The Box Truck Project

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Happy new year. The past 2 months of working on this project has been great fun. I love a project.

My primary project has been assembling my power plant, but I've also been working on flooring, and the bathroom.

The power plan required lots of study. I got a wiring diagram from Explorist.Life. It came with a nearly complete parts list, but it still took me a while to collect all the components. Dude has a video of every aspect of every step, but I still had to study the manuals.

So I laid down a vinyl plank floor. I know I'm not supposed to park cabinets on top of flooring, but I did leave an expansion gap along the other wall, so I think it will be OK. My floor has an access opening to the fuel pump. I tinkered for 3 days making a hatch cover and a floor vent for it. I needed to make them each sit solid and flush with the floor so nobody trips over it.

My other project was the bathroom. I had it all mocked up by early November. I disassembled it and finished each part with Stone Coat epoxy. While epoxy was curing, I was working on the power plant box and studying electrical stuff. Assembling the bathroom components was a riot. Everything fit perfectly, like Lego. Very satisfying. On the bathroom door, I was being a smart Alec. It's a wooden door - 1/2" ply. But I painted it, then wallpapered it to resemble...wood. And one wouldn't expect the other side of an outhouse door to be faux marble, so a little humor of the incongruous. I also finished my bucket venting system. For Alpha testing I filled the bucket and urine tank with cigar smoke. The fan, connected to a battery charger, cleared both covered vessels very quickly.

On my primary project, I constructed the power plant box. That box will also be my love seat, dining and office chair, and bed support. Then I started hanging and connecting components. What you see is a pair of 100 ah lithium batteries, a Lynx distributor, a Renogy 2000 watt inverter/charger, a Renogy 60 amp MPPT charge controller, and an Orion Tr-smart alternator charger that's not connected yet. I'm pretty sure this is too many heat generating components in that tiny space. To mitigate that, I installed a 5" fan in there. Also, I'm not going to enclose that space any further. I'll make a nice face frame for it, but instead of facing board I'll install bug screen. The end of the box may also get a screen, but otherwise will remain open to the space under the kitchen counter. I'll let you know this summer how that worked out.

My current project is branch circuits. I'm substantially complete on it, save for a handful of 12 volt outlets. But then they each like to have their own fuse, so a couple more days. Then I'll spin the whole thing up, program the components, and see what works.

Unless I get sparks and smoke from the power plant, my next primary project will be the kitchen counter. My fridge will be here Thursday. I can also work on building the bed, table, and remaining cupboards.
How many watts in solar panels do you have? What is the first tan box that the solar panels go to? Is the inverter/charger always on? Do you have a genset or shore power set up to feed the charger if needed? Does shore power charge the batteries while taking care of house needs? How many amps can the charger take from shore/genset?

Thank you!
Hi Ethan. I have 3 x 200 watt solar panels. The first box they feed into is a dual-pole solar disconnect switch. I would have just run it straight to the charge controller. But it was part of the wiring diagram I used, and is apparently required by the governing body associated with yachting. There's a link to it on this website: The inverter portion of the inverter charger must be turned on manually, either at the unit or by its wired remote button. The charger portion does its thing when connected to shore power, 30 amps in my case. When plugged in to shore power, the inverter/charger will charge the batteries while also providing AC power.

I think the solar panel switch is a good idea when working on the equipment too, as I have read that a charge controller receiving power only and not charging is hard on the controller. I see the solar panel disconnect in the diagram, but that image is hard to read at that resolution. Wow! Is that diagram worth the $9 to you, or whatever it cost?

I'm not clear on one thing, does the inverter only come on through the switch or remote, or does it come on when hooked up to shore power, too? Or when it's hooked up to shore power, do you still have to turn the inverter on?

Are you planning to eventually hook your alternator up also? I've looked into that and have seen a variety of setups, some being hooked up directly to the batteries, which seems crazy to me.

Anyway, nice setup from what I can see.
Yeah man, the diagram was worth every cent of the $10. I made extensive use of it. I still consulted tables and did the math, but in the end I had an answer key.

On the inverter, I don't know yet. The unit provides "pass through" power - power that the inverter didn't make from 12 volt. I suspect that I wouldn't have to turn it on, but I'll see.

I'll connect the alternator charger after I consult with my mechanic. This is an example of why I like to work on two projects at once. I have something to work on while I figure out the other.
What is your DC to DC controller rated for?

I don't know if you have seen my project, but here it is. It's my first build and I'm really wanting to start my next one.

