Old VW Bus Converted Into Solar-Powered EV Camper


This volts-wagon truly is a magic bus.

This Volkswagen Bus is the stuff of dreams. At least, it is if you’re the type to fantasize about owning an electric vehicle that can get much of its road-tripping energy from the sun. That this thing, this cultural icon, is also a superb compact camping platform is a huge plus as well. The video above takes us inside its cozy confines as its owner explains the hows and whys of its creation.

Inspired by a solar-powered golf cart our protagonist, Brett Belan, created a dozen years earlier, the project began with a relatively cheap non-running bus of 1973 vintage. We’re given the impression that it cost about $4 or $5 thousand to pick up. Besides a motor that had already gone to that great VW jamboree in the sky, it was in need of significant interior restoration.

From the outside, the most noticeable change — aside from the lack of a clattering of a high-maintenance four-cylinder engine — is the massive solar panel roof. Usually, we would recommend those interested in a solar-powered EV to put the panels on their house instead of their car, but in this case the arrangement makes good sense. For one, the van has the maximum amount of prime panel real estate available. And two, not being dependent on charging stations means it can push the exploration envelope without worrying about the nearest plug.

The big trick here is the entire roof tilts up on one end. Not only does that allow the panels to be aimed more directly toward the sun, but with its custom canvas walls, it creates second-story sleeping quarters that can accommodate the owners and their two children. According to Belan, there is even enough room for an adult to stand up. Impressive!

The van relies on an air-cooled AC HPEVS electric motor wired to a Cutis controller. Its batteries are admittedly a little on the retro side, as Belan opted for lead-acid golf cart batteries instead of a lithium-based pack. Apparently, these are still capable of yielding a 50-mile range.

Belan says he would like to swap these out in the future for a pack made with more modern chemistry, which could potentially quadruple its range up to 200 miles. Other upgrades could include solar awnings which could further improve its electric grid independence.

There are lots of great little tips in this nine-minute video, so if you haven’t done so already, mash that play button. Enjoy!

Source: YouTube via TinyHouseTalk

Categories: Videos, Volkswagen

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11 Comments on "Old VW Bus Converted Into Solar-Powered EV Camper"

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The iconic VW Camper van built on the brand’s upcoming MEB modular EV platform would be the hottest, trendiest, coolest item for hippies, yuppies, and camping guys. Fat cash cow for sure.

Yeah, back in the ’60s maybe, for about 5 years, and then it was mostly all over. Those day glo freaks who used to paint their face, have joined the human race.

You, sir, are a moron. The Volkswagen Camper van has been in continuous production in Europe since the 60s; the current incarnation is called the “Volkswagen California Camper Van” and many people wish they sold it in America again; Volkswagen is considering bringing it to the US if regulatory hurdles can be met.

“This volts-wagon truly is a magic bus.”

That should have been the headline.

The same power flowers use, thusly: Flower Power. Or maybe the power to flower.

“a 50-mile range.”

Ouch. He REALLY needs to swap out the Lead-acid with Li-Ion.

Currently this is the camping trip:
1) Drive 50 miles at night.
2) Set up camp & charge up.
3) Repeat 1 & 2 until you go crazy.

Why not drive at noon? At least if you’re not too far north.

If I ever get stuck with only Level 1 charging while on the road, I’ll remember this guy and think to myself, somebody is charging slower than me right now.

But all jokes aside with all the recent advancements in Building Integrated solar (BIPV) why not build it into EVs or PHEVs? At ballpark $3/watt you could put maybe ~700 DC watts on any average vehicle (windows, roof, and hood area) and pickup maybe 3-4 kWh in the parking lot every day, ~12 miles of range. Hit ROI in ~ 5 years, not too shabby.

Heres a better one.
Looks like exFed Ex electric van

Great job with the conversion and I like the slow down message even if I personally don’t have the patience to do it. This guy has a beautiful family and I’m looking forward to see what stage 2 ends up looking like.

I still miss my 86 westy and probably should have never gotten rid of it. A phev vw California camper is my dream car and it can’t come soon enough to the states.

Super cool. Wish I could retrofit my 2000 Boxster S to be 100% BEV. Hopefully someone will sell KITS in the future to simplify the conversion.