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Electric campervans – should your next camper be an EV?

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Electric campervans? Surely electric vehicles aren’t yet a plausible option for a campervan conversion? But time is ticking – after 2030, new petrol or diesel vans will no longer be sold in the UK or EU. Instead, a whole new generation of electric vehicles will be making their way onto the market. But has the EV era already started? And are they really good enough for a campervan conversion? 

With 460,000 pure electric vehicles currently driving on UK roads, they are clearly showing great promise, especially for city dwellers and commuters who drive short distances and at low speeds. But when it comes to campervans, we need long-distance, high-speed driving, and we want the flexibility to travel wherever, and whenever, taking advantage of good weather and beautifully remote locations. Will we get that with an electric van

We’re going to answer all your questions about electric campervans to try and prepare you for the inevitable transition from the old, fossil fuel guzzling, CO2 spewing, internal combustion engine to the all new, smooth and silent electric motor

We’ll cover:

When will petrol and diesel cars be banned?

The deadline for the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the UK is 2030, and by 2035, all new cars and vans must be ‘zero emissions’ – meaning Hybrids are out too. There will still be plenty of diesel and petrol cars on the roads, but in the not too distant future, you’ll struggle to find a low mileage petrol or diesel van for your campervan conversion. 

On top of the changing legislation, the introduction of low emission zones in UK cities, and the ever rising price of fuel might also prompt you to start finding out more about electric vehicles. 

So what are your options? Is it time to invest in electric? Is it even possible to convert an electric van into a camper? 

Can an electric van be converted into a campervan?

An electric van can be converted into a campervan – in fact, it’s already been tried and tested. Since the Nissan e-NV200 was released in 2014, it has been a popular van for conversion by various campervan conversion companies and they’re apparently pretty popular.

In terms of building, the body of an electric van should be pretty similar to the old petrol or diesel vehicles. You’ll be able to build cabinetry and beds, install windows and skylights and plumb in gas hobs and sinks just as you would before. You will have to be mindful that the traction batteries of an electric van will be just beneath the floor of the van, so you’ll need to carefully plan waste-water outlets and drop-out vents, and be wary about screwing through the floor.

12V electrical systems in electric campervans

When it comes to your campervan’s electrical system, you should be able to install everything you would normally in a diesel campervan. You can use a leisure battery as your main source of power, an inverter to create 230V power, and solar panels to charge the leisure battery. 

There’s just one aspect of the conversion which is a little bit different, and that’s the process of charging the leisure battery as you drive. In a campervan with an internal combustion engine (ICE), it’s common to use the power from the alternator to charge the campervan’s leisure battery using some method of split charging, such as a Voltage Sensitive Relay (VSR) or a battery to battery charger. But electric vehicles don’t have an alternator, so how can we charge the leisure battery?

Using a battery to battery charger in electric campervans

Luckily, most electric vehicles still have a 12V starter battery just like an ICE vehicle. This means you can charge a campervan’s leisure battery directly from the vehicle’s starter battery, just as you would before. 

battery to battery charger EV campervan electrical system

EVs use big battery banks to power their electric motors, which are made up of hundreds of individual lithium-ion battery cells all wired together to achieve the desired voltage. Each cell has a small voltage of around 3.6V, but the total battery voltage is usually between 350-450V, depending on the vehicle. 

To charge the 12V starter battery, EVs use a DC-DC converter which steps down the traction battery’s high voltage to the voltage required to charge the starter battery. So, when you connect a leisure battery to the terminals of the starter battery, it will also charge whenever the DC-DC converter is running. The DC-DC converter will be activated whenever the key is in the ignition.

With this configuration, there could be a risk of accidentally draining the starter battery. However, if you use a smart battery to battery charger, it can be configured to only draw charge when the vehicle is turned on. Additionally, it would be wise to incorporate manual control over your battery to battery charger so you can choose not to charge the leisure battery when you’re really struggling for mileage and don’t want to drain your vehicle’s traction battery.

Using this method, you are essentially tapping into the big reserves of the traction battery’s capacity. This means that you might not need as large a leisure battery as you might have needed in a diesel or petrol van. As you discharge your leisure battery, simply turning on the vehicle will transfer charge from the traction battery to the leisure battery, and in an EV, this doesn’t mean you have to sit in the rumble of a running engine, EV’s are practically silent when they’re turned on.

Do you need a leisure battery in an electric campervan?

If you can harness the power from your traction battery, do electric campervans even need a leisure battery? In theory, campervan loads could be connected to the starter battery terminals. By drawing power directly from the DC-DC converter, you could bypass the starter battery altogether. Unfortunately, this configuration is impractical for a number of reasons. 

Firstly, the DC-DC converter will only be activated when the key is in the ignition and the vehicle turned on. If you ever need to use power when you’re away from the van, you’ll draw power from the starter battery instead of the DC-DC converter. This is particularly relevant to anyone who needs to power a campervan fridge, which will be running 24/7 and would quickly drain a small starter battery. Additionally, if you ever forget to turn on the vehicle before using your electrical system, you will also drain power from the starter battery.

If you drain your starter battery too much, your vehicle simply won’t turn on. Although EVs don’t have an alternator, they still use the 12V starter battery to turn on the vehicle’s computer which is required for start-up.

To address this problem, we could swap out the starter battery for a bigger battery which would act as a combined starter and leisure battery. In this way, the battery would be used as the power source whenever the DC-DC converter isn’t running. The flow of power would look something like this:

EV campervan electrical system – using a starter battery as a leisure battery

However, this system also has a big drawback: the power source from the DC-DC converter is not designed for healthy battery charging

Constant-voltage charging from the DC-DC converter

For good battery health, all good quality battery chargers output a few different charging phases, involving “constant-current” and “constant-voltage” charging. Throughout the charging process, they will use different charging profiles which both optimise charging and prolong the lifespan of the battery.

campervan b2b battery charging profile bulk absorption float victron energy isolated orion smart battery to battery split charge

Charging profile for lithium leisure batteries

In contrast, DC-DC converters in EVs only output a constant voltage. Unfortunately, constant-voltage charging is not ideal for maintaining good battery health. 

