One of the biggest problems I faced while converting my truck into a workshop on wheels for my scrap art, metalworking and general crafting projects was to get a power supply working.
The usual way people do this is to have either a mobile generator or connect a battery bank to solar or the car’s alternator, but both of those options were out of question for me. Sure, I could have bought one of those cheap hundred-dollar generators but man I hate the noise they make and it feels utterly wasteful to run an engine when all I need is an occasional blimp of power here or there. When I work I want to enjoy the silence and solitude of nature when I’m not grinding, drilling or sawing for a few minutes and I just can’t think when there’s an engine running nearby.
The other option of connecting a battery bank was out of question for me simply for financial reasons. I had just purchased the truck and after paying for the insurance, a full tank and the initial setup of the truck I had literally no more than 300€ to my name. When I asked the only RV shop within range who offered electrical installs they quoted me 450€ just for the installation. I was not comfortable with doing it myself either, electrical stuff is something I would rather have done by someone who knows what they are doing.
Instead I managed to find a way utilizing what I already had with just hundred bucks that I spent on a used pure-sine-wave inverter. I would have needed that anyway if at one point I decided to cough up the money for the alternator option and so I decided to bring myself even closer to bankruptcy.
The guy I bought the inverter from was quite nice, he told me he had bought two of them for his boat and after a year figured he wouldn’t need the spare and so I got what would usually cost about 300€ for a hundred. There are cheaper inverters that produce a converted sine wave, but after reading online I learned that some powertools and sensitive electronics can have troubles with a non-pure sine wave and so I figured it was better to buy a good used one. This turned out to be the case, I have now owned and used this setup for a couple of months and have absolutely no issues with it.
The actual power supply comes from my mobile jumpstarter pack that I had to buy because I know no one who can jumpstart a large diesel engine and I forgot to turn my lights off like an idiot. That pack was not inexpensive either, but to me it was worth it by now because I could help three guys who were stranded on the side of the road. Sure, a set of cables would have done the same job but this is quite convenient because you don’t need a second car and can place it right in the engine bay.
Another, more practical benefit for my secondary use for it is that I can carry it up to my third-floor apartment to charge it, something that would be neither fun nor easy with a regular car battery. However, if you have at least intermittent shore power available through a garage or a friend a battery could easily do the same job.
The end result
Once the two components were hooked together I wasn’t quite sure if it would work or if I was just going to fry my electronics. So I tried with my scrap metal lamp that I had built earlier first, thinking that the lightbulb would probably be the first thing to collapse and act like a circuit breaker. Granted, both the battery pack and the inverter apparently have security mechanisms but you can never be too cautious when experimenting with exposed electric connections.
However my fear was unfounded and it all worked out fine, both with the lamp and powertools I tried after that failed to blow me up.
All in all I am pretty happy with this setup, not only does it work as intended but it also is quite mobile so I can use it even away from the truck. For example we used it while I helped a friend renovate his garden house where there is no power supply, the 2,000W inverter worked just fine to power a (second) sawzall so that he could work alongside me with my battery powered one.
I hope you enjoyed this post, if you want to see it all in action I have made this video of me restoring the rusty hammer we found but I have to warn you that the footage turned out a little dark.