THERE WAS a time when a simple solenoid-type of dual-battery system was enough to happily supply your auxiliary 12-volt power needs – it’d keep the Engel cold without draining a vehicle’s main starter battery, and perhaps run a camp light every now and then.
This still does the job for many folks and their vehicles, but in an age when vehicle manufacturers are filling the cars with complex electronics systems, travellers never leave home without every conceivable electronic gadget, and 4x4 builds that include everything including the kitchen sink, our auxiliary power needs have changed considerably.
Our Ford Ranger has become one of those ‘everything including the kitchen sink’ type builds, so a good source of reliable power was essential for powering fridges, lights, gadgets, an inverter and charging the batteries for the team’s tools. For the right gear we went straight to the good folks at Redarc Electronics for proven, Australian-made hardware.
Redarc has extensive technical information available on its website to help you design the right system for your needs, and this is backed with online wring guides and tech support. We spoke directly with the technicians at Redarc’s Adelaide HQ and described our vehicle build and expected electrical needs, to get the best advice on the right product for the job. They recommended we run a Redarc Manager30 BC-DC charging system for battery management and a 2000-watt inverter for 240-volt power supply. These would be controlled via a RedVision TVMSKIT04.
The Manager30 is Redarc’s state-of-the-art battery charging system and is designed to work in vehicles with multiple batteries including the vehicle start battery, auxiliary batteries and any batteries in the camper trailer or caravan. The Manager30 is a 30-amp unit, and there is a smaller 15-amp version available.
The Manager30 works with all types of automotive batteries: Lead Acid, Gel, Calcium, AGM or Lithium-Iron Phosphate. On the technician’s recommendation we went with Lithium-Iron batteries and purchased a trio of 60-amp/h units from Revolution Power Solutions in Brisbane.
The Manager30 is capable of charging and maintaining your batteries via multiple sources including the vehicle’s alternator, so-called ‘smart alternators’ like that fitted to the Ranger, via 240-volt when plugged into mains power, or via a solar panel or blanket.
RedVision is Redarc’s vehicle electrical system management unit that accepts input from all of the vehicle’s accessories to control, switch and monitor them. This is done on the included control unit and display or via an Apple or Android device using a Bluetooth connection.
On our Ranger, the accessories running through the RedVision system include the Redarc inverter, the MyCOOLMAN fridge, work lights on the rear of the canopy, Narva LEDs on the roof rack, and the water pump for the canopy’s water tank. These can all be controlled via the display panel inside the AMVE canopy or on a smartphone.
One feature we haven’t hooked up yet is the ability to monitor the level in our water tank. The RedVision can monitor up to six different water tanks in a vehicle and trailer, but we need to hook up a sender unit on our tank to make that work. Another useful feature is the temperature input from the fridge. With a phone mounted in a cradle on the vehicle dash, we can see the temperature inside the fridge at any time to ensure all its contents are cool and safe.
Our aluminium canopy was built by the team at Allsafe Mining Vehicles & Equipment (AMVE) in Brisbane and, as they fit Redarc controllers to all their builds, the team there handled the Redarc and battery installation during this build, before shipping the canopy to us for installation.
The Manager30 and RedVision units are mounted in a panel on the headboard, with the control panel within easy reach from an open side door. There’s also a host of power outlets and circuit-breakers for any extra items that need charging.
The Redarc 2000W pure sine-wave inverter is mounted on the fridge divider, where it can be used to power 240-volt accessories or charge gadget batteries. It has a pure sine-wave output for powering sensitive electronics such as computers, while its grunty 2000-watt capacity means we can run things like toasters, a coffee machine or even some microwave ovens. Our trio of Li-po batteries are housed in a separate box behind the fridge enclosure.
With the Manager30 and the accessories running through the RedVision we are able to see exactly how much power we have in our battery bank, how much charge is being inputted via the alternator or 240-volt, and how much power is being sucked out by the accessories. It even gives us an indication of how many days of power we have in store depending on the inputs and power consumption, which is handy if set up at camp for a while.
As the Ranger doesn’t get used every day and is saved for trips, we plug the Manager30 into the 240V to keep the batteries topped up if it has been sitting idle for any longer than a week or two. We always like to do this in the days before a trip, and we switch the fridge on to cool things down so that it’s ready to be loaded and hit the road.
Operating the various systems has been a bit of a learning curve for us all, but the more time spent with it the more logical it becomes. While in the High Country we broke a power plug off the fridge cord and it was knackered. It was the second last day of the trip, but we powered the fridge off the invertor for the remainder to keep things cool.
Unfortunately the Ranger went into the shed with the fridge still running off the invertor, which drained our auxiliary batteries. The Li-Po batteries go into ‘sleep’ mode before they are totally dead, and they require ‘waking up’ before they will accept a charge. Tech support from Revolution Power clued us in to how to do this and they were booted back up via 240V on the Manager30.
Cameron from Redarc then showed us how to set a cut-out minimum in the RedVision system, to prevent draining when that low again. Now it will automatically shut the system down once that preset mark is reached, to avoid killing the batteries again. Lithium batteries are more resistant to damage from being fully discharged, but it’s not recommended to do it often and best to keep them topped up. With the Redarc systems now working, we are best equipped to do this.
The Ranger was built for trips and supporting our crew when out on shoots. With the right 12-volt power management system onboard, and us slowly working out how best to use it, it’s getting the job done without issue. And the best part is we’ve used Australian companies and Australian-made products to showcase the great work our brands do.
Don't leave for the tracks without 4x4 gear
RedVision Manager30 kit: $3186.81
Redarc 2000W pure sine invertor: $1991.65
Revolution Power 60Ah slim lithium batteries: $1306 (each)