Solar-loaded Ford PHEV camper van powers low-emission adventures
Scotland's Campervan Co was one of the first companies out there to specialize in hybrid camper vans, and now it's expanding its lineup with the all-new Eco Evolution. Still in the prototype stages, the new camper skips the small, secondhand Japanese vans central to Campervan Co's other mini-RVs in favor of a new Ford Transit Custom PHEV base. The Eco Evolution promises up to 26 miles (42 km) of all-electric range, complemented by an efficient 1.0-liter EcoBoost range-extender and all-electric camping supported by 1,000 watts of solar power.
Electric vehicles may have enough range for daily commuting, but so far they've proven insufficient for RVing. Electric Winnebagos with 125 miles (201 km) of range might work for folks whose travel plans don't extend past weekend camping just outside city limits, but those looking to push farther for longer will need more range. Hybrid RVs, especially plug-ins, seem like the obvious solution for now, but they've been few and far between.
Campervan Co has been one of the more prolific of those "few," building hybrid camper vans since 2016. With the Eco Evolution, it follows Dethleffs and Wellhouse Leisure in converting the Ford Transit Custom PHEV, an obvious midsize van choice for a camper conversion. The PHEV variant of Ford's van boasts a 91.7-mpg (2.6 L/100km) WLTP rating underpinned by 26 miles (42 km) of pure-electric driving. Unless you're camping in a city park, that mileage will undoubtedly prove too low for a complete zero-emissions trip, but the EcoBoost engine kicks in to deliver a total driving range up to 376 miles (605 km), according to Ford UK's latest brochure, complete with quick, easy gas station fill-ups. Campervan Co declares the Eco Evolution its lowest carbon-emitting camper van to date.
To keep the low-emissions operation running after the Eco Evolution parks at camp, Campervan Co has used its experience in building all-electric camping amenities. It's equiped the new van with a Clayton Power leisure battery tasked with running the induction cooktop, cooling and lighting. Rather than wire the leisure battery to the type of 100- or 200-watt solar array that often tops camper vans, Campervan Co vacuums solar energy in with a 1,000-watt combination of rooftop and fold-out panels. That's more solar than many a larger off-grid motorhome, including the $1-million SOD Rise 4x4 (840 watts) and Silicon Valley-grade AEONrv (700 watts).
In order to run at-camp heating with as little emissions as the rest of its camper equipment, Campervan Co is developing a zero-emissions heating system that captures waste heat so that campers can keep the living area warm without burning diesel or gas. That system will work in tandem with a boosted insulation package meant to improve heating efficiency.
The Eco Evolution prototype features the classic side kitchen/folding bench floor plan updated with lightweight equipment. Campervan Co uses a lightweight folding bed to cut kilograms and improve driving efficiency. Similarly, removable kitchen modules allow drivers to easily save weight and space and improve mileage during everyday driving. Owners will also be able to install two extra seats (sold separately) to create a six-seater.
Plans call for the retail Eco Evolution to seat and sleep four people as standard. In addition to the folding bench-bed in the cabin, it will have a pop-up roof bed. Cabinets and a full-height rear storage console will provide space for clothes, gear and provisions.
Campervan Co is still developing the Eco Evolution and showed its latest prototype at the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show in Birmingham, UK over the weekend. It plans to sell the PHEV camper van for a starting price of £75,995 (approx. US$101,900) and will offer a variety of options, including hot water, electrical appliances such as a microwave and coffeemaker, Wi-Fi, and an Omni-slide indoor/outdoor cooking system.
Source: Campervan Co