Via (previously Caravan Control) – digital switching for campervans explained

If you’re wondering if Via is the new system we’ve developed for campervans and RVs our answer is, “no.” Via is Caravan Control – the same system, new name.

How come? “Caravan Control” was the working name we labeled the system in the very early stages of development. Over time it grew into a complete solution with a special character, so we decided to give it the name it deserves.

Via is Latin for road, way, or route. It is the name we feel very connected to because the roads – whether known or unknown, well-maintained or bumpy – are the ones that bring you joy, new adventures, challenges, and opportunities.

Now that we’ve made that clear, let’s dive into our system.

Basics about Via – digital switching for campervans

You probably already know our Pico system that is used for monitoring. Well, besides complete monitoring, the Via system offers management appliances on your campervan, motorhome, trailer, 4wd, or other RV. It’s a digital switching solution. That’s the main difference between these systems. 

The Via system comes in two parts: the control panel and the power distribution unit (SPDU52). On its own out of the box without any additional expansion modules, it is suitable for smaller projects. For bigger projects you might have to add additional expansion modules (such as SC303/503, ST107, SCQ25, or others) so that you can expand the Via system to monitor additional batteries, tank levels, temperatures, lighting, fridge and other appliances.

The panel is the user interface of the Via system – it’s your command center so to speak, allowing you to configure settings and stay updated on the status of appliances, sensors, and batteries that you’re monitoring.   

The power distribution unit gives you the following possibilities: 

  • Monitoring the service battery 
  • Monitoring the starter battery (voltage-only) 
  • Monitoring the charger input 
  • Monitoring the solar input 
  • 4 resistance inputs 
  • 2 voltage inputs 
  • two 4-stage tank level sensors 
  • 6 relays for controlling 12V devices 

Now let’s take a closer look at each of the features listed above – discuss the limitations and how you can overcome them. 

Monitoring the service battery

Keeping an eye on your service battery is crucial, and the SPDU52 has a dedicated current sensor just for that called the “Main battery.” This sensor can handle up to 50A of continuous current. Through the shunt it measures all the current flowing to the devices connected to the relays used for switching.  

To ensure accurate battery monitoring it’s important to connect everything to the battery through these relays. The only exceptions are the MPPT regulator of the solar panels and the charger, which have their own separate sockets on the SPDU52. 

Now, here’s an important point: the Via panel, when used with the SPDU52 without any expansion modules, is limited to monitoring a 12V service battery. However, if you add expansion modules, you can also monitor service batteries with higher voltage levels. But keep in mind, for the switching unit, you must have a constant 12V outlet.

Monitoring the charger and solar inputs

As mentioned above, the power distribution unit has 2 separate sockets for the charger and solar input.  Behind each of the two sockets is an isolated shunt, which will automatically give you individual monitoring of the solar input and the charger input.  

The maximum continuous current flow limits are 40A for the charger and 16A for the solar input. 

Resistance and voltage inputs for monitoring tank levels, temperatures, and more

The power distribution unit offers convenient inputs for measuring resistance and voltage. It has 4 resistance inputs that can be used with analog resistance-type tank level sensors or temperature sensors. Additionally, there are 2 voltage inputs that support analog voltage-type tank level sensors, battery voltage readings, or custom user voltage sensors. 

The rules for using these resistance and voltage inputs are the same as those explained in the video PICO System Overview. 

One thing to note is that when connecting a main battery and a starter battery to the SPDU52, you automatically get a voltage reading and thus do not need to manually connect the battery plus to any of the voltage inputs. This means that the two voltage inputs available on the power distribution unit are there for your convenience to add extra sensors for monitoring. 

Two 4-stage tank level sensors 

This unique feature is exclusive to the Via power distribution unit. No other module provides this type of input. This allows you to monitor and control up to two tank levels using 4-stage level sensors.  

6 relays for controlling 12V devices 

The SPDU52 includes 6 relays designed for switching 12V devices (e.g., water pump, fridge, heating …). Each relay is tied to one tactile button on the panel, giving you easy control over the relays. You can also customize the configuration to assign each button to a specific relay for seamless operation.

Overcoming limitations 

As mentioned earlier, the SPDU52 without any expansion modules is suitable for smaller projects due to current limitations. The consumers should not exceed 50A, the AC charger should not exceed 40A, and the solar input should not exceed 16A.  

To accurately measure the state of charge, it’s important to account for the currents of all devices. To overcome these limitations, you can add a single high-amp shunt SC303 to the system for larger projects. This shunt will cover the currents that cannot be handled directly by the SPDU52. 

Use an external shunt when: 

  • one or more devices exceeds the continuous current limitation of the SPDU52, such as an inverter. 
  • not all consumers are connected to the SPDU52 relays. 
  • a device does not have a suitable connection point to the SPDU52, such as DC to DC chargers. 
  • a device has a suitable connection point on the SPDU52, but exceeds the prescribed continuous current limitation (e.g., solar input over 16A or AC charger over 40A). 

If any of these scenarios apply to your project, you can ensure the current measurement of devices that cannot be monitored through the SPDU52 directly by using an external high-amp shunt. 

However, please note that when multiple devices are connected through the same shunt, individual monitoring is not possible. That is because the common shunt measures the total sum of currents from all the devices.   

For individual device monitoring, you can isolate devices using our SCQ25 or SCQ50 modules or add additional high-amp shunts for high-amp devices. 

Starter battery terminal 

The starter battery terminal is where you connect your starter battery. By connecting it, the SPDU52 can monitor the voltage of the starter battery. Currently, this terminal serves only this purpose.

There is a dedicated shunt between the main battery and the starter battery terminal. This hardware-ready setup prepares the PDU for future functionality that will allow you to allocate a factor of the current from the AC charger and solar inputs on the PDU to charge not only the main battery but also the starter battery when necessary. Once this feature is fully implemented, we will create a video showing how to configure your panel to take advantage of it.

Any questions left unanswered?

If so, email us and we’ll fill you in!

We know you adventurers have very different backgrounds in electricity, which is normal. We’d love to help you understand our systems, so please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any more questions. We would love to hear from you!

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