Constant-voltage charging is unsuitable for two reasons. Firstly, when the battery is deeply discharged, the internal resistance is very low and lots of current will flood into the battery in an uncontrolled way. This high current will degrade the battery prematurely and can cause the battery to overheat.

Secondly, constant-voltage charging can take a long time to fully charge a battery. As the battery reaches a fully-charged state, the voltage increases and very little current can flow in. 

For these reasons, using the DC-DC converter in your EV to regularly recharge a leisure battery will result in premature degradation, and you likely find you’ll need to replace your starter battery much sooner than you’d like.

You might be wondering, “If constant-voltage charging is so bad, why do EV manufacturers use it for their starter batteries?”

The answer is – they never expect the vehicle’s starter battery to be deeply discharged to the point where a high current is flowing into the battery. In normal use, the starter battery in an EV would be constantly topped up by the DC-DC converter, and never deeply discharged.

Who might this system work for?

Using the vehicle’s DC-DC converter as the main source of power is impractical for most people, but there are a small number who might benefit from the simplicity of this set-up. You’ll have to fit into all of these criteria: 

1. You don’t need to power anything when you’re away from the campervan 

If you don’t need a fridge in your campervan, and if you remember not to leave anything on charge when you’re away from the van, this system might work for you.

2. You don’t mind to hassle of always turning the vehicle on before using power

To use this system, you’ll need to turn the vehicle on before you use the campervan electrics. Okay, you can turn the lights on for a few minutes when you wake up, or run the tap for a few seconds to wash your hands. But remember, if you drain the starter battery regularly, it will experience constant-voltage charging and will degrade very quickly. 

3. You’re maximum load current is below the rating of the DC-DC converter 

Most DC-DC converters are rated between 100-150A, so if you need to use any high-wattage appliances which exceed this (such as an induction hob), you won’t be able to draw power directly from the DC-DC converter.

If you do decide to use this set-up, we would strongly recommend including a BatteryProtect between the 12V loads and the starter battery. As well as this, you should also set the ‘low voltage disconnect’ settings on any inverters to ensure that all loads are disconnected from your starter battery before it reaches a voltage where you wouldn’t be able to start your vehicle.

batteryprotect ev campervan electrical system wiring diagram inverter no leisure battery

EV campervan electrical system wiring diagram for a system with no leisure battery

In summary, you can convert an electric vehicle into a campervan. For most people, we would recommend including a small leisure battery (which is separate from the vehicle’s 12V system) and using solar power to keep this topped up where possible. And when there’s no solar power to be found, just turn on your electric van and the battery-to-battery charger will recharge the leisure battery. 

Important consideration: If you intend to rely on using the vehicle’s traction battery as a power source, you may want to introduce a manual switch to turn off the vehicle’s lights when the key is left in. Many EVs automatically turn the vehicle’s lights on when the vehicle is turned on. This would further drain your battery (and make covert camping impossible!).

How efficient is this system?

Charging your leisure battery from an EV’s 12V starter battery gives you access to the big capacity of the traction battery, but if you end up powering some 230V appliances, there will be quite a bit of energy loss along the path between the traction battery and the appliance.

To convert the voltage from 400V down to 12V then back up to 230V AC, the power passes through the DC-DC converter, then the 12V-12V battery-to-battery charger, then through a 12V-230V inverter. These devices normally have an efficiency of around 90%, so the total resultant efficiency will be around 73% (0.9 x 0.9 x 0.9 = 0.73). Theoretically, it would be much more efficient to access the traction battery’s 400V and transform that directly into 230V. But can you access an EV’s traction battery directly?

Can you use an electric vehicle’s traction battery to power the campervan or charge a leisure battery?

You can’t directly power your campervan or charge your leisure battery from your electric vehicle’s traction battery. Wiring into the traction battery comes with a number of issues. To begin with, EV manufacturers don’t want you poking around in the battery electrics, so it’s likely that there won’t be an easy access point for reaching the vehicle batteries – they will be carefully sealed and contained.

Additionally, you might render your battery warranty void if you tamper with the original installation. Battery warranty is quite an important aspect of EV ownership, since all batteries have a limited lifespan. Most EVs come with a 8 year battery warranty.

Finally, there’s a large safety risk when it comes to EV traction batteries – they’re designed to provide big horsepower to your van, so high voltages and high currents can be running through these systems, making them a significant electrocution risk.

Future EVs might provide us with a super easy way to access the traction battery: built in 230V power! Some new electric cars come with a 230V outlet plug in them. If this trend is continued when it comes to electric vans, it would mean easy access to 230V power.

For now, the general consensus seems to be that relying on more solar power is a cleaner, cheaper method of getting the charging power you need for your campervan electrics, and using the vehicle’s traction battery as a back-up source is good enough.

Limitations of electric campervans

Now we know you can convert an electric van into a camper, the next question is ‘Should you convert an electric van into a campervan?’ or rather, ‘Do you actually want an electric vehicle at all?’

There are definitely a whole load of draw-backs when it comes to electric campervans over diesel or petrol. The hope is that these disadvantages will become less and less significant as the industry develops. As battery technology improves and more charging stations are installed, eventually owning an electric vehicle will be a no brainer. But the technology is still in its infancy, so you’ll have to think carefully about whether an electric van is the right choice for your campervan conversion at this point. 

Other than the higher initial cost, the main problem with electric vehicles is their limited battery capacity. In comparison to an ICE vehicle with a full tank of fuel, electric vehicles have a pretty small range. For example, a new diesel Mercedes Sprinter has an estimated fuel consumption of 8 litres / 100km and a 71 litre fuel tank, so could theoretically drive around 550miles before a re-fuel. In comparison, the e-Sprinter has an estimated range of only 83 miles, and in reality it’s even lower than this for a fully laden campervan conversion.

This big difference in driving range will be the deciding factor for most when it comes to choosing an electric or ICE vehicle for your next campervan conversion. 

Driving range of electric campervans

The size of an EVs battery bank is a good indicator of how much electrical charge it can store, but EV manufacturers also provide a quoted range which estimates how far the vehicle will be able to travel on a fully charged battery.

Electric vehicle range is improving really quickly – when the Nissan e-NV200 was released in 2014, it had a 24kWh battery bank and an estimated range of 55-75miles, but it now sports a 40kWh battery bank and has a range of 124-187miles.

