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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
The following is the description of my quest to build the ultimate car camper - the Volt-abeago. I've provided the basic instructions below, complete with the option for full stealth mode. Updates have been made to this post along the way.

Before we start, I have a confession to make. I actually bought the Volt because I wanted a great car to use on long road trips. Driving in pure EV mode around town is nice -- I'll never go back. But having a car with an air conditioner that runs on battery power -- oh baby... that is sooooooo sweet. :cool:

There have been a few previous threads posted about sleeping in a Volt, so, I'm not the first person to have such a crazy idea.
As a bit of background, my wife and I have done a bit of camping in our 4x4 pickup. We purchased a used camper shell and built a platform in the back so we can cram a bunch of camping gear in the drawers underneath and sleep on the platform above. Even in pouring rain, we're tucked away safe and sound. The were only two drawbacks:
  1. The lack of A/C, especially in hot and humid locations.
  2. 18MPG Highway.
The Volt is an attractive answer to both of those issues. While it's not as spacious as the pickup, it's larger than our backpacking tent. But can you really sleep in it?

Turns out that with the rear seats down, the front seats pulled forward and folded forward, you get 76" x 40" of sleeping space. At 6'4", that is exactly the length I need. Much to the amazement of the salesman, I tried that out during the test drive.

Me: "Have you ever tried laying down back here?"
Salesguy: [Looking a bit confused] "No, I can't say that I have."
Me: "Let's see what we can do... I bet I could fall asleep back here."
Salesguy: "You want to sleep in the car during the test drive?"
Me: "Just a quick nap, if you don't mind"​

Actually we just measured it with a tape measure, but that's not nearly as good of a story.

They only problem is filling the void between the front seat and the rear seat. Here's what I've found to be the optional solution.

Instructions:

Step 1: Push the front seat(s) all the way forward. Tilt the seat(s) all the way forward.



Step 2: Remove the rear seat bottom and fill the void.

As you might have noticed, the rear seat won't fold fully flat without removing the rear seat bottom. Fortunately, that's an easy fix. Just lift straight up on the seat bottom with about 10lbs of force. There are three metal clips on the seat bottom that fit into the white retainers you see in the picture below. As long as you are pulling up, you won't break anything.



The gap between the rear seat and front seat can be filled almost perfectly with a milk crate. [Note: Ignore any warnings you may see on the picture about the legality of being possession of said milk crate. It's been with me since my freshman year of college in 1985 so I'm sure the statute of limitations are long over. ;)]

Actually, you can buy milk crates new for $15.

Step 3: Lay the rear seat down.

In my 30 seconds of trying, I could't figure out how to remove the rear seat headrest, so i just tucked it inside the milk crate. Problem solved.

Edit: The headrests do come out. Here's how. With the headrest removed, the milk creates can still be used to store clothes or other stuff. Just transfer from the rear hatch area to the rear seat gap when making room for the sleeping area and closing the gap area.



Step 4: Extend the platform.

The rear seat panel that comes with the VoltShelf works perfectly to lay on top on the milk crate. You need to remove it anyway, so this is the perfect place to put it.

If you don't have a VoltShelf, you could cut a piece of 1/4" plywood to fit over the milk crate or go without.



Step 5: Lay down a camping mat - or two.

Any standard 20"x72" camping pad will work. For ultimate luxury, the 3" Therm-a-Rest LuxuryMAP Sleeping Pad in the regular size fits perfectly. Since the rear hatch area is 40" wide, two pads will fill the entire backend. If sleeping single, you can stack them for twice the cushion.



Step 6: Power up and snooze in comfort.

If you are near a power outlet you can charge all night while also enjoying the climate control. To activate the climate control while charging, turn the car off, plug-in, then turn the car back on. The Volt will not charge if you just leave the car powered up and plug in. If you are away from power, the A/C (or heater) will run to the point you are out of battery power, then the generator will run for about 5 minutes to recharge the battery, then shut off. Even with the engine only turning on periodically, I would recommend pointing the car into the wind just to be safe from any chance of carbon monoxide being pulled into the cabin.

Note: If you have a 2014 or newer Volt, GM added a 150 minute timeout that will power the car down. This solved the problem of people accidentally leaving the car on, but became a pain for those who wanted to leave the car on for camping, using as an inverter, etc. The timeout can be easily defeated by clamping the shift lever button closed (as if you were going to shift out of park) with a small clamp or rubber band. Here's more detail on that trick.

Optional - Full stealth mode.

