All-electric VW camper van becomes the eco RV the world demands
All-electric camper vans have been slow to materialize, limited to concept cars and a very select few compact vans scattered about Europe. What the world has really been wanting to see is a pop-up Volkswagen Bulli camper van with comfortable floor plan and pure battery power. VW has one in its plans, but that won't happen for a few more years. In the meantime, German converter Flowcamper steps in with the Frieda Volt. Based on the VW T5/T6, the new van swaps its combustion engine for an all-electric powertrain and gets a flexible, modular interior that seats five and sleeps up to four. And, yes, there's even a toilet.
Flowcamper partners up with German electric conversion specialist Naext Automotive GmbH to create the exact type of camper van the RV world has been craving since EVs started becoming more mainstream. Not only is the Frieda Volt larger than the small vans that have so far dominated the few electric camper conversions out there, but it's the world-famous Volkswagen Bulli, and it comes with the toilet the official Volkswagen California notoriously lacks.
The Frieda Volt begins its journey as a used T5 or T6 van, and Flowcamper prefers those with damaged engines. This way, it doesn't even have to feel bad about ditching the old fuel-chugging emissions-spewer, working with Naext to swap in an electric drive. Flowcamper points out that this plan of action essentially doubles the Volt's eco-friendly credentials, giving an old van new life while also making it a zero-emissions EV.
By removing the engine, transmission, exhaust and other henceforth-unnecessary ICE-related bits, Naext clears room and installs the 72-kWh nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) lithium-ion battery pack in the underbody. Buyers can also up capacity with an optional extra 18-kWh battery in the spare wheel compartment.
Drive power comes from a 110-kW (148-hp) electric motor with 255 Nm (188 lb-ft) of torque. The restomod process also involves replacing worn components, such as brakes or wheel bearings, with new VW parts and reupholstering the front seats.
Flowcamper estimates that the ICE-electric powertrain swap only results in a net gain of 110 pounds (50 kg), helping the e-bus achieve a top range between 300 and 320 km (186 and 199 miles). That might be rather lean for an overland expedition across Europe and Asia, but it should be practical enough for traveling around Germany and neighboring countries without being too inconvenienced by mandatory charging stops. And we already know it's possible to take longer, more ambitious electric camper van trips with a little planning, patience and determination.
Flowcamper keeps things sustainable inside the camper cabin, relying on materials such as oiled wood furniture, cork floor mats and apple leather trim. It carries the floor plan over from the traditional ICE Frieda, the base model that evolved from the original Flowcamper flower child. That layout includes a stacked-box kitchen behind the driver's seat, a fold-down three-seat rear bench that converts into a 160 x 187-cm (63 x 74-in) bed, and an optional pop-up roof with 110 x 185-cm (43 x 73-in) bed. Unlike the standard Frieda, which can accommodate up to eight seats, the Frieda Volt maxes out at six seats.
Like other Flowcamper vans, the Frieda Volt has a flexible layout with multifunctional equipment designed to keep pace with the unconstrained spontaneity of van life. The tall kitchen box directly behind the driver's seat houses a 21-L compressor fridge box and storage below, while the shorter rear box holds a sink with stainless steel basin, hand sprayer, and fresh and waste water canisters stored below. A single-burner stove comes standard, and a second one can be added optionally for a flexible two-burner setup. Unlike some other electric camper van, overland pickup and caravan builders, Flowcamper hasn't ripped the gas fuel out entirely, using a gas cartridge stove.
Those who prefer cooking outdoors can mount the indoor/outdoor swivel table just outside the passenger-side sliding door. It holds the small stove, and the long hose stretches the sink sprayer out the door where it can work to fill pots or pair with a collapsible basin to create a sink. Flowcamper also offers optional rear cargo storage boxes that double as a tailgate galley and a driver-side sliding door and fold-down worktops that make for a third outdoor kitchen option.
The kitchen sink sprayer also works as an outdoor shower with an exterior mount. The available dry separating toilet stores between the kitchen and rear bench, concealed by a wood top and fabric case.
So the electrified Volt camper offers all major kitchen and bathroom equipment, a flexible indoor/outdoor cooking layout, five seats and up to four sleeping berths. Battery drive or not, that's an efficient little camper.
Flowcamper has not yet added official Volt pricing information to its comprehensive Frieda price list. Reports from German RV media have suggested the van will start in the €60K range (approx. US$63,350), which would be a big win for Germans and Europeans looking for a practical electric camper van for an affordable price. Note that certain equipment, including the pop-up roof and toilet, are offered as optional extras on the standard Frieda, so the fully equipped four-sleeper Frieda Volt with toilet is certain to be priced higher than base.
We've reached out to Flowcamper to clarify pricing and availability information and will update when we hear back.
Update 6/7/22 — Flowcamper responded to say that pricing has risen from what it initially hoped, in part due to current economic instabilities, and officially prices in at €79,990 (approx. US$85,475) to start. It's available for order now, and deliveries will begin in October.
Source: Flowcamper (German)