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Wilson Mar

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When cars drive themselves, beds replace seats


People going places in a car that drives itself is party bus.

I wrote these notes as the basis for a VR/AR project to visualize various configurations within a small van built for living off-the-grid for a short time.

Kinda think like designing a place for living in outer space.

van solid model 946x800*

van ram-promaster-campervan_large *

There are existing tools such as http://www.sketchup.com/learn/videos/826

Van make and model

  1. The kind that allows someone to stand up straight:

    • Sprinter vans from Dodge Ram or Mercedes

    • Nissan NV3500 HD Cargo vans are $28K for a V6 engine.

    • Frieghtliner new are in the high $30-40K range.

    • Ford Transit Connect (made in Turkey) has a standard 169-hp 4-cylinder for 21 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway,

    • Old Ford Winstar http://www.ebay.com/gds/How-to-buy-USPS-used-Ford-Windstar-postal-service-van-/10000000176074044/g.html

    • Used U.S. Postal Service Ram Promaster vans sold by GSA are great if you don’t intended on driving far. They were professionally maintained (oil changes on time, etc.)

    In 2015 USPS make a 9,000 commitment for Ram ProMaster 2500 vans. They are powered by a gasoline 3.6L Pentastar V-6 engine that produces 280 hp and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. (while other countries buy electric vehicles) The USPS plans to hold on to this newer fleet of vehicles for at least the next twenty years.

    Left hand drive only

    -Back up monitor too easy to knock off the window. On my third one already

    -Height of driver seat is not adjustable

    Sprinter vans

    WARNING: These are rear-wheel drive. Not so good for the snow.

    outsidevan.com/van has a gallery of conversions

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkyPNK6uS1g Mercedes Sprinter camper van insulation install

  • [ ] Blue colored on ceiling to make it seem like the sky.

  • [ ] Art frames as doors.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urSoTDy-pnc Espar Diesel Heater Install in a Mercedes Sprinter Camper Van


Espar Diesel Heater Install in a Mercedes Sprinter Camper Van Mercedes Sprinter camper van maxxair fan install

### Box vans

Ramee Jordan’s Ford E-350 Box Truck Conversion videos

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDuYDvwxvrc U-Haul

Sound and Weather Insulation

Eastwood thermocoustic barrier XMAT 18x32 inch 34.8 sq foot for $100. Rated at 30 degree temp reduction and 19 db sound reduction

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wksm1xI1Ms0&t=230s How to convert a Van in to an Off-Grid Camper in 17 Days!

  • 9 centimeters of insulation total

Kranack 298 Fibered aluminum roof paint

3/4 inch layer 1 polyisocyanurate insulation - R Value = 5

1/2 inch layer 2 R value = 3.2

  • [ ] 1/8th inch foam and foil insulation R value = 3 for total R value of 11.2

  • [ ] Felted panel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaN3yzcWQz8 Ford Transit Winter Van Tour 2017 - RV Conversion,Van Conversion,Adventure Mobile B

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkyPNK6uS1g Mercedes Sprinter camper van insulation install

High profile for stand-up desk

This is a must-have for me, and the whole reason for getting a van in which I can stand up.

STRATEGY: Since I won’t be sleep while I use the stand-up desk, put the desk above the bed. But this means I have to always clean up my desk before going to sleep.

So is it worth the risk of tip-over when blown by a fast wind?

Alternately, have a pop-up installed. This would be only for summer use, though.

  • [ ] Big monitor to left of desk.

  • [ ] Position TV for it to be watcheable from bed.

  • [ ] Bed desk. (It’s a hassle to converted desk to bed every day)

  • [ ] Leg raiser (pillow bag containing clothes or extra fabric) to use bed as desk

  • [ ] Knives on magnetic strips on wall

Flexibility and weight

STRATEGY: Use lighter aluminum rather than wood. This requires more expensive welding, but is lighter.

  • [ ] Expose removeable sockets so cabinets can be attached in different arrangements.

PROTIP: So boxes slide out easily, don’t have a brace blocking it.

Bed and storage

To keep flexible use, create a bed frame (perhaps out of pipes?) with a base for the bed, cut from 4x8 birch plywood {$50}

  • [ ] Straps to keep the bed in place.

  • [ ] Storage Tubs under bed. http://amzn.to/2dm3yYr

  • $60 Aluminum track with O rings to secure bike. http://amzn.to/2daW3oV

  • $22 Envelop style stretchy cargo nets on plywood hold things in place. http://amzn.to/2dsi6uU

STRATEGY: Get a passenger van, take out the seats and use the seat mounts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaN3yzcWQz8 Ford Transit Winter Van Tour 2017 - RV Conversion,Van Conversion,Adventure Mobile


  • [ ] Paneltronics

  • [ ] Two 12V AGM Gel batteries

    Needed to power invection cooktop, microwave oven, laptop, large monitor, etc..

    LOCATION: Separate from gas tanks.

  • [ ] Minn Kota charger

Solar panel

  • [ ] A structure on the roof to walk, stand, sleep on.


  • [ ] electric blanket, yeah.