The driving range of electric vans currently on the market varies massively with size, manufacturer and model. But before comparing the range of electric vans, you need to understand what that ‘range’ number really means.

What is the WLTP range?

The WLTP range is the theoretical range of an electric vehicle which is measured by the manufacturers in laboratory conditions, with predetermined conditions designed to account for a combination of urban, suburban, rural and motorway driving. WLTP, or Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure, is the name of the standardised test which is designed to give the buyer an estimate of CO2 emissions, energy consumption and driving range.

Some manufacturers will also advertise the WLTP range for urban driving, but If you see the term WLTP combined, this means the test included both slow-speed and high speed driving. Because external factors all have a big effect on the practical range you might get from an EV, such as driving style and outside temperature, and the test is carried out in near-perfect conditions, the quoted range of an electric vehicle is more of a comparison tool than a realistic estimate of the vehicle’s consumption. However, it is still useful when comparing two EVs.

Older vehicles (before 2017) may use a range value called the NEDC (New European Driving Cycle) range. This is just an older test standard which had less realistic conditions and included more urban driving, so will make an EVs range look slightly more favourable than the WLTP.  

Range comparison of electric vans

The range of an electric van varies massively between different makes and models, but the current best range values are around 150-200 miles for small electric vans with a battery capacity of over 50kWh. Vans with battery capacities around 30-40kWh have a corresponding smaller range between 80-120 miles.

Large vans such as the Mercedes e-Sprinter or the Renault Master ZE have a much shorter range than the smaller vans, with only 70-90 miles. However, some newer models with battery banks of around 70kWh are quoting ranges of 150-200 miles. These numbers might seem really low and impractical, but these big electric vans are being advertised as city-based delivery vans, where their slow speed uses less battery power and the stop-start driving actually recharges the battery with regenerative braking.

The issue with using electric power for big, heavy vehicles is that you need a big battery pack to propel them at a decent speed, but batteries are also very heavy and add even more weight, creating a bit of a circular problem. These big battery banks make electric vehicles much heavier than their ICE counterparts, for example, the e-Sprinter has a kerb weight of 2769kg and the same size diesel Sprinter is only 2090kg.

WLTP range of small electric vans currently on the market

Model Battery size

Vauxhall Vivaro-e

Citroen e-Dispatch

Peugeot e-Partner

50kWh



70kWh


Maxis eDeliver 3
35kWh



52.5kWh

Nissan e-NV200

40kWh

Mercedes e-Vito Tourer

90kWh

VW ABT e-Transporter

37kWh

WLTP range

143 miles
205 miles
99 miles
151 miles
124 miles
206 miles
82 miles
Battery size
50kWh



70kWh





35kWh



52.5kWh





40kWh





68kWh





70kWh

Vauxhall Vivaro-e, Citroen e-Dispatch & Peugeot e-Partner

143 miles
205 miles

Maxis eDeliver 3

99 miles
151 miles

Nissan e-NV200

124 miles

Mercedes e-Vito Tourer

206 miles

VW ABT e-Transporter

82 miles

WLTP range of large electric vans currently on the market

Model Battery size



Fiat e-Ducato

47kWh



79kWh

 

Mercedes e-Sprinter



55kWh

Renault Master ZE

33kWh

Ford e-Transit

68kWh

Citroen e-Relay

70kWh

WLTP range

98 miles
223 miles
83 miles
74 miles
196 miles
139 miles
Battery size
47kWh



79kWh





55kWh





33kWh





68kWh





70kWh

Fiat e-Ducato

98 miles
223 miles

Mercedes e-Sprinter

83 miles

Renault Master ZE

74 miles

Ford e-Transit

196 miles

Citroen e-Relay

139 miles

These numbers are great for comparing EV’s when you’re in the market to buy, but can you really use them to estimate how far you’ll be able to travel between charging stations on your next road trip? Unfortunately, there’s quite a big difference between these measured WLTP values and the actual, real-world range you will get out of an electric vehicle.

How accurate is the WLTP?

The WLTP range is measured in a laboratory environment with near-perfect conditions, but the actual range you might get from a full charge will probably deviate significantly from these figures. WhatCar tested their 2021 award winning electric cars to see how far they varied from their WLTP range values, testing a combination of urban and motorway driving. On average, of the 10 electric cars they tested, the real range measured about 15% lower than the WLTP value, with the worst performing car (the Fiat 500 Icon) having a real range which was 29% below its rated 198mile WLTP range.

These cars were tested in good conditions for the EV battery to achieve maximum range, with just one driver, on a fair weather day, in 17-20oC, so the real range will drop even lower with other factors taken into account, such as:

  • Driving style 
  • Outside temperature
  • Road conditions
  • Tyre pressure
  • Wind resistance
  • Battery state of charge 
  • Battery degradation over time
  • Payload
  • Other electrical loads e.g. air con, heating, fans

So if you want to know the real range of your electric campervan, you’ll need to take the WLTP values with a pinch (okay, maybe a tablespoon) of salt. Before accounting for added weight and weather conditions, it’s likely that the real range of an electric vehicle could be around 15% lower than the WLTP value. 

If you want to get a feel for how temperature, payload and driving speed might affect the range of an electric van, check out Vauxhall’s range calculator which shows the effect of these parameters on the range of the Vivaro-e.

How much will the weight of a van conversion affect its range?

When it comes to using an electric van as a campervan, the added weight is likely to be the biggest factor which affects the real range of electric campervans. The WLTP test is carried out with a completely empty van and only one person, so you’ll need to account for extra passengers, any kit you bring with you, and the conversion materials themselves.

The weight of conversion materials is going to have a big impact on the practicality of electric campervans. There will be a big difference between those who will add the lightweight, ‘weekend camper’ style cupboards to their van in comparison to those who want to do a full, bespoke ‘tiny home’ conversion.

When converting a large, full-height van, most DIY converters are doing well to keep the total weight of materials under 1 tonne. Imagine adding 1 tonne of weight (that’s the same as a VW Beetle) into the back of an empty van before accelerating up to 60mph – that’s going to have a massive effect on the vehicle’s battery bank and subsequently lower your range. In fact, the Vivaro-e range calculator estimates that a payload of 1 tonne will reduce the range of the vehicle by about 15% at 30mph, and by 10% at 50mph. 

