How to Install a Tesla Powerwall in a Van


How to Install a Tesla Powerwall in a Van

If you’re looking to get off the grid, or you just want some power during your next road trip, you’ve probably considered installing a battery like the Tesla Powerwall in your vehicle. Of course, to do so, you have to know how to install a Powerwall in a van.

Can you install a Tesla Powerwall in a van? Yes, you can install a Tesla Powerwall in a van. However, doing so requires some planning. If you do choose to install one in your van, you’ll need to make a few modifications to ensure that the battery is securely in place and the solar panels are properly mounted.

If you’d like to harness the power of solar energy in your van, then we’ve got you covered. We’ll discuss what exactly a Tesla Powerwall is and then layout how to install one in your van. Get ready to feel like you’re at home on your next road trip. Because you have a Powerwall installed, you’ll be ready to bring all your favorite appliances with you.

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What is a Tesla Powerwall?

A Tesla Powerwall is essentially a large rechargeable battery that can power a home during the evening or if the power goes out. During the daytime, when people are less likely to use as much electricity, the Powerwall charges itself via solar panels. During the evening, it uses the power to effectively lessen the user’s electricity bill.

Tesla’s Powerwall can also serve as a backup generator of sorts if the power grid goes down. When the power cuts out, the Powerwall will automatically start just like any generator. The newest version of the Powerwall can even recharge your vehicle if it is electric.

It’s important to note here that the Powerwall doesn’t necessarily require solar panels. Your home electrical system can also charge the Powerwall. However, it is advisable to use solar panels as that is how a Powerwall saves you money. 

The Powerwall costs around $5,500 per unit, and Tesla suggests that you have two to three to power the average home. One of the benefits of using Powerwall in a van or an RV is that a single Powerwall is likely sufficient for your power needs.

Tesla Powerwall Models

Currently, there are two models of the Tesla Powerwall. They are the Powerwall and Powerwall 2. The second model increased both the efficiency of the battery and made its use more practical by combining functions. We’ve broken down the differences between Powerwall 1 and 2 below:  

  • No need for an Inverter: The original Powerwall required that the user have an inverter separate from the battery so that it could convert the energy gathered by the solar panels. With the Powerwall 2, you no longer need to take up all that extra space as the device already has an inverter built-in.
  • Easier to Install: Either way, you will likely need to hire a certified individual to install your Powerwall. However, the process is less complicated and quicker to finish due to the elegance and simplified nature of the newer model.
  • Less prone to overheating: The first Powerwall battery was more likely to overheat, as it didn’t have the liquid cooling of the subsequent model. This is especially important when you’re using it for power in a vehicle, as you’re likely to use it for long periods.
  • More than doubles the storage capacity: Powerwall has a storage capacity of 6.4 kWh, whereas Powerwall 2 is at 13.5 kWh. You’re getting over double the storage capacity on a device that already works more efficiently.
  • Easier to mount to the wall: This is important when it comes to securing the Powerwall in your van. Powerwall 2 is built to be mounted on the wall or the floor, whereas the previous model required more molding to do so.
  • Can be monitored via the app: Tesla built the Powerwall 2 with their app in mind. This means that you can get updates on your phone and save some time when you’re traveling.

Modes of Tesla Powerwall

Both models of Powerwall have three basic modes that can be applied to differing circumstances. The circumstances largely relate to what exactly you’re using your Powerwall for. Generally, you will use your Powerwall as a backup generator or a way to cut down on the electricity bill. The modes include:

  • Backup Only: As the name implies, this is meant as a backup in case your power goes out. When your Powerwall is set on this mode, it will save the energy it has gathered in the event you lose power.
  • Self-Powered: In this mode, your Powerwall will kick on after the sun sets and use the energy it gathered during daylight. This is good because most of the time people use up electricity in their home at night, as more lights come on and they settle in to watch a TV show or pursue the internet on their computer. This option will almost save you money by default. 
  • Time Based-Control: With this setting, the Powerwall will store energy during the times when it’s less likely to be in use and then power on during peak usage. This is where the Powerwall can save you a lot of money.

Why Should I Install a Tesla Powerwall in My Van?

Now that we know what Tesla’s Powerwall does and what models there are, let’s turn our attention to the benefits of having one set up in a vehicle like a van or an RV. Some of the benefits are below:

  • Powerwall makes it easy to set up appliances: If you have a camper van and you want it to feel more like a mobile hotel room, you’ll need outlets to plug in all of your appliances. Not to mention that if you’d like to have a place to charge your phone or plug in a laptop, you’ll be able to do that as well. With Powerwall, you’ll have a battery strong enough to do just that.
  • Solar energy saves money in the long run: Using solar panels to generate your electricity will save you a considerable amount of cash in the long run. You may have to spend a little more to get a Tesla Powerwall, but it will make that money back in no time.
  • You can be more self-sufficient: The nice thing about using solar power is that you don’t have to rely on an external source—aside from the sun—to generate your power. One of the main reasons people get into using vehicles like RVs, Campers, and Vans is because of the freedom they provide. With the addition of solar energy from your Powerwall, that freedom will extend to your electricity as well.
  • Powerwall is the way of the future: As our society transitions away from nonrenewable to renewable energy, solar-powered devices like this will be in higher and higher demand. Plus, you’ll have the knowledge that you’re minimizing your impact on the environment compared to using a gas-powered generator.