  • [ ] Thick memory foam on a board. The board can be quite heavy.

Murphy bed that folds up to the wall. Folded against the wall to get it out of the way.

(Twin beds are 39 x 80 inches)

  • [ ] SACRIFICE: Forgo change of bedding?


Needed for hanging up coats and suits. Near the entrance. Does not need to be kept warm/cool.

Additional storage for clothing. A separate bin for soiled clothing.

IDEA: Closet door open to block outside door and provide more insulation.


A fridge helps to keep diary, fruits, and vegetables fresh. Some need one to keep their medicines cold. A large fridge/freezer combo is necessary for longer trips.

Refrigerators in RVs are built to withstand the vibrations going down the road. RV models also automatically switch to run off LP Gas when there is no electricity. Some have a 3-way option to run off AC Power, DC Power, or LP Gas.

RV friges go from $1,100 to over $3000 for larger units. Contact RV dealers for closeouts and refurbished units.

  • Whynter Frige/freezer 110 or 12v

  • http://www.dometic.com/USA/

  • http://www.norcold.com/norcold/index.html

PROTIP: A free-standing fridge has flexibility anywhere, including outside.

LOCATION: Have a fridge face outside for easy access.

  • [ ] Cooler between seats

    LOCATION: In Winters, wheel the fridge in to the cockpit area (passenger seat area) which isn’t kept heated at night in the Winter. This would save


    STRATEGY: Is an ice maker a deal-breaker or a non-essential for you? I prefer more spece to the freezer unit, so I use the room for frozen foods, and make ice rather than keep liquids cold.

4.3-cubic feet,

  • [ ] Use a level when installing to keep the unit level.

Adding a battery-operated RV refrigerator fan will not only decrease your cool down time by 50%, it alsos help temperatures remain more consistent. They run on two “D cell” batteries for 30 days or more. A great money-saving option, for only $15. From http://blog.rvshare.com/rv-refrigerators/

Food storage and heating

Consider freeze-dried foods that are light and requires no refrigeration. With that a hot water kettle is all you need.

With minimal space, the variety of food choices are more limited.

  • [ ] Paper towels hanger for easy access.

SPACE: Space for storing extra paper goods which are sold in packs.

Wood stove?

There’s something about a real wood burning fireplace that warms the heart. Maybe it’s the infra-red.

rv wood stove dryer


If you’re not planning on much cooking:

  • [ ] $200 Beaver Tree kitchen in a portable plastic box with a cookstop, room for utensils. http://domsoutdoor.com/beaver-tree-camp-kitchen-organizer/p/1-012886/

    Propane is widely available.

  • [ ] $230 japanese butane, fuel is $9 per bottle. It was designed for indoor use as well as be taken outdoors for use.

  • [ ] One-pound fuel bottles with adapter.

  • [ ] Adjustable level for stove so pots sit evenly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8YUWQ8i-78&t=9m20s sprinter van camper van tour, for sale sprinter van conversion

  • [ ] Induction top take a lot of amps in battery power.

  • [ ] Smoke and Carbon Monoxide alarm (from http://simplisafe.com)

  • [ ] ARRANGEMENT: Build an enclosure for fuel bottles that is sealed from passengers, and have a drain for leaked gas going outide at the bottom. Put this near the back door, which is infrequently opened. Near the hinge of the door.

  • [ ] Space for dish brush, sponge, and dish towels where they can air out.


This is a must-have for many at home.

But not that big of a deal for some others.


Ahhh. Cold ice cream on a hot day.

But it takes more energy to keep food frozen. Constant energy.

This would need to be put away when the van is moving.


  • [ ] Plastic cabinets are lightest?

  • [ ] Ball-bearing slidings on drawers to hold 60 pounds each.

  • [ ] Bike inside?

  • [ ] canned food rotation system takes too much room.

  • [ ] windshield blinds built-in to the posts save the space of temporary covers and the hassle of making them fit correctly.

  • [ ] Space for hats hung up?

  • [ ] Space for socks, underwear

  • [ ] Space to hang up coats and suit

  • [ ] Space for dirty laundry bag and laundry soap jug.

Clothes Laundry

If occassional stops to a laundry Mat is not for you, consider a portable or hand laundry and spin-drier. It washes a few items at a time.

Room for air drying clothes (and its humidity) also needs to be considered.

  • [ ] 6 Gallon hot water heater from Ariston

Hot water and Gray Water collector

  • [ ] Potable water above the sink so it’s gravity fed.

  • [ ] Black tubes above the van to collect hot water?

Hot Shower

This is a key differentiator why one would get a larger van (rather than sleeping in a car).

STRATEGY: Put the shower next to the door, so it can dry out by opening the door. This also makes it easier to remove humidity via air dry by just opening the door. This would entail having waterproof entryway, which we want anyway. The shower curtain around the door makes for a “mud room” which keeps out drafts into the van. Brilliant. It’s an easy way to wash out what is the dirtest part of the floor. Great for trips to the beach to get rid of sand on feet before entry.

  • [ ] Long hose showerhead reach outside to hose things down (by the beach). Or for an outdoor shower.

