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Proven & Unbiased Information from Collyn Rivers

♦ caravans ♦ motorhomes ♦ camper trailers ♦ solar ♦

Important News

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is investigating the Caravan Industry

A media release was issued on 12 November seeking information about the industry in relation to Australian Consumer Law. The ACCC has received over 1300 complaints about the industry over the last 5 year, and they've finally decided to act.  RV Books has been active in pointing out the shortcomings of the industry, particularly in the area of caravan safety, and we applaud their efforts.

The ACCC have set up two surveys - one for purchasers and the other for retailers.  We encourage everyone caravan owner to respond.  The survey is easy to complete and will only take a few minutes.

Click here to read the media release: https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/views-sought-on-caravan-industry

Click here to go straight to the survey: https://consultation.accc.gov.au/accc/new-caravan-survey-consumers/

As information becomes available regarding this investigation we will report it here.  Discussion of the issues raised by this investigation can be found in our forum: https://rvbooks.com.au/forum/

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Search our catalog of exclusive RV articles

Between 1959 and 1961 Collyn Rivers and Antony Fleming drove a Bedford QLR off-road truck twice the length and breadth of Africa studying road surface conditions.

A 43 minute film about their adventure, produced and narrated by Antony Fleming, has been viewed on YouTube more than 1.6 million  times!

Picture from africa journey. Caravan and motorhome electrics by collyn rivers

To view the film, and also read Collyn's telling of the tale, just click the button below.

Africa 

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The Camper Trailer Book.  Free!

Not currently available as an eBook or paperback, RV Books is publishing The Camper Trailer Book on this site.  Every week new sections will be released until the complete, fully revised, version is available.

Read It Here

Solar Success

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Collyn Rivers is the author of Solar Success. Previously only available on a different website (solarbooks.com.au),  you'll now find this book and a large selection of exclusive articles by Collyn Rivers dealing with the intricacies of setting up and using solar power to run your home, cabin, caravan or motorhome.  Over the next few weeks all of the content from Collyn's second site will be brought over to RV Books to provide a more comprehensive coverage of a wider range of topics. 

Solar Success

Featured article

Our solar equipped RVs – all proved a major success

by Collyn Rivers - Updated 2021

Solar Equipped RVs

We personally drove our solar equipped RVs some 170,000 km over most of Australia's inland dirt tracks. Nothing failed in that distance (and 20 years).

Our solar equipped RVs - VW Kombi

Of our solar-equipped RVs, the first was a now rare 1971 VW Kombi Westfalia camper that we modified for extensive Australia dirt road usage. Solar back then was very costly. Our single Solarex 80 watt solar module cost $560 (a lot of money back then). This was far than I now advise, but it worked well as we travelled in areas of ample, reliable sun. A basic solar regulator controlled solar input to a 100 amp-hour battery. The battery could also charge, via a voltage sensing relay, from the VW’s alternator.
Kombi tilted module

The trustworthy VW Kombi and my wife (Maarit) just off the Strzelecki track - camping overnight. Pic: rvbooks.com.au

This system powered a 40 watt Engel chest fridge, plus internal and external lighting via three 20 watt halogen globes. Only two were used simultaneously.

The Kombi proved 100% reliable over some 25,000 km of mostly corrugated dirt tracks. These included the Birdsville, Oodnadatta and Strzelecki. Its low-slung engine, however, precluded deep water crossings. Further, a Kombi is all but impossible to keep in a straight line on soft mud tracks. I sold it a few years later and bought an OKA ex-mining truck.

Our solar equipped RVs - the OKA

OKAs are Australian-made 5.5 tonne 4WD trucks originally intended for use on mining sites etc. They are ideal for seriously fully off-road use. Some 550 or so were made from 1993 to 2010. Production then ceased. They are now sought after as stunning go-anywhere vehicles. Even after several hundred thousand kilometres, they now sell for well over their original new price! Ours was a 14-seat coach-bodied version made in 1994.
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The OKA crosses Wenlock river on the track to the tip of Cape York. The white dome is the antenna for its satellite phone. Pic: rvbooks.com.au

The original heavy steel roof was replaced the roof by a fibreglass pop-top. The interior was stripped to accommodate a dinette/double bed plus kitchen. The entire powder-coated white aluminium interior weighed under 75 kg (165 lb). Also installed were twin 220-litre water tanks, two 210 litre fuel tanks, a second spare wheel and a firewood rack.

