Home » I Toured The Inside Of The Electric Camper Van From Tesla Engineers. Here’s What The $125,000 Grounded G1 Is Like

I Toured The Inside Of The Electric Camper Van From Tesla Engineers. Here’s What The $125,000 Grounded G1 Is Like

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Back in March, I wrote about a new camper van concept that you can buy right now. The Grounded G1 is an all-electric camper van based on the Ford E-Transit, built by Tesla and SpaceX alumni. It boasts 108 miles of range and a modular interior layout for a price that’s actually cheaper than a gas-powered van equivalent. I toured the interior of Grounded’s prototype at the 2023 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Here’s what it’s like!

Recreational vehicles haven’t been left out of the conversation about an electric future. In recent years, we’ve seen both startups and household names develop electrified campers for greener adventures. For example, Airstream has shown off the eStream Concept, a travel trailer with its own battery pack and motors that assist the tow vehicle in hauling the consist down the road. Then there’s the Lightship L1, the futuristic travel trailer from Rivian and Tesla engineers that follows a similar concept as the Airstream.

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The camper van space has also seen its own developments. Thor Industries has its Thor Vision Vehicle concept van and there are companies that will convert a gas van into an electric camper van. Winnebago also has an electric camper van out there with its eRV2 prototype. Like the Grounded G1, the Winnebago van is based on the Ford E-Transit. But unlike the Winnebago, you can buy the Grounded G1 right now. The Class B RV class remains hot, even as most of the RV market cools, so people are still going out there and dropping a lot of money on a van. Let’s see what you get when you buy one of these.

Getting Off The Ground

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Here’s a quick recap of how Grounded started in 2022:

Grounded is a startup and doesn’t have the funds to build an electric van from the ground up. Thus, it chose an existing platform and instead builds its camper out of it. The company also has some help thanks to Ford, Michigan Central, and Newlab. If you haven’t heard of Newlab before, I’ll give you a quick rundown. Newlab is a startup that provides platforms and manufacturing space to other startup companies. The outfit provides research labs, prototyping and fabrication, and more to resident companies. Detroit’s historic Book Depository building serves as Newlab’s Detroit headquarters and inside of Michigan Central Station is where you’ll find Newlab’s Mobility Studio. That’s where these vans are built. Additional good news comes from the fact that since these are campers built out of the Ford E-Transit, they benefit from Ford backing and Ford service. If the van part breaks, it shouldn’t be a nightmare to get it fixed.

The founder and CEO of Grounded is Sam Shapiro, a former SpaceX engineer. The goal behind the Grounded G1 van wasn’t just to create an electric camper van, but to give camper van buyers an incredibly customizable interior while also changing how you buy your next camper van.

At the heart of the Grounded G1 is the Ford E-Transit. You get a 68-kWh 400V lithium-ion battery paired to a motor providing 266 HP and 317 lb-ft torque. Grounded quotes 108 miles of range, the same distance Winnebago lists for the eRV2 prototype. Also like Winnebago, Grounded does not change the base vehicle. So, don’t expect to be able to pump up the range. Both Winnebago and Grounded say they’re working with Ford to perhaps one day get more miles out of these vans.

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What Grounded does change is the van’s living space, and it’s something that makes the company stand out from most others. Grounded’s engineers have developed a modular interior system. Similar to the ideas of our brilliant Daydreaming Designer, the Bishop, Grounded’s interiors consist of cubes that make up all of the bits of a camper interior. There are cubes for storage, cubes for the kitchen, a cube for the bed, a cube for the shower, and more. Back in March, Sam Shapiro told me that this modularity means near-infinite layouts. From Sam Shapiro:

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We’ve worked to create something new that’s inspired by Scandinavian simplicity and function,” said Shapiro. “Optional components include a queen-sized bed, kitchen with a convection oven, dry-flush toilet, seating for anywhere from two to eight occupants, an outdoor shower, and more.”

Now, I should note that Grounded’s modular interior is not similar to something like a Happier Camper. The interior of a Grounded G1 is filled with sustainably sourced Baltic Birch. This wood is then supported with an aluminum structure. When you buy a Grounded G1, you go through a design process where you create your perfect van. Thanks to Grounded’s proprietary electrical system and those interior cubes, the company is able to churn out a van in just a handful of days. Grounded says that due to the modular interior, it’s unlikely that two vans would be the same. Thus, it’s able to create custom vans quickly and for a lower cost.

Unfortunately, while the layout is modular, it is not customizable by the end user. You would have to take your van back to Grounded to have the interior changed. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look inside!

Like An IKEA

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Stepping inside the Grounded G1, you immediately recognize the Scandinavian design influence. The interior looks like it came straight from an IKEA. The wood is light and, like IKEA furniture, you can see each ply of that Baltic Birch.

For a while, I have wondered how Grounded was able to price this van at $125,000. That undercuts a large swath of popular camper vans. The Winnebago Solis Pocket, a smaller van, is $140,375. The Airstream Rangeline is $147,570 and like the Winnebago, it’s a Ram ProMaster underneath. How does Grounded beat the establishment in pricing? It seems to come down to simplicity and the materials themselves.

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The Grounded G1 is not what I would call luxurious. Those interior surfaces feel only slightly better than a Thor product and the fit and finish aren’t perfect. Some of the pieces that are there look good, but don’t function perhaps as well as they could. For example, the benches are the same Baltic Birch and you get only thin cushions to sit on. For a bigger person like me, that’s not really comfortable.

Let your eyes wander and you’ll spot rough panel fitment, exposed support structures, and materials that seem to have defects.

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Granted, this van is Grounded’s prototype vehicle, so perfection isn’t expected. But it still feels a little rough around the edges. You further notice this when you look at how the Grounded G1 interior ends and you’re left with the regular van. There isn’t much of a transition there. Though, even with the imperfections the interior does feel a lot more solid than many new campers from larger names.

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I’m also a little concerned about this shower. You’re supposed to wash yourself down with the shower head outside, then return the shower to the back of the Grounded G1 when you’re done. I’d like to see a little more water protection here.

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But this is a part of the simplicity. The only tank you get is a 16-gallon water tank. If you add a toilet, it’s a dry flush unit. Grounded does not have to worry about running plumbing to different places for each van. Instead, it just needs to run a line for the shower head and for the kitchen sink.

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The house portion of Grounded’s vans feeds from a lithium battery that gets some charge from 640 Watts of solar power. The first G1s got 5 kWh batteries, but Grounded is willing to put bigger batteries in if you ask for them. All of the power equipment routes through Grounded’s proprietary electrical system and is controlled through Grounded’s app. Apparently, Grounded’s software monitors your electric usage and, over time, helps you optimize your energy usage to stretch that house battery as far as possible. Another neat feature is that in an emergency situation, the house battery can charge the van’s battery, offering you just a few more miles to get to a charger.

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Logical, But Still Impractical

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Throughout the summer, I wondered how this fresh face put an electric camper van on the market faster than the competition. Now I see how. Grounded’s modular interior allows the builder to crank out a camper van faster and apparently cheaper than Winnebago can. It now makes sense. What’s even better is the fact that Grounded has an entire catalog of parts to customize your van with. Want a mobile office? No problem. Want a van to carry your bikes while you camp? Grounded can do that.

As I noted in my previous entry, Grounded is also trying to change how you buy your next camper van. Sure, you can hand the company $125,000, or you can sign a 12-month contract and pay $2,300 a month ($27,600 a year) to “subscribe” to the van. Unfortunately, should you decide to buy the van, the lease payments do not apply to the purchase whatsoever. One benefit of leasing instead of buying is that you will always have the freshest iteration of the Grounded G1. The company is looking to sell a version that can go 250 miles on a charge. If you subscribe to the van, you will get the new one when it comes out.

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In the end, I found myself a bit disappointed that the Grounded G1 had an interior that’s only slightly better than the stuff coming out of Indiana. At the same time, now that I’ve seen it in person, I see how Grounded is beating the competition. Still, a 108-mile range means your road trips will take a very long time. Overall, the Grounded G1 is at least an honorable start in taking camper vans electric, and I can’t wait to see how this technology further develops.

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(Images: Author)

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Bill Garcia
Bill Garcia
5 months ago

Cool proof of concept (prototype might be generous considering how this looks), but they picked the wrong platform to build on – a short range, last mile delivery van makes zero sense as a camper van

Last edited 5 months ago by Bill Garcia
Toobs-N-Stuff
Toobs-N-Stuff
5 months ago

A: my buddie’s home build Van Life Transit van has has better fit and finish, is better thought out, has more features and cost ~70k all in, including the diesel van…

B: 108 miles? I can’t even get to the nearest good ski area on that, much less get home again.

this thing is truly useless.

Ben
Ben
5 months ago

Wow, I think they’ve done it. They’ve built a camper with no redeeming features.

  • 108 miles wouldn’t get me to the campground I just stayed at an hour and a half away if there’s a head wind, or it’s cold, or, heaven forbid, both. And there are no chargers in between because that’s the distance between major cities here.
  • Cabinets without pulls are a major pet peeve.
  • Interior fit and finish is challenging Elkhart in the quality race to the bottom.
  • My forehead hurts just looking at the way they inset the bed.
  • Dry-flush toilet, which I assume means a shitcase?

And the coup-de-grace?

  • A fucking subscription?!* Not a lease, not a loan, a subscription. Which means you pay them tens of thousands of dollars and end up owning squat (yes, a lease is the same, but typically payments are much lower to account for that. They’re asking for loan-sized payments here).

*: Pardon my French, but I think it’s warranted for emphasis on how terrible this is.

No Kids, Just Bikes
No Kids, Just Bikes
5 months ago

Looks like a decently-done home build. Cool, but nutso pricing.

CEVette
CEVette
5 months ago

So, I assume the battery is for both propulsion and used as a house battery for the camper.
The appeal of these vans is to get off the beaten path to boon-dock or non-improved campgrounds.
So, in this scenario, a 50 mile range since you can’t charge at the destination?
And, assume no use of the battery as a house battery for the camper…..so now a 35-40 mile range for a 2-3 day weekend?
Seems like a lot of $$$ for not much utility. Not to even go down the rabbit hole of a big battery just sitting around getting no use much of the time?
Seems like a case of yes, it can be built, but why?

Thevenin
Thevenin
5 months ago

Hey, if y’all are on an EV camper kick, you should check out the Potential Motors Adventure 1.

Is it sensible? No, it’s a six-figure UTV you have to tow to the trail.

Did they make an electric Mitsubishi Delica, complete with cabover form factor? Yes. Yes, they did.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
5 months ago

I really want to like the concept of an EV campervan. I really do. But man, this thing wouldn’t make much sense at half the price.

EVs make a ton of sense as commuters, and at least for now, the 2nd car in a family. For some people they even work as a primary car. But man, 100 miles of range for something whose sole purpose is to cover long distances? 125k to live out of a Ford Transit loaded with Ikea furniture and Tesla-style fit and finish?

I want cool camper solutions, but we’re getting to a point where I’m almost rooting for most of these startups to simply go away.

What a waste of batteries this is.

Edit: On top of all that, for 125k, could we at least get a ton of cool windows? Or something else to distinguish the design from just being a eTransit with a bunch of Ikea cabinets stuffed inside?

Edit again: Holy shit I missed the 2300$/month lease option and when going back through the article, nearly did a spit-take.

Last edited 5 months ago by Taargus Taargus
Torque
Torque
5 months ago

With “108 miles of range” Ford’s eTransit works as a Class B RV about as well as drinking your own urine.
Could it be done? Um sure I guess, who would want to? About the same number of people that drink their own urine.

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
5 months ago

$125k for *that*?

That’s a $40k vehicle with $5k of parts and $0 in fit and finish.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
5 months ago
Reply to  Harvey Park

$40k vehicle? I really think you don’t know what anything costs…

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
5 months ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

$50k MSRP. The point still stands. That thing should be $60k, not double that.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
5 months ago
Reply to  Harvey Park

$58k MSRP for a high-roof, LWB extended E-Transit with zero other options.

You honestly expect it to become a fully outfitted camper for just $2k? Get out of here dude.

StayPutReachJump
StayPutReachJump
5 months ago
Reply to  Harvey Park

You’re really off on your costs. Particularly for the build.
There’s at least $5k of baltic birch plywood in this build, the 5 kWh of batteries are probably around $4k, a 640 watt solar system is probably in the $8k range, the plumbing systems (Tanks, heater, pumps, piping, fixtures) I’d guess are about $2k, maybe another $2k for the rest of the electrics (listing, plugs, wiring, sundries), and that Dometic fridge is pushing $2k as well. That’s $23k in just materials, no labor, and I’m probably low on that.

These vans are expensive to build, regardless of what they’re built in, and how crappily its put together…

I’ve built 2 high-end Sprinters, and my costs into the build have come close to the cost of the vans, and that’s even with me doing a sizable chunk of the labor as well.

Chronometric
Chronometric
5 months ago

I really want electric RVs to be a thing. This just illustrates how much they are not. For $125k I want an inside shower, a toilet, and the ability to leave my state.

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
5 months ago

EV? No. PHEV absolutely YES. A PHEV makes complete sense. EV around town, short hauls, etc. Gas for getting to sites, with the gas engine providing recharge to the HV battery overnight if needed. Our Prius and Rav4 hybrids provide power to the house when PG&E kills the power. Could do the same for camping. Other than parking, a PHEV camper would work well for DD around town.

Defenestrator
Defenestrator
5 months ago
Reply to  Knowonelse

Range-extender-style PHEV for a camper would be amazing. Just a little 50HP diesel engine for range or boondocking. Not traveling far between campgrounds? Might be able to avoid using dino juice entirely, or at least only a few gallons. Boondocking? Well, it’ll get you 300+ miles but also only has to run the motor like 10-60 minutes a day to cover all your power needs including HVAC. Cram enough solar in and you could even stay someplace a week and gain a bit of range.

Last edited 5 months ago by Defenestrator
StayPutReachJump
StayPutReachJump
5 months ago

This is the difference between engineers and designers. Sure, it may work (although I really question some of their fixture and equipment selections), but it doesn’t look all that great. Materials are ok, but the execution is a bit lacking (as you noted). The lighting just sucks, sorry. And sleeping crossways like that is going to limit taller people.

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
5 months ago

I’m a design engineer. I design elegant solutions that work. It’s how all engineering design should be done.

This looks either cheap or half-arsed, and as it isn’t cheap…

StayPutReachJump
StayPutReachJump
5 months ago
Reply to  Captain Muppet

Agreed. I’m an architect, and I’m frequently surprised at the times engineers create completely unworkable garbage, but cop an attitude about it because “they’re engineers and I’m just an architect”… Well, it either works or it doesn’t. Its either buildable or its not. That’s the bare minimum. Doing that and making it look good is what separates the just ok from the better.

I get the sense with this build that these former Tesla and SpaceX engineers were so high up on their credentials and former work places, they didn’t realize that dumb nobody people like me and others are putting together better looking and higher performing builds in their own garages than this collage. And just because its in an electric Transit doesn’t make the staples, assembly gaps, cheap cabinet hardware and home improvement store plumbing fixtures any better…

DadBod
DadBod
5 months ago

Man I really want to love this, but no. The interior is awful. I love baltic birch, but it makes more sense to use lightwieght PVC or something and add a veneer. BB is fraking expensive right now, too, so it adds cost with no real benefit.
The stapled vinyl around the shower is not great.
And of course an eTransit is $50K, mathing the rest doesn’t really math.

Speedway Sammy
Speedway Sammy
5 months ago

Last week I took a tour in Scotland in a big Ford Transit passenger van (mfg in Turkey) which was powered by a twin turbo 2-liter diesel (370 lb-ft torque) with a 6-speed manual. I was totally impressed by the power and smoothness. 20+ mpg. Too bad we can’t get something similar in the US.

Brian Ash
Brian Ash
5 months ago

$2300 a month, sounds like a great solution to NYC, SF, etc homeless and migrant housing crisis. 4 can live in this thing, bad news there will be no parking spots left in the city afterwards.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
5 months ago
Reply to  Brian Ash

There are no parking spots now.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
5 months ago

This will do fine for folks in the Northeast hopping from state park to state park. Drive 60-70 miles and get lots of stunning state parks. Plug it into a 15 amp outlet all weekend to eventually get the range back to make the trip back home or to a working fast charger.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
5 months ago

I think you’re overstating how close together state parks with decent camping options are, and also the appeal of packing up a campsite just to make a tiny hop that could be done in an afternoon from where you’re already staying.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
5 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

It’s a thing here to do weekend camping trips within 2 hours of home. Get out of work at 5 and be sitting by the campfire by 8:30. Then pack up Sunday morning, enjoy the park until early afternoon and be back home for dinner.

I have about seven state parks with camping within 90 minutes of me in western NY. Well over a dozen within 2 hours. Access is mainly on slower 2 lane roads. It’s pretty similar throughout much of the Northeast outside of NYC and Boston. Although even there 80 miles or so gets some options.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
5 months ago

I guess it’s just different lifestyles, in my mind, 2 hours is a day trip, 4-7 hours is a weekend, my property backs up to a state forest, if I’m going camping somewhere I want to feel like I’ve traveled somewhere sufficiently different from home. And a lot of the state parks around here aren’t what I’d call destination parks, they’re fine for hiking and walking the dog, maybe a Scout campout, but not really where I’d chose to sit and camp for a few nights

Brian Ash
Brian Ash
5 months ago

Does it come with a gooseneck flatbed trailer so I can tow it to the campground with my F350 diesel dually?

James Davidson
James Davidson
5 months ago
Reply to  Brian Ash

So this is a $125,000 camperized side-by-side. That sounds great!

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
5 months ago

Really a truly great looking camper, not an RV. But I am leery of build quality of those Tesla guys. But I have 2 thoughts on the concept.
1. Who vacations within 100 miles of home unless they are vacationing at home? Frankly is there something fundamentally different or fun inside 100 miles? Or 100 miles a day and one day to vacation?
2. At $50,000 you can buy a decent older house in the country that you want to visit but not actually live there 365. Now these houses like most are sold per square foot. Now my 3 bedroom 2 bath detached garage with a shop on the banks of the Susquehanna 2600 sg ft cost $43,000. That is $16.53 a sg ft. Now a 120 square foot van, being generous at $125,000 is $1,042 a square foot. I say pick a rural area of the country within the range of your EV, and buy what the locals think is daily livable but you city folk think is old fashion. Buy an incredibly affordable house 3 to 4 times the size of your cramped city abode and enjoy the luxury of room. Heck do one of those rental vacation things offering country living and use a local realtor to keep an eye on things. For $40 a local woman would clean it up between guests.

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
5 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

The luxury of room isn’t a luxury if all the room is basic, dated, worn, and ugly AF.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
5 months ago
Reply to  Harvey Park

True it all is about personal preference. I enjoy an older 2500 sgft house with a garage that reminds me of my grandparents. Many bedrooms going out in the porch drink coffee. Hop on the dock and take the boat out. But I guess stuffing 6 people in a minivan that is modern for 3 months. But hey who doesn’t love a modern big 3 minivan design?

Citrus
Citrus
5 months ago

If you’re calling yourself Grounded [to the ground] why wouldn’t you start with a Toyota product?

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
5 months ago

Another stupid “bUt i wAnNa sTaRt a vAn BuiLd cOmPanY!”

The market is over saturated, and saying the old “oh but we have people from Tesla” line doesn’t really reflect well here. Whatever they were doing at Tesla, there is probably a good reason why they aren’t there anymore.

Also, the e-Transit with 67kWh (usable) isn’t going to get 108 miles of range realistically after being loaded with cabinetry, tanks, fridge, personal gear, food, water, humans, dog, and using any HVAC and having any sort of incline/headwind… so … ya know.. like how any fucking RV/Van would be used for camping.

Even with the e-Transit’s upcoming 90-100kWh usable pack, this still isn’t great.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
5 months ago

That’s some serious prototype half-assery there. I’m reminded of the broken drive shaft debacle.

Also, Baltic Birch is pretty heavy. It helps explain the limited range.

And WTF is with the faucet? It’s HUGE (and heavy).

And who thought putting the (worthless) magnetic cabinet doors keeps where they are was a good idea? Please drive only straight, do not brake hard, and only accelerate like a snail.

I could go on. I can’t really see this as a legitimate prototype for sale.

Sensual Bugling Elk
Sensual Bugling Elk
5 months ago

“Our camper van is modular, cheaper than the competition, fully electric, and can be yours today!”

Oh nice, it’s modular. So I can reconfigure it as I please!

“Well no, it’s only modular at the factory. Once assembled, it’s no longer modular. So this is just like every other factory-assembled product on the planet: an assembly of subassemblies. We’ve just misappropriated the term ‘modular’ in the most cynical possible way. Each subassembly just has a cuboidal envelope because hiring a packaging and ergonomics engineer is expensive.”

At least it’s cheaper than the competition.

“Well no, you’re still getting flood-damaged trailer park build quality for small Midwestern house money.”

I guess electric drive trains are neat?

“Have fun fast-charging with America’s public charging infrastructure, a 400V architecture, and less than 100 miles of range at highway cruising speeds.”

Can it at least be mine today?

“Well no, it’s a subscription. And costs more than your mortgage payment.”

Last edited 5 months ago by Sensual Bugling Elk
My Goat Ate My Homework
My Goat Ate My Homework
5 months ago

break things and move fast! You just don’t get it…

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
5 months ago

I get it. If you drive this thing fast, things will indeed break. 😀

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
5 months ago

Yeah, with pessimism like that, we’d have never gotten the Theranos Edison, and look how much good that’s done for the world despite the naysayers.

My Goat Ate My Homework
My Goat Ate My Homework
5 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Too bad we have to wait 11 years for her next great contribution to society. The great minds are always misunderstood. They should be allowed to disregard laws and basic human decency for the better of humankind.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
5 months ago

Oh I so get this. I love seeing houses advertised with custom this and custom that. So I can pick and choose? No it was our custom selection you get what we picked. Custom?

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
5 months ago

I’m afraid it doesn’t matter how well they’ve converted it, 108 miles of range in a travel van is a non starter. I suppose if this is your affordable housing option in silicon valley then you only have to worry about moving it enough to stay off the radar of the local fuzz.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
5 months ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

Well drive it to work and charge. This size who wouldn’t be happy to go to a sizeable office where your farts won’t fill the entire living space. I can see California’s future a big office complex with a parking lot like an RV park but with van sized spaces. The employee parks in the lot and hooks up can go into the office or stay in the van. Work from home make Cali money living in a van down by the Taco Truck.

Thevenin
Thevenin
5 months ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

Yeah, the e-Transit is a commercial delivery van. It was not built for road trips.

I get that there aren’t many choices for electric panel vans right now, but maybe Grounded should wait until they can get their hands on something that suits their use case. Maybe an eSprinter or a Buzz.

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