Oregon Man Will Meld Tesla Model S and VW Stretch Vanagon

By · December 06, 2013

Otmar Ebenhoech, an Oregon-based designer of electronic devices for electric cars, has two passions: camping and EVs. So it was only a matter of time before he combined those two pursuits to create the world’s first Tesla-powered Supercharge-capable Stretch Vanagon.

Ebenhoech told PluginCars.com that he will maintain all the characteristics and functioning of the Model S—so that it remains compatible with Tesla’s high technical standards—but add a camper body on top.

Two Parts of the Stretchla, Model S and Stretch Vanagon

The Tesla Model S, shown below, will take on features of the stretch camper above.

The Right Man for the Job

As he chronicles in the first post of his blog launched last week, Ebenhoech has been traveling in camper vans his entire life. In fact, he was brought home from the hospital as a newborn in his family’s 1965 Transporter. Ebenhoech, who for about a year in 2005 consulted with Tesla Motors, has also been converting cars to run on electricity since childhood. That pursuit began at age 12 when he constructed a wooden go-cart—steered with a broomstick handle and powered by a Delco generator wired as a shunt motor.

So, if anybody can make the so-called Stretchla a reality, it’s Mr. Ebenhoech.

He took his first EV camping trip last spring with his battery-powered Porsche 914. The only problem, as he writes, is the limitation of about 100 miles of range—not a good solution for reaching his favorite winter camping location in Death Valley.

Then, when driving on Interstate 5, returning to Oregon from California, the TDI engine in his Stretch threw a connecting rod through the block, and the idea hit him like a ton of bricks:

“I’ll buy a Tesla Model S and graft it onto the bottom of the Stretch. Sure the Vanagon brick-like aerodynamics will give less range and efficiency than the slick Model S, but I’ll get a powerful electric drive system with a huge battery, free Supercharging and an amazing dashboard to boot. No, it won’t be easy. So far it looks like the most difficult modification I’ve attempted.”

This could mean more than 200 miles of range in an 85 kWh battery pack, with the capability of fast charging to about 50 percent of the pack’s capacity in about 20 minutes. And, of course, nicely appointed sleeping quarters. “I don’t see a bus in the Tesla roadmap,” he writes.

So, since the demise of his Stretch’s engine, Ebenhoech has been looking for a wrecked Model S at auctions. Bingo! He found exactly the kind of post-crash Tesla he was looking for, as he describes it: “2013, 85 kWh, Active Air, Tech, Pano, 19″, Obeche, Black Leather and Jump Seats.” The only thing missing is the dual-charger option that can double the rate of charging.

As of last week, the Model S that will become the heart of the world’s most bad-ass all-electric camper is on its way from New York. Ebenhoech expects to be driving (and camping) by Spring 2014.

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