PS, I started with 200 watts of panels and 200 aH of batteries, but I'm now up to 400 watts of panels and 300 aH of batteries.
You've documented your project very well. I saved it with my favorites so I can read it in detail when my data renews. My charger is the 12-12-30 model. At some point I might clean up my project journal and make it available. For now it helps me stay organized. When I need to fix or want to modify something, I'll be able to see how I put it together and where stuff is routed.
The tough part for me, as I still have much to learn, is how to calculate charge needs for my batteries while understanding resources (solar, shore, alternator, etc) improvements and proper integration. A lot of what I come across as educational seems to be or could be marketing, which leaves it suspect. Lucky for me I like to read.
I'm hip. Renogy groups their components into kits, so the components ought to be proportional and compatible. The dude at Explorist.Life is in a sense also selling Victron energy "kits." He gets a cha-ching every time we click on a product link, and good for him. I came across one of dude's early videos, and his power plant looked kind of heinous. Then in one of his latest vids, he recites the formulas behind the tables and has a much more organized looking plant. So, he got some help.

The biggest helper I got was use of the Lynx distributor. Prior to learning about that monster, I was looking at having mini buses in my power plant. I feel much more comfortable using the distributor. Mind you, I'm not doing the happy dance just yet. I'll spin the whole thing up later this week, and then maybe.

Today I'm connecting 12 volt outlets. A couple of them are combination cig socket / USB port, and they each want 2 slots in my panel, a 20 amp and a 5 amp. No. It gets a 20 amp fuse. The USB side gets an in-line 5 amp fuse, and I will cite the outlet in a way that I can easily pull out the outlet to access the in-line. If this is incorrect, I'm hoping our friends will jump in here and caution me.
What are these "tables" of which you speak? How can I see them?

I will have to look into Lynx distributors. Do you have a favorite URL for that?

USB receptacles are 5V at most, maybe 1.5 amps, right? I'm doing this off of the top of my head. (On a short search, it seems about right).
I have some 12volt ports, but I fuse them according to what is plugged into them. I see what the device is rated for in amps, then use that in my fuse panel. I think I only have 5 and 10 amp fuses, according to photos in my link on my truck (I'm away from home right now, yes, my truck).

Thank you for sharing time and knowledge with me!
What are these "tables" of which you speak? How can I see them?

I will have to look into Lynx distributors. Do you have a favorite URL for that?

USB receptacles are 5V at most, maybe 1.5 amps, right? I'm doing this off of the top of my head. (On a short search, it seems about right).
I have some 12volt ports, but I fuse them according to what is plugged into them. I see what the device is rated for in amps, then use that in my fuse panel. I think I only have 5 and 10 amp fuses, according to photos in my link on my truck (I'm away from home right now, yes, my truck).

Thank you for sharing time and knowledge with me!

Some of the newer USB are 3 or 5 amps if I remember correctly. They're for a larger power draw for phones and laptops that support a faster charge rate.
This was a malformed comment that I didn't know how to delete. See my next comment for what I had intended to go here.
The new USB is called PD and or QC 3.0...There are more but those are the main ones. They don't draw too much though. Don't go by the labels on equipment to calculate your power. You need to use a shunt like a victron bmv 712. I have that one and it works great. It will tell you how much battery you need. Thats how I figured out the 1200ah of lifepo4 for myself(dont worry I didn't overpay, I built the packs myself) Mine is powering two beefy laptops(one with a desktop ryzen cpu and radeon gpu) a/c, induction cooktop, samsung oven/microwave combo thing, 43 inch 4k tv with a chromecast android tv dongle, my two cell modems with their custom router which has a quad core ryzen cpu itself and a switch and some other equipment like a wifi AP as well as lights and diesel heater and a 12v fridge and peltier dehumidifier. I have two 10 inch subs and a 2800w amp too but that doesn't use much at all. I sit at around 400w of draw while using most things. The cooking draws the most power but is used the least time wise so its not too significant. Same thing for making coffee.
In the last seven weeks I made some progress and had lots of fun. I switched on my power plant and didn’t get any sparks or smoke. AND all the branch circuits operate as I had hoped. I took some pictures to document my wiring. I’ll post a couple. Setting my preferences, or programing the charge controller and inverter/charger was pretty straight forward.

Then my primary project became the kitchen unit. Cupboards, framed panels, and wall panels were the side projects. The cupboards are made of split 2x3s. The faces are Nordic Spruce, imported from Sweden (otherwise I’d call it B-grade white pine). The inlays are black walnut and some kind of tiger wood from the rain forest that my brother gave me. I treated the slides with Johnson’s paste wax so the panels slide smooth and quiet. Those sliding panels are the canvas for someone else’s artwork.

I also made the propane box. This one has 2 hoses. One for the camp stove, and one with a regulator for a catalytic heater.

I worked on the kitchen unit when I had gathered the immediate set of materials, and once I thought I knew what I was doing. So I framed the unit, installed drawer slides, made drawers and a sliding shelf for the fridge. Once I had the unit screwed in place in the truck, I worked on the face frame and drawer fronts. I really took my time with this. Everything sits flush, operates smoothly, and the gaps between the face frame and drawer fronts are about as even as I could have hoped for.

