RELiON Dealer Spotlight: Agile Off Road is Your One Stop Shop for The Ultimate Adventure Vehicle

Posted September 01, 2020

With several decades of off road racing experience, including the single most dangerous race in North America, the Baja 1000, John Brindell knows how to ensure maximum vehicle performance in some of the most extreme off-road conditions. John and his friends, and now co-owners, decided to use their lifelong passion for, and extensive knowledge of, off road racing to help off grid van lifers travel to more remote locations with the utmost reliability and comfort. John, Jesus Hernandez, and Glen Straightiff formed Agile Off Road (AO), based in San Diego, California, in 2016 and have since more than doubled the size of their business as demand for more reliable, safe and comfortable off road vans has steadily grown.

One of the strongest drivers of AO’s business has been converting Mercedes Winnebago Revels into dream off grid overland vehicles. From suspension redesign to fuel tank improvements to power system upgrades, AO has you covered. John and his team at AO have applied the grit and constant innovation required for professional racing to provide outdoor and off road enthusiasts with first in their class off road vehicles.

We spoke with John about the most frequently asked questions when it comes to off road van conversions, some of their most popular electrical and ride improvement packages, and why demand is through the roof for 4x4 conversions, including lead acid to lithium battery upgrades, despite the pandemic.

What is the number one question people have when thinking of converting their 4x4 or Sprinter for the first time?

John: “I’d say the number one question is ‘how do I make this vehicle the dream off grid vehicle?’ The second most common question is ‘are lithium batteries worth the cost to upgrade from lead acid batteries?’ What we’re finding is that the vast majority of people are deciding that lithium batteries are worth the cost to upgrade because they enable people to live much more independent and adventurous lifestyles, free of unnecessary constraints.”

Can you walk us through the basics of converting a 4x4 vehicle or van? How long does it take?

John: “It really depends on what exactly the customer wants, but we typically hold on to vehicles for a week to a week and a half for most conversions. The Revel lithium battery upgrade takes a full day to install, however, customers should plan to leave their vehicles for two days to allow for testing and other upgrades. Our Ride Improvement Package (RIP) suspension upgrade is also very popular, as most people are looking to have greater control over their vehicle to explore off road in the most comfortable way possible. We also often add on bigger wheels and tires to improve off road performance as well as significantly increase fuel tank sizes. The standard sprinter fuel tank is just 24 gallons and gets only 15 miles per gallon on average, which won’t take you very far. We install an additional 28 gallon fuel tank to double the range and enable people to explore much further before having to refuel. We also often upgrade lights, add winches and much more.”

How have the recent quarantine and stay-at-home orders affected your business?

John: “We’re actually busier now than ever before due to airplane travel being limited. People have more time on their hands, which many of them are using to work on their vehicles. Since people can’t travel internationally, they’re exploring more national and state parks on road trips. The pandemic has fueled a boom in our industry. We’re actually in the process of expanding now, as we just doubled the square footage of our headquarters.”

Why do you see RV and off-road owners making the switch to lithium batteries?

John: “They just work better in all conditions and climates, hot or cold. They last far longer than lead acid batteries. AGM batteries only last about 500 charge cycles versus 5,000 to 7,000 for lithium batteries. Unlike lithium batteries, AGM batteries can also only use up to 50% of their capacity before risking permanent damage. A 300 amp hour AGM system will only supply 150 amp hours before requiring a charge. In freezing temperatures, usable AGM amp hours are halved again. All of these factors severely limit off road vehicle owners’ freedom, independence and overall lifestyle, which is why so many are switching to lithium.”

Why did you choose RELiON as a partner?

John: “They make exceptional, cutting edge products and offer consistently superior customer service. They’re also focused on providing reliable energy systems that empower adventurers with greater independence and comfort, which directly aligns with our mission and work.”

You are using the RB100-LT in your upgrades. What is it about the RB100-LT that made it the choice for Agile?

John: “Most lithium batteries don’t work in very cold temperatures, but RELiON ensures that winter camping excursions won’t be put on ice as a result of the batteries. RELiON’s RB100-LT batteries (low temperature) work really well below freezing and are capable of safely charging & discharge at -4° Fahrenheit. Cold weather operation is made possible by the RB100-LT battery’s state-of-the-art non-parasitic battery heating system. An internal heating system eliminates the need for battery blankets, which often require consumption of energy directly from the battery. Since the RB100-LT battery’s warmer only accepts power from an external source (e.g., solar, shore, engine battery via the alternator), it will never consume energy from the battery itself to charge, which therefore frees up more energy for use by the vehicle owner.”

Tell us about the Winnebago Revel lithium battery upgrade package you offer.

John: “It comes with three robust, 100 Amp-hour RELiON RB100-LT batteries, a Victron Blue Smart charger, a Victron MPPT SmartSolar charge controller, two Victron Orion Smart DC chargers and a smartphone system monitoring via Bluetooth. We pair the RELiON energy storage system with all Victron equipment due to their smart battery monitoring system which allows people to easily view data on their phones, as well as from the physical system itself when the battery is getting low. The system comes programmed with simple alarms and settings to prevent the batteries from discharging too far, monitor temperature, and make sure the system is charging as efficiently as possible. The whole system is well integrated and works seamlessly. It takes all of the stress and guesswork out of an off grid electrical system to ensure people can focus exclusively on their next adventure.”

How important is the environmental impact of lithium batteries to your customers?

John: “Extremely important. That’s one of the things we love most about our customers. The thing about people who enjoy adventuring outdoors is that they want to take care of the environment when they’re out there. From basic things like picking up trash at campgrounds and leaving them as they were found to the long-term environmental impact of their energy system, they have the utmost respect for nature. The fact that RELiON energy storage systems will last at least two to three times as long as lead acid batteries and therefore won’t have to be replaced as often is important to them.”

Lithium batteries are slowly gaining ground when it comes to consumers choosing it over lead-acid. What have you seen or heard in the marketplace or from customers to support this change?

John: “Everyone, including all of the people posting in online forums, are talking about using lithium batteries in these vehicles. The main topic of discussion is whether lithium batteries are worth the additional upfront cost. Lithium batteries are a huge driver for our business, as people are wanting to upgrade their kits with us to incorporate lithium batteries. People have been primarily motivated to get lithium batteries due to the significantly longer battery lifespan and their ability to be discharged to almost 100%. Lithium batteries also weigh far less and take up much less vehicle space.

Off road and outdoor enthusiasts have driven from all over the country, most recently from Washington, Colorado and the East Coast, to have AO upgrade their Winnebago Revel into their dream off road vehicle. Off roading has never been so easy thanks to AO’s technical expertise, several decades of experience, and deep knowledge of off road vehicles, as well as RELiON’s robust, reliable energy storage solutions.