In the morning our leisure battery was showing just 2 bars, (30-50%) charge – maximum is 5 bars (90-100% charge). The sky was thickly overcast, and likely to remain that way, so no chance of a good solar recharge. I started the engine, and immediately the voltage shot up: the battery was charging. It soon stopped charging, with the battery showing 3 bars. Something was preventing the battery from reaching full charge.
Walking Meg around the campsite, we were delighted to stumble across a Lamborghini in snow chains.
We drove into Florence, but got no further than Ikea on its outskirts. We had a cheap meatball lunch, bought a replacement duvet cover and some Christmas presents for the boys. Having planned to just buy the duvet cover, we came out with over 100 Euros of shopping. We never made it to the city centre.
On our return to the campsite, battery charge was still only 3 bars. We borrowed a lead, and hooked up to the mains supply. We had spent over 140 nights off grid, and our experiment to spend a full year off grid had ended with failure. I still couldn’t work out what was wrong with the charging. I thought that perhaps the small charge from the solar panels were somehow tricking the alternator into believing that the battery was full, and to stop sending charge to the leisure battery.
In the morning I checked the battery immediately after unplugging the mains leaf. The battery was showing 4 bars (70-90% charge). After a full night on hookup it certainly should have been 100%.
We went to Florence again, parking in the suburbs, and took the bus into the centre. The cathedral is quite magnificent.
On our return to the campsite the battery was back down to 3 bars, and came to the conclusion that, at only 9 months old, we have destroyed our leisure battery. The constant charge and discharge cycle, using 50kWh of electricity over 143 consecutive nights off grid has irreparably damaged a battery that should last for three to five years.
In reaching this conclusion I have been aided immeasurably by the collective wisdom of the VW California Club, always ready to offer online help and support to members on the road. Thank you.