Byron Bay is now home to one of Australia’s first all-electric VW Kombi vans, thanks to the know-how of ex-aircraft engineer and Kombi hire business owner Alex Bosin.
Originally from Germany, Bosin and his wife Brita have made a passion out of Byron Bay’s reputation for alternative lifestyles and as a wedding venue, hiring the classic campervans to brides and grooms, and overseas visitors alike.
Now, Bosin is combining that love of the “hippy” and “new age” culture which more or less adopted the Kombi (known in the US as a Microbus) as its own in the 1960s, and for which Byron Bay is so well known, with the desire to do it in zero-emissions style.
Bosin’s Kombi conversion bridges the gap between his experience as an aircraft engineer and his love of the Byron lifestyle.
“I’m a mechanical engineer by trade and worked for German airline Lufthansa as a senior engineer and used to do quite a few customer-specific modifications on big government aircraft,” he tells The Driven.
“After we came to Byron Bay and had kids, we wanted to stay in Byron so built up our business, and I fully restored a few Kombis.”
“Now, my engineering background is kicking in again, after going back to Germany and seeing what’s happened over there with the EV transition.
“I have studied solar and always had a passion for renewable energy, so now it’s all coming together.
“I also have a passion for classic cars and I came to the idea of doing a conversion,” says Bosin.
At first Bosin planned starting with an electric Beetle (such as Energylab’s Nick Lake’s red electric Beetle which you can read about here). But, he says, it was far too nice to take apart, so he turned to a Kombi instead.
“The Kombi fits with Byron lifestyle – you can go to the beach in it, take the kids to town, or I can drive it to the workshop,” says Bosin.
After one and a half years, the conversion project is complete and more than just a vehicle for day-to-day drives (Bosin says that even with its current range of 80km, which he is intending to increase to 150km, he does actually use it daily).
“I see it as investment, because that’s what I see with all my Kombis. It’s a sustainable car – but you also no longer have the maintenance, the noise of the engine, and complicated mechanics,” he says, explaining that with its brushless motor and regenerative braking there are almost no maintenance costs.
He says that he doesn’t miss the dack-a-dack of the original drivetrain one bit – instead, it’s a nice, quiet drive.
“I’m starting to enjoy my car again,” he says, adding that he will be making it available for hire also.
“We want to show awareness and where we can go and what we can do (with electric mobility), so people can experience this style of driving around in a classic car,” he says.
“I think will have it forever.”
This story has been updated to correct the Kombi’s drivable range to 80km.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.