Last summer, we quit our jobs and converted this cargo van into our first real home on wheels. Since last October, we are living and travelling in it, during this time we went from Hungary all the way to Morocco, Africa and back to Europe. This little cozy mobile home was our perfect little nest, and we are very sad we have to say goodbye to her as we need to start the next phase of our lives.
The van (called Debella), which is a Peugeot Boxer 2.8HDi (made in year 2000) was mostly converted by us (I’m an architect) with a lot of care, designed and implemented by using simple, discrete and low-tech principals. The vehicle itself does not grab any great attention, as it looks like a regular cargo van from the outside. This discretion is visible within the interior through desaturated tones, few colors, large connected surfaces, loose spacing and simple materials. Three pieces of furniture create the interior: the couch, which can function as a double-bed, has the electrical system and storage underneath; the kitchen-unit which hides the gas cooker and cylinder, sink, and water tank; the L-shaped cabinet, where the lower part is for sitting, has a fridge inside and a storage space above.
Balancing low-tech methods, the materials are chosen with different assets: some industrial-made but preferably green. To elaborate, OSB is applied for the interior surfaces, while MDF and reclaimed wood are used for the furniture. On the other hand, the insulation is considered to be the most technological layer — where 5 cm of PUR-foam is blown directly on the van’s body.
The mobile home has a complex 12V electrical system which can be charged in three different ways: with the 250W solar panel placed on the roof, the engine’s generator, and a regular 220V socket. It has 200Ah capacity of batteries and a smaller 220V inverter. Both gas and water systems are quite simple to use. There’s a 11kg gas cylinder connected to the cooker, while a 70-liter water tank is connected to the tap with a pressure-sensing pump. An extra connection makes it possible to take a fast shower behind the van.
The design got attention from some design magazines online, e.g. Designboom, Curbed, Weburbanist, Treehugger, Trueactivist, Humble-homes, Inhabitat, Demotivateur, Klonblog, Veo Verde, Dizajnmagazin and others.
Peugeot Boxer 2.8HDi
year of make: 2000
power: 128 HP (94 kW)
fuel consumption: 8,5 – 9 L/100 km
mileage: 341072 km
it has ABS and power steering
registered in Hungary (part of EU)
approximately 3,2 m x 1,75 m (6,3 m2), height is 1,83 m
insulation: 4-6 cm blown PUR foam
inner shell: OSB, jute canvas, cork sheet, laminated floor
furniture: reclaimed pine wood, MDF sheets, IKEA work desk
bed size: 195 cm x 137 cm (works well for two)
net weight of van without conversion: 1960 kg
net weight of van with conversion: ~2800 kg
maximum weight: 3500 kg
40×40 skylight, windows on back door
it has a roof rack
2 x 100 Ah 12V leisure battery
250 W solar panel
MPPT solar charger 20A
SW 150VA pure sine inverter
CTEK MXS-10 battery charger (so system can be charged from 220V grid)
Dual-80 split charge relay (so system can be charged from engine if running)
Waeco Coolfreeze CDF-18 fridge and freezer
LED lighting (reading lamps, ceiling, kitchen)
sound system (amplifier, bass, 2+2 speakers, head-unit with Bluetooth, mp3, cd, …)
2 x 220V sockets (to charge normal things: laptop, phone, camera, etc.)
monitoring for the system
11 kg gas cylinder (it can be replaced or refilled)
3 burner gas stove
Fiamma water tank 70 liters
Fiamma Aqua 8 pressure-sensing water pump (7L/min)
Fiamma A20 pressure equalizer
sink with tap
hose for showering behind the caravan
unique made gray-water tank under the van 27 liters
(only cold water)
condition of the van
Before we started our journey, everything was checked and replaced if needed so we wouldn’t have any problems – we didn’t so far. The van itself is very reliable, in good condition and works very neat. There are only two minor problems: 1. the back doors got a small hit from a tree, so they don’t close properly – it is better to fix it, but can be used like this. 2. The engine has an electric security system, which supposed to cut the fuel pump in case of a collision. For some reason, it is too sensitive, so sometimes it turns on randomly, and slows the van down. This disappears after a few minutes and also if you stop, there’s a button in the engine bay which turns it off. This is only a comfort problem, not serious or dangerous, but probably it is better to fix it later.
Also there are plenty of equipment included in the van: plates, tools, extra wheel, alarm system, pillows, sheets, storage boxes, kitchen equipment, useful gadgets. Almost everything we used for the conversion has been bought new and had (or still has) guarantee on it.
price: 11,900 €
This home is perfect for a couple who wants to travel around Europe and Morocco. It is well tested, carefully built and was loved very much, we already miss her. Debella could be used immediately or after a few weeks of work you can add some personal touch and modify it easily to your own taste. You could see more about our journey on the blog or our Facebook page.
Other important things
We lived (and still live) in the van, so all the things are tested, all the mistakes are now can be seen. There are just a few, which needs some repairing, but only minor (and mostly aesthetic) problems occurred, which can be easily solved with some work. The photographs in this post mostly were made after the conversion, so some problems can’t be seen on them but I could list them and take more photos. We can also show photos of the conversion work itself if interested (here is the short story).
If you are interested, please contact us and we can tell you all the details, show you everything, explain, etc.
We are still on the journey, so the van is now in Portugal, but soon we will be in Spain, France, then Switzerland, probably Germany, Austria and Hungary again. If you are interested in buying, we could meet on the way and we are okay selling it there on spot. The price is negotiable.
Thank you for reading!
Norbert and Dóra