Converting and Camping in an Electric Van
In a post-Brexit world where COVID-19 is still a global concern, many people either cannot or are choosing not to travel abroad for their holidays, instead choosing to spend their summers a little closer to home.
We fully support this, as the UK is home to a plethora of picturesque destinations that are well worth the visit – and what better way to visit them than travelling via campervan?
Read on to see our helpful guide on converting your electric van into a fully-functioning campervan.
When it comes to converting a regular van to a camper, other than the design of your campervan, you also need to think about how you will actually make the space usable and genuinely practical to stay in.
For example, how are you going to power any internal lights and appliances or charge your electricals?
Just like regular combustion vans, electric vehicles also have a 12V starter battery, which is what is used in camper vans to power leisure batteries – the batteries that then power your appliances
Leisure batteries work by providing a steady flow of current over a prolonged period of time, sending ample power to your appliances without overloading them.
In order to avoid the starter battery being drained by the leisure battery, it is recommended to install a battery to battery converter. This acts as an automatic switch to ensure the leisure battery is only being charged when the vehicle is turned on, although you can also incorporate a manual control to choose whether or not you want it to be charged at any given time.
Now that you know how you will power the inside of your campervan, how do you go about designing one?
It’s helpful at this point to think about what you will be using your campervan for. Will you be using it for road trips where you’ll sleep in your camper each night or will you be using it to travel to and from a specific holiday destination? Will you be parking it at campsites or elsewhere? Will you use it alone, in a couple or as a family?
Depending on these factors will determine the features that will be more essential to include in your camper design. To make this easier, we find that breaking down necessities to different living areas is helpful (i.e. bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and living room).
With ‘camp’ in its name, having a place to sleep is imperative – it is, afterall, a camperman’s main purpose in conjunction with being mobile. There are two things to consider in particular in this regard. The first is space, the second quality.
If you are planning on using your camper on your own, then to save space a single bed should do the job, whilst a double would be needed for couples.
If you plan to use your campervan as a family, then you’ll obviously need more beds. However, this can take up a lot of what is already a somewhat limited space. That’s why it may be a good idea to design beds that double up to have a secondary purpose, for example having fold out beds that double up as seating in the day.
As for quality, how often you will use your campervan to sleep in may determine the quality of bed you invest in. If you plan on using your camper a lot throughout the year, then it will be more beneficial to invest in a slightly better quality mattress and bedding to ensure you have a comfortable and restful night’s sleep – especially if you will be doing more driving the next day. If you will be using it for your annual holiday, then sleeping bags may suffice.
When it comes to the ‘living room’ area of your campervan, this is predominantly going to include seating, storage and dining space. Since you won’t have a lot of space to be working with, it is best to list out essential features you wish to include based on what you think you will practically use, then think outside of the box for how you can incorporate these the most efficiently.
For seating, having a cushioned bench that also doubles up as a drawer or chest or cupboard will then offer you storage space. These could also be where you sit to eat, since you could place a table between the two that folds out when needed, then folds away again to sit flush against the side when you want a bit more space to move about or stretch your legs out.
Stopping to find places to eat along your journey can be expensive if you do it regularly and isn’t always feasible depending on where you are, which is why it is important to have a place to prepare food in your camper.
Depending on how much space you have and the types of meals you are likely to cook, you may choose to install an oven in your campervan, giving you more options on the variety of meals you can make or bake. However, to keep storage space abundant, many people choose to simply install an electric hob in the campervan instead.
Of course, you also need to have a sink so that you can clean any dirty dishes once they have been used, which will take up further space in your kitchen area. In addition to this, other essentials to remember include utensils, crockery, pots and pans and cups – all of which will need to be safely kept somewhere.
If you plan on staying at campsites overnight when travelling with your campervan, then these often have washing and toilet facilities that you can use. However, when you’re travelling particularly long distances you may wish or need to stop off for a quick toilet break or to freshen up. Of course, you may not stay at these sites at all, in which case you will be reliant on your own facilities.
Some people choose to have a small bathroom area implemented into their camper, which can include a wet room-esque shower that drains into a holding tank (which must be regularly emptied) and a chemical toilet, which empties into a cassette that needs to be removed and emptied at a chemical waste point.
If you don’t think you will need a more permanent solution that would be used regularly, there are also portable options for showering and toileting that you can keep in your camper when you need to use them in a pinch. This includes a portable toilet or even a foldable, lidded bucket that can likewise be emptied at waste points, then a portable camping shower, which can attach to the side of your van and pump warm water from a bucket.
Now that you know what kind of alterations will have to be made in order to convert your van into a fully-functioning camper, which vans actually work best for these kinds of conversions?
We’ve listed a couple of electric vans below that we believe would make for excellent campers.
The Maxus eDeliver 9 would be a great choice for a camper version thanks to both its size and driving performance.
Available in two different lengths, this large van offers plenty of space that can be effectively utilised to create an efficient and functional camper, which is easily accessible thanks to both the back doors and single side sliding door – the latter of which could even have a drive away awning attached to further maximise space when pitched for the night.
Its driving performance is really where it would perform excellently as a campervan, with an impressive maximum range of 185-219 miles (depending on urban or country driving) that will get you to each destination of your journey without having to stop too frequently in order to recharge.
Speaking of charging, relying on an EV charger rather than fuel is the main setback of using an electric van for your camper conversion, but the eDeliver 9 can charge up to 80% in as quickly as 45 minutes when using a DC charger, as available from most public charging stations.
A firm favourite in the van world that’s now available as an electric vehicle, the Ford E-Transit has a modern, comfortable and intuitive cabin area that will provide you with comfort and practicality when driving your camper from A to B. It, too, has a generous range of 166-196 miles, which is better than many electric vans out there, as well as featuring an eco driving mode to help you extend that range further on longer journeys.
Charging takes as little as 34 minutes when using a DC charger, giving you the perfect amount of time to have a quick break from driving and stretch your legs while enjoying a cuppa.
As well as offering three different lengths and two heights, which gives you plenty of choice for space, Ford also offers custom camper conversions, making the process even easier for you!
If you’re looking to invest in an electric van ready to turn into a personalised camper conversion and pursue your next adventure travelling across the country, then look no further than Van Sales UK.
With a stock of numerous new vans, we can provide you with the perfect electric van for your needs without the hefty costs of purchasing outright thanks to the finance options we offer. Enquire now to discuss your requirements and receive your free quote.