An electric camper van could be the norm in just a few years, here’s why.
Carmakers are in the business of making money. For that reason, they choose business models that maximise efficiency while cutting costs to the bone. They use many methods to do this. But part of the process involves developing what manufacturers call ‘vehicle platforms’ — laying the groundwork for the production of multiple models.
You see this kind of thing all the time in the industry. Ford, for instance, will develop an engine and then use slight modifications of it across its range of vehicles. The same goes for complex systems, like gearboxes, clutches, dashboards and even seating. It just makes more sense to use individual components in multiple models, instead of designing each bespoke. Consumers generally don’t care, and it helps keep development costs to a minimum.
Why is this interesting to us? Well, essentially, it means that as automakers develop their electric vehicle offerings, they are going to filter their way down the camper vans too. And that means we’re all about to become happy campers — for our pocketbooks and the planet.
Attitudes Are Changing
Camper vans are a small part of the overall auto market, comprising a little under one percent of all vehicles sold globally. They’re very much a niche vehicle — designed for people who want to use their vans as homes while out on the road.
The original VW Camper is a cult classic. Those in good condition can sell for tens of thousands on the secondary market and have become something of a status symbol, thanks to their unique appearance and frequent use in style publications.
The real change, however, isn’t coming from this market. It’s coming from mainstream consumers looking to reduce their impact on the environment. Customers are demanding electric and hybrid vehicles. And firms looking to greenwash themselves see serving this market as a way to display their environmental credentials.
These trends mean that automakers are rethinking their vehicle platforms from the ground up. Instead of constellating their processes around internal combustion engines, they’re switching to all-electric drivetrains and designing their range to match.
The economics of this process are compelling. At the moment, electrified platforms are loss-making. But automakers can see the writing on the wall. They know that battery and motor costs are going to come down. And when they do, unit sales will rise to the point where making huge profits on the back of sustainable technology becomes a reality.
Eventually, producing gas-guzzling campers will become uneconomical. If you want to buy a new vehicle, it’ll have to be electric. Old-fashioned drivetrains will simply become obsolete, and the only way to get them will be second hand.
Good News For Holidaymakers
For eco-conscious holidaymakers these developments are auspicious. Campers are fashionable, stylish and, in many cases, luxurious. But they often let themselves down on the fuel economy front. They’re not aerodynamically efficient, and they typically rely on diesel fuel which spits out pollution into the atmosphere.
Even those of you who use vans for transporting stuff from one holiday destination to another stand to benefit. Currently, the VW Transporter is a popular vehicle among outdoor enthusiasts who want to carry equipment such as bikes, kayaks and skis to distant locations. VW, however, is working around the clock to undo the damage done during the emissions scandal and electrify its entire range. Currently, many replacement vehicles are at the concept stage, but they’re fast becoming a reality.
Already, for instance, there’s the ABT eTransporter 6.1, an electric, zero-emission version of the original vehicle. Add in the future, VW wants to introduce the ID. Buzz and ID. Buzz Cargo — two models that will evoke the original VW Camper, but with a massive makeover and all-electric drivetrain. Even more impressively, the company intends to introduce self-driving technology on these vehicles, something that will radically transform the traditional road trip. People won’t have to take it in turns to pilot the car. Instead, everyone can be playing cards in the back or strumming on their guitars while the camper does all the work and ferries them to their destination. It’s a remarkable concept.
As this blog entitled, ‘Does Your New Van Leasing Pass The Test? 7 Things You Can Improve On Today’ makes clear, there are different van leasing options for vacationers looking for the ultimate solution. Financing options will trickle down the market to all price points, again driving mass adoption. Ultimately, it means that luxury is going to become more sustainable.
When people think about the future, they imagine a kind of scrubby capitalism. The environment is a wasteland, and the economy continues to churn out products using dwindling resources. The vision is reminiscent of Bladerunner.
However, it doesn’t appear that things will turn out that way in the final reckoning. Many people, especially young adults, view sustainability as a luxury in itself — something that they’re willing to pay for. Brands with an ecological ethos can charge much higher prices for their products than those who use conventional methods. In a sense, luxury is exclusive.
The first electric campers will likely fall into this category. They will be more expensive than their rivals, upfront. Firms like VW will no doubt attempt to brand them as a way for people to make their lives more sustainable, even if there are added costs. And consumers will likely respond, spending more to make themselves feel better about their holiday habits.
Data collected by National Geographic suggests that 42 per cent of adults would like to make their next holiday more sustainably, but that only 15 per cent know what the concept means. Typically, sustainability focuses on making travel environmentally friendly and protecting cultural heritage to provide economic benefits to locals. In the current case, it means taking the CO2 out of going on holiday — currently a significant bugbear for those looking to cut their resource usage.
Electric campers offer vacationers a win-win that helps them cut their resource usage to the bone while achieving a more luxurious experience. The environmental benefits, however, stretch well beyond the obvious. Holidaymakers can reduce not only their CO2 emissions but also the resources embodied in their use of transportation.
Creating a vehicle requires the use of significant quantities of energy and materials. Using a car for 100,000 miles and then throwing it on the scrap heap is a tragic waste of resources and increases vehicle turnover, harming the environment.
Electric drivetrains, however, have fewer moving parts than their fossil fuel-powered counterparts. So they tend to last much longer. Tesla says that it already has a million-mile battery on the testbed, a development that implies that vehicles might have an average life of forty or fifty years, instead of the current fifteen to twenty.
Vacationers, therefore, need to pay heed to developments in vehicle technology. If engineers can crack this nut and make transportation environmentally friendly, then many of the external costs of travel will disappear. People will be able to go on road trips without worrying about the impact that they’re having on the environment. In fact, it could become a green way to spend time on a break because it typically avoids flying on a kerosene-burning aircraft.
We can expect to wait around five years for the electric camper market to kick-off properly, but they are on their way. VW and other brands have all announced that they will be introducing vehicles specifically for vacationers. Self-driving innovations will serve to make the experience even more luxurious, taking over all or part of the driving.