This classic VW microbus was converted to an electric vehicle, and with the addition of solar PV panels on the roof, is also completely solar-powered, making it a truly off-grid clean transportation solution.
The iconic Volkswagen microbuses (also called the Type 2) were a great example of thinking outside the conventional box when it comes to transportation, because they were not only big enough to transport an entire family, but were also light enough to be moved by a relatively small air-cooled engine, and easy enough to work on that they didn't require a trip to the mechanic for many common issues. And although the classic VW minibuses haven't been in production for years, the existing early models are still popular for the restoration and mod markets, including this latest example of a VW bus converted to an EV, which also happens to be fully solar-powered.
Daniel Theobald, the CTO of Vecna Technologies, created this clean green mobility machine by converting a 1966 Volkswagen bus to be a fully electric vehicle, and then added a large (relative to the size of the bus) solar panel array to the roof. With the old engine compartment full of a battery bank, and the 10 rooftop solar panels to charge that during the day, the bus can reportedly run on just solar alone, with no need to plug in for a recharge.
The range on the vehicle is only about 30 miles, but that's probably plenty for running about town or short trips, and with the large array on the roof, the bus doesn't seem well suited to either high speed travel or hitting the open road, so it appears to be a decent application of renewable energy powering an electric vehicle.
According to Xconomy, the overall cost of the project, including the bus, the EV conversion, and the solar array, was about $30,000, and although it's not for everyone, after a year of driving the vehicle, Theobald finds it fits his lifestyle well, including commuting to work and picking up his kids from school each day.
"Given my normal driving, I don’t need to charge at all—the sun gives me all the energy. It’s incredibly convenient. As long as I’m not parking under a tree, I’m covered." - Theobald
Building this solar-powered EV minibus had more than a few challenges to overcome, which may be addressed in the commercial EV industry as we get closer to more sustainable (i.e. solar-powered) electric vehicle design:
"Engineering-wise, Theobald’s project uncovered some conventions that make solar-powered passenger cars such a tough challenge. For example, the electronic components normally used in electric cars, such as the battery packs, are not optimized for the voltage that solar panels put out. Also, a significant portion of energy is lost in charging and discharging a battery, but that can be minimized." - Xconomy
More details on specifics about the project can be found in a comment on this CleanTechnica article.
Images by Daniel Theobald