Well before electric camper vans and PHEV VW pop-tops started arriving with some regularity, Scotland’s Campervan Co was busy trailblazing the hybrid RV market with some of the Western world’s most efficient, eco-friendly mini-camper vans. This week, it launched its latest model, the new-generation Eco Pioneer II. Based on a second-gen Toyota Alphard Hybrid van, the Pioneer II gives drivers up to 600 miles of gas-electric range and boondocks as an off-grid base camp that runs entirely on lithium power. Escape to the remotest shadow of the Scottish Highlands and call it home for days on end without worrying about recharging or refueling.
Campervan Co’s latest Eco camper van, the Evolution, is built on the new Ford Transit Custom PHEV, but its original lineup of Eco models relies on “high-grade used vehicles” imported from Japan. The original Eco Pioneer was based on the first-generation Alphard Hybrid produced between 2003 and 2008, and the Pioneer II steps forward onto the second-gen (2008 to 2015) version of the van.
Using an older van model does mean giving up some of the technologies and amenities you’d find in a brand-new van, but the gen-2 Alphard still serves as a highly efficient platform that promises to outperform plenty of newer vans in its combination of fuel economy and range. And if you’re going “eco,” it makes plenty of sense to start out with a repurposed used van.
The Eco Pioneer II is closely related to the Eco Explorer we looked at a few years ago, but instead of a five-seat/five-berth layout, it has a more traditional small camper floor plan designed to accommodate four people. Campervan Co has redesigned its furnishings for the new model, emphasizing light materials to maximize interior space and minimize conversion weight.
The kitchen block sits behind the righthand driver’s seat, stocked with an under-counter fridge and sink with flush-mount cover to match the greater solid wood counter. Instead of the usual inbuilt dual-burner stove, Campervan Co splits its cooktop into two solo induction cookers, one built into the counter and another on a two-way “Omnislide” drawer that can be pulled inside or outside. The countertop cooktop can also be readily accessed from inside or out, so campsite cooks can decide whether they want to whip up dinner in the fresh air or from the warmth of the van cabin.
As the induction cookers hint, one of the foundational building blocks of Campervan Co’s Eco campers is an all-electric camping setup. The Pioneer II delivers with a combination of 200-Ah lithium battery, 150-W roof-mounted solar panel (expandable to 300 W), and 2,000-W inverter. The system is designed to power onboard amenities like the cooktops, fridge and climate control, along with optional or user-supplied 240-V accessories like a coffeemaker, toaster or laptop.
Campervan Co says the electrical system is specced to supply days’ worth of camping power. Should the leisure lithium battery go dead, all campers have to do is spend a little time running the van engine, perhaps while exploring their surroundings.
Helping the Pioneer II reach the kind of off-grid locations where battery and solar power are essential, the Alphard Hybrid base gives it up to 600 miles (966 km) of range on a full tank of gas. Its 2.4-liter four-cylinder Hybrid Synergy Drive offers an estimated 50 mpg, close to a 20 percent improvement over the 43 mpg of the original Pioneer. The van also offers a slight power bump to 170 bhp, standard E-Four all-wheel-drive, and all-electric switching for in-town zero-emissions driving.
“We have created the Alphard Pioneer II so that it leaves no trace in ecologically sensitive areas. Its incredible leisure battery system and green-power provide connectivity and zero emissions, recycling heat from the engine to provide support to the climate control, wherever you are,” says Campervan Co founder and CEO Gary Hayes. “It’s not only at home in the hills, but it’s just as happy in built-up areas, where it also meets the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) standards that are being introduced in many of the UK’s major cities. You can use it one day to do the shopping and take the kids to school and the next be in the remotest glen with power and kit to last you for days on nothing but purely green energy.”
When it’s time to call it a night, the Pioneer II’s A-frame like two-seat rear bench collapses into a double bed. The second bed is located up in the pop-up roof, ensuring the van can comfortably sleep the four occupants it carried to camp. A portable table stores neatly in the rear lift-gate and sets up in the middle of the van between the rear bench and front swivel seat. As compact as the van is, it even manages to squeeze in a standard stow-away toilet — one more way the package keeps the backcountry a little cleaner.
Campervan Co announced the Eco Pioneer II this week and is offering it at prices starting at £39,995 (approx. US$43,450). We’re also glad to see the company still offers its “Tribrid” camper van option, an innovative design that adds LPG drive power to a hybrid system to extend range to 1,000 miles (1,600 km).
Watch the Eco Pioneer II do its thing out in the wild below.
Toyota Alphard Hybrid Eco Pioneer II
Source: Campervan Co