Diesel Van Conversion Options

Hi fellow time squanderers! My wife and I are going to purchase a Dodge Sprinter that is converted for a mobile business. We imagine we will make between 6-10 service calls per day. There are two schools of thought - a conversion where you need to idle the Sprinter engine to generate enough power to use the equipment required (via power inverter) or a different model that comes with an 8000-10000 watt auxiliary generator. Is running the main diesel engine continuously (on a low RPM idle) less wear and tear then turning on and off 8 times a day? In general do diesel engines like to be on constantly? My thought is that the cost of upkeep on 2 diesels (truck and generator) would end up being less efficient, and more waste more resources than simply running one engine.


I would not worry about running the diesel all day long. These engines are used in taxis that idle all year long!

Diesels idle bettter than gas engines, as a general rule.

The diesel engine in the Sprinter is not the issue. The Sprinter’s engine will happily idle all day, or all week, or all month, but idling the engine is not what matters.

You’d be asking the Sprinter’s alternator to generate the equivalent of an 8,000-10,000 watt generator.

Does that sound like a good idea? I’m not an electrical expert, but to me this seems to be asking a lot.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I suggest you use the vehicle’s engine to drive the vehicle, and use a generator to provide the electrical power you need for your business.

If I’m wrong about this, which is entirely possible, others with more knowledge of automotive electronics will tell us both.

Let’s see what happens.

How much power (in watts) does your equipment actually need? Anything over 2000 watts, I would go with a separate power unit…

"These engines are used in taxis that idle all year long! "

As well as parcel delivery services. I’ve seen tons of DHL, FedEX and UPS Sprinters.

You may not have a choice. There are No Idling laws in each area of the country. Here’s a list of those areas that have idling restrictions with certain vehicles. http://www.epa.gov/smartway/documents/420b06004.pdf


You don’t say how much power you need. Is it really 8-10KW or is that just something that is available? Without that information, I can’t say.

Have you checked into the possibility that you can buy the Sprinter with a more powerful generator? If you can’t or it does not meet your needs, maybe some automotive electrical shops will install even more powerful, or second generators and auxiliary batteries. I might start by finding a shop that outfits ambulances. I don?t think that they need 8 KW , but maybe they can steer you in the right direction. There might be some emergency vehicle boards that you can check. It appears that the vehicle manufacturer that makes supplies the greatest number of ambulance platforms, Ford, will equip them with dual generators supplying a total of ca. 300 A at 12 V. That is only 3.6 KW and some of that is needed to run the vehicle. You might be able to boost that to 6 KW by installing aftermarket generators.

Maybe you are saying that you can order the Sprinter with a completely separate engine driving the auxiliary, 10 KW generator. Is that correct? Where is it mounted?

At 12V, there is no way a standard vehicle generator is going to provide that 800+ amps. An inverter that big is in the range that might be used for home photovoltaic power. I don?t think that will be small, light or inexpensive.

I have one comment in response to Tester. If the vehicle is providing electrical power, it might not be considered idling. Still, I can see that it might be a problem requiring multiple trips to the courts to explain it to the judge. That would be a real pain.