The Story of PlugVan
PlugVan was founded in 2017 after visiting the world's largest camping fair: Why do so many people buy camper vans (99.5% diesel!) and then use them only a few weeks a year for just one purpose? Why don‘t we convert existing empty vans into camping buses when needed - and back again? In this way, even commercial vehicles from everyday working life could become the perfect camper at the weekend! The solution: a complete separation of interior and base vehicle - a mobile camper box that fits into every van! The idea for the PlugVan camper module was born!
Back in Berlin we unpacked the tools and started building the first model: a simple wooden frame with a folding chassis. Still a bit provisional, but it seemed feasible to us now. With this first version of our take-away extension, we sat down with TÜV, DEKRA and other industry experts and discussed the concept in detail. Then we got the „GO“ and we started developing our idea of the (camper) box in the car.
What was already possible in our minds, now had to be tested in reality: After the technical discussions, we began working with a motivated team of product designers to transform our ideas into a real product. With a prototype, we wanted to show that it is possible to design a self-supporting camper box with a fully-fledged motorhome extension for any panel van in the 3.5-tonne class. This camping extension should be easily and quickly loaded into an empty panel van and removed again by one person only. It was also important that no changes on the vehicle had to be done for this. For the individually configurable interior and design we also wanted to stand out from previous camper offers: high-quality materials, an appealing feel and fresh colours! We had quite a lot of demands and started the construction with full conviction. Our first prototype was completed in time for the CMT 2019 trade fair.
The first trade fair appearance
One of the largest holiday fairs and caravan exhibitions is the CMT holiday fair, which takes place every year in January in Stuttgart. Here you can get inspiration for your next dream holiday: from destinations, to tent novelties, to camper innovations, there is plenty to discover. CMT 2019 - that's where we had to go with our PlugVan prototype! A perfect stage to present our concept to the travel enthusiastic audience. The visitor were impressed of the idea and the design of the PlugVan camper modul: "finally something innovative". In this article and video you can get an impression of our first trade fair appearance:
FROM PROTOTYPE TO SERIES
At the fair we received many suggestions, ideas and improvement requests from the visitors. After the trade fair, it was now up to us to incorporate these wishes into the series production. For example, the bed length was extended to exactly 2 metres to further increase the sleeping comfort in the PlugVan camper box.
Even before the trade fair, it was clear that we would be optimising the weight of the series. Since then we have been making constant improvements in this respect. It was also already clear that we should be tested by an established testing organisation, particularly with regard to load securing and the loading and unloading process. This has been done so far and we have found a renowned partner for this.
After the fair was before the fair: CMT 2019 was really successfull for us and we started the new year with many new suggestions and implementing the first ideas. IAt the end of 2019 we didn't just stick with a prototype: we had a revised camper module with a new chassis and a basic equipment, a workshop module with the possibility of forklift loading and our do-it-yourself kit in our workshop hall.
PlugVan at CMT2020
Except for the diy-kit we presented all PlugVan products at our booth at CMT 2020 and there was a lot for visitors to discover and to try out. Because we did not only travel with our Plug-In modules and a VW e-Crafter, but also presented our PlugVan Connect system. On an interactive presentation wall the visitors could familiarize themselves with our smart control system for camping vehicles (PlugVan Connect).
Our highlight took place right at the beginning of the fair week: We won the European Innovation Award in the category "Sustainability". Why? Because the most sustainable vehicle is one that is not built, or as Newatlas calls us: „best camper van without the van“.
After we successfully kicked off 2020 with the CMT, things continued just as exciting and interesting: We delivered our first modules to customers and toured through Germany with our camper module during our roadshow in the summer. Interested person were thus able to take a close look at the PlugVan in many cities. Our modules also made several kilometers across the country border in different directions: Frank Eusterholz drove with a VW e-Crafter and our camper module from Hamburg to the North Cape. Our latest workshop module even stopped by the Eiffel Tower on its way to France. You can find photos in the gallery. We were also happy about a growing team: since fall 2020 Luise, Julia, Tim and Rene are on board with us. At the end of the year, we were also very pleased with numerous publications in print and online magazines.