Things to Keep in Mind Before Installation

Now we’re just about ready to begin the steps of installation. However, there are a few things you might want to bear in mind before you start:

  • Make sure your van is large enough: Tesla’s Powerwall is quite large, coming in at 45.3 in x 29.7 in x 6.1 in and around 269 lbs in weight. If that is too large for your van, but you still want to power it, you may want to check out some of the alternatives we’ve listed at the bottom of this article.
  • Consider which model you should use: Powerwall 2 is probably a better choice for a van for several reasons. First and foremost, it will save you space because you don’t need an additional inverter to use it. It also has the benefit of its cooling system, which comes in handy when you’re using it for power over extended periods of time.
  • Ensure you keep your vehicle in the appropriate environment: This is only important if you live in an area where the temperature can become extreme. Because the Powerwall is primarily for use in homes, it has more stringent requirements for the environment it can be operated safely within. You must be able to store it in a place that stays between -4° F to 144° F. However Tesla recommends you keep it in an environment between 32° F and 86°F.
  • Consider the costs of installation: While the Powerwall costs $5,500, that doesn’t include installation. Because of the technical expertise required for installation, most individuals will have to also consider the costs of hiring someone to do it. This can increase costs into the tens of thousands overall.
  • Make sure it fits your needs: Both Powerwall models can put out enough energy to power a home. If you don’t need that level of energy in your van, you can save some money by trying out a less powerful alternative like Tesla’s Model S battery.

Tips to Install a Tesla Powerwall in a Van

When it comes time to install your Tesla Powerwall your best bet is to pay certified installers to do it for you. The process requires a degree of esoteric knowledge surrounding wiring and electronics. That being said, there are a few things you can do to prepare a space for them to do it:

  • You’ll need the right electric system in your van: The Tesla Powerwall is meant to be hooked up to the kind of AC current that flows within your home, but not necessarily the kind of DC current you have flowing through your car. You can find several guides online that will walk you through the process of preparing your van or RV’s electrical system. However, you should consider consulting experts before you begin.
  • Find a place to mount the brackets that will hold the Powerwall in place: Think of the way a flat-screen TV mounts to a wall using brackets. The Powerwall is similarly held in place using brackets. When you’re installing it in a van, you might want to consider using the floor so that it is less likely to fall and be broken during movement.
  • Where you plan to install the power wall should also be accessible to the electronic infrastructure:  Having enough space and the appropriate infrastructure are not enough for a successful installation if the battery can’t actually be hooked up. You’ll want to make sure that you position it near your electronic infrastructure so that the installation can go smoothly.
  • Ensure you have the space for your solar panels: There are a huge number of options when it comes to solar panels for your van. Whichever you choose to use, you need to make sure you have space on top of your van to install them so that you can catch that solar energy during the daytime.
  • You’ll need a wifi hotspot to connect the app and use your Powerwall: Your Powerwall must remain connected to the internet. Also, the Powerwall app connects to the actual device via wifi. Nowadays, you can use your phone as a hotspot. However, providers like Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T have more permanent options for mobile homes that you should consider using.

What About Installing in an RV or a Camper?

If you can install a Powerwall in a van, then it stands to reason that you can also install one in an RV or a Camper, right? Absolutely, and it’s pretty much the same process.

As long as you have the appropriate amount of room and the correct electrical infrastructure in place you can install the Powerwall just about anywhere. Sometimes this can be easier to do if you’re using a larger RV or Camper with more space.

Important Tips on Maintenance 

If you have the Powerwall 2, the app should alert you of problems as they arise so that you can get the longest lifespan out of your device. Still, to truly get the most out of having a Powerwall in your van, you’ll want to make sure that you perform the following proper maintenance procedures:

  • Ensure the Powerwall remains connected to the wifi: For the Powerwall app to work and report problems the system is having, it has to be connected to your wifi. This is where picking a good provider for your hotspot becomes so important.
  • Keep the environment clean: Powerwalls are not cheap and can be costly to repair. If you’ve installed your Powerwall on the floor to avoid it falling while the van is in motion, you should make sure the area is clear of any debris.
  • Use the appropriate tools to clean your device regularly: You should never attempt to use solvents or cleaning supplies full of chemicals to clean your Powerwall. Also, keep in mind that flammable cleaning supplies are never a good idea to put around your Powerwall. Instead, use a lint-free cloth to gently brush away any grime that builds up on the device. If there does happen to be a mess that goes beyond a little dust, you can mix some warm water with a small amount of soap and use it to clean the Powerwall.

That pretty much covers all you need to know about installing a Powerwall in a van. But perhaps you have found that the Powerwall is not the best option for your needs. In that case, you can still find an alternative to do a similar job.

Tesla Alternative to Powerwall for Vehicles

Because the Powerwall is geared more towards the home than vehicles, you may wish to find a more tried and true option via Tesla that could save you some money and headaches. The following battery is a good second option, that has been used in the past to provide solar energy to those living the van life.

Tesla Model S Battery Module: At first glance, you may wonder why you’d ever go with this battery over the Power wall. It has 5.2 kWh of storage–as compared to the 13.5 of the Powerwall–and its system is far less integrated. Still, if you don’t need all of the storage of the Powerwall and you want something that is easier to install, this might be just what you need. Plus you’ll save a considerable amount of money when all is said and done.

Conclusion

Seeing how selecting the right Powerwall or battery for your van or RV can seem overwhelming with all the information it entails, perhaps a summary is in order. How exactly do you install Tesla Powerwall in your van? Well, first you pick which model works best. We recommend the Powerwall 2 because of its extra features and the space it saves having a preinstalled inverter.

Before you hire someone to install it, you’ll want to make sure that your van can handle the heavy weight of the Powerwall and that you have enough space to allow it to sit stationary. You’ll also need to prepare shore power in your van so that there is a place for the Powerwall to be hooked up and that all this electrical equipment is accessible. If you do all of this and clear a space for your solar panels, you’ll be ready to hit the road in no time! 

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Greg

Hi, I'm Greg. My daily driver is a Tesla Model 3 Performance. I've learned a ton about Teslas from hands-on experience and this is the site where I share everything I've learned.

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