Home INSPIRE This Is a Fully Solar Powered Electric VW Bus

This Is a Fully Solar Powered Electric VW Bus

Granted it only works if you’re traveling in sunny destinations but there is something undeniably awesome about never having to go to a gas station. Brett Belan and his wife Kira built this fully electric solar powered VW bus and converted it into a camper.

image credit: Dylan Magaster

Brett converted a 1973 VW bus into an electric, solar-powered vehicle and traveled the West Coast with his family in it. He is in the design phase of stage 2 on the electric van to improve and extend range and performance. He is lead engineer and co-founder of Apparent Energy, working to create more efficient components for electric vehicles.

image credit: solarelectricvwbus

Phase one of the solar electric bus was an effort to show the potential of an on board solar charger. With a small budget in mind we were able to go between 40-50 miles on a charge and charge the bus in a little over one day in the sun. Locally the bus received enough charge in the summer for a 20 mile run each day. What kept the cost down was using lead acid batteries.

image credit: Dylan Magaster

Phase two of the bus will include a 32 KW-hr battery bank of lithium iron phosphate batteries. These cells are not the same as lithium ion. They are about 14% less efficient in performance, but have no thermal runaway issues (safer) and actually have a longer cycle life than lithium ion.


The new Lithium Iron Phosphate bank will more than double the storage capacity of the battery bank. It will also weigh in 500 pounds less than the current lead situation. We are now looking at a 100 mile per charge RV.

image credit: Dylan Magaster

When the classic style of a ’73 VW bus is combined with an electric vehicle conversion and an onboard photovoltaic array, you get an eye-catching family-sized clean transport solution.

Adding solar modules to the top of an electric vehicle (EV) for self-charging isn’t quite feasible for mass-production vehicles (yet), but for those willing to do the work on an aftermarket conversion, a DIY solar EV is certainly a viable option, as this project from Brett and Kira Belen illustrates.