The drawers lock for movement with barrel locks. I can reach up on either side of the sink to operate them. For the fridge drawer I added a locking tab that gets secured by a barrel lock on the toe kick.

I turned knobs for the drawers from black walnut. The fridge “pulls” are the ports through the drawer front. Those ports are also the way to the fridge lid latches. I could have shoved the fridge back on its shelf so that one could reach between the drawer front and the lid latch, but I didn’t like the way that felt. The ergonomics wasn’t comfortable. Operating the lid latches through the ports is a much more natural hand movement.

I installed the framed panels coving the water and power plants using beau clips. When I want to access those compartments, the panels come off entirely…with some effort. We’ll just see how easy a bumpy road might peel them off.

I got a sink. It will be under-mounted to the countertop with silicone adhesive, and it’s also mechanically supported by the frame you see there.

I fabricated the countertop. Here it is with a coat of primer. I also made a shelf for a microwave. I’ll begin pouring epoxy on them this week.

I worked sporadically on wall panels. I did the panels around the bathroom – with switches for the bathroom light, water pump, and water heater controller – and I finished the box side of the pass-through. I will touch up paint the screw heads, but I’m leaving them showing, the seams too. It looks a little Frankenstein. But I want to be able to remove wall panels – to add a switch or an outlet, whatever – without having to remove anything else. That way I’ll actually make the improvement instead of putting it off.

I have just about everything I need to complete the under-counter engineering: water jugs, extra jug caps to modify, foot pump, drip pan, etc. I’m not going to install any of that until after I’ve installed the countertop. I haven’t installed the propane box either – it’s just stored in place. I’ll need to pull out the box and all the drawers, and crawl the whole length of that space to pocket hole screw the countertop down from the bottom. Then I’ll install the propane box and everything that makes the sink work.

I’m loving this project. The last 10 months have been a ton of fun.

View attachment 28817View attachment 28816View attachment 28815View attachment 28814View attachment 28813View attachment 28812View attachment 28811View attachment 28810Here’s what I’ve done so far in the 6 weeks I’ve had this truck. I’ve been taking my time and journaling my work. Writing down my thoughts and ideas helps me to identify the ridiculous ones and research the plausible ones.
I’m getting pretty close to being ready to pull the engine and transmission.
I’m calling the roof done for now.

A sea of white, I know. Unless the sky is overcast and threatening rain I really can’t see a thing up there.
I got the seats out of the cab, and that nasty mat, and sterilized the area. The floor had some rust areas that I grinded down and hit with Rustoleum. Some other spots I had to excavate and repair.

I’m not going to do anything else to the cab until the mechanical work is done. But I know that once the truck is running we’re gonna want to put the seats in and drive it around. But not so fast. That’s when I’ll cut the pass-through, paint the floor with bed liner, and install a back wall with a sliding door. I’ll template the back wall of the cab tomorrow and begin fabricating the back wall / sliding door. So when the time is right, some of that will be ready to go.

I’ve also been building the back wall / doors assembly that replaces the garage type door the truck came with. .
It’s 2x3 framing, skinned outside with ½” ply, inside with ¼” ply, covered with PMF and a few coats of paint. I think that’s the industrial appearance I had in mind. Wrapping the insides of the doors with PMF as well was an afterthought, and I didn’t have enough clearance for it. I ended up sanding off the PMF on about half the edges on the inside. The 3-point lock is from McMaster-Carr and I think it’s pretty sexy, so I dolled it up a bit with some paint and some acorn nuts. Apparently I’m going with a safety theme for the back doors.

I intend to add red and white reflective tape to the top and bottom of the doorway, and a safety strap of yellow 1” tubular nylon webbing across the back door just to make sure I don’t stumble out of the door while opening it.

And yeah, I’m painting everything before I install or fully assemble it. Framing, the backs of panels, the undersides of panels – it’s all getting a coat of paint. I have paint leftover from sprucing up my home, so I’m using it to stabilize all my wood.

[size=medium]I also laid down some floor. 1” XPS under ¾” ply, staggered so that the edge of the plywood lands in the middle of a sheet of XPS. Here’s my fuel pump access opening. You can’t see the fuel tank in this picture because the ramp is in the way. This will also be my floor vent. I envision being able to remove a chunk of my floor to access the fuel pump, or to drop in a vent – really just a frame, with a bug screen on the bottom and a piece of aluminum with holes in it on top. As a floor vent it’s already a blessing. Somehow it’s letting in cool air from under the truck, which is nice right about now.
Thanks for all the pictures
Haven't checked this thread in a while. Plenty of progress on the interior but seems the mechanical side has stopped. Being able to move under your own power is rather important. Just saying, it looks real nice inside but seems like the cart before the horse to me.