If you chose to convert a full-height van, the real range might already be around 15% lower than the WLTP value (in accordance with WhatCar’s tests), and a 1 tonne conversion might reduce the range by a further 10%. For example, the e-Sprinter’s advertised WLTP value of 83 miles might drop down to a realistic value of only 63 miles! Could you plan your next road trip around a recharge stop every 63 miles? 

How far will I be able to travel in an electric campervan?

Let’s run through an example to get an idea of the range of electric campervans between charges. Since the smaller electric vans look more promising for a conversion, let’s look at the Vivaro-e as an example, since we can use the online range calculator to account for different driving conditions. 

The Vivaro-e’s WLTP range is 205 miles, but let’s reduce that value by 15%, since WhatCar found that the real range of electric vehicles is, on average, 15% lower than the WLTP range. This gives us a practical range of 174 miles. 

Let’s say you wanted to drive Scotland’s scenic North Coast 500, which is about 500 miles, (not surprisingly) and your average driving speed is about 45mph, because of the narrow, winding roads. With a driving range of 174 miles, you’d only need to stop to recharge twice along the way, which seems reasonable, especially if you’re taking your time and enjoying the scenery. Finding charging stations will definitely be more of a challenge in such rural areas, but if you’re using campsites along the way, you’ll be able to charge overnight from the mains hook up point.

The numbers look less favourable when you want to cover ground quickly and use faster roads. Let’s say you wanted to get out to the French Alps, so you need to drive from Calais to Chamonix, which is around 550 miles. You’ll be driving mostly on motorways and choose to sit at about 70mph. Vivaro’s range calculator drops down to 141 miles when driving at 70mph, so reducing that by 15% gives us a real range of 120 miles. So you’ll need to stop at least four times to recharge on your journey, or every 2 hours. Assuming you find rapid charging stations every time, you’ll be able to charge the Vivaro-e from 15-80% in 45 minutes. But if you wanted to finish this journey in the Google Maps time of 8 hours, four stops of 45 minutes might feel pretty tedious and restrictive. 

If you like to cover ground quickly, without the hassle of stopping to recharge, an electric vehicle might not be the best choice for you, but if you like to take your time getting to where you’re going, and don’t mind taking the scenic route, you might not find the range too restrictive and might enjoy all the benefits electric campervans have to offer. 

How much will the campervan usage affect the range?

If you choose to tap into the EVs 12V battery to charge your leisure battery, you’ll be indirectly drawing power from the traction battery. So how much will your daily usage eat into your electric campervans driving range? 

The daily power consumption of a campervan varies massively depending on the conversion and the users. A low power-use case (some lights, a fridge, 2x phone charges) could draw about 45Ah per day from the 12V leisure battery. This equates to 0.54kWh per day. 

A high power-consumption campervan might involve the use of a number of 12V and 230V appliances and an induction hob, which seems to be quite popular in electric conversions so you truly have the ‘100% electric’ badge of honour. This could add up to a daily use of 200Ah/day, which equates to 2.4kWh/day.

The electric consumption of small electric vans is usually between 300-400Wh/mile, so even the high-use case of 2400Wh per day would only use around 6-8 miles of the EVs range each day, and the low-use case would only use 1-2 miles of range.

ev campervan range and power usage how much mileage

Charging electric campervans

Charging an electric vehicle is pretty different to fueling up a diesel or petrol van – you won’t be restricted to fuel stations. Instead, you can charge an EV at home, at work, at public charging points, or even in private car parks like supermarkets, hotels, or leisure centres.

Unlike the simple connection between fuel pump and fuel inlet in petrol or diesel cars, there isn’t just one universal connector for all electric vehicles. Different charging stations provide varying amounts of power, with quite a few different types of connector. For this reason, almost all EVs have two different connector types. One is usually for a slower AC charge, and the other is for a faster, DC charge.

EV charger types AC DC type 1 type 2 combo 2 CHAdeMO electric vehicle charging

Since UK mains electricity is AC, the most common type of charging source is AC power. But EV traction batteries need DC power to charge, so EVs use an onboard charger to convert the AC power into DC. Recently, DC charging points have been developed which can bypass the onboard charger and charge EVs much faster.

EV charger types AC DC type 1 type 2 combo 2 CHAdeMO electric vehicle charging

The length of time it takes to charge the EV depends on the size of the traction battery and how much power (in kW) the charger can provide. The different charging sources can be categorised by how fast they can charge an EV.

Level 1 – Slow Charging – The slowest method of charging is using single-phase, 230V AC power, just like the power you have in your home. This is accessed through a 3 pin plug which is limited to 10A or 13A, or a Commando socket which is rated at 16A. Restricted to 2.3-3.6kW of power, this method of charging usually takes around 6-8hours, so is fine for charging overnight, but not very useful when you’re out and about. These types of chargers are usually provided with every EV, which you plug in yourself with a Type 1 or Type 2 connector at the vehicle end. 

Level 2 – Fast Charging – AC fast charging uses three-phase power and can provide higher current, with around a 3 or 4 hour wait for a full charge, depending on the power rating (7kW, 11kW or 22kW). These types of chargers are tethered to a charging station, just like a fuel pump, and use a Type 1 or Type 2 connector at the vehicle end.

Level 3 – Rapid Charging – Using DC power for a rapid charge is a slightly newer technology, but there are already loads of rapid charging points in the UK. These provide much more practical charging times since they often have a power source of around 50kW. Some rapid charging points can provide 120kW, 150kW, and even up to 350kW of charging power. For these charging points, an estimated charging time is given for 20%-80% and usually takes around 20-60 minutes depending on the vehicle and the power of the charger. 

For all of these charging points, the rate of charge will always be limited by the EVs maximum allowed rate of charge. For example, the e-Sprinter can charge from a Rapid DC charging point with a Combo connector, but is limited to 20kW max charging speed and so can charge from 0-80% in 2 hours. Whereas the Vivaro-e can accept 100kW of charge, and so can charge from 20%-80% in 20 minutes. 

