Neuron electric camper van and robo tiny home aim to disrupt travel

With enough battery capacity, one day electric mini-campervans might be able to power all their equipment (i.e. heater, cooktop, water pump, entertainment equipment) off a single vehicle battery and some solar panelsNeuron EV

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It’s getting hard to keep track of all the electric vehicle startups these days. Which is just as well because it’s inevitable some will never be heard from again. California-based startup Neuron EV stands out from the pack of easily forgottens. In preparing for a formal world premiere next month, it’s been slowly introducing some promising ideas and smart designs that aim to redefine transportation. It’ll have to convince us that its forthcoming electric SUV is any better than the many others out there, but outside-the-box concepts like a modular camper van/pickup truck and autonomously-driven glass tiny home are, so far, without equal.

Some might say that 2019 has been a lot like 2018, but not Neuron. After forming in 2017 and studying the evolving transportation market closely, the company hit the ground running earlier this year, weaving a barrage of hardware teasers into a greater automotive vision of a modular, multipurpose all-electric mobility system that will eventually be fully autonomous (and maybe even kind of fun). It’s released no less than eight press releases since May detailing general and specific product plans.

Both the MET (left) and STAR can be outfitted for different tasks with various rear modules
Both the MET (left) and STAR can be outfitted for different tasks with various rear modules Neuron EV

Neuron’s latest introduction came last week, when it showed modular electric truck designs in mini and medium-duty sizes. The smaller truck goes by the name STAR, which is sadly the most evocative name in the Neuron catalog. Neuron describes the STAR as a multipurpose micro truck, and at its most basic it’s a compact pickup. In addition to performing pickup duties like hauling lumber and furniture, the STAR can accommodate various rear modules, including a cargo box and camper van cabin.

The camper van module is where Neuron steps beyond the “just another nobody with an EV rendering” phase to … well, the “just another nobody with a really cool EV camper van rendering we’ll remember past next week” phase. The van cabin docks neatly up against the STAR cab, creating a a cool, little mini-campervan shaped something like a reimagined VW T3 or third-generation Mitsubishi Delica (the 80s had some damn cool vans). A near-vertical face rises up to a windshield that angles its way into a horizontal roofline extending straight back to the edge of the vertical cliff of a rear-end.

Cruising the beach in the next-generation surf camper van
Cruising the beach in the next-generation surf camper van Neuron EV

The STAR brings back the timeless van box that the auto world desperately yearns for in the age of basset hound-joweled Ducatos and towering, top-heavy Transits and Sprinters. The VW-inspired two-tone color scheme only adds to the nostalgic appeal, while the tinted wraparound windshield, long panoramic side windows and full-width lighting modernize it to the EV standards of today. Rugged tires hint that Neuron has an all-terrain design in mind, likely with 2+ motors delivering all-wheel drive.

Those seeking an easier ride and a more semi-permanent form of mobile living might find another of Neuron’s early design studies of interest. The Multipurpose Autonomous Platform (we warned you about those names) is a self-driving electric skateboard chassis that can accept all kinds of compatible modules, from standard shipping containers, to vendor kiosks, to temporary residences. Neuron shows that last one in the form of an attractive, little glass living room.

If a camper van feels too cramped and automotive, perhaps you'd prefer a little glass living module on top of an autonomous skateboard
If a camper feels too cramped and automotive, perhaps you’d prefer a little glass living module on top of an autonomous skateboard  Neuron EV

Rolling out cool renderings and flowery press releases is one thing, but if Neuron wants to hold the world’s fleeting attention for more than a split second, it’ll have to do a lot better. It’ll take the next step at next month’s International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, where it plans to reveal its two latest vehicles: the Electric Utility Vehicle (EUV … ugh) and Electric Semi-Truck (also ugh). Its press releases are rather vague, but its website mentions pre-production prototypes making an appearance, so we expect it to be a first look at actual physical Neuron vehicles.

Neuron better make its reveal something special. If not, it’ll be but a brief flicker of light toward the edges of the long, thick shadow cast by Tesla’s much-anticipated pickup truck, also debuting in November. Making that e-camper van one of the pre-production prototype reveals could be just the ticket. We’ll find out when CIEE starts on November 5.

Source: Neuron EV