The van is functional

Sun Apr 04 2021

After 7 months of part-time building, the van is fully functional. We have already done 3 weekends of testing, including sleeping, hiking and working. We still need to figure out what to pack for longer trips and how to optimize storage space, but otherwise it's all working. Let me show you in this post the latest features which made all the difference.

The two 100W solar panels are robustly attached and installed on the roof. We have mounted them close to the metal, so that they don't catch the wind and remain discreet. They are screwed-in from the side using rivnuts that I crimped directly on the frame of the panels.

2x100W solar panels2x100W solar panels

The rotating table is in place, we ended up finding the solid threaded metal tubes we needed in a common hardware store, in the shelf & decoration department. The table has a mount on its back, which screws in a L-shaped tube, itself inserted in a larger tube (a trampoline foot) attached in the corner of a stool. It has two rotation centers: within the larger tube next to the stool, and at the center of the table with the screw mount. At night, we take the L-shaped tube away and the table fits between the two stools to complete the bed frame. Camille did a lot of sewing to split our two futon mattresses into four pieces each (two stools, one table, one static bed).

Day modeDay mode
Night modeNight mode

Most electrical appliances are in place. The electric panel and the leisure battery are located under the passenger bench seat. Under the table, we have two 12V sockets which can be used to charge phones and even Camille's laptop using an USB-C PD adapter. I have also assembled a DC-DC step up into a junction box so that I can charge my laptop at 19.2V using an XT60 connector. So both our laptops charge quickly and we never have to convert DC into AC: neat. All the lights work and have dedicated switches, and there are 12V sockets above the kitchen and on the two sides of the bed to add reading lights or phone charger. The fridge is also operational.

Under table chargerUnder table charger
Electric panelElectric panel
Electric panel displaysElectric panel displays

The gas system runs smoothly so we can cook on our two stoves and use the heater. So far, the nights were around 0°C and we slept with the heater turned off without problem. I just need to wear a hat because of the ventilation hole next to our heads. Otherwise we just turned on the heater in the morning for a few minutes to help us going out of bed. The water system is also functional - the foot pump works well and we only noticed some minor droplet leaks on our pipes. We will keep an eye on this.

Airtight gas bottle closetAirtight gas bottle closet
gas valvesGas valves
Gas heaterGas heater

The living area is quite spacious, both of us can stand and do stuff without getting into each other's way. We have even cooked and eaten dinner with two friends - Yannick and Nicolas - all within the van. It remained warm and the humidity in the room did not increase much. The cardboard on the floor will soon be replaced with parquet, and Camille will sew a proper thermal curtain.

Spacious entranceSpacious entrance
Dinner with Yannick and NicolasDinner with Yannick and Nicolas

A while ago when we were insulating the van, we inserted some DHT22 temperature and humidity sensors into the hemp in the ceiling, in the wall and in the ventilation hole. I have now wired them up to an ESP32 with an additional DHT22 and a CCS811 (CO2 and VOC sensor) to measure the air quality inside the van and the effectiveness of the insulation. I have built an ugly wooden case, but in the future I might print a PCB to integrate all components with less running wires and design a clean 3D printed case. So far we noted that the humidity and temperature was always more extreme in the ceiling, so the insulation does play its role of buffer.

Sensor boxSensor box
Under the hoodUnder the hood

We have also started the process to immatriculate the van as the camper. The first step will be checking our gas system - finger crossed.