The Electric Campervan - All You Need to Know

Similar to other battery-powered modes of transport such as motorcycles, bicycles, and passenger cars, motorhomes will also start traveling electrically with the goal of becoming less reliant on fossil fuels.

This is despite the various packaging issues that ' electric' motorhomes already present including substantial alterations to the present electronic makeup to house the very large batteries that are required to operate these vehicles. For this reason, models of electric motorhomes might take a bit longer to start entering the market when compared to electric campervans. However, moving away from fossil fuels such as diesel is inevitable.

Today we will be discussing the growing investment into electrically-powered modes of transport and how this will impact the motorhome and campervan markets. We will also be covering infrastructure, and range, along with the relationship that occurs between battery payload and weight.

Government Penalties And Incentives

Governments across the globe are starting to view an increase in EV (electric vehicle) usage as a vital step towards lowering CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions and their carbon footprint that contribute to climate warming. With buyers of new vehicles in developed countries being offered attractive incentives to choose electric, this shift is starting to gain momentum.

Yet, this change over to EV is also driven by other incentives. Automotive corporations will also be faced with consequential penalties should the CO2 output relating to their range of models is not lowered drastically to match the targets relating to climate change in a set timeframe.

When Should I Consider Changing Over To Electric?

Just about everyone now knows about the ecological and climate crisis that is unfolding and changing over to 'electric' obviously contributes to the solution. We also believe that making this switch as soon as possible will improve our chances of remaining under the vital 1.5C warming limit.

At the same time, an electric van conversions will become more and more common on the roads over the next few years as demands increase and manufacturers start their preparations for the 2030 deadline.

electric camper charging

This will also mean you will find it difficult to find diesel or petrol vans with decent mileage and you will also start noticing a decrease in available parts for repairs.

Electric Campervan Types

Electric campervans are currently available in two types. These include classic retrofitted vehicles and purpose-built new vehicles. These are several differences which we have outlined below.

New Electric

The New electric van refers to the vehicles that are built 100% electric. These are either already an all electric campervan or can be changed into one. You can purchase these vehicles second-hand or brand-new.

The range of brand-new electric vans is growing fast, while electric-delivery vehicles are also starting to show up in the second-hand markets. However, at this stage, this mainly includes the shorter-range and smaller models.


This is an option that will take an existing diesel or petrol van and convert it into an electric model by taking out the existing engine and changing it over to a fully-electric motor.

At this stage, it is still possible to re-register for a fuel type change with the DVLA for vehicles that were manufactured before 2000, yet newer vehicles tend to be riskier.

The Growing Investment In Electric

To match the drastic shift in dynamics for the 'new vehicle market':

Manufacturers are starting to invest heavily in EVs

Suppliers of components are working frantically to develop newer technologies including more reliable and efficient batteries.

Many of the larger automotive corporations have become increasingly committed to only building electrically-driven vehicles by the year 2030. Many of these are located in Europe, which is 'motorhome central' in regards to semi-integrated and fully-integrated imported models which have traditionally been proven to be a more popular choice amongst buyers.

Fully-electric models of well-known motorhome platforms such as Mercedes Sprinter, Volkswagen Crafter, Fiat Ducato, and Ford Transit will soon be made available on the market. Well-known European brands of motorhomes are open to embracing this change by providing  a cleaner-running electric version to replace their existing diesel-powered models.

What Types Of Vehicles Are Suitable For Retrofit?

Any diesel or petrol vehicle manufactured before 2000 can be changed over to 'electric vehicles'. The older the vehicle is the better. This is why it is now common to see classic VWs changed over to electric. Newer vehicles are not as easy to convert due to their computerized ECUs (Engine Management Systems). So the vehicles that are the easiest to convert are those around before N reg.

To obtain insurance, you will be required to re-register your vehicle with the DVLA. There is clear guidance from the DVLA for vehicles manufactured before 2000, but for any vehicle manufactured after this date, there is currently no guidance. The risk involved is that the DVLA may reject the re-registration for the 'change of fuel'.

Recharging Demand And Infrastructure

To help the driving demands for electric-motorhomes across Europe, there is already a well-developed recharging infrastructure made available.

Certain EU countries like Denmark and Norway have already successfully established networks of fast-charge stations. These are already sufficient enough for servicing national passenger car fleets made up of more EVs than vehicles that are internal combustion-powered.

Moving over to India and China, the drastic increase toward changing over to EVs is also unstoppable. There is a massive domestic demand relating to EVs from huge corporations such as:

BYD (Build Your Dreams)

Mahindra and Mahindra

SAIC Motors

Great Wall Motors

Electric Campervan Or Electric Motorhome?

Electric campervans are more compact which is why they will probably have better access to stations for charging when compared to larger motorhomes. Length, height, and width may become the factors that will probably influence the trend toward more compact electric campervans as opposed to larger battery-powered motorhomes.

electric campervan charging space

The Size Of Recharging Station Spaces

One of the potential limitations to electric motorhome popularity is the parking space sizes at most of the electric charging stations made available to the public.

These stations are typically located in:

Shopping precincts that feature parallel-parking spaces that are sized for cars.

Multi-level parking buildings and shopping complexes where the motorhome height will make entry impossible.

The Demands For Redesign

Electric campervans also have an additional factor that is in their favor when compared to semi-integrated larger motorhomes. Platforms such as E-Ducato and E-Transit have a range of batteries situated below the floor of their vehicle range, which extends just about all the way to the rear axle.

This has made sure that the typical semi-integrated hybrid chassis where a more lightweight Al-Ko alloy chassis, rear axle, and rear suspension successfully marry to the powertrain, cab, and front suspension of a light-commercial van, cannot be used without a dramatic redesign.

