Roomy, simple, versatile and timelessly recognizable, the original Volkswagen T1 camper van remains a beloved icon representing the freedom of open-road travel. While we wait for VW to try and recreate some of that magic in electric form, a German startup has stepped in and encapsulated much of the dual-tone flair, simple, effective design, multi-use versatility and affordable escapism of the original pop-top camper in an all-electric package. Could the Xbus Camper from ElectricBrands become the VW-like legend of the electric RV age?
On Thursday, exactly a year after showing its first Xbus prototype, ElectricBrands held a public reveal for its camper prototype. As you may or may not recall, ElectricBrands’ Xbus, originally announced under the eBussy name, is designed as a versatile light electric vehicle (LEV) platform meant to accommodate a full array of body styles, from a flat bed truck, to a passenger van, to a box truck.
At just under 156 in (395 cm) long, the Xbus measures shorter than almost any European camper van we’ve seen. Those that are slightly shorter tend to be solo campers with fold-out beds that extend right over the front seats, sometimes to the dashboard. ElectricBrands, on the other hand, relies on a pull-out rear expansion module to fit in the fold-out double bed without the need to push up into the front cab or even central kitchen block. The tailgate-style flip-up window is a nice breezy addition.
The second part of the expansion equation, the manual pop-up roof is shorter than the full-length wedge or flat tops common on classic and modern VW camper vans, adding height directly over top the kitchen area for more comfortable food prep and cooking. The small kitchen includes a single-burner gas stove hidden away below the slide-out countertop.
ElectricBrands’ Camper spec list also calls for a sink and fridge, but the prototype does not appear to feature either. A pair of extensions flip up like wings on either side of the kitchen block to add significant counter space, and a large TV entertains rear passengers/campers from its home behind the front seats.
Still just a prototype, the debut Xbus Camper stands atop ElectricBrands’ available off-road chassis with 1.6 in+ (4 cm+) of extra ground clearance, widened tracks, off-road tires and flared fenders. The little all-terrain microbus is powered by an electric all-wheel drive.
The Xbus Camper is not quite as immediately stylish as the VW T1 and T2 campers that clearly helped inspire it, but it does evoke some of that same sense of carefree fun and freedom. That freedom comes on a sliding scale, though, as the standard 10-kWh battery pack offers a paltry 87 miles (140 km) of estimated combined driving range (124 mile/200 km city) but buyers can triple the battery size for a more respectable 260/370-mile (420/600-km) combined/city split.
Rooftop solar panels ensure the driver gets the most out of the battery, and the Xbus platform also features a battery drawer for easy swapping. We could see swap stations becoming a side business for campgrounds or nearby businesses should the Xbus Camper achieve a fraction or more of the VW camper bus’ success.
ElectricBrands is currently developing the Xbus for homologation as an L7e-B2 heavy side-by-side quadricycle. We’re not usually swayed by the concept of replacing a regular vehicle with an electric quadricycle, but it might just work for an RV. It’s not as though bus-like Class A motorhomes or trucks hitched up to heavy trailers look or handle anything like everyday motor vehicles, anyway, so driving a small, camper van-like quadricycle might not seem like such a leap.
Helping the Camper’s case is the modular ecosystem that the entire Xbus concept has been based on since its introduction. Assuming this modularity makes it to production, owners could remove the camper body to free up the flat bed or to install a cargo van, box truck, pickup bed or one of several other options.
The entire Xbus platform is still in the prototype stages, so any and all of the specs mentioned might change before production. The price could also change, but for now, the Xbus configurator spits out a base price of €30,170 (approx. US$30,750) for the Camper on standard road chassis or €32,370 ($32,975) for the off-road model. Those prices include VAT, and look quite attractive, even by European small camper van standards.
ElectricBrands has said previously it plans to add the US to its list of countries in which reservations are available, but so far the system remains focused on Europe. Eager European hopefuls can put a refundable 10 percent reservation fee down to hold their Xbus of choice. ElectricBrands’ website mentions a 2023 delivery start but also concedes that the current supply chain environment is complicating things. As we’ve seen with virtually every EV startup, production timelines tend to change even more regularly than vehicle specs.