With many of us concerned about investing in diesel campervans, and everyone wanting to do their bit to reduce our impact on the environment, a question that we are regularly asked ‘Is now the time to invest in an electric campervan?’
Until recently, our answer was “well… probably, no not yet”
Other than the Nissan eNV200, which might be a little small for most families and – although a good local camper – has a limited range for
longer trips, there really hasn’t been much to shout about in the world of the electric campervan.
But with the arrival of a new Vauxhall Vivaro-e, which is a similar size to the VW transporter and is available from the PSA group of companies under the Vauxhall, Peugeot, Citroen and Toyota badge, there is now an affordable e-camper. And with a range of over 200 miles, this van presents a great alternative to diesel, with all the benefits of an electric vehicle.
As of March 2022, we will be producing a new fully electric campervan. This will be highly spec’d with our most popular Classic interior, the best elevating roof available, the SCA 260, our M1 tested seating system, 4 belted seats and 4 adult berths, a class leading 60L fridge, twin gas hob and large sink.
With over 200 mile range and fast charging, we believe it will be the e-camper to set the standard in affordable and practical electric campervans.
Take a look here for more details of our eClassic camper conversion.
OK, so 200 miles doesn’t compare to the 600 miles you can travel without stopping in a VW T6. But the fact is that most of the time we use our campers as an everyday car, where 93% of all journeys are under 100 miles, with the average daily drive, according to Nimble Fins, of just 9 miles. And when we do travel further, we rarely drive for more than two or three hours, with an average speed under 60mph, so maybe 180 miles.
Our e-camper comes equipped with a 75kWh battery and a 99kWh charge speed, meaning that with the fast charger network on motorways and A roads you can get an 80% (166 mile) recharge in approximately 40 mins.
Driving an electric camper will no doubt present some challenges. Range anxiety, busy chargers, and a slower journey may test your pre-planning and patience, but the long-term benefits of lower overall ownership costs and greener camping trips may well outweigh these.
The general advice on driving is to stop for at least 15 mins every 2 hours, so maybe it’s about time we rethink how we travel to and from our destinations; making more time for the journey could have some real benefits.
If you compare Vauxhall’s own Vivaro-e Range Estimator with the trusted EV Database, the figures are pretty close.
In real terms, driving at a solid 70mph on the motorway with a full load you can expect to do 110 miles with 80% battery use, then charge for 30 mins to get another 110 miles.
That means two stops will get you from London to Carlisle in 5hrs 30mins plus 1hr of stops, or going south, to the west coast of France via Cherbourg.
There are also independent figures here for the lower range 50kWh version of the van at EV Database.
It was hoped that Volkswagen’s long awaited fully electric Transporter would be available from 2020, and last year they did finally bring out a fully electric T6. Wouldn’t it be great, we thought, if we could convert the new e-Transporter and introduce a new range of electric campers, using our tried and tested interiors!
Unfortunately, in reality it’s only available in long wheel base, and with a £42,000 price tag and a miserly 82 mile range, not the 250 mile that was promised in the press, it’s no wonder we converters aren’t turning the e-Transporter into a camper.
There are also plenty of concept electric vehicles from VW including the ID Buzz Cargo, the e-BULLI or ID Buzz Camper.
Aside from the concepts, in the real world VW will bring out a hybrid T7 Caravelle later in 2022, based on the Golf inspired MDQ platform. With a 1.4-litre petrol engine coupled with an electric motor producing a combined 218hp, the electric mode range will be around 30 miles using its 13kWh battery. Currently, however, there is no news of a van version and it’s likely to be a short-lived model, so converters will be hesitant to invest in the tooling and R&D for this hybrid phev camper.
VW say they’ll be producing a fully electric van in a partnership with Ford, estimated arrival is 2024/5, but as yet there is very little information on this.
But hold on a minute what about the ID Buzz?! Hot off the press in Feb 2022 – surely this is the new electric campervan, isn’t it? Well unfortunately, probably not. Yes, the ID buzz is very exciting. It has the iconic badge that screams campervan, it has auto charging with no need to fumble around for whichever charge system card or app you might need, it has V2G bidirectional charging, it fundamentally sounds like a great base for a camper, but… thats where the good news stops…
The price is looking to be around £50k, so £10k or more above the Vauxhall, but it’s too small to work as a family camper and all their kit, that said it could ok for couples.
At only 4m3 internal space it doesn’t compare to the cavernous 5.8m3 for the Transporter and Vivaro-e, that is a LOT less space. Yes, we will be able to get a compact camper in there but it might feel a little tight. A longer version will be out in 2023, and although the additional 200mm will be very welcome, we will still be keen to see the VW Ford offering of the T7 to provide us with a truly “convertible” donor van for our next electric camper.
The ID Buzz is so new to the market, you may also be asking when a crash tested bed system will be available? Or if SCA or any other roof manufacturer will be making a pop top for it? We will have to wait and see.
In the meantime, if you want an electric campervan right now, the e-Classic is here now.
That’s not the end of the story though, because there already are companies retro converting transporters to electric and with double the range (as is being done with classic splits, bays and beetles in the USA). We only expect this market to grow.
