As you may have picked up from other features on Recreational Society we love the very real propect that sometime in the not too distant future electric campers will be common place in NZ. We are all waiting for the tech to get a fraction better so the range in more realistic. Here’s Christchurch couple Andy and Zoe, ahead of the curve and taking the plunge. Importing an E-van from the UK and then getting Andy from Van Lab to kit it out. Zoe takes up the story…
Andy and I have no prior campervan experience, but we have spent years in the outdoors tramping, and plenty of camping in tents.We want to use the new camper for exploring the country, probably mainly staying at campsites/motorcamps, but there is the option of wild camping also. We’ll probably do a mixture of weekend trips and longer holidays. We have a 5 week break in February/March to go exploring.
There were many reasons for going electric, the major one being climate change. I feel I can look my children in the eye and not feel guilty about driving long distances. Charging it up is also a lot cheaper than buying petrol. We were both keen to go electric for the above reasons!
We wanted a van that we could also use as a vehicle about town. I’ve already been driving it around Christchurch and it drives really well in the urban environment. It’s not too big to try and park etc. It was our goal to have a smaller van. Our children have left home, and it is perfect for the two of us. The Nissan eNV200 fitted the bill size wise, with a decent 40W battery. Unfortunately they aren’t available in NZ, so the company Plug n Drive in Auckland imported it from the UK for us. This is the third van they have imported.
The pop top was because we wanted to be able to stand up and cook, and more room for moving around easily.
Plug n Drive arranged the pop in the UK for us, and as it was the third van like this to come through the country with a UK pop top, there was no problem with certification at the border. It was at the border for about 10 days. The popping process itself was delayed by Covid lockdown in the UK in April. It was in storage for several weeks over there over lockdown, but the popping process itself only took a couple of weeks before it was shipped to Auckland.
We went with Andy at VanLab because we liked his layout. The van has 2 seats at 90 degrees to each other, which can easily seat 4 people. It looked better for having conversations if you have friends/family in the van, rather than one long seat which was another option we looked at.
Also, Andy’s units are a kitset design, which helped to reduce the cost for us. We liked Andy’s design from the outset, so didn’t tinker with it at all.
My husband Andy drove the van from Auckland to our home in Christchurch, which was it’s first trip. I think he found it a bit stressful as he had never driven an electric vehicle before, so he was getting to grips with all that that involves. Mainly checking that he wouldn’t run out of charge! He needed to reduce his speed to conserve power on a couple of occasions, but essentially it was an incident free trip.
The seats in the back fold down to a bed, and finding a charging station was never a problem. We know that when we use it we will need to factor in charging time, and are prepared for that. In addition Fiona at Plug n Drive has ordered some back windows for us which need to come from China, and can be fitted in Christchurch. That will enable us to see traffic behind more easily; at the moment we’re relying on 2 large wing mirrors.
We haven’t tested the solar panels yet, but they will help charge the leisure battery if we overnight at an unpowered site. Will let you know!
I’m amazed at how well everything seems to fit together inside, including extra storage under the pop top when it is up.
As a footnote, Zoe and Andy are on the West Coast now. “We are in Blackball after driving the van over to bike the Paparoa track. We made it to Arthur’s Pass before needing to charge, and that was into a screaming Norwester! Charging only took 20 minutes while we ate lunch. From there it was an easy trip to Moana to charge overnight, and then on to Punakaki the next day. (From there we shuttled another vehicle to Blackball). I would say, if you’re thinking of doing it, go for it. Just be prepared to drive a bit slower if you need to, to conserve power.”
Check out our feature on Van Lab HERE