Photo by Kit Lacey/eDub services

Maggie The Electric VW Camper — What Makes Her Tick

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Remember the awesome electric VW camper from eDub services I wrote about a while back? What actually makes her tick, or tock, or whizz, or buzz? Well, what she certainly doesn’t do is chug, or splurt, or cough and splutter. Maggie is 100% electric, and has left the old world she was born into. Just like Indie did before her, but this time with even cooler tech.

Photo by Kit Lacey/eDub Services. Maggie next to Indie

Maggie is a 1979 VW T2 camper van, originally from the USA. It came to eDub as a pretty worn-out bus with a good chassis. It had the romantic paint shades of brown and orange with an olive green interior. It was purchased by eDub for a client with the intention to remove the original engine and replace it with a battery pack and Tesla Drive Unit.

“Some people say we remove the soul of a camper with an electric conversion, but I disagree,” says Kit Lacey, eDub Company Director, and elaborates: “This is a heart transplant. Campers want to be off exploring the hills, mountains and countryside without polluting it with noise and smoke. An electric conversion gives the soul of the camper new heights
to reach.”

With this in mind, I thought we should get into the weeds a bit, because while I certainly still love the sounds and rumbles of old classic cars, there is a certain aura around the conversion process from combustion to electric. As Kit Lacey will attest through his many years of experience, it’s not a matter of just throwing in a battery and a motor. It’s craftsmanship at its finest. You have to care for every single detail in order to get a smooth running and reliable result.

Render by eDub Services. Complete e30 conversion pack.

Maggie features eDub’s e30 pack, which is a clever conversion option that offers an external bolt-in pack that doesn’t affect your interior. A large box in the engine bay holds 12 brand new CALB lithium-ion battery modules with another 4 on the petrol tank shelf. Maggie’s modules are 2.2 kWh each, making 35.2 kWh in total. The new 2023 models, available to order now, have a little more at 2.35 kWh per module, making 37.6 kWh total in the same form factor, which goes to show just how incredible the evolution in battery technology is in general.

Photo by Kit Lacey/eDub Services. Pack installed and viewed inside the engine bay.

The eDub team don’t have access to fancy air tunnels like OEMs do, and doesn’t really care that much about range predictions. Everyone knows that modern EVs have very optimistic ranges on their vehicles. But the new ID.Buzz is claimed to have a reasonable average mileage of 2.8 mile/kWh (4.5 km/kWh). However, as luck would have it, the eDub conversions have roughly the same energy consumption. This gives a real world range of 100 miles (160 km) with the new e30 pack. The 2023 modules would bump this 7% to 107 miles (172 km).

Each battery module in the e30 is a 6s2p format (cells organized as 6 serial and 2 parallel), making the modules 22.8V nominal. This makes a total of 364.8V nominal, the perfect voltage to drive the Tesla Drive unit, but also to initiate rapid charging, available through the CCS socket on the side of the van. The e60 pack also runs at the same voltage, but uses 24 modules, each with a 4s3p configuration. This is what allows the larger pack to run at a higher capacity, while keeping the same voltage to be compatible with the drive unit, charger DC/DC converter and HVAC system.

Render by eDub Services. Custom subframe designed to house the Tesla motor and battery pack in the back of the T2.

Charging an eDub is available across all popular speeds. eDub configures its packs to “ABC” (Always Be Charging), which starts at the campsite. A lot of rural sites only have a 10A supply, where electric vehicles on “granny chargers” would trip the site, as they are set to 13A. eDub solved this by supplying an adaptive charging cable which can charge as slow as 6A (1.5 kWh). The on-board BMS (Battery Management System) is also configured to allow charging at any speed and will adjust the CAN (Controller Area Network) bus messages accordingly.

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On the other end of the spectrum, CCS2 charging is available at 70 kW (CCS1 is also available for international markets). For the e30 kits, this will recharge the pack from 0–80% in 25 minutes, with the e60 doing the same top-up in 41 minutes. eDub’s more affordable e36t pack, where a Hyper 9 motor is bolted onto the manual gearbox, doesn’t have the CCS option, and will charge at a maximum of 6.6 kW (5 and a half hours to fully recharge).

Photo by eDub Services. Detail from the custom T2 subframe housing the Tesla motor.

This ultimately comes down to power available. The biggest threat to range is a heavy right foot. If you can limit that within the vehicle and the experience, without compromising performance, then you get the best of both worlds. eDub’s e30 and e60 packs (the e60 has a 61.2k Wh pack for 171 real world miles of range) both use Tesla motors. These are capable of 290 BHP, but are tuned down to about 96 BHP, which is still double the original engine power. Plus, as these conversion kits are fully automatic and retain the huge torque from 0 rpm, these campers can blast off the line and up hills without wasting tons of power.

Photo by Kit Lacey/eDub Services. View underneath of the installed pack.

The only other comparable factor to the original is weight. Modern EVs can be over a ton heavier than a petrol equivalent. But incredibly, eDub’s e30 pack is the same weight as the original engine, gearbox, and full fuel tank (we can’t forget that an 80 liter fuel tank is almost 80 kg of weight!) The e60 only adds 180 kg more, and all that is under the vehicle, so it acts like a few extra passengers in the back. That is still well below the 2,200 kg total weight these campers were built to handle.

Photo by Kit Lacey/eDub Services. Complete e30 battery pack and Tesla motor on display, showing the IO for the low voltage, high voltage, and coolant.

All in all, Maggie represents the pinnacle of VW camper van conversions for eDub so far. Just the right blend of power, weight, utility, comfort, and reliability. And Maggie’s trustworthiness means that she is available for hire, and is now also available to hire in Scotland in 2023 for one season only on Airbnb! So cool! If you want to discuss converting or purchasing your very own electric VW camper van, take a look at eDub Conversion.

Photo by Kit Lacey/eDub Services. The comfort of Maggie inside.

Enjoy this new video where Kit Lacey presents the Tesla-powered VW T2 Camper Van in great detail. It’s really worth a watch if you want to know about all the considerations behind it. Kit Lacey has been at it for a decade now, and he has stubbornly been learning by doing what he loves.

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Jesper Berggreen

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 and a long-term investor in Tesla, Ørsted, and Vestas.

Jesper Berggreen has 243 posts and counting. See all posts by Jesper Berggreen