Apart from the new Cambee e-Classic it’s also possible to convert the Nissan NV200 with a 40kWh range of up to 173 miles, although Nissan say “a combined city and motorway range of 124 miles” is more realistic. This makes it ideal as a daily use vehicle and for local trips, but it could be more challenging when trying to travel longer distances with kids.
One couple who have taken on this challenge are Glyn and Amy from North Wales. They built their own camper on a 24kWh e-NV200 panel van. As experienced EV drivers who already own a Nissan Leaf, swapping their diesel camper for an electric one was all part of their Zero Carbon Adventure. They’ve put together a great blog demonstrating how it’s possible, with planning, patience and dedication, to use an electric camper and make a significant dent in your environmental impact. Check out their inspirational trips to Scotland, Spain and Hungary.
This is proof that the eNV200 is a viable base vehicle as a micro camper. And although the range is a little limited, a 20-80% charge will give you an additional 67 miles in 40 mins. As eCamper veterans, Glyn and Amy have been successfully traveling all over Europe in theirs for several years now, albeit just the two of them and their spaniel. The same trip with kids might be more challenging with so many stops!
So, if you’re looking for a budget electric campervan, with second hand prices under £15,000 for a good base van, and a simple 4 berth conversion from around £16k, or 2 berth at £12k, this could make a great first electric camper / car, perfect for daily journeys and local camping trips.
At the other end of the size scale is the e-Ducato with room for a little more luxury and the kids. We’re not converting them yet but are likely to bring them into our range with something similar to our Crafter conversions.
Another nice advantage of an electric camper is having onboard heating and cooling will means you can camp whatever the weather too!
If you’re thinking seriously about taking the plunge with an electric camper, the one question on your lips will be ‘Can I charge an e-camper at campsites?’ When you’re on a trip, hopping from campsite to campsite, will there be sufficient charging points?
Glyn has some great advice based on real life experience…
“I’ve charged on lots of campsites in the UK. I usually just ask for hook up and no questions asked. Charging the van using the standard portable charger is 10A, 2.4kW which is less than a kettle and much less than the 16A max hookup rating. My van has a 24kWh battery with 20kW usable so would take 8hrs to charge if almost totally flat. Easy full overnight charge.
The larger 40kW van would take 14hrs if totally flat. Usually good idea to wait until late in the evening before charging to reduce peak load on the site. If I’m in no rush to charge or the campsite has a 6A limit I use an adjustable EVSE to reduce the charging current of the van to a minimum of 6A (1.4kW). I’ve noticed several campsites now installing dedicated EV charging stations, no doubt this trend will continue.
Take look at PlugShare to find campsites with charging stations.”
Bear in mind that the PSA all-electric van has a 75Kwh battery so a full charge would take 27hrs of charging on a standard hookup.
There is some good advice on the SpeakEV forum and the subject of charging will run and run, as more of us turn to EVs to help reduce our carbon footprint.
We think this is the hardest question to answer. If we were converting new fully electric VW Transporter campers then there would be no question, it should hold its value just as well as any other campervan. With other non-VW branded campers its more difficult to predict.
Without the romance of the VW name, there might be less of a support network around to carry out the maintenance for the battery systems and vehicle in general.
That said, it is likely any number of small local garages will be remodelling their business to assist the owners of EV’s in general to keep their cars going in years to come. There is no reason to think EV campervans will miss out on this trade, if anything with their higher residual value, customers will be driving this market, and with supply of any number of parts so easy to acquire through the internet, this may well become a thriving market.
A proving ground for this is the eNV200 which has generated an ecosystem of enthusiasts and is well supported with companies offering replacement batteries and upgrades, power take off and improved charging systems, so it’s likely to still be easy to maintain in the future as the van that early adopters plumped for.
The cost savings of an electric campervan don’t end with reduced vehicle running costs, you may be able to use your camper as a battery for your house. With companies like ReFLEX developing integrated energy systems for home, transport and home generation, electric vehicles will provide a buffer against rising energy costs and allow us to make better use of our renewable power as a nation.
As V2G (Vehicle to Grid) technology rolls out through the country, V2G can even generate revenue by loaning the power in your vehicle back to the grid during peak demand, with companies like Virta claiming that income of up to £1500 per year may be possible.
Electric isn’t for everyone. Whether you drive a diesel or electric campervan there is still the environmental impact from the build and use of the vehicle, and electricity production in the UK still isn’t 100% renewable yet. At Cambee we have chosen to offset our team’s personal carbon impact by planting trees and investing in renewable technologies, we can also plant a forest to offset the build for your camper.
If you are interested in ongoing offsetting, just ask us about Ecologi.
As much as we’re excited about building electric campervans to go alongside our diesel conversions, we are also working towards finding a suitable partner to convert existing diesel campervans. Arguably an even lower impact way of owning an electric campervan!
All in all, if an electric campervan suits your lifestyle, then we think now is a good time to take the leap. There are vans on the market now which we feel will deliver practical alternatives to conventional diesel models.
And with uncertainty over rising energy costs and concerns about diesel in the long term, investing in a vehicle which you are likely to keep for 20 years or more, goes some distance to outweigh the additional initial cost.
If you’re wondering whether your campervan is a green crusader or an environmental disaster, then get the lowdown from our indepth look at campervanning in the age of Climate Change.