Solar powered VW Bus

Electric cars are nothing new, but for the ultimate in low emission totally cool retro rides, check out this clever solar powered split window VW Bus…

It’s the creation of bright spark Daniel Theobald from Massachusettes who set out with a plan to build an electric or hybrid car that could transport his large family. He bought the 1966 camper and in an afternoon had converted it to run on electric power. How he did it is somewhat sketchy, but from the pictures it looks like the original engine’s been replaced by a hoard of batteries – used to store a trickle of charge gleaned from the mahoosive solar panel bolted (literally) to the roof.

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Okay, it doesn’t look that pretty – and the front and rear overhang is ungainly – but it means, unlike other electric vehicles, it can rely totally on the sun and doesn’t ever need plugging in.

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Despite being able to cruise at 80mph, the electro Bus’s range is somewhat limited and when the sun’s not shining it will only manage around 20 miles before silently grinding to a halt. In early tests, its creator tried running the bus directly off the solar panels, rather than charge the batteries – but this limited acceleration and was only really any good for city driving. Theobald also discovered that topography also plays a part. Driving up a big hill to bring his kids to school would kill his battery, while taking a slightly longer but flatter route used about a quarter of the energy. All useful information as electric vehicles become more relevant.

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Apparently, he’s already tried to improve efficiency but fitting lighter alloy wheels and alloy bumpers to reduce weight. Using lighter lithium-ion batteries, ultracapacitors and lighter chargers are also likely to make the project more viable in the long term.

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So what’s all this gadget-based tomfoolery cost? Well, the vehicle and equipment, including the efficient but pricey panel of 10 solar units, was estimated to be a not insignificant $30,000 (£20,000).

A price worth paying for innovation possibly? We’ll let you decide…


The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of VW Heritage




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