Home » How I’d Make A Camper Out Of The Rivian Van Now That It’s No Longer An Amazon Exclusive

How I’d Make A Camper Out Of The Rivian Van Now That It’s No Longer An Amazon Exclusive

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It’s been said that after the second car in car-history was built, it was only ten minutes before someone suggested racing them.

In the same vein, whenever a new electric vehicle that even remotely resembles a truck or van is announced, within no time there are plans to convert it into an RV. For example, there are likely more Tesla Cybertruck campers being planned now than there are actual functioning Cybertrucks on the road today. Since the end of the pandemic, the RV craze may have cooled slightly, but the rise of EVs and improved solar powered technologies means that the hype around non-piston-powered campers will not dissipate any time soon.

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There’s plenty of naysayers, of course, that claim that the idea of vehicle designed for long distance travel to areas that are often remote is the absolute worst thing to use an electric vehicle for. They certainly have a point, but I think there’s a solution that will dovetail nicely into the solutions needed for a self-contained RV.

Enter Rivian

The Rivian van has, up to now, been best known as “that new Amazon truck that plays music as it drives.” Indeed, thanks to the world’s largest online retailer, the Rivian should be soon-to-be-ubiquitous sight on roads not just in the US but also in European nations. That’s fine, but after examining these things closely (or really closely in the case of an undercarriage inspection by our own David Tracy), it would seem that there’s plenty of non-commercial users that might enjoy owning one of these things.

Rivian Electric Delivery Vans Europe
Rivian

 

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Naturally, when Rivian announced it would be selling “civilian” versions of its new cargo van, the Autopian staff’s first thought was the expected camper conversion.

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Rivian

 

I looked online and some people have shown renderings of a Rivian “camper”– essentially the van painted in some color with a bunch of windows on it–but I’d like to go a little deeper into what this thing might actually look like. I started with the longer Rivian 700 as opposed to the entry level Rivian 500, which is 278 inches long as opposed to 248.5 inches. The sides of the Rivian van appear to be divided up into modular sections; the shorter one has three side panels aft the front doors while the one we’re going to be using has four.

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Rivian

 

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There’s 2734 pounds of payload capacity, which should be enough for all of the things that a camper entails. Look at all of that interior height! It’s 114 inches tall, so far taller than a E-Transit. Note the black plastic rear “exoskeleton” that houses the air conditioning unit on the roof and also hides things like wiring and the condensation drain. Solar panels could also sit up there are well.

Rivian Delivery 700 Copy

 

It’s perfect for an RV, and there’s room above the front seats to allow for a lowering queen-sized bunk. I’ve added skylights above for maximum natural light but still allowing for privacy.

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In the center of the camper are a dinette and sofa that could also be converted to sleeping space. Engine hump? What engine hump? The front seats can easily pivot to be part of the living area. The bathroom is reasonably sized for an RV this size.

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Is that a single bed in the very back of the Rivian? It is, and there could be bunk above if you wanted, but the model shown has the Dream Box: the whole rear section slides out to give you a nearly king sized bed and a place for dressing. Not a bad use of space in a 23-foot long vehicle.

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What about range anxiety? I mean, supposedly the long-wheelbase 700 claims to only have a range of 153 miles. Not a probem, since I’ll use a version of the solution that I jokingly described a little while back. Like all campers, the Rivian would have a generator for when you’re off of the grid. Let’s take a look at one of the exclusive pics from our man David:

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David Tracy

See all that room beneath the back of the van? The front voids could house water tanks, but that back area could hold a decent-sized gasoline generator. Not only would you have juice at a remote campsite, but also range-extending power to charge your Rivian while driving or stopped.

The Rivian is such a clean, functional and attractive design that I think it’d be appealing even if it were powered by an internal-combustion engine. I’ll admit that I’d have as many reservations as you might about an electric RV, but a Rivian with an on-board generator makes a pretty strong argument for taking the plunge. Expect to see a lot of camper options for the Rivian soon–maybe even before the Cybertruck is ready for sale.