To completely reconfigure electric vans for a successful semi-integrated motorhome conversion that features the typical Al-Ko chassis replacement is going to require dramatic alterations to the current battery positioning and electronic architecture. These are issues that could prove to be prohibitively costly. Getting your first campervan? See our tips for newbies here.

Manufacturers Of Motorhomes Expect Basic Cab-Chassis Versions

Volkswagen, LDV, Mercedes, Fiat, and Ford are going to offer cab-chassis stripped-down versions of their range of E-vans to the different motorhome manufacturers. However, these will have to retain:

The complete steel-van chassis in order to preserve battery storage that will be positioned between the frame's beams.

The wheel-track measurements of the van will also need to remain the same.

Electric motorhomes built over the cab chassis of an E-van will likely feature cabins that are narrower when compared to diesel models.

Considering The Weight, Battery, Range, And Payload

A few of the Big Four European manufacturers of light commercial vans  (and LDV with their early arrival of the eDeliver 9) offer various sizes of batteries for their range of E-vans.

The LDV is available with either 88 kWh, 72 kWh, or 51.5 kWh battery arrays. Mercedes, Volkswagen, and Fiat are about to follow suit by providing buyers of E-vans with several battery options.

This provides buyers with the opportunity to select smaller battery sizes when they require larger payloads and faster recharging times which is preferable for urban daily deliveries.

Alternatively, they can also choose bigger energy storage for achieving a longer cruising range which is a desirable factor for most electric motorhomes.

A Heavier Battery Equals A Smaller Payload

With a larger battery, your 'unladen' electric motorhome becomes heavier, which decreases the payload. The mass of the battery will also eat into how many kilograms your motorhome can carry safely.

When The Manufacturer Of A Motorhome Specifies An E-Van, Will Choosing A Larger Battery Affect The Type Of Fitness Check The Vehicle Can Qualify For?

This will depend on whether you prefer the easier WoF checks or the more frequent and pricier CoF (Certificate of Fitness) checks.

Unlike a diesel motorhome, the e-motorhomes that are eligible for WoF checks will not include the 'clean car fee' on their initial registration. If the GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) remains below 3,500kg, you can benefit from a reduced cost-of-ownership due to less frequent and less costly Vehicle Fitness checks.

When considering the Fiat E-Ducato's long-wheelbase cab chassis which will probably form the foundation of most e-motorhomes, this platform weighs:

2,400 kg when it includes a 79 kWh 5-module battery.

2,105 when it includes a 43 kWh 3-module battery.

Both options are probably suitable to form the base of motorhomes with GVM limits of under 3,500kg, which means that each would qualify for WoF checks rather than having to go for CoFs.

However, the fit is obviously tighter for the E-Ducato motorhome featuring a large battery to get in under the GVM limit. You might need to sacrifice some of the desirables such as solar panels, a tow bar, or water-storage capacity to stay under the GVM limit.

Cruising Range

Fiat has not suggested the 'expected cruising range' for either of its batteries for the E-Ducato long-wheelbase cab chassis, citing rightly that these figures are going to depend on the conversion.

When you look at the data from the WLTP (Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure), for high-roof, long-wheelbase E-Ducato vans that could be used to fit out as electric camper van:

The 43 kWh battery is going to use 31.6 kWh per 100kms over highway and dual city use which would result in a cruising range of about 164km.

The 79 kWh battery can be used for extending the highway and dual city range to 269km, with a rate of energy use of 33.8 kWh per 100km caused by the additional weight of the battery modules.

These range figures are expected to decrease by around 15 to 20% when the weight of an electric  conversions are factored in.

electric campervan conversion

What Are The Differences In Converting Electric Vehicles?

Do Electric Campervans Have Higher Payloads?

No, they don't have higher payloads. In most cases, an electric van will weigh more when compared to a diesel equivalent due to the weight relating to the batteries. This means their payload is lower which means the conversion weight becomes even more important.  

The Electric Vehicles Comparison Table displayed above shows payloads relating to certain vehicles, but stay on the side of caution since a higher range version (of the same model) is going to have a payload that is lower due to the heavier batteries.

Can The Batteries In The Vehicle Provide Power To Your Living Space?

The need for another electric campers setup to supply your living space such as lights, hobs, a fridge, etc, will depend entirely on the electric campervan model that you own. The batteries in the vehicle can power your living spaces, however, it is not advisable since this could impact your range, while solar charging could be tricky. See our guide to solar panels and campervans here.

It is not suggested for New Electric campervans since this would require changes to the original electrical system, which would void the warranty. It might be a possibility for older vehicles that use a DC to DC, yet, this is only possible when the keys are in the ignition, which would make it unreliable for those that prefer spending time off the grid.

To obtain a comprehensive electric campervan experience, you should invest in a separate 12-volt system to use for your living space needs. The typical setup of this 12V system is not different from what is installed in petrol or diesel vans, meaning you will still have your 'leisure battery', and still be able to use a solar panel installation for charging it. We even have a whole post devoted to telling you some of the myths when it comes to campervans.

Can I Charge The Engine Batteries With Solar Power?

This might be possible for the New Electric campervans that are no longer under warranty, but a DC-to-DC charger would be needed. This might be a possibility for Retrofits in the future, but at this stage, the voltage that is gained from solar is not sufficient, while the impact is quite small (around 30 miles for a full day of sun).

While this still needs to be performed on a much larger scale, Dutch students have already achieved this. They built an electric campervan that is completely solar-powered, that travels as far as 460 miles (on a sunny day). Could this be what the future holds for campervans? Only time will tell.

Looking to hire a campervan in Ireland? Then we here at Rambling Rover are the choice for you!