Practical Motorhome's reviewer tries out the world's first electric campervan and asks is this the future of motor caravanning?

Overview

Who’d have thought that the world's first all-electric campervan would be launched in our lifetime? Electric and hybrid cars have gained traction slowly, so the debut of the Hillside Dalbury E micro-camper at last autumn’s 
NEC show was surprising. The motorhome industry could have been expected to bring a hybrid camper to market first, as this technology is better established, so hats off to Derby’s Hillside Leisure for doing it first and going all-electric. 

The Dalbury E is based on the Nissan e-NV200 Combi mini van, and follows the 2014 launch of the diesel-engined Dalbury, which is based on the NV200. 

Hillside views the Dalbury E as a car that can be used as an occasional camper.

Design

The conversion follows the Dalbury’s, with a rear seat/ rock’n’roll bed next to a small side kitchen. A pop-top provides the required headroom for standing up in a vehicle with 1.39m of interior height.

So what does the electric-powered base vehicle offer? Power comes from an 80kW AC synchronous electric motor and an advanced lithium-ion battery. The motor, battery charger and inverter occupy the engine bay, freeing up space elsewhere. The battery pack has 48 modules of 24kWh, each of which holds four cells, and weighs 267.5kg, 7.5kg less than the one used in the Nissan Leaf, on which the e-NV200 is based. The vehicle’s flat underfloor aids aerodynamics so you can travel further on a smaller power output. Potential purchasers have a choice of buying the vehicle battery outright, or hiring it for a monthly fee.

According to New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) figures, the official range of the e-NV200 is 106 miles, assuming there’s enough stop/start driving, for example on an urban cycle, to send power back to the battery via regenerative braking. Motorway driving, with fewer stop/start cycles, will reduce the range.

The Dalbury E’s battery can be 80% charged in 30 minutes (rapid charge) or 100% charged in four hours (using the 6.6kW on-board charger and a 32A wall box) or 10 hours (with an EVSE cable at home or work). As more charging points come on stream, its range will become less of an issue.

On campsites, though, the vehicle and leisure batteries can be charged simultaneously. Connect the ’van’s main charging point to a hook-up bollard and plug in the leisure-battery circuit via the adjacent 230V socket, using a special cable that Hillside can supply.

On the road

On the road, the Dalbury E is fun to drive. It’s nippy, accelerates smoothly and handles well, thanks to its low centre of gravity. The driving position is good and the cabin is well insulated from noise. Without an internal-combustion engine, the only vibrations are from the road.

Lounging & dining

Inside, the conversion features the quality design and build you expect from Hillside Leisure. There's a rear seat bench with seatbelts that converts easily into a double bed at night.

The lounge is formed by adding an occasional table and rotating the passenger seat.

Kitchen

A pair of gas rings is concealed by a worktop cover that slides into the space vacated by the driver’s seat when pushed forward. These sit atop a compressor fridge and next to a small sink. Storage is available throughout the kitchen unit.

Sleeping

It's quick and easy to convert the rear seat bench into the only bed, a lie-flat double bed measuring 83m x 1.07m (6’ x 3’6”). It's a 'rock-n-roll' style bed, which will be familiar to anyone who's ever used a traditional VW campervan.

Washroom

There is no washroom, so you'll need to use campsite facilities, or take a portable potty and perhaps a loo tent or drive-away campervan awning.

Storage

There's storage under the rear seat bench, as well as in the kitchen unit, where tambour doors will stop items flying about when you drive round corners. There are more storage hatches at the rear of the camper, once you've opened the rear doors of the 'van.

Equipment

Hillside Leisure's Dalbury E costs from £33,995 OTR (incl vehicle battery) or £29,995 (if renting battery at £61 per month). The base vehicle is a Nissan e-NV200 Combi Acenta with an 80kW (109ps), AC synchronous electric motor. The vehicle battery is a Lithium-ion pack with 48 four-cell 24kWh modules.

Technical specs

LayoutCamper without washroom
Sleeps2
Travel seats4
MTPLM2220kg
Payload340kg
Length4.56m14′12″
Width2.01m6′7″
Height1.86m6′1″
Fresh water30L
Leisure battery110 Ah
Gas bottle size4.5kg
Number of gas bottles1
Kitchen Equipment
2-burner gas hob
Washroom
No toilet

Verdict

The Dalbury E is a capable micro-camper as well as being a viable daily drive – assuming you stay on top of keeping the battery charged up. A solar panel fitted to the roof will allow owners to trickle charge the leisure battery. 

So who’s going to buy one? Most likely those who like the idea of a road-tax-exempt vehicle with low running costs (no oil changes or transmission services, for starters) for taking regular short breaks away close to home. 

Hillside points out that the Dalbury E won’t suit everyone, and says the best way to assess its suitability would be to hire one and try it before you buy. 

Hillside has proved that an electric camper is viable, albeit with some limitations. This is a great first effort, and e-campers will get better as the technology improves. Hillside Leisure is based in Chequers Lane, Derby, so why not book a test drive and try out 
the Dalbury E for yourself? 

Conclusion

Pros

  • This is the world's first electric campervan!
  • A rapid recharge takes just 30 minutes
  • No road tax
  • No oil changes
  • No emissions
  • Compact micro-camper
  • With four seatbelts it's like a car you can camp in
  • Economical to run

Cons

  • Recharge every 106 miles
  • No washroom or loo on board
  • The bed's too short for tall couples
  • The bed is also narrow
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