Here’s an example of how the type of charging will affect charging time, for the Vivaro-e.

Charging method

3-pin plug

3.6kW

7kW

50kW

150kW

Typically found at
Home
Home / Work
Home / Public parking
Public locations
Public locations

Charging time

22hrs
14hrs
7hrs
40mins
20mins

If you want to find out about a specific electric van, there are a couple of really handy websites: Pod Point for finding charge time estimates, and Electric Vehicle Database for comparing various aspects of multiple EVs. 

How many electric vehicle charging stations are there?

In the UK, there are currently over 30,400 individual electric vehicle charging points [1]. There are a variety of opinions on whether this number is good or bad, ranging from determined optimism to downright scepticism.

But in 2019, the number of public EV charging locations in the UK overtook the number of petrol stations, which is on the decline, with only 8,378 stations currently open in the UK [1].

Although 30,412 does sound like a lot, only 20% of the charging devices in the UK are rapid or ultra-rapid chargers. In reality, this is the most relevant number to keep an eye on, since most people would agree that even the ‘fast’ AC chargers, which can take 3-4 hours for a full recharge, are still too slow for recharging in the middle of the day.

The North West of Scotland is a popular destination for a lot of campervanners, but Scotland only has 2,952 charging points right now, with the rural areas looking particularly sparse.  Scotland has about 4 charging points for every 100km2, which is much lower than England, which has 20 charging points per 100km2.

Most EVs have some sort of charging point map integrated into their sat nav system for easy finding, and the most favoured platform in the UK and Ireland seems to be Zap Maps. If you want an idea of how many charging points there are around your local haunts, have a look at the Zap Maps map and you may be surprised by how many there actually are. Autotrader also have an interactive Charging Point Map where you can explore EV chargers across the UK.

New legislation from the government is hopefully going to fast track the rising number of charging stations. In November 2021, it was announced that under new legislation, every new home with associated parking and buildings such as supermarkets and workplaces in England will be required to install electric vehicle charge points from 2022. An estimated 145,000 extra charge points will be installed across England each year thanks to these regulations [1]. 

Charging electric campervans abroad

If you’re travelling in Europe, you’ll find the number of public charging points varies massively from country to country. Most EU countries have significantly less EV chargers than the UK, with only a few which significantly surpass it.

ev charging points in europe

There are currently approximately 225,000 public charging stations in Europe. However, France, Germany and the Netherlands account for 70% of that number, so if you’re travelling outside of these countries, it might become trickier to find charging points. Furthermore, only 1 in 9 of EU public chargers are rapid chargers [4].

Recharging electric campervans at campsites

Remember, if you’re regularly using campsites on your travels, you’ll be able to charge your electric campervan overnight from the campsite’s electric hook up point. Most EVs come with a 3 pin plug charger, so you’ll just need an adapter to turn that 3 pin plug into a blue Commando plug. Campsite electric hook up points will be limited to either 10A or 16A. Even with a slow charging speed, you should be able to fully charge your electric camper overnight which means you can start each day with a fully charged battery and access to the EVs maximum range. 

shore power to 230V 3 pin plug uk
ev home charger type 1 electric vehicle charging

Can you use an EV charger to charge your leisure batteries?

Charging a leisure battery directly from your EV’s charging cord would be difficult and impractical for a number of reasons: different connector types, unsuitable voltages, complicated electronic signalling between EV and charger, and ethical considerations. 

To safely and effectively charge a leisure battery, you need to use a battery charger which will regulate the voltage and current going to the battery to ensure it charges at the right speed and charging profile. Battery chargers designed for leisure batteries need an input voltage of around 230V. Charging stations which have a three pin or Commando socket could provide this 230V power, but would be slow and perhaps unethical, especially if it was a free source, which has been subsidised by the government to encourage the uptake of EVs. Also, because charging stations are still thin on the ground, plugging in to charge a leisure battery for hours could cause queues/hold up an EV driver who really needs the charging point. 

Charging a leisure battery from a Type 1 (also called J1772) connector is also possible, since the electricity source is 240V AC, single phase, which is within the input limitations of most leisure battery chargers. The problem is that, unlike the standard three-pin plugs, a J1772 connector actually has 5 pins, some of which are used for communication between the EV and the charger. The charger needs confirmation that an electric vehicle is connected and that it’s ready to charge. 

This technique is still in its infancy, but there is a company in the states which produces adapter pieces from a J1772 inlet, into a variety of different 3 pin sockets, which you could plug a battery charger into which would then receive 230V. Inside this adapter is some circuitry which provides the correct signal to the charging point to initiate charging. With this configuration, you could use a public or private EV charging point to charge your leisure battery.

Trying to charge a leisure battery from a Rapid DC charger is a bit pointless since they are designed to provide a high power of 50kW or even up to 350kW, whereas leisure batteries require a much slower charging speed (e.g. around 1.8kW for a 300Ah lithium battery) to avoid damage. You would also need to install a big DC-DC converter to step down the voltage from around 400V to 12V, which seems pointless when the vehicle already has a converter like this.

If you have an electric campervan, the simplest and neatest way to charge the leisure battery will be to charge via the 12V battery, to save having to add a separate charging port in the side of your vehicle. This is still technically charging a leisure battery from the EV charger, just indirectly, through the traction battery > DC-DC converter > starter battery > leisure battery. If you only have a small leisure battery (around 100Ah), then using a 30A battery to battery charger, it would only take around 3 hours to fully charge this from 10% to 100%.

Is it all bad news?

Running through the numbers for the range of electric vans might make you feel a little pessimistic about electric campervans for your next conversion, but remember there’s a reason you’re trying to steer away from burning fossil fuels. Plus, there are a lot of factors which make electric campervans look pretty favourable.

  • Maintenance costs are lower – the drive chain of an EV has way less moving parts than that of ICE vehicles. 
  • Operational costs are less – charging your vehicle with electricity is much cheaper than fuel [3], especially if you charge your EV at home, during off-peak power. 
  • Your carbon footprint is significantly reduced (as long as you don’t buy a new EV!) – this will become more and more significant as fossil fuels are phased out of our power distribution in the UK, and renewable energy is the main source of power. Renewable energy provided 43% of the UK’s domestic power generation in 2020, which has more than doubled since 2014, so it’s definitely on the rise [2]. 

