The Tesla Van Project
Part personal Idea and in part an overview of what may come. I have spent a bit of time looking with interest at the popularity of electric vehicles.
I am normally in California for between 2 and 6 months in any given year. The popularity of Tesla vehicles there has grown very significantly in the past 10 years and now appear as commonplace as any other vehicle. Their popularity has grown significantly here in the UK too over the past 2 years. This is also starting to be reflected throughout the rest of Europe.
Before you read further, these are my thought and ideas, I have no affiliation with Tesla, Mercedes or any other motor industry name. I am just expressing my thoughts and Ideas. After all, that’s what the internet is for right? So give as much credence to my ramblings as any other persons random thoughts you may come across online. Remember I may be a professional photographer but I am no engineer.
Why an electric ‘White Van’?
The more I travel around the UK, Europe and beyond the more I see cities moving towards discouraging the use of what is considered high polluting vehicles. The ‘white van'(other colours available and widely used). Is the backbone of delivery and tradesman the world over.
The panel style van in all its various forms and sizes is what keeps many businesses running. If the demonised diesel workhorses are forced out of our cities many of the everyday things we take for granted would become impossible.
Electric would seem to be the perfect answer to this approaching question. The always available torque characteristics of electric vehicles lends itself well to loads sometimes approaching 3.5 tonnes. The ‘zero emissions’ within our already packed cities will be welcomed and greatly improve on air quality for those living or working in these areas.
I am certain that over the next few years many of the big names will be bringing all-electric vehicles to the market and in no time it will be the norm to see these quiet vans nipping around.
Charging and day to day.
As the panel style van is generally rear wheel drive the current configuration allows for many more battery packs to be accommodated in the floor. They are of course quite a bit longer than the average car so again more batteries are an easy fit. Even with the additional weight and load on the motors, a 500-mile range vehicle should be no issue and up to 1,000 miles on a single charge is within our grasp. this should make them more than capable of fulfilling any task the current fleet of ‘white vans’ perform.
The Person Idea/Project.
in 2014 I bought a Mercedes Sprinter 311 CDI. I converted it into a camper and have since travelled much of Europe and the UK. A couple of years ago I started mulling over an idea, would it be possible to take the running gear from a Tesla and fit it to a chassis like on my Mercedes Sprinter?
If so how well would it work? My poor little 2.1 diesel engine does an amazing job assisted by its little turbo considering my build is not too far from the 3.5-tonne limit and has pulled me up and over the Alps, through snow, mountains and forest tracks.
But imagine something like a Tesla Model S P100D as a donor. 4wd, The ladder-style chassis would easily accommodate the battery pack under the floor and I imagine possibly 4 or more sets of battery packs. Some modification to the motor ratios to give a little more torque and less top end.
There is plenty of real estate on the roof for solar panels. At the moment I use 1 x 160w through leisure batteries this is sufficient for lighting, tv, charging various things and just day to day. The panel I use if not so high tech but even based on this type of panel you could get 1,000w worth of panels up there. This may not be enough to exclude the need for charge stations but it would go some way to extending the range especially in places like California. Newer technology solar panels would generate significantly more and for less additional weight also.
I would still love to make this a real project and create an ultimate all electric camper. If any of you have any ideas or thoughts you would like to share please get in touch. email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Totally off the grid.
For me, this where this idea was originally born. The idea that I could travel up to 1,000 miles is an all-electric campervan, park somewhere beautiful for a few days as the solar panels recharge the battery cells. Work and explore new places before moving on and discovering more of our world. I get to do this pretty well now and my little 2.1L turbo diesel has hauled this shell for more than 250,000 miles only deciding a hand full of times that it wants to take an unscheduled stop and have a minor part replaced.
Maybe this is where electric just isn’t ready for the long haul, or maybe the maintenance infrastructure isn’t yet in place………….
A vision of the future?
In theory, electric vehicles are more suited to a modular manufacturing and maintenance regime. Battery packs made from many hundreds of 18650 cells, sealed unit motors. It is conceivable that the service schedules we are already accustomed to with the good old internal combustion engine will morph into the new electric vehicle schedules.
6 monthly oil and filter changes make way for power pack diagnostic and swapping out of a few failed cells.
Timing belt replacement is replaced with electric motor swaps and the average mechanic no longer goes home with oil in his fingers.
Change is coming and I look forward to seeing what form it takes. I would love to see Mercedes and Telsa team up and build this vision. Imagine an AMG version ripping down a drag strip at sub 9 seconds.
If Mercedes want to donate a nice new Sprinter LWB and Tesla a P100d I’ll find a way to marry the two into something beautiful.
If you have stumbled across this and are also looking for a photographer, especially if you are getting married please take a moment to have a look at my work here. I am better at taking pictures than I am at predicting future motoring trends.
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Equally, you can find out more about Mercedes vans here.