The alternator was replaced by a Bosch 140 amp unit. This charged the 400 amp battery bank via an early smart alternator regulator and voltage sensing relay. I mounted two 100 watt Solarex solar panels on the cab roof, and installed a Plasmatronic PL20 regulator.

Main loads were a 71-litre eutectic Oz Fridge and a Westinghouse satellite phone/fax. The latter was as big as a large suitcase. It weighed over 15 kg (33 lb). Its dome antenna can be seen (above). I also installed 12 (switchable) halogen globes, each of 10 or 20 watts (this was before the era of LEDs).

Our solar equipped RVs - the OKA in use

We used the OKA extensively, driving across Australia (via Alice Springs) from our then Broome home (All Solar House) to the east coast and back. We did the return trip (about 13,000 km) twelve times in the OKA. And three more times with our later-owned 4.2-litre turbo-diesel Nissan Patrol and TVan. Some 80% of each trip was off-road.

The Westinghouse satellite fax/telephone was 100% reliable - but energy-hungry. I replaced it in 2002 by a hand-held version. This reduced energy draw, enabling us to slash battery capacity to 120 amp-hours.

Whilst ideal for long distances off-road, OKAs are too large and unwieldy for everyday use. We reluctantly sold it to a Queenslander - who drove it home. He later restored it superbly.
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How the previously-owned OKA looks now.

Our solar equipped RVs - Nissan Patrol/TVan

We replaced the OKA by one of the last 4.2 litres TD Nissan Patrols, and a TVan.

This time I went all solar. I designed and installed a self-contained system in each. The Nissan's two 100 watt solar modules charged a 110 amp-hour AGM via a Plasmatronic PL 40 regulator. The alternator did not normally charge that battery. If needed it could be done via a switched voltage-sensing relay. Its main load is a 60 litre Engel fridge. It also powered a single outside light.
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The Nissan Patrol and TVan at Mitchells Falls (in Australia's far-north Kimberley). Pic: rvbooks.com.au

The Nissan also had the very first Redarc BMS 1215 Battery Management System (for which I assisted Redarc to formulate the original specifications). This, (unit 0000001) was powered from solar and the Nissan’s alternator. It drove a dummy resistive load, working superbly over very rough 75,000 km. It still lives today - charging a battery for our garden's outside lighting.

The Tvan's roof held a 50-watt solar module. This charged a 100 amp-hour AGM battery via another PL20. Its load was two 5-watt LEDs, an external 5-watt LED, water pump and a diesel-powered heater. It also drove a laptop computer via Telstra Next G. In ultra-cold areas it drove a 12-volt electric blanket for half an hour or so. The total load was less than 20 amp-hours/day. The two systems could be interconnected - but never needed.

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Plasmatronic PL20 regulator indicates a comforting 12.5 volts (in the TVan). Pic: rvbooks.com.au

Our solar equipped RVs - Nissan Patrol/TVan in use

The Nissan/TVan solar worked so well I strongly recommend the approach. It works particularly well for 4WDs towing camper trailers. A TVan has limited space and carrying capacity, but the we travelled, the less we realised one needs to carry. After a year or three, we always had ample space left over.

All three of our solar-equipped RVs worked without any problems over a combined 165,000 km. Of that, over 100,000 km was on Australia's badly corrugated dirt tracks. Often in 36-40º C.

Collyn's Books

Collyn Rivers' books include the Caravan & Motorhome Book, the Camper Trailer Book, Caravan & Motorhome Electrics, Solar That Really Works (for boats, cabins and RVs) and Solar Success (for home and property systems).

Recently updated articles

Electric Vehicle Batteries

The market for quickly-rechargeable, light and compact batteries is huge. One or another battery will eventually evolve. When it does, electric-only vehicles are likely to have a range unthinkable using fossil-fuels. Moreover, in the meantime, hybrids are an excellent compromise. Furthermore, see also Electric Vehicles – Hybrids.

read more

Electric Vehicle Home Charging

Many existing home grid-connect solar systems have excess capacity outside peak periods. Solar energy fed in during the day can be re-drawn during off-peak periods, for much the same price, to charge an electric car. This is because many grid networks have excess capacity outside peak periods. Furthermore, such charging extends battery life: all dislike ongoing deep discharges.

read more

Electric Vehicle Motors

Updated 2020 Electric vehicle motors AC/DC Electric vehicle motors use one or other of the two main kinds of electricity: alternating current and direct current. Both are effective as electric vehicle motors. Alternating Current (AC) is where electric current...

read more

Electric and Hybrid Vehicles

Globally, there is move to electric vehicles. Apart from minor rubber tyre particles they are virtually emission free.They are also about 80% efficient. If, however, their electricity is from fossil-fuelled power stations, their emissions are similar to year 2020 petrol-fuelled (or hybrid) vehicles.

read more

Articles by Category

Electrical (general)
Batteries & Battery Charging
General
Travel
The Camper Trailer Book

Want to find out more? Our books cover all these topics and a lot more. 

