After unveiling The World’s First Electric Campervan at October’s Motorhome and Caravan Show we asked campervan owner and blogger, Richard Mackney to take our Dalbury E Electric campervan out and report back with his thoughts*
I own a T5 campervan and use it as my daily driver for getting to work and back, but the main reason for owning a campervan is for family holidays and short breaks. I have two children under 10 and my family have enjoyed touring the South of France as well as many spontaneous long weekends away in the UK. When Hillside Leisure first told me they were launching The World’s First Electric Campervan at the Motorhome and Caravan show in Birmingham I was excited. Not only do I love everything campervan and camping but I also have a great interest in all things gadget and electric – especially when they can transport you from A to B with zero emissions! Hillside Leisure invited me to the launch to take a few photos but when they asked if I would like to take it out, I jumped at the chance!
Coming from a background of owning a Volkswagen Transporter, my first thoughts turned to the base vehicle – a Nissan e-NV200. It doesn’t have as much history as the VW, but if anyone was going to take a campervan into the all electric age it would have to be a high tech Japanese manufacturer and I think it’s apt that Nissan brought out an electric base van. Nissan already manufacture the popular Nissan Leaf which has gained a huge EV following and this means they already know a thing or two about designing efficient electric vehicles.
On first inspection of the outside I thought the Nissan had a futuristic face with the nose showing an indication of a secret compartment and the colour choice of ‘electric’ blue was spot on. Although this was a base specification, the vehicle will benefit further from colour coded bumpers and alloy wheels as options available from Hillside Leisure. There’s not much on the outside to give the “all electric” game away apart from a few chrome badges showing “Zero Emission” and part of me felt it should have a few snazzy graphics hinting at electricity to stand out and be noticed as a pioneer and trend setter – another part of me realised that most owners would probably prefer a low profile.
The Silent Getaway
I was given a “key” and was told there isn’t actually any key based ignition! keeping the key in my pocket meant I had the authority to use the push button start. I thought the dashboard looked like a display from a spaceship with a lovely clear indication of the range available in it’s current state of charge. It was slightly nerve-racking as although I’m familiar with automatic transmission this was to be my first drive of an electric car.
Placing my foot on the brake, putting the gearbox into drive and releasing the brake allowed for a silent getaway. My immediate thought was to open the window to hear some road noise – this vehicle really is silent, apart from a low level whine from the electric motor, turning heads as I drove through the City. The dash display detailed the remaining range and although I was fully briefed on the charging options, I knew that for my first experience I wasn’t going to be plotting a route to the next charging point. It takes about 8 hours to achieve 100% battery capacity based on a normal house electricity socket or a campsite socket but fast charge stations can charge it up to 80% in as little as 30 minutes. Currently Nissan say you can get a dedicated Home Charging Unit, supplied and installed for FREE by British Gas, Nissan’s Home Charging Partner.
With more and more people using EV’s it’s only going to become easier to find a charge station away from the home and websites such as www.zap-map.com are already providing a full directory of UK locations (7,579 as of January 2015). Nissan even provide a swipe card that can be used for FREE at 50 Nissan dealers across the UK! the current incentives to go electric are very high for early adopters of this technology.
The front flap in the bonnet opens after releasing the catch from inside, much like you would release a bonnet catch in a normal car and the charging cable plugs in. Hillside have really thought about this as they have added an extra 240v socket which is linked to the interior electrics. In practice this means that if you are hooked up on a campsite to power the interior devices you can also charge the vehicle without needing an extra socket – that’s pretty neat.
I was delighted when I noticed that going downhill and braking showed the battery indicator being charged, diverting the energy back into the battery – a bit like Formula One KERS! (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) The take off ability of the electric motor really impressed me, even with the weight of the interior cabinets and rear bed, the vehicle shot off from the lights upon burying my foot to the floor. No wheel spin just a smooth fast acceleration that sounded like a spaceship. I felt really confident that this Nissan had the ability to overtake when required and settled down into a relaxing drive.
The Campervan Conversion
Once I got over the initial excitement of this being an all Electric Vehicle with all the advantages of zero emission and lower fuel costs my thoughts turned to the campervan conversion. Hillside leisure are no newcomers to the Nissan NV200 and have already produced a successful conversion based on the existing fossil fuel version of the van. It’s designed to be a micro compact camper and cleverly uses all of the space available and although the interior is reminiscent of a traditional VW side conversion, it’s nearly 3 foot shorter and a few inches narrower than a VW Transporter allowing for much easier parking and day to day use.
The craftsmanship and quality is up to the usual high standard that you can expect from Hillside – they really do pride themselves in providing immaculate conversions and the campervan contains everything you would expect from a micro conversion with a pop top roof, swivelling passenger seat, Rear RIB bed and Gas hob and sink.
- Bluetooth integration
- Air conditioning
- Climate control
- Electric windows
- iPod compatibility
- Rear view camera
- Intelligent key
- 95 watt solar panel
- Swivelling passenger seat
- RIB seat/bed fitted with seat belts
- 2-ring hob
- 39-litre fridge
- Tap and sink
- On board water tank
- Low voltage LED lighting
The roof was surprisingly simple to operate, two cam lock webbing straps to be undone and then the gas struts take all the effort out of the lifting as it smoothly rises. In this two berth version the roof didn’t have a bed, but raising the roof gives you an area to allow you to store items while stationary and gives that much needed headroom.
The Dalbury E comes with a spinning passenger front seat and a rear seat made by RIB and fitted with seat belts that convert from seat to bed in just a few seconds. The bed is smooth to operate, first lifting a lever to move the seat towards you and then a lever to fold out the base of the seat. You can actually position this at any angle, making it extremely comfortable for sitting up in bed while reading.
The side kitchen is perfect for a quick cup of tea when out for a day and the sink more than caters for washing the cups or cleaning your teeth after a night away. The fitted equipment are all high quality, robust, well known units sourced from the campervan industry.
Opening the rear door reveals more storage and also the gas bottle. The electric hook up point is concealed under the rear bumper.
The 39 litre fridge provides enough space to chill the essentials for a day out, weekend away or maybe just a few bottles of beer and wine for when you have reached the campsite and the driving is finished for the day!
Driving On Electric
I loved driving this EV and was impressed by the smoothness and ability to really pull away when I put my foot down, I also was totally relaxed by the silence. However, In the back of my mind I was thinking about the power reserves and my eyes frequently switched to the display. I know from reading other blogs about people touring in EV’s that it just becomes a way of life and the low cost of travel totally outweigh any inconvenience presented by charging. I think the itinerary of typical getaway journey would be something like this:
- Fully charged before leaving home (up to 100 miles)
- Stop for lunch and charge to 100% (up to 100 miles)
- Arrive at campsite and place on charge ready to explore
I estimate that a 200 mile journey would cost me over £40 in my diesel transporter, but under a fiver in the electric van! (or FREE if using the Nissan network) If you are part of a couple that love to frequently get away for long weekends in the UK, this could really save money. Add to this that the road tax is ZERO and service costs are 40% cheaper than petrol and diesel equivalents it’s starting to become apparent that this could make a great daily driver and weekend getaway vehicle.
I’m sold, are you?
*Disclosure: We asked Richard to be as honest as possible with this review but it should be noted that Richard is a Director of Fish Media, our media supplier who has been remunerated for this review.