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Published on August 21st, 2020 | by Jesper Berggreen

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A Volkswagen T2 Camper Van’s Electric Conversion — Part 4

August 21st, 2020 by  


Volkswagen T2 Camper Vans Electric Conversion

This series is the result of conversations with Kit Lacey about his entrepreneurship in converting classic cars to electric propulsion. Kit’s UK-based company is called eDub Services. I encouraged Kit to share the concrete information on his rebuilds with CleanTechnica in his own words, and nearing the end of the series, it has been somewhat chronological.

You may want to catch up with part 1, part 2, & part 3 before I hand it over to Kit Lacey, who is in a kind of poetic mood this time around. I get it, Indie turns out to be a rather special vehicle that you would need an ICE-cold heart not to love…


Part 4 — Superior Interior

It was a cold winter’s morning on the North York Moors. Down in the valley was a combination of mist and steam from the local railway, but up on the hilltop, the wind was blowing a chill. The frost crunched under Matt’s feet as he walked from the farmhouse to the garage where a certain green camper van was lying dormant under a fitted cover, her emerald doors shining brightly through the open zips against the wild winter countryside of North Yorkshire.

Winter on the top.

After many months of building the camper van up from scratch, then taking her apart again, there were two large boxes of original components labelled ‘working’ and ‘duff’. Shortly before Christmas, after battery box fabrication was completed, Indie was stripped and sent away to paint. Over new year I sporadically received incredibly exciting pictures of our camper van undergoing a transformation. Now, the hard work really began; final assembly.

Volkswagen T2 Camper Vans Electric Conversion

Indie hiding in the garage on the moors.

It had always been my passion to create a camper van that was not only unique in its powertrain, but practical in its style. We built the battery box under the rear seat and planned to cover it with smoked perspex. That way, if you looked very hard, you could see the blue CALB batteries lurking beneath. We designed a 3/4 sliding bed to fit over the battery box which left us with a long stretch from the spare wheel well to the passenger seat to build our cabinet. In the front we opted for a unique ‘flip-n-sit’ bench seat. It could be flipped around when parked up so all passengers could face each other, creating 30% more footroom than the original. This also created a great storage drawer under the bench and a short ‘werthers tray’ on the front; easily accessible by the driver to grab a mint on a long drive.

Fixing the pop top canvas.

The pop top mechanism was attached with our branding on the canvas, it was like one big marketing flag! The cabinet would be made bespoke once everything else was in place, so Matt had better get a shift on.

Volkswagen T2 Camper Van Electric Conversion

Batteries connected with BMS

Sid had spent a good few days soldering new ring terminals onto each BMS board, one for each of the 46 cells to be installed. Each BMS board then needed linking together and terminating at the BMS master control module. The batteries themselves were arranged in their box and clamped tight so they didn’t shift about. Busbars were connected across the cells to make one large battery. 144 volts in all at around 27 kWh. The fuse and contactor were placed behind the battery boxes and the cables were lined out.

Sid soldering (he’ll kill me for this).

In the engine bay, the AC51 HPEVS motor was bolted to the gearbox and secured with an engine bar across the base of the bay. This motor is air cooled by an internal fan, with three thick cables in the top for the AC power and a small loom of cables for the encoder. These were routed up to the petrol shelf where our Curtis Controller sat. The controller was also the inverter, changing the DC power of the batteries into AC for the motor, and vice versa under regenerative braking. The controller also took care of all the other circuitry to protect the batteries and motor from any problems.

Volkswagen T2 Camper Van Electric Conversion

Motor, charger, controller etc.

Also in the engine bay was our 8 kW Elcon TC Charger. Built like a small washing machine, it sat in a pre-fab cradle next to the motor. This allows the camper to not only charge from campsites, but also from 7 kW public charging stations so we could get further distances over a few days if needed. Finally, the 240/12V AC/DC converter kept the leisure battery topped up and also powered the fridge when the camper was plugged in.

Throttle fitted on petrol shelf.

In the cab, we wanted to keep the simplicity and ease of the original. The fuel gauge was hooked up to the BMS to show the battery percentage on the original analogue dial. The speedo remained and a clock was added on the far right. Everything else was stock; three pedals and one big wheel (with no power-steering). One of our favorite things to show hirers is that it’s impossible to stall Indie. Most of our hirers are unfamiliar with both camper vans and electric vehicles. The fact you have to use a clutch and gear stick is no more unusual than driving a brick on wheels where your knees are the crumple zone! The front windscreen has been subtly replaced with one with heated elements installed, making demisting much easier.

3/4 bed design.

A final addition is a small silver toggle next to the headlight button. This was originally installed as an ‘Eco Switch’, changing the mode of the controller to ease your power consumption and acceleration to give you better range. However, as Indie spent all her life in Eco Mode, the switch has the reverse effect. Now it had become a ‘Turbo Switch’! Flicking it would turn the eco light off and create 30% more power under your right foot, great for overtaking tractors and scaring people at traffic lights.

Volkswagen T2 Camper Van Electric Conversion

Figuring out what to do with the original dials.

Driving Indie sometimes was like a computer game, all that was missing was a banana dispenser where the exhaust used to be.

Volkswagen T2 Camper Van Electric Conversion

Back to the future.

 

To Be Continued…

Tune in soon for the final part 5, where we test drive the final product and see how far Indie will go on a full charge.

All photos courtesy of Kit Lacey, eDub Services.  
 


 


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About the Author

Jesper had his perspective on the world expanded vastly after having attended primary school in rural Africa in the early 1980s. And while educated a computer programmer and laboratory technician, working with computers and lab-robots at the institute of forensic medicine in Aarhus, Denmark, he never forgets what life is like having nothing. Thus it became obvious for him that technological advancement is necessary for the prosperity of all humankind, sharing this one vessel we call planet earth. However, technology has to be smart, clean, sustainable, widely accessible, and democratic in order to change the world for the better. Writing about clean energy, electric transportation, energy poverty, and related issues, he gets the message through to anyone who wants to know better. Jesper is founder of Lifelike.dk and a long-term investor in Tesla, Ørsted, and Vestas.



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