Ok, so you feel a little strange about camping out in the Whole Foods parking lot during the middle of the day. That's where you need to go into stealth mode.

I used craft paper to make a pattern for the side and rear windows. Using that pattern, I cut out window inserts from that silver bubble insualtion you find at home improvement stores. That has just enough stiffness to cram in the windows openings and say put.



The next step is making one side black so you are as stealthy as possible. I used inexpensive broadcloth from the fabric store. You'll need about 2.5 yards. Cost is about $3 a yard.

Using spray adhesive, spray one side of the window cover and lay it down gently on the fabric. When dry, cut the fabric to release the completed unit.



Once installed, the windows just look tinted from the outside. Nobody would be the wiser. The added benefit inside is a well insulated Volt-ebago. The silver also reflects a lot of light so you'll find it very bright inside with just the interior lamps or a LED tent light.



Miscellaneous Tips:

What if you have some time to kill between appointments or need a remote office while on the go. The Volt-ebago has you covered here too. I've often sat in the passenger seat and have plenty of room for typing out emails and such. If the Volt is in sleeping configuration there is enough room to sit up and lean against the back of the front seat like a recliner. Both work well.

Bonus for Volt Shelf owners: If you leave the VoltShelf installed, it works like a little table. You can put an iPad up there and watch a movie with bluetooth streaming to the Volt sound system, or use it for eating, a desk, whatever. And... the rear cup holders are in the exact right spot for a cool beverage and a cooler can sit in the other seat beside you.

The Urban Camping post has instructions on how to open the rear hatch from inside. Flyingsherpa made a simple tool to open the hatchback from inside. Note: If you do use the rear hatch, be sure to unhook the VoltShelf lifter cables or it will dump your stuff. I just use the side door for ingress/egress.

Conclusion

So... for the cost of about $30 - $50, you too can have yourself a fully equipped Volt-ebago. :cool:

You won't find a more economical car for a road trip to a national park than the Volt-ebago. At 40 MPG's it is one of the most fuel efficient ways to travel. It is far more comfortable than a tent at a campground and requires almost no setup or take down. In stealth mode, you can also camp at places that would't normally be options, like in a parking garage with a charging station or at a trailhead that doesn't have camping spots.

I work at a university 420 miles from my home. About once a month I need to go to the office. If I start getting drowsy, I'll pull over (ideally at a charging station) and take a quick nap in the front seat. Other times, I've gotten stuck at the office and couldn't leave in time to make it home by midnight so I've slept the night in the back. It only requires a milk crate (or two) of space to bring it. For me, it really adds to the value of having a Volt. So much versatility beyond being the world's best commuter car.

Happy Camping!

 

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I did lie down in the Volt during one of my two test drives.

Salesman said he'd never see anyone do that with any car, which I found odd
 

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Nice to know the tricks to do this should I ever need to. Love the windows!!!
 

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Nicely done! Now, lets find out something to replace that milk crate.
I'm thinking Scarlett can craft a mini camper shelf with fold out legs to the back of the rear seat panel to completely eliminate the need for a milk crate.

The next trick would be to build a pop up tent which attaches to the open hatch to gain a bunch of living space. It removes your stealth mode, but would be great at a camp site.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I'm thinking Scarlett can craft a mini camper shelf with fold out legs to the back of the rear seat panel to completely eliminate the need for a milk crate.

The next trick would be to build a pop up tent which attaches to the open hatch to gain a bunch of living space. It removes your stealth mode, but would be great at a camp site.
Actually, camping that way works extremely well. RV spaces have 110 and 220 available, so you can charge up, run the A/C, etc. Here's an example of just such a tent.



For my application, I just needed something I could use on long road trips without needing to find a hotel. There is a plug-in at a hospital about halfway. Perfect for me and nobody thinks anything of a car parked overnight at a hospital.
 

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Such great ideas!
 

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Well done!

Love the window blinds. Do you have any trouble with them falling out of position? Perhaps some Velcro patches with adhesive backing could be discreetly positioned on the Volt interior trim to hold the cloth panels in place.

Can you set this up for two people? Will the driver's seat go far enough forward for the milk crate to fit? Of course you'd need something like another volt shelf panel to put on the second milk crate.
 

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This is really kinda cool. Love the tent. I had never thought of it but an electric vehicle does work like an electrified RV. Have you thought of using Clarkson's connection's kit which would give you 120v so you could run a few small appliances?
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
Well done!

