Skip to main content

I turned my van into an office with a battery-powered AC and heat pump

Like a lot of remote workers, I know I’m lucky to be able to work from home. I have a home office with a comfy leather chair, a skylight, and an oversized doofus of a dog, Marty, who reclines adorably on the couch behind me for Zoom meetings. But I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit I go a little stir crazy from time to time, yearning to work from somewhere other than the same place I eat, sleep, and relax.

How about a van? I bought my 1990 Mitsubishi Delica for camping, but it always seemed like