Triggered by the realization that over 12 months have passed since we took delivery of our new Murvi it is perhaps time to review our experiences to date.
Previously I have written about the reasons for changing our Murvi and the decisions made with regard to the specifications for the replacement vehicle. Now it seems enough time has passed to be in a position to critically assess whether the change was successful. It has been my experience that it takes a year to complete a full shakedown and once again this has been the case.
The base vehicle
The ‘van itself has been subject to three recalls by Fiat. Soon after taking ownership in February 2017 we received notification that a software update was required to adjust the Emissions Management, in October I learnt of a recall to check the EGR pipework and finally earlier this year I learnt that a clip needed replacing on the EGR pipework. Sadly the October recall caused an extremely frought two weeks of uncertainty over just when we would be able to use the ‘van again. The initial visit led to the ‘van being declared unroadworthy and a shortage of the necessary parts to return the vehicle to a roadworthy condition. Somehow our local Fiat Professional found the parts and after two weeks we were able to collect our ‘van. Luckily the final recall required just 20 mins of work to rectify.
In addition to the recall work the ‘van has had to have two items of warranty work completed. A relatively minor replacement of a marker light as the original was not watertight and a rather more involved replacement of an intermittantly functioning oil level sensor.
Fundamentally the conversion remains as well executed as ever. However the additional utility provided by the XL’s extra 36cm over our previous ‘van is very well appreciated. The extra kitchen cupboard/locker give room to easily store items without the need to cram everything in and the convenience of having items such as the EHU cable and water containers accessible outside the ‘ van makes life much easier.
The LiFePO4 (LFP) battery system has provided us with sufficient power for all our needs without any compromise. The system has been slightly modified and tweeked during the course of the year to improve efficiency and avoid overcharging in cold weather. The most significant change has been the addition of a colour screen to display a system overview on a single screen (link to full details of this project).
The addition of a Smart Energy Control unit to the Webasto compressor fridge has been perhaps the least successful of all the customisations that we specified.
The purpose of the unit is to reduce energy consumption and as the fridge is our largest power consumer it seemed a sensible option to fit. It works by closely monitoring the temperature in the main fridge compartment and using surplus power to store cold energy in the fridge contents. Initially the unit was unable to accurately identify when surplus power was available in our LFP battery system but this was addressed by adjusting the system voltages sensed by the SEC unit. However a consequence of the very precise monitoring of the main compartment temperature is that the contents of the freezer compartment can thaw when minimal compressor running is required.
Now that we are aware of this we can with careful setting of the fridge temperature control extend the time we can store frozen items but ultimately the freezer compartment can not be used beyond a few days. In restrospect I suppose I should have realised that this was a compromise that would have to be made to achieve the power savings on offer.