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Whether you’re buying your first RV or updating to a bigger, more comfortable rig, there are a great many things you need to know and consider. How to Choose and Buy an RV breaks things down so that you can decide what you want and whether or not what you’ve found is right for you.

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Cover of solar that really works by collyn riversSolar That Really Works! explains every detail of designing and installing solar in boats, camper trailers, caravans and motorhomes.

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Cover of caravan and motorhome electrics by collyn riversCaravan & Motorhome Electrics covers every aspect of designing, installing and fault finding of the electrics in fifth wheel and conventional caravans, camper trailers and motorhomes.

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Cover of the caravan and motorhome book by collyn riversThe Caravan & Motorhome Book covers every conceivable aspect of camper trailer, caravan and fifth wheel caravan, campervan and motorhome usage.

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Cover of why caravans roll over by collyn riversCaravans and their tow vehicles rarely jack-knife and roll over - but when they do the results are catastrophic. The cause, and how to prevent it, is explained here. Why Caravans Roll Over offers solid advice for keeping yourself safe on the road.
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Cover of solar success by collyn riversSolar Success explains how to design and build home and property systems that ensures affordable solar success first and every time.

 

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Cover of how to choose and buy an rv by collyn riversWhether you're buying your first RV or updating to a bigger, more comfortable rig, there are a great many things you need to know and consider.  This book breaks things down so that you can decide what you want and whether or not what you've found is right for you. It's technically sound and comprehensive so that you can proceed with complete confidence.  How to Choose and Buy an RV is the ultimate guide for those times when you want to, well, choose and buy an RV.

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Cover of why caravans roll over by collyn riversCaravans and their tow vehicles rarely jack-knife and roll over - but when they do the results are catastrophic. The cause, and how to prevent it, is explained here.  Why Caravans Roll Over offers solid advice for keeping yourself safe on the road.

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Cover of caravan and motorhome electrics by collyn riversCaravan & Motorhome Electrics is the totally rewritten successor to the original globally selling Motorhome Electrics. The book's content now also covers every aspect of designing, installing and fault finding of the electrics in fifth wheel and conventional caravans, camper trailers and motorhomes.

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Cover of solar success by collyn riversSolar Success explains how to design and build home and property systems that ensures affordable solar success first and every time.

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Cover of the caravan and motorhome book by collyn riversThe Caravan & Motorhome Book covers every conceivable aspect of camper trailer, caravan and fifth wheel caravan, campervan and motorhome usage. Like all of Collyn Rivers' books it is technically sound yet written in plain English.

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Cover of solar that really works by collyn riversSolar That Really Works! explains, in clear English, every detail of designing and installing solar in boats, camper trailers, caravans and motorhomes. It is up-to-date, valid globally and technically accurate. It is clear, concise and easy to follow without sacrificing important detail.

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How to Choose and Buy an RV

This is Collyn Rivers' newest book.  Building on his years of experience and extensive knowledge of engineering and all things caravan and RV, this is the book you need with you when shopping for an RV.

Caravan & Motorhome Electrics

Collyn Rivers has done it again! – if you need to know anything about motorhome electrics, then this book is for you... Collyn must be, without doubt, the foremost authority in Australia on this subject.

The Wanderer (Campervan & Motorhome Club of Australia Ltd)

Why Caravans Roll Over....and How to Prevent It​

Should be compulsory reading for everyone involved with Caravans: Design / Engineering, Marketing, Journalism (print & electronic), Regulations, Inspections, Driver-Training, Caravan Clubs, Towing and Modifications.

Colin Young

Founder and CEO, Caravan Council of Australia

Solar that Really Works!

Collyn is an accomplished engineer who knows how to design and build successful systems. It is refreshing to see practical advice written in plain language when there is so little solar information around. . . this is an essential text . . . you won’t find a better guide.

Alan T. Gray

Earth Garden Magazine

The Caravan & Motorhome Book

Without doubt, this is the best book we have ever read . . . it will be treasured, and read on a regular basis.

The Wanderer (Campervan & Motorhome Club of Australia Ltd)