So are we really ready to start buying electric vans to convert instead of diesel or petrol? The asking price for these vans is so much higher than their ICE equivalents, and the charging times and access to charging stations will have a big impact on your freedom of movement, which is what a lot of people love about van life. The main deciding factor will be how committed you are to reducing your carbon footprint – it might be a little extra effort, less convenient, and limit where you can explore, but these might be worthwhile sacrifices if you want to stop burning through fossil fuels.

Should you buy or convert an electric campervan?

Now that you know the pros and cons of electric campervans, the question you need to answer is: is an electric campervan a good choice for you, or should you wait for the technology to further improve?

You might benefit from an electric camper if you want a small to medium-sized campervan and you plan to use campsites for most of your van adventures. The driving range of smaller electric vans is already pretty good, and if you’ll be parked up at a campsite every night, you’ll be able to charge overnight and start the next day with a fully charged traction battery. 

If you’re good at planning your trips before you set off, you’ll be able to pre-empt where the nearest charging stations are and make sure that you never get caught short and run out of charge. Also, if you base yourself at a campsite for a couple of nights in a row, it’s likely that you won’t be driving too far from base throughout the day, and won’t need to find charging stations throughout the day. 

If you want to use your van off-grid, exploring new places every day and doing some big driving days, an electric campervan might not be a good option for you yet. Not being able to recharge your vehicle overnight will definitely hinder your freedom throughout the day – if you can’t find a rapid charging station, you might end up parked up for several hours before you can start exploring. 

Anyone planning to live in their van full-time might also struggle with an electric camper. Full-time van life can be a challenge in itself – some days can be spent searching for water, bins, showers, or a good place to park for the night, so adding the hassle of recharging your EV every day might be a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re also juggling a working life. Most full-timers also like to cart a lot of kit around with them so that they have everything they need with them wherever they go, and this will really add to the vehicle’s weight and have a negative effect on the range. Until battery technology improves, most people who want to use their van off-grid will find an electric vehicle too restrictive for use as a campervan.

Regardless of how quickly the technology improves, legislation will eventually boot you out of your much loved ICE campervan and into the future of electric vehicles! The rules will change in 2030, and ICE vehicles will eventually die of natural causes. Hopefully the infrastructure for electric charging points will be driven alongside these legislation changes and buying an electric van will become a much more reasonable prospect. 

If you want to know more about the electric vans which are currently on the market, we’ve listed the best ones for a campervan conversion and also give you a peek at what’s on its way soon, so you can get excited about cool conversions of the future.

Electric campervans for sale

There are already quite a few conversion companies who are selling pre-converted electric campers. In terms of electric vans, there’s already a variety of new and second electric vans for sale, although the prices are still pretty high since most are only a couple of years old. We’ll also give you a sneak peak at campervans which might appear on the market soon.

Pre-converted electric campervans for sale

Although there are currently no electric campervans which are sold directly from the manufacturer, there are quite a few companies which convert electric vans in the UK. 

The Nissan e-NV200 is a popular base for electric campervan conversions. This is available for a starting price of £30,000 at Hillside Leisure, £58,000 from We Are EV or Pioneer Campervans, and £65,000 at Sussex Campervans. They like to use the term ‘all electric’, because as well their mileage coming from electric, they don’t use any gas or diesel for heating or cooking either. Campervan induction hobs mean these vehicles are 100% reliant on electricity. We have our reservations about using induction hobs in campervans, but with access to the EVs big battery bank, they’re a good option for an electric van (although we’d definitely miss cooking on gas). 

Each company has included all the basic elements of a camper (fold out bed, small kitchen, storage cupboards) as well as the essential electrics, including a lithium leisure battery, solar panels, inverters and electric hook up. The e-NV200 is a pretty small van for a campervan conversion, but most companies have added a pop-top roof to give you an extra berth and some room to stand up straight.

It’s also worth highlighting that some of these companies are treating an electric campervan like a diesel van, and have subsequently massively over-specced the electrical system. Their vans include large lithium battery banks and electric hook up that simply isn’t required when you can harness the power from your traction battery to recharge a small leisure battery. So you might be better off tackling your own campervan conversion rather than paying over the odds for an electric van.

Electric campervans coming soon

If you’re looking for a brand new campervan which will replace the likes of the popular VW California or the Mercedes Marco Polo, you only have to wait a little while longer until these models are released.

VW ID. California campervan 

Alongside the ID. Buzz passenger and cargo van, Volkswagen have announced that an electric campervan is also in the making, but it won’t be released until ‘the second half of this decade’. No news yet of what the ID. California will look like, but it’s based on the ID. Buzz and so should have similar specifications in terms of battery power and range.

Mercedes EQV Campervan

Mercedes have teamed up with a Swiss conversion company called Sortimo to convert their EQV van into a camper. This campervan isn’t actually sold directly from Mercedes – instead, it’s a ‘two-invoice’ kind of transaction, with the bespoke conversion carried out in Switzerland. If you’re UK based, you might be better off buying the base EQV vehicle closer to home and using a local conversion company. 

Nissan e-NV200 Winter Camper

Nissan have released some images of the e-NV200 upgraded into a hardy, winter camper with mudguards, side bars, front flood lights and insulated glass windows. This is just a concept car so there’s no official plans for mass production yet but fingers crossed!

nissan e-nv200 winter camper electric campervan

Winnebago e-RV 

Again, this is just a concept vehicle, but Winnebago has used a Ford Transit as a base vehicle to conceptualise an electric campervan. There’s no mention of potential production, so hopefully, they have time to send this back to the design department! 

Winnebago e-RV electric campervan

VW Type 20

Finally, one that we can’t really pretend will actually come into production, VW released a concept vehicle of the old Type 2 VW Camper, but reimagined as a futuristic, high tech campervan which uses voice assistance, facial recognition to unlock the door and a holographic sat-nav. It’s also bedecked with various parts which have been created with a software designed to optimise the strength to weight ratio, such as the steering wheel, wing mirrors and wheels, but which has resulted in some quite strange, organic forms.

Iridium E-Mobil

If you’re looking for something bigger, there is only one electric RV currently on the market, but there are also some interesting proposals for the future… yes it looks terrible.

The Iridium E-Mobil is the only electric motorhome on the market right now and unfortunately, they’re only sold in Germany. Iridium actually take a diesel motorhome, made by Mooveo, and convert it into an electric vehicle. The new generation of the Iridium e-Mobil claims its 108kWh battery bank will provide a range of 240miles, which outperforms other large electric vans currently on the market. Because motorhome bodywork and internals are made of lightweight composites, the strain on the battery bank will be significantly less than the heavy aluminium body of the diesel vans. But it all comes at a cost! €200,000 to be precise!

Iridium E-Mobil electric campervan

Electric vans for sale

If you’ve just flicked through the existing electric campervans and were left disappointed you are not alone! Ultimately mass-manufactured campervans are rarely worth getting excited about and unfortunately, it seems the switch to electric hasn’t changed that! So if you want a vehicle to be proud of and be a home away from home, you’ll have to build it yourself!

If you’re planning your own DIY campervan conversion, choosing the right van is so important as it’s the base to an expensive, time-consuming project into which you’ll be pouring blood, sweat and tears. Before you opt for the tried and tested diesel or petrol van, take a look at the electric vans that are available on the market right now so you know what all your options are. 

Although the industry of electric vehicles is still in its infancy, electric vans have already been around for a while now. The Nissan e-NV200 was released in 2014, and the Renault Master Z.E./Master E-Tech Electric and the VW E-Crafter were released in 2018. Since 2021, several more vans have appeared on the market: the Citreon e-Jumper, Fiat e-Ducato, Mercedes e-Sprinter, Peugeot e-Boxer, and the Vauxhall Vivaro-e. And in 2022, we await the much anticipated VW ID Buzz.

Here’s a sample of the electric vans available to buy just now.

Nissan e-NV200

WLTP range: 124 miles

Battery: 40kWh

Rapid Charging: Up to 50kW

Because this van has been around since 2014, they have been truly tried and tested and users have a lot of good things to say about them. Although these are popular to convert, they’re pretty small (somewhere between a Caddy a Transporter) and maybe only suited to fair-weather, weekend camping. 

VW ABT e-Transporter

WLTP range: 82miles

Battery: 37kWh

Rapid Charging: Up to 50kW

Since the diesel Transporter is such a popular campervan, you’d think that the e-Transporter would be the first electric van that people would jump at the chance to convert, but their poor range values in comparison to similar vans have left them somewhat outdated, even though they’re actually brand new.

VW ABT e-Transporter electric van

Vauxhall Vivaro-e / Citroen e-Dispatch / Peugeot e-Expert

WLTP range: 143 or 205 miles

Battery: 50 or 73kWh

Rapid Charging: Up to 100kW

Just like their ICE counterparts, these are all essentially the same van. With their decent range values and ability to charge quickly, they would be a good option for a small camper conversion, and they’re a bit bigger than Nissan’s e-NV200.

Maxus e-Deliver 3

WLTP range: 99 or 151miles

Battery: 35 or 52kWh

Rapid Charging: Up to 50kW

This van isn’t a reimagining of an old ICE van, it’s been purpose built as an EV by a Chinese company which is becoming popular in the UK. If you thought the e-Deliver 3 looks bad you should have seen the first two!

Maxus eDeliver 3 electric van

Mercedes e-Vito

WLTP range: 160miles

Battery: 66Wh

Rapid Charging: Up to 80kW

Alongside this van, there’s also a recently released passenger van called the e-Vito Tourer which has a bigger battery (100kWh) and a 217 mile range, which might make its way into the hands of campervan converters as a second hand vehicle in a few years time. 

mercedes benz e-vito electric van

Mercedes E-Sprinter

WLTP range: 83 miles

Battery: 55kWh

Rapid Charging: 20 or 80kW

The diesel Sprinter (alongside the VW Crafter) has been a really popular van for converting into a tiny home, with plenty of head height and a variety of sizes. But this van doesn’t quite seem ready for a campervan conversion – the range is still really small and will only get worse with the added weight of a conversion.

With a vehicle kerb weight of 2769kg, the remaining payload is only 731kg (to reach the max gross weight of 3.5tonnes), which could make it difficult to keep a conversion within the legal weight limit. This is the first version of the e-Sprinter, which was released in 2018, but a new generation is due to start production in 2023 which Mercedes hope will have double the range of the current model.

Mercedes E-Sprinter electric van

Renault Master E-Tech

WLTP range: 75miles

Battery: 33Wh

Rapid Charging: 7kW

A 75 mile range doesn’t seem very practical, but sometime in 2022, the upgraded Renault Master ZE will have a bigger battery bank and range of 190km.

renault-master-z e electric van

Ford e-Transit

WLTP range: 196miles          

Battery: 67Wh         

Rapid Charging: 115kW

Brand new, the Ford e-Transit was released in 2021 and is available in three roof heights and three body lengths. As an added bonus, it comes with an on-board 230V socket capable of providing 2.3kW of power.

This could make for really easy installation of campervan electrics; this socket could be used to charge a leisure battery from the power of the vehicle’s traction battery, or to power 230V appliances.

ford e-transit electric van

Fiat e-Ducato

WLTP range: 223miles          

Battery: 79Wh         

Rapid Charging: 50kW

With the biggest range of all the electric vans on the market so far, the e-Ducato was released in 2021 and comes in three lengths and three heights. The combustion engine equivalent was a favourite among van converters for its short length to living space ratio and boxy interior. The shape and aesthetics haven’t changed hence the massive 100% electric sticker!

fiat e-ducato electric van

Citreon e-Relay

WLTP range: 139miles          

Battery: 70Wh         

Rapid Charging: 50kW

For another van released in 2021, the e-Relay has the shortest WLTP range. It comes in three body lengths but only H2 roof height.

Citroen e-relay electric van

Although the range of these larger vans still seems short and impractical, even a few short years between the vans released around 2018 and vans released in 2021 has improved the vehicles’ range’s from around 80 miles up to 190-220 miles. Progress is being made so fast, it seems the early electric vans might end up rotting away as they’ll quickly become obsolete, giving the impression that investing in these new vans might be a risky decision economically.

We haven’t covered all of them, so check out this handy EV database for a useful comparison of more electric vans currently available to buy. 

Electric vans coming soon

There are a couple of pretty unconventional vans due to be released soon that you might see touring around the countryside as futuristic little spaceship campervans in a few years time. They have peeled away from the current styles (with varying degrees of success!) above which just look like ICE vehicles with hidden electric power, opting for a completely new look. These could be a good option for electric campervans in the future.

VW ID. Buzz

There has been a lot of buzz (sorry, couldn’t help myself) around Volkswagen’s newest addition to their electric vehicles, which seems to be channelling the energy of the old VW Camper. I think this will be a really popular little van, but might be a bit on the small side for campervan conversion, with an interior volume of just 3.9m3 behind the front seats, in comparison to a Transporter which has around 6m3.

The ID. Buzz is due to go on sale in Autumn 2022 as both a 5 seater passenger van, and as a cargo van which has no sliding side door, just a rear tailgate to access the rear. Prices haven’t yet been revealed yet, but are expected to be upward of £45,000.

VW Volkswagen ID. Buzz electric van

Canoo

The beginning of what promises to be a massive industry of a relatively new products seems to have opened the door to potential new startup companies to get a foot in the door, alongside the big automotive names which have been knocking about for years. This is one you might not have heard of yet but you’ll definitely won’t forget.

Similar to the ID. Buzz, the Canoo Lifestyle Vehicle has been designed around a passenger transport, but I can definitely see this little van hosting some really cool, small van conversions in the future with mini kitchens and fold out beds. The ‘Adventure’ model might be particularly popular, since it comes with a tow bar, light bar and roof rack.

It’s due to launch in late 2022, with a starting price of $34,750, but it’s only available for pre-order in the US, Canada and Mexico, so it might be a few years yet before we see it on UK roads. It has a projected range of around 250 miles.

Canoo are also due to release a Multi-Purpose Delivery Vehicle which looks more like an armoured truck than a delivery van, but could make a pretty cool campervan. No news on a launch date for this vehicle yet, With a projected range of 130-230 miles, it might have potential to be the first full-height electric campervan.

canoo electric van camper
canoo electric van camper
canoo MPDV electric van

Arrival Van

Another fairly new company, Arrival has designed a van mainly for use as a delivery vehicle, but with a range of 112-180 miles, depending on the battery bank size option, which competes the other big electric vans on the market. This can should also be able to accept a DC rapid charge up to 120kW which will make a big difference when you want to recharge when you’re on the go. Arrival was only founded in 2015, but they built their first prototype in 2021 and have big plans for the future.

Arrival claim to have novel production methods which involve a network of ‘micro-factories’, autonomous robots which move parts through the factory floor, and a design which completely eliminates the need for a paint shop in the production line. Instead of conventional aluminium body panels, Arrival uses a composite material which means they won’t corrode and can be created in their final colour. These composite panels are built around an extruded aluminium frame giving the van a much lighter kerb weight than similarly sized vans, which means they can offer a bigger payload.

Arrival have already confirmed a big order of 10,000 custom-built electric delivery vans for UPS in the US and they aim to start production of their vans in the second half of 2022. Unfortunately, it might still be a while before Arrival van’s will be available to buy non-commercially in the UK.

Arrival van electric vehicle campervan conversion

Electric campervans FAQ’s

How much do electric vans cost?

Electric vans can cost between £32,000 and £52,000. This will vary depending on the size and make. On average, they cost 60% more than their combustion engine equivalents. However, their running costs are typically 30% less.

Can you charge a leisure battery from an electric van?

You can charge a leisure battery from an electric van by connecting a battery to battery charger to the electric vehicle’s 12V starter battery. The power will travel from the EVs traction battery, through a DC-DC converter, to the 12V starter battery, then through the battery to battery charger to the leisure battery.

Do electric vehicles have an alternator?

No, electric vehicles don’t have an alternator, but they do still have a 12V system powered by a 12V battery. Instead of an alternator, electric vehicles use a DC-DC converter to charge the 12V starter battery from the power of the high-voltage traction battery.

What happens if an EV starter battery dies?

It’s just as important as with ICE vehicles that you don’t drain the starter battery, since an EV uses a small amount of the starter battery power to start up. Although, if your starter battery does die, EVs can be jump started just like your old diesel or petrol camper.

Can you convert a VW camper to electric?

There are a few companies who convert ICE vans into electric campervans using conversion kits which include the whole electric powertrain, such as Tesla battery modules and electric motors. Electron garage, based in Scotland, do electric conversions of classic cars and have been known to convert a VW Type 2. Another company called Electric Campervans convert old VW campers such as the Type 2 or the Danbury Rio. They claim an estimated range of 100 miles. These cost around £45,000.

Will Tesla make an electric RV?

There isn’t any mention from Tesla about an RV in the pipeline, but Vanlifer has answered the question that was on everyone’s mind – what would a Tesla campervan look like?! Tesla has released a freight truck called the Tesla Semi which claims a range of 300 miles and with an expected base price of $150,000! Vanlifer has imagined a six-berth conversion concept and created a rendered image of how the Tesla Semi might look if it were converted. This is very much just a concept – the van body would need to be modified to accommodate the shape needed for campervan living, but it does look pretty cool!

Tesla semi RV vanlifer campervan

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4 Responses

  1. I found this extremely informative. Thank you. I’m considering buying my very first camper and would love it to be electric. But it’s just a little too early for me. I might instead explore Toyota’s hybrid Alphard as I will do lots of short local journeys as well as camper trips. At the age of 72 I fear I won’t see the best of EV development but it is exciting to see the start of it. Well done. More educational pieces like this are needed.

  2. Well done. Good advice… well written.
    (from another Professional Engineer who has upgraded and outfitted many RVs & Yachts)

  3. What an excellent article, thank you! Could I just ask what your concerns are around induction hobs in camper vans, please?

    1. Hi Laura, we’re glad you loved the article! We simply have our reservations because they will require a considerable expenditure on an electrical system that can sustain the power of an induction hob as opposed to gas which is far cheaper. For more information we also have an article here all about induction hobs!

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