Starlight Express

I am sure Elon Musk is a rather busy man who if by some fate of the internet gods’ willing stumbles across this post will undoubtedly not have time to read it in its entirety, but would be intrigued to know what the synopsis is. So here it goes.

On behalf of all VanLifers out there I would like to challenge Mr Musk and Tesla to produce an electric van. Not just any van, but one that would be suitable for off the grid living, this would mean including solar arrays to aid charging and maximising the interior space available.

The concept of creating an eco camper is not a new one, this beautiful adaptation of the classic VW camper was put forward by Canadian designer Alexandre Verdier back in 2008. This concept was to run the accessories, i.e. the living component off solar while the engine would be Bio Diesel. Those were the early days when Tesla had just released its game changing Roadster and people where still coming around to the potential of electric vehicles (EVs). Fast forward a few years and Tesla has three different models available with plans to introduce an 18 wheeler and a pickup by 2018. And while VW did announce that they were releasing an electric version of the Classic VW Van in 2020, Tesla’s focus on EVs and production capabilities means that they could bring a van to market before this date. In addition Tesla’s lead and vision in both the EV market and renewable energies means they are better positioned to make this concept a reality. Add to that Mr Musk’s history of disruptive ideas, ranging from reusable rockets to universal income and Tesla’s mission statement (to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy) and it is easy to see why such and idea might seem attractive to a company like Tesla.

The technology is all available today, Toyota are already adding solar roofs to their vehicles and Tesla has announced a partnership with Panasonic to create solar roofs for their models. Electric vehicles are becoming more prevalent, their millage increasingly extended as battery technology improves. VanLife has become an attractive option for those wanting to break away from the stagnant society and take their work to the road, in some cases providing couples with a way to work on the road.

The marriage of vanlife and the electric vehicle could not be more perfect. A van makes for a great electric vehicle as it has a longer chassis and thus can house more batteries extending range. In an electric vehicle the reduced size of the ‘engine’ and integration of the batteries in to the chassis provide greater interior space allowing for increased living area. The larger surface area of a van also provides more room on which to mount solar panels which further extend range and allow for travel to places where charging networks or electric hookups are not as accessible.

I have been living in a van for nearly two years, travelling from Canada to Costa Rica, all the way learning to live more simply and sustainably. Though every time I stop at a gas station to fill up I catch myself in contemplation that there must be a better way. It is what lead to this idea and the realisation that there is no reason for it not to become a reality in the near future. Though since I am in no way a designer like Alexandre Verdier and do not have the profile to capture the attention of those who could make such a concept come to life, I am putting this concept out there. Just like Tesla made their electric drive chain patents available for use by others to drive inovation and further facilitate the world’s adoption of EVs, it is my wish that someone more skilled or connected than myself might pick it up and give it life. That perhaps my next van will be an E(V)co van.

And just in case this does catch the eye of someone at Tesla or perhaps even VW, I would gladly offer up my photography and adventure skills to tour around in a concept version.