there. And when you want it by your bed later, you can move it without hassle. And if you want to use it outside the van, you can do that too. You can also use multiple power units in varying shapes, sizes, and capabilities to make sure your electricity options are as diverse and convenient as you need them to be.

Find Reliable Power With Lion Energy

If you're looking to get started adding electricity to your van or bus conversion, start looking at Lion Energy. Our portable solar power is designed to be rugged and durable for years. From our solar panels to our power units, you will find what you need at Lion Energy. And who knows? Maybe you'll take our products above and beyond in your van life the way one of our ambassadors did. Check out how he used our products to make exploration goals become a reality, then go see what they can do for you.