It’s the return of a classic with a modern twist. Volkswagen officials confirm that their classic Camper van could return, but this time as a battery-electric vehicle.
At the New York Auto Show this month company board member Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neusser revealed to Autocar that a camper concept was currently ongoing with Volkswagen. Designers and engineers were already working on a revamped electric model, he said. Similar attempts have been tried before in 2001 and again in 2011 with the Bulli, pictured above.
So iconic is its predecessor, the Westfalia, that Dr. Neusser says the new model must have three very important design cues: the wide and solid D-Pillar, the boxy design for the center section and a very short overhang for the front end, he told the website.
And to satisfy those green-loving Westy owners, a small electric motor would drive the front wheels and battery packs would be stored under the floor. If Volkswagen can make the design and engineering adjustments and price the redesigned model at an attractive base price, the camper van could make it into production and be back on the road.
If the classic Westfalia Camper is your ideal, you’ll still have another option if Volkswagen fails to offer the revamped electric model to their line-up. A British company called Hillside Leisure has their own modern interpretation available, with their camper conversion of the Nissan e-NV200 small electric van. The technology is courtesy of the Nissan Leaf electric car, with power train including an 80 kilowatt (110 horsepower) electric motor and a 24-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack.
Hillside estimates the range at about 106 miles per charge with a top speed of 76 mph. That may be slightly optimistic, since the extra weight of the camping gear will impact performance. But at least many campsites now offer access to electrical outlets – at a slower rate than at a conventional charging station – so you can recharge while you camp, fish, hike and enjoy your recreation.
For something completely different, check out the bike-towable Wide Path Camper from Denmark-based Mads Johansen. Up to 50 of these unique campers are now available for pre-order, but be warned, this novel two-person caravan is not traditional, and anyone but the fittest cyclist will face a mighty struggle towing it a long distance, or uphill.
The prototype was interesting, and has been tweaked prior to production so the Wide-Path Camper has gained some weight: it’s 99 pounds, but headroom has been improved and the interior height is now 51 inches. This compact cutie measures 39×51 inches when being towed, and 39×102 inches when folded into camping position, a process that takes about three minutes. It includes a table and seats that convert into a 38×78 inch bed. As for optional extras, they include color choices, a mini-kitchen, and a solar package (roof-based solar panel, battery, interior lighting, and four USB hubs.) The base pricing starts at $2170.
Photo credit: (top) Front view of the new VW Bulli concept vehicle, on display at the 2012 Canadian International Autoshow in Toronto, Canada. Self-made by the uploader (middle) Courtesy WidePathCamper.com