  • [ ] Curtain to keep out steam into the living space (which cause mildew).

STRATEGY: Put shoe storage near the door.

  • [ ] Track in ceiling so a box can be moved around easily. The storage box that uses the room when no one’s showering. But it slides out during showers on a track to put the storage unit in the hallway.

OPTION: webasto heats both the water and the air. Installed only by certified installers. http://roadtreking.com/winterized-again-i-love-my-rvs-webasto-heater/ uses diesel gas. https://www.webasto.com/int/markets-products/truck/heating-systems/engine-off-technology/

  • [ ] A foot-pedal or motion-sensor switch to turn on and off water (like doctors have).

  • [ ] 5 inch hole for shower basin connection to gray water tank.

  • [ ] Gray water tank under floor, secured by 3/8” drill and tap.

  • [ ] RV Valterra 3 inch valve mount.

  • [ ] Heat wrap around gray water tank outside.


STRATEGY: Put the hot air vent so it blows into the shower area.

  • [ ] A large ceiling vent with slide-out screen and dark shade to keep out cold.

  • [ ] Drone with camera can fly out of the large vent (and return).

  • [ ] Route gas pipe through a heat exchanger to capture heat from car exhaust.


  • [ ] 100 liter fresh water holder (blue box).

  • [ ] RV water inlet port (with a lock) to fill water - Marinco 30 Amp electric and Shurflow Water Entry port

    rv external ports 586x366

  • [ ] RV drainage port from gray water tank.

  • [ ] RV electrical plug to charge batteries, etc. It’s 50V special adapter. American style:

    European style:

Dish washing

  • [ ] Instant hot water spigot from a unit under sink.

Not enough room for two sinks?


Police use fecal matter in the van as a health violation.

STRATEGY: Many small vans forgo the toilet to recoup its space, and use throw-away toilet boxes.

STRATEGY: Place the toilet near the bed for quicker access (even though one can’t go very far in a little van).

Chemical toilets like the onese on airplanes smell.

  • [ ] Composting toilet

Or if you’re at a place where there are bathrooms, wide-mouth bottles plus a simple single-use toilet could be enough.

Anti-freeze in toilet.

Water in toilet area, when hosed down, flow outside.

Lighting / electrical

  • [ ] LED lighting (lower power). Battery powered ones don’t drain main battery.

  • [ ] plugs


  • [ ] strong door locks, but people can just break a window.

  • [ ] Fire extenguisher

  • [ ] Big safe lock inside a hidden door to keep cameras, etc.

  • [ ] Automatic dongle

  • [ ] Back-up camera (Garmin RV 760)

  • [ ] Video recorder

  • [ ] trash can with lid

  • [ ] A metal “garage door” that rolls over windows for protection against window break-ins.


  • [ ] bug screen with a magnetic strip you could hang to keep bugs out

roof fan/escape hatch idea.

Examples of builds

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBzRMvKrL-o $3000 self build high top

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dO22Uv-PQXQ “Hobbit Van” for life on the road

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IT8Y5ymc9sE UHaul van

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrYMBLguofo Stealth RV

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mDmGkmzHC8 Sprinter cargo van

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVhEKotCTxE

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wksm1xI1Ms0&t=230s How to convert a Van in to an Off-Grid Camper in 17 Days! Nate Murphy

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sec69osmQpw Living in a (Teched-Out) Van Down By the River | Out of Office with Brent Rose (@rosebrent, connectedstates.com)

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSslbLrP7tc Vantastic


a) Disspant hot air out from top sucked down through electrical panel and battery area, which builds heat.

b) Moist air from shower area out.

c) Foul smelling air above toilet area out.


Paint job

Paint on van as a Diaper disposal/pickup.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJFXWk3XrwCLlEOcfrym9Rg Alternative Homes Today




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcH4vp4_hD4 uses steal racks on a 2009 $14k van


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vW-yTOKwaOE advanced-rv.com 440.283-0405 Willoughby, Ohio does only Sprinter van conversions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTbobJkI2b8 10 Questions I Wish I’d Asked before Hiring a Sprinter Van Conversion Company

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dcx1KNNTFtY How to Build Your Own Campervan! Mercedes Sprinter Camper-Van Conversion

PleasureWay Saksastuan Canada

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2Fz2sM7sHw van builds you see on the website start at 25k

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Mo1CqwD6Zc Hybrid Live/Work Van Conversion by Pro Woodworker murphy bed, 320V solar, toe-kick storage, storage for propane daveinaction.com

  • [ ] chains for tires in case of snow.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGiFmMGW9LA Outside magazine

sprintervandiaries.com on Instagram

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8EQAfueDGNeqb1ALm0LjHA ExploringAlternatives by Matt on https://www.patreon.com/exploringalternatives

glampervanlucy.com https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7s-dfASH40U#t=529.045481558



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UW1eer1PY0E Will Burson




http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/Used+Cars/Van+~+Minivan?LNX=SPGOOGLENONBRANDBODYSTYLE&cid=SI_922081236_104524091340_1 Autotrader.com used vans