Old VW Bus Converted Into Solar-Powered EV Camper
26 February 2019 - insideEVs
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!