Relatedbar

What I Found When I Crawled Under Rivian’s Amazon Delivery Van – The Autopian

You Can Now Buy A Rivian Van Just Like The One Amazon Uses. Here’s How Much It Costs – The Autopian

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Our Daydreaming Designer Imagines A Rivian With A Ram Revolution-Style Third Row, Except Bigger – The Autopian

Our Daydreaming Designer Imagines The Perfect Little Escape Pod-Car For Your Big Truck – The Autopian

 

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TOSSABL
TOSSABL
6 months ago

OverlandingSprinter’s point about not wanting the generator under your bed is quite valid. Even propane (great for longevity of a generator, and also quieter than gas or diesel) is going to be loud & vibrate-y for under the bed.
-cue Magic Fingers jokes.

Maybe relocate the bed? You’re also going to have a bit of noise from the cooling fan, too. Nitpicking aside, I like the concept a lot.

Bassracerx
Bassracerx
6 months ago

nothing says “camping” like stopping every two hours to charge for 45 minutes. I’m sure EV campervans will be a thing eventually but were are NOT there yet.

Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
6 months ago

A-Team Rivian van or no van!

FloridaNative
FloridaNative
6 months ago

How wide do you think RVs are and/or how short do you think a king bed is? It would take virtually the entire width of the RV, with no walkway between it and that kitchen cabinet. It would be purely climb over the other person territory. I question some of the other dimensions (entry door width, front bunk – which isn’t even a double by the way, let alone a queen – double is 54” wide and queen is 60” wide), but the king bed in back is the worst offender. Leave the RV articles to Mercedes or at least consult with her before putting this out.

JDS
JDS
6 months ago

“Starting at $87,000” sounds like a hell of a non-starter for a conversion.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
6 months ago
Reply to  JDS

Doesn’t seem to stop people from converting Sprinters

OverlandingSprinter
OverlandingSprinter
6 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

The MSRP on an entry-level 2×4 Sprinter is ~$52K, and a 4×4 model is ~$75K. Add $10K for options to make a Sprinter human friendly. I’m thinking $87K is a little rich, but maybe not depending on the amount of standard equipment.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
6 months ago

that username check out!

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
6 months ago

That’s neat, I like it. Although I giggled that you’ve embraced the RV industries real stretching of the definitions of bed sizes. Your “queen size” front bunk is a solid 8″ narrower than an actual queen, and is actually even an inch narrower than a full/double size mattress. Your “king” is a little less egregious at both 4″ narrower and 4″ shorter than an actual king size mattress. Typical RV manufacturer! 🙂

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
6 months ago

Wow – This is pretty cool overall!
The rear slide is particularly brilliant.

However – What makes the dinette a “Dream Dinette”?

The issue w the dinette is that the seats block the driver’s seat from swiveling around to be additional seating – Why not just use the sofa (no tacky vinyl motion furniture with cupholders please!) across the room with a long table which could be lowered or removed for the pull-out bed? Then you’d have space for a long row of storage cabinets with a retractable TV inside – rather than one hanging on the wall like an afterthought? Store folding chairs and a base for the folding table so they could be brought outside for al-fresco dining. Because camping.
This long kitchen-height counter would also enable the kitchen space to move forward a bit, offering more wardrobe space to the bedroom – as well as a place to pull up a couple folding barstools to have a cup of coffee and work remotely while looking out the window.

Andreas8088
Andreas8088
6 months ago

There’s plenty of naysayers, of course, that claim that the idea of vehicle designed for long distance travel to areas that are often remote is the absolute worst thing to use an electric vehicle for. 

You’d be surprised the way a lot of people use RVs…. I know I was. A lot of folks drive them an hour or so from home, camp in them (often at a campsite with power), then drive home again. In that case, electric would be perfect.

This is decidedly NOT the way I use an RV/Camper…. I prefer to never enter a campground if I can avoid it and boondock in remote areas, but a whole heck of a lot of people don’t use their RVs that way.

OverlandingSprinter
OverlandingSprinter
6 months ago
Reply to  Andreas8088

I am responding to the same quote with the exact opposite take. This weekend, for example, we’re planning to drive ~260 miles to the middle of nowhere. A town with likely EV charging is 180 miles from our starting point. We could return from our campsite to the EV charger, but we’d have to be VERY parsimonious with our power use while parked.