Love the window blinds. Do you have any trouble with them falling out of position? Perhaps some Velcro patches with adhesive backing could be discreetly positioned on the Volt interior trim to hold the cloth panels in place.

Can you set this up for two people? Will the driver's seat go far enough forward for the milk crate to fit? Of course you'd need something like another volt shelf panel to put on the second milk crate.
No problem with the side window shades staying in place. They fit perfectly. I cut them about 1/4" wider than the actual window so there would be a small amount to compress and help hold in place. There is also a bit of a lip where the window slides inside the trim, so that also helps. The front window uses the regular window shade and it fits well with the sun visors down. Get the jumbo version at Wal-Mart or someplace and trim some of the extra from the sides. I offset mine a bit to compensate for the black box behind the rearview mirror.

The rear window is almost horizontal and therefore a bit trickier to defeat gravity. The shade will hold via friction alone, but I don't think you could slam the hatch shut and have it stay in place. I use two 1/4" x 1/2" pieces of wood trim to hold it. I think it was $4 for a 8' piece at Lowe's. I've seen others on the forum use two wooden yard sticks. There is a gap between the window and the plastic surround that allows for a baffle (trim/yard stick) to slide inside. Alternatively, the rear window could also use suction cups or velcro if you wanted to go that direction as well.

Edit: I ditched the wooden strips and put 4 small suction cups on the rear shade. The cups stick crazy well on the glass but not on the back dots. Make sure you locate the suction cups to fit below the dots. They work great.

Yes, it does it sleep two, plus a small dog between you. The other side just needs a piece of 1/4" plywood to set on top of the second milk crate. Use the Voltshelf divider as a guide (it's the perfect size). You might want to cut small piece to cover the rear console holes or purchase a Volt-T from Scarlett. Sleeping two does require that you transfer your bag of clothes and stuff to the front seat and front floorboard area, or place it on the VoltShelf above you. The seat pocket on the back of the front seats will hold glasses or whatever when you are in the sleeping configuration.

We're avid backpackers so we're accustom to packing a weeks worth of stuff in a small sack. As long as you keep this minimalist mentality, there is more than enough room for two people, their gear, and food. If you start hauling around giant Coleman lanterns and cast iron skillets, you'll run out of space.

I got started thinking about making a drive to Alaska. You'd get 40 MPGs and never need hotel. The campgrounds have showers, picnic tables, and power to recharge each night. It would be an awesome adventure.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
This is really kinda cool. Love the tent. I had never thought of it but an electric vehicle does work like an electrified RV. Have you thought of using Clarkson's connection's kit which would give you 120v so you could run a few small appliances?
I have not (yet) but it's an excellent idea. For me, in the south, A/C was the killer feature.

If you are at a campground, the chances of 110 nearby are good. If not, you can make your own.

With a tent and open hatchback, you would have gobs of space, endless A/C, and 110 (via converter). No need to transfer everything from the car to the tent either - just work out of the hatchback. When moving on, collapse the tent, toss it and the sleeping bags in the hatch and go. That would be a pretty sweet way to travel.

I imagine with a car tent and perhaps a roof carrier, you could camp with a family of four. Sleeping the the hatch is strictly a two person endeavor.
 

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This is awesome! Thanks for the description and photos. I had already been considering sleeping in my Volt, and knew about removing the rear seat bottoms, but in testing it out I had realized that even at an angle I couldn't fully stretch out in back without either my head or feet hanging in the air.

I was actually going to buy a piece of plywood and cut it to the right size and shape to fill the space, but the Milk Crate is an awesomely simple fix! I also happen to have a couple of 'borrowed' milk crates from many years ago (well past the statute of limitations, I'm sure!).
 

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Discussion Starter #14
For those nights when you don't need A/C, the Magna Screens work great. We fabricated some for the pickup with left over plastic solar screen material. Scarlett needs to make some custom fitted for the volt. :)
 

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What about the lights?

How do you get the "always on" lights and day runner lights all turned off?

I probably could get this answer from the owners manual, but thought I would ask anyways...
 

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I always thought the tent attached to your car was rather silly. Why?

I use the sleeping pad in the hatch method quite a bit. I usually stuff something into the passenger footwell to fill the gap between the folded rear seat and the front seat. The milk crate is a great idea and it can serve as a storage container at other times. Thanks for the tip. :)
 

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Hey saltsman - thanks so much for greatly improving on my "Sleeping in a Volt" post a few months ago!
 

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This is too awesome! I just showed this post to my wife. This is how we are going to spend our next camping trip :D
 
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