Season one in
Founder Lewis Nyman looks back and reflects on the first year of business.
Watch the review on Youtube
Lewis Nyman reflects on the the first season of Wild Drive's, and potential for the future of the business.Watch the video
The big numbers
86 out of 133 available
1,477kg vs driving a diesel van
5 and counting
£772 including the delicious luxury hampers
£1,145 a median of £69.44 per booking
£5,782 includes branding, website, PR, and signage
£165 including europe travel
What did success for Wild Drives Season One look like?
Wild Drives was always intended to be a long term project. We're still in early adoption territory for electric camper vans.
The long term aims and objectives of Wild Drives is to push the camping and caravan industry down a more sustainable path. In camper vans we enjoy so much of the nature around us, and we should be preserving this beauty for future generations to enjoy.
The mission for Season One
It's probably worth mentioning at this point that my background is in digital design, service design, and user experience design. I've owned, worked, and lived in a camper van before but I have no experience designing, constructing, and hiring one out. And I've never owned an electric vehicle.
So with that in mind, the goals for the first year were:
- To build the reputation for Wild Drives as a trustworthy premium brand
- To learn the ropes of the business
- Learn how to provide a fantastic holiday experience
I was never aiming for a financially lucrative business in Season One. My rationale was in order to get to this I need to prove the concept to people. I had to show customers that electric campervans are not only feasible but enjoyable and desirable.
Our trip with eve was stunning. She had everything we needed to stay in the wild nature and the cosy interior makes it feel like home. Lewis the owner has been great and helped us with every question we had throughout the trip. Nicholas July 2022
There are a few caveats to the numbers for this first year. There was a lot of pent-up demand to go abroad after years of being stuck at home, so camping holidays were slower than they have been in previous years.
I also launched very late in the year. I bought the van in January, the conversion was complete my mid-May. Before I could get it listed on Quirky Campers, I had to get the gas safe certificate, a weighbridge reading, and a professional photoshoot.
It was live to book by the start of June, and the first booking started on June 29th.
For five months of the year people didn't even know Eve existed! I'm predicting that with a much bigger headstart I'll get a many more bookings next year.
I feel like I undersold Eve in her first year. I didn't have any reviews or any brand recognition so I priced her quite competitively against the diesel vans. I gave discounts to early newsletter sign-ups. I also had a slight panic in July where most of August was empty and ran a short sale paired with some ads on social media. It was super-effective at getting bookings but those booked were below the value of the van.
I've upped my rate for next year and I'm going to hold my nerve and not reduce it unless it really gets desperate.
Analysing the costs
The van: £48,000
The most important consideration for an electric camper van is range. At the time, the E-Dispatch had one of the best ranges on the market, 196 miles.
More importantly, it also supports a maximum charging speed of 100kw. It meant travelers could go much further than 200 miles in a day if they wanted to.
A decent 1000kg payload, a cargo length size of 2.5m, and the award for Best electric van of the year sealed it.
The conversion: £25,188
Eve is an absolute delight to drive. It's modern, smooth, and easy! I really wanted the interior to have the same premium feel as driving it. I also wanted to make it as sustainable as possible.
I found Love Campers, who were local, had converted electric vans before, and their conversions looked amazing!
The design uses a lot of light neutral colors. I didn't know if this would be "quirky" enough to be listed on Quirky Campers but I wanted it to feel luxurious and also feel more spacious as it is a compact van. The bamboo surfaces and tongue and groove woodwork just looks fantastic!
I also really wanted an induction hob. To be able to cook without gas would be a nice feature to offer customers, so I wanted to give it a go. That ended up adding a lot to the costs. The beastly solar panel, battery, inverter, and induction hob cost £3,492 total. I love the induction hob though, it was worth it.
I also wanted heating. We explored electric options but there just wasn't a feasible option out there that wouldn't drain the battery quickly. We opted for gas blow air heating. I didn't want customers to freeze to death! There's no luxury in that. That cost £1,100.
One-off costs: £3,020.37
To get the van ready to hire out, I had to fill it with things to make it livable. Before we go into the details I would like to point out that a lot of these purchases should definitely last for several years, Capital Assets in accounting terms.
They seem like a lot of money because they are, but their cost, like the van, should be spread out of their life time.
It still feels like a lot of money though...
Le Cruset pans: £200 second-hand
These are awesome with the induction hob. They heat up so fast compared to a gas hob and retain heat so well. No regrets.
Le Cruset kettle: £82.50
I had to complete the set didn't I? It looks great. Still no regrets.
It's difficult to handle bedding in luxury, eco-friendly, hired accommodation. I didn't want to get cheap or unethical bedding as that would instantly tarnish the brand.
TENCEL™ is made from sustainably grown trees such as eucalyptus. The fibres come from trees that are harvested from controlled sources following stringent guidelines.
TENCEL™ won the European Award for the Environment for its closed loop production process which recycles water and reuses solvents at a recovery rate of more than 99%.
The bedding from Undercover is really fascinating. Read more on their website
The problem is, because bedding is an add-on item, not a lot of people actually used it. Which is good for short trips as time and cost of washing and ironing is high, but not great for my bank balance.
Driveaway awning: £660
Believe it or not. £660 is fairly reasonable for a driveaway awning, which are no more than tents with a piece of fabric that attaches to the van.
I panicked when a booking came through for a family of four with two sets of bedding; tables and chairs; a luxury hamper; and the pizza oven. And a toaster.
Would there even be room to get in, let alone move around in there? I decided the best thing to do would be to buy and awning, so there'd be extra storage space for all the stuff outside.
They loved it! Two other bookings used it after I bought it. I think I could start doing some opportunistic up-selling close to when hires start.
The big regret with the awning is that it's often used when the weather is wet. So it comes back wet. Wet and muddy. It's pain to dry out. It's a pain to clean. I've upped the rates for it for next year to make it worth the hassle.
Composting bin: £47
I think at this point I must have lost all perspective on how much the pound is worth. I'm not sure I can relate to the person who spent almost £50 on a food waste bin.
In it's defense, it is a good air tight design that prevents any smells whatsoever. I was asking customers to store their food waste in the bin under the bed so I could empty it when they return. It really works!
I had lot of fun picking sustainable products from local business to use in the van and in the luxury hampers. It was fun getting to know local businesses and supporting them.
Including coffees and teas that are actually great, in my opinion, is a really nice touch more hotels and Airbnbs should do.
I was buying a lot of these products at wholesale prices but I wasn't really making any money off them. I gave a few hampers away for free to early customers, because I knew they would probably find the most issues and problems with the van.
Also, I bought 500 individually wrapped bags of tea. Then they arrived in a massive box and I realised how much tea that is.
Electricity included with hire: £1,210.42
At the start of the season I decided I wanted to include the price of electricity in the cost of hiring. This was for two reasons:
- To simplify the charging process, customers wouldn't have to sign up to accounts or order cards just to charge.
- That's what everyone else was doing.
This backfired a bit with the energy crisis. The cost of electricity almost doubled. Some networks now charge a shocking £1 per KW. Because customers aren't paying for it, they don't really need to be discerning about cost.
Needless to say, I won't be doing this next year.
Marketing and branding: £5,782
My original plan for this year was to start with one van, jump on a booking platform, and use it was a test to see if it's a viable business and I actually enjoy doing it. If I did then in the second season I could start to grow it into a full company.
Once I found out the van was going to be featured on national television, I thought it would foolish not to capitalise on this coverage. So I brought in Superhero Studios to design the branding, the logo, and the website. They did an awesome job. I love it and I can't wait to see the brand evolve over the next few years.
So far, the Million Pound Motorhomes episode hasn't really made the big splash that I hoped it would. I think that's partly because it screened in September, which is not peak time for holiday bookings. I only got a handful of bookings after that episode screened.
Who knows, maybe loads of people have it bookmarked for next year?
Reflections on this year
It was a difficult year. At times it was stressful. It was lonely. I wanted to quit so many times.
But you know what? Seeing people so excited, enthusiastic, and happy be on holiday with Eve brought tears of joy to my eyes.
Our leisure time these days is so limited. To take a long break away from work and spend it with loved ones is a rare treat. And I had the responsibility of giving people an amazing holiday. And I delivered that! I'm proud.
Wild Drives is already delivering on it's goal of changing the industry. Eve was the first electric campervan available to hire on Quirky Campers, and now there are four!
It's been amazing to start to calculate the tangible impact the business is having. 1.5 tons of carbon saved is not a staggering amount, but that's only going to increase exponentially year-on-year as the grid continues to decarbonise.
I'm very certain this year was the hardest, as it is for most new businesses. I'm so fired up for next year and I've got so many ideas and plans to make this even bigger and better.
For now, peace and love.
A million thank yous
It's hugely humbling to consider how many people I owe gratitude to for helping me launch tiny business. I've had an overwhelming amount of support.
Thank you so much to:
- My parents, for believing in me and supporting me through the lowest points. The only reason I can take stupid risks like this is I know I'll always have someone to turn to and somewhere to go if it all goes wrong.
- All the friends and family who have listened to me rattle on about charging and plates and towels, and then also had to patience to listen to me moan about how much I hate cleaning.
- All the customers who have taken Eve out for her first adventures. All the feedback and support has been amazing. I feel very lucky to have had such a great bunch of first customers.
- Zach, Laura, and Vic for the brilliant branding work they did.
- Tom for giving me a kick up the ass when I needed it
- Bill for working so hard on the website, especially when I was super stressed and needed it done on a tight deadline. It looks great.
- Karl from the British Business Bank for being a legend and helping me through my loan application
- Clara, Darren, and the team at Love Campers for doing an amazing job on Eve's conversion and the ongoing support they've given
- Lyndsay, David, and the entire Quirky Campers team. Special shout out to Rich for answering all my dumb and obvious questions. Oh and Lauren for writing the copy for Eve's listing page which I love!
- Mark at Wheelbase for showing me the ropes
- Lucy, James, Jamie, Trevor, and Louise for our awesome photoshoot!
- Kat at Redroaster for being a big ball of sunshine
- Fiona, Marta, Jim, and the rest of the Brite/Plus X team for putting on the Pioneers programme which reinvigorated me and reminded me why I started Wild Drives
- Sam Zindel, for his narration of the hummingbird story
- Ashleigh and the Sussex Sign Company for the decals
- The staff at Boulder Brighton for allowing me to sit and use the cafe all day
- All the friends who have lent me a bed or a sofa to crash on. You know who you are.
- Michelle, who I've only just met but am extremely grateful for already.
- Warren, you were instantly supportive from the second I met you
- Lyndsey Clay, who gave me loads of great advice when I was really struggling
- Tom, Bill, and Harrison for organising the London to Brighton EV rally. It was so much fun!
- Anna and Todd for being the coolest customers ever!
- Keelin at Wilsons for selling me Eve!
- Fainche for being there at the beginning, helping me come up with the name and make all the design decisions
- Stuart and the gang at Cinch Storage for being super cool and putting up with my BS
- Debbie Lawrence for being an early supporter and lending me one of your amazing paintings that really adds a lovely dash of colour.
- Vic from Bird and Blend for sorting me out with all those tea bags. Love that Gingerbread Chai.
- Zoey and the team at Bolney Wine Estate for the delicious Bolney Bubbly!
- Toby and the Only Coco team. Check out some of their Christmas bars they look lush.
- Blanka for her beautiful soaps
- Flint Owl - never stop making your sea salt and rosemary bread
Follow our journey
Watch an update from Wild Drives' Founder
Lewis Nyman reveals the future of Wild Drives and the second year of the business.Watch the video