A petroleum-powered generator would be an absolute requirement for our use, and installing one in the rear cavity is clever BUT would be an absolute no-go to run at night. Situated below the bed would be nerve-wracking, and a location no amount of insulation would remedy.

As you point out, the range of Rivian vans might be a non-issue for people who park overnight at campgrounds or have a lot of kids involved in weekend sports and want a mobile locker room, lounge and kitchen.

Andreas8088
Andreas8088
6 months ago

Honestly, I think we had the same take, not an opposite one.

Evan Shealy
Evan Shealy
6 months ago

The 700 only has 2500 lbs of cargo capacity. That is about how much you can expect to add with things like counter, fridge, bed, a/c solar, batteries, fresh water tank, gray water tank, black water tank (you want a toilet right? Of course, not having one would be horrible). So you would have zero capacity for things like food and clothes. Not a good choice. Perhaps Ram will start selling a version of the promaster powered like the Ram charger.

Jakob Johansen
Jakob Johansen
6 months ago

On the topic of adding a gas generator.
The traction battery is 135 kWh.

Using 10% (13,5 kWh) for utilities = 10 hours run time for your 1,5kW Honda generator = 2,5 fill ups.

I would be plastering the roof with flexible solar panels instead.

Gee See
Gee See
6 months ago
Reply to  Jakob Johansen

A solar panel is roughly 36×66, 300W each to be conservative. Let say the van length varies 250 vs 280in. you can fit ~8 panels, more if you want to do pull outs. That is roughly 2.4kWh.

Last edited 6 months ago by Gee See
OverlandingSprinter
OverlandingSprinter
6 months ago
Reply to  Gee See

I have four 100-watt panels on my van’s roof. Peak solar radiation time is from roughly 11 AM to 2 PM, and even then we’re getting maybe 80% of the rated panel capacity. You’d have to install a tilting mechanism to catch as much sun as possible to get close to the rated capacity..

I’m not anti-solar by any means. I am realistic about its capabilities.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
6 months ago

I like the slide out on the back, better than a slide out on the side, but it would be a deal breaker for many camper van customers simply because it precludes hanging ebikes/spotless recovery boards/propane tanks/surfboards/jerrycans off the back. Also precludes a hitch.

OverlandingSprinter
OverlandingSprinter
6 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

Agreed. Saw a C-class a couple weeks ago that had a rear-mounted slide-out. The owner/operator had to disconnect their toad and separate the vehicles to use the slide-out. No biggie.

Michael Culberson
Michael Culberson
6 months ago

Seriously, the bed needs to be turned 90°. That way I don’t have to crawl over my wife in the middle of the night. It needs a carpetless slide out on the left side to give some more floor space and a bigger bathroom. Speaking of bathroom, get rid of the radius shower. Everybody hates those.

then ditch the electric engines for diesel.

Tom Dillon
Tom Dillon
6 months ago

As a current van lifer what I find exciting is the possibilities for solar charging, silent running, heat pump heating and cooling, all electric cooking, high ceilings for additional storage and no carbon footprint for fuel.

Sadly, Rivian did not use the 135Kwh battery pack that is an option on the R1T. A key issue is whether the main battery is available for house uses. This is not a given since they are different voltages. AWD is not currently and option is preferable for us as skiers. The idea of a range extending generator is weak solution to the problem. Engineer it correctly from the start, the solutions are right in front of us.

Everyone gets their own design but mine would include interior bike and ski storage, dedicated space for supplies, clothing, equipment and tools. You think you just need a change of clothes and some food but you’ll soon find you are carrying chairs, tire chains, extra windshield washer fluid, jumper cables, a tool kit, a power drill driver, mats, spare towels and wash cloths, leveling blocks, daypacks, water bottles, and lots and lots of shoes.

I can live without a bathroom, although this is not for everyone or every situation. For what it’s worth we lived full time in a 251″ van and would go shorter now that we are “only” out for a couple of months at a time. Bigger is more cumbersome to drive, especially as you get off pavement or are in an urban setting and a total pain to park since a standard space is 240″ long. I don’t see a refrigerator in the design but let’s assume it is under the counter. There must be an induction cooktop too.

Openable windows are a must for an RV. With a quality roof fan you can keep it comfortable through a wide variety of weather conditions and control indoor humidity and odors. A heat pump with both outside air and recirc could meet this requirement but lacks the ability to open a window next to the bed and have a cooling breeze.

Swivel seats act as dinette seating in many vans and could replace bench. A lounger is redundant with the swivel seats. I’d skip the king bed and go with a queen or even full.

Gee See
Gee See
6 months ago

Need the A Team stripes on the side!

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
6 months ago

Screw it. On board nuclear generator.

Boom. Done.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
6 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Boom. Done. indeed.

Inthemikelane
Inthemikelane
6 months ago

Wife’s been bugging the daylights out of me for a camper van. This would fit the bill quite nicely and nicely done!

Parsko
Parsko
6 months ago
Reply to  Inthemikelane

Did the Autopian just start a side gig????

Gee See
Gee See
6 months ago
Reply to  Parsko

Only Vans

OverlandingSprinter
OverlandingSprinter
6 months ago
Reply to  Gee See

Where do I subscribe? Or would I provide content?

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
6 months ago

Agreed. With an integrated generator it would be a game changer to me when it comes to this sort of vehicle. (Big Ass van, not camper though.) Would rather have more ability to design and execute one of these choosing own designs and materials used.

Would be wishing for Toyota to give us a Hybrid Van at a reasonable cost. EV only just makes it a bit complicated at this point.
But a cool looking van here. Nice. Choices are good.

Anoos
Anoos
6 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

I want the generator to be powered by an air cooled VW engine. This thing sounding like a VW bus would be hysterical.

Anoos
Anoos
6 months ago

Why gasoline for the generator? There are some pretty specific requirements for gasoline tanks installed in vehicles regarding evaporative emissions. It may be better (or at least easier) to run the generator on propane – even though the cylinder may not look pretty.

Anoos
Anoos
6 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

I like the diesel idea. I don’t think diesel requirements are the same for evaporative emissions. I do like the idea of making my way from grease dumpster to grease dumpster on my way across the USA.

Actually, how about adding a pump and filter setup that will allow you to siphon ‘fuel’ from the grease dumpster of any friendly restaurant?

Marteau
Marteau
6 months ago
Reply to  Anoos

See rich rebuild’s vidéo about doing that with his humvee.

Anoos
Anoos
6 months ago
Reply to  Marteau

Sounds interesting. I will take a look.

Torque
Torque
6 months ago
Reply to  Anoos

Josh Tickell did exactly this with an old LaSharo? Class B RV. It came with a diesel engine and I think a 4 speed manual transmission. He toured all over the US and like Willy Nelson, ran it on biodiesel he even wrote a couple of books on it…

While biodiesel still is “burning stuff” it can be made from used veggie oil, which can be grown locally and when used in a diesel engine has only 10% of the emissions vs. Petroleum based diesel.

“From the fryer to the fuel tank” is the one I read, which can be found looks like for free here:

https://archive.org/details/fromfryertofue00tick/mode/1up

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
6 months ago
Reply to  Torque

Tickell’s From the Fryer… is what got me started with diesel Mercedes running on used veggie oil. You lose a little power-10% is often quoted-but, wow, do they run smoother & more quietly. Depending on your source, they can smell good enough to make people around you in traffic hungry, too.
Two things to be aware of if you want to try: first, diesel grows a kind of algae in the tank, and WVO (waste vegetable oil) and biodiesel are both really good at loosening it—bioD especially so—so have lots and lots of pre-filters on hand for your fuel.
Second, if you go for bioD, take a long hard look at the methanol you need to convert the WVO: it’s evil stuff. You’ll need a good way to dispose of it.* I never was comfortable with it, so just went with thinned-down WVO

*actually, ‘wash’ water with various levels of methanol in it. You can’t just dump it on the ground, so it’s a real issue

Torque
Torque
6 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

How did (or do) you handle running wvo in cold weather (below the wvo cloud point, where it gels)?

Do you mix it with treated #2 diesel winter blend? If so at what ratio?
Or do you run regular petroleum diesel during winter?
Or do you live (and drive) where cold winter weather is not an issue?
Or something else (like not using your diesel vehicle(s) in cold winter?

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
6 months ago
Reply to  Torque

I mixed well-settled & strained (multiple filters ending with a 5-10 micron large sock filter from Grainger) WVO with gasoline. 10% gas for winter and 5% for summer. My break-over point was lows in the 40s with highs below 60.
Now, I’m in SW Virginia, so we don’t often get serious cold. If it was heading for the teens, I’d slosh a quart of Diesel PowerService in along with each 5 gallon batch. Also, I put an almost new block heater in my 300SD, and was almost religious about using it—even to the point of running it through a heavy-duty timer set to come on 1&1/2 hours before I left if temps were dipping below 50 overnight. I was also able to plug it up at work.

Only once did it ever gel. Ignition switch messed up & I had to leave it in a store parking lot overnight. Map gas on the lines for an hour, and 3 gallons of hot WVO got me going , but that was sketch.

Sometimes over the years we got down to zero for a few days. I planned ahead, got the tank low, then mixed diesel with kerosene according to MB’s instructions in the manual if a cold snap would be for 2 or more days.

I have to say, that 300SD, and later my 300D & -TD were all absolute beasts in the snow. I put old mud & snow truck tires on a spare pair of wheels and just went for it. People would freak out when they saw those slabs of Teutonic metal coming at them sideways!

I’m not kidding about carrying spare filters. The 617 has a little clear plastic pre-filter and I always had 3-4 with me at all times (plus at least one big metal primary filter).
>I wanted a VW Rabbit diesel, but they were too pricey even 22 years ago. Kinda wanted a Volvo, but read their injection pumps weren’t as robust as MB’s. The really big clincher was the manual primer right below the pump: made dealing with any air in the line pretty simple and quick.

eta: I got my mixture figures by checking specific gravity of pump diesel, then playing around with percentages of gasoline until I ended up slightly lighter. VO has better lubricity than modern low-sulfer diesel, so I erred on the side of thinner as I had confidence in the WVO. The difference between diesel & my mix was audible: the motor quieted down quite noticeably. Wish I’d had a decibel meter back then.

sorry to deluge you: I really enjoyed the whole process of figuring all of it out. Not to mention learning to work on those incredible machines

Last edited 6 months ago by TOSSABL
Torque
Torque
6 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Deluge welcome! My last regular DD was a 98′ VW TDI intentionally bought as I had read Tickell’s book and expected to be regularly running it on biodiesel.

Sadly I never did as I realized to create biodiesel myself would be a hobby that I clearly wasn’t interested in enough to set up and maintain my own chemical lab / biodiesel conversion corner of my garage.

I think you’re right wvo is likely the better / much easier way to go about it. I’ll certainly keep this in mind for a future rv purchase:-)

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
6 months ago
Reply to  Torque

I wouldn’t do it in an apartment, but my 3-stage filtering setup took only about the space of 5 5-gallon buckets along one wall. Really needs to be in a heated area to work, though.

-find a source first: most places without a contract use cheap hydrogenated corn fryer oil—and then use it till it’s worthless. Non-hydrogenated peanut oil is the best common one. Trivia: Rudolf Diesel’s display engine at the World’s Fair ran on peanut oil. Then Rockefeller wined & dined him—and here we are 🙂
And I’m certainly with you about a biodiesel production facility in living quarters. Methanol fumes can poison you before you know it. Not to mention you can’t see the flames!

Last edited 6 months ago by TOSSABL
JurassicComanche25
JurassicComanche25
6 months ago

Why a Generator- have it be an ‘easy swap’ battery pack. Campsites can be distributors where you pull up, swap to a new one, go on your way. Franchise it out to campsites, reststops, even gas stations. Make it work like the jump packs that you can get for your phone at amusement parks. The gas Geny has advantages, but how big a battery could you fit in that area?

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