Too often, people build their vans to be very heavy. This ends up hurting gas mileage and very likely has a detrimental effect on reliability.
It’s totally up to the individual builder on how they want to build their van. I’m trying to avoid criticizing individual choices, although I will in the end.
It seems that most designers want to disguise the fact that you are in a van. It seems sometimes that even conventional RV design elements are disregarded for some other aesthetic, perhaps from boats? Not that I’m a big fan of most RV’s vibe. So, for better or worse, to avoid that RV vibe, I think designers want their designs to be more like a tiny home than a camper.
I’m not sharing those goals. I think there’s a better compromise. My van will look like a camper. Hence, my opinion that some vans are overbuilt.
I am trying to challenge “conventional” van design ideas and assumptions. There is a place for a critique of designs, good and bad. There are also sometimes good reasons to build out a huge electrical system, e.g. if you are an e-bike enthusiast. However, I here’s a few area, with examples, of what I see as unnecessary design elements.
- Too much framing! Why? The frame of the van is much stronger and a good design will put the mounting bolts in the right place for strength. More examples: 1 – 2 – 3
- Too much paneling! It’s heavy and it adds very little to the quality of life in a van.
- Too much electrical! I otherwise love this couple, however don’t understand their electrical system. I also don’t understand the use of inverters. I will have everything on DC (well, almost – more later!)
- Too much storage space! Okay, I’m not giving any links for this one as it is completely subjective. For example, I see vans where you can’t sit up in bed so there’s room for bicycle storage underneath. It’s worth it to some people. Not me. Folks put on extra cargo carriers on the roof. There are cabinets everywhere. Okay, I’ll probably cover every wall space with lightweight storage. Be organized, yet reasonable.
- Too much weight! It takes a lot to keep things light. It’s more expensive to be heavy. Extra suspension augmentation, more fuel to drive, etc.
In many areas, there are compromises. Wood is an amazing building material. A van must be comfortable. As eco-friendly as solar is, there are limits in area to place solar panels and weight to carry batteries. So, one compromise I am making is to have a propane cook top and water heater. I will compromise on a mid-size tank.
I will be building my van. I’ll document it and be honest about my successes and struggles. I’ll admit when I’m wrong or being overly concerned about trivial things.
This is about learning and sharing. I’ve already gained much from others who share and I want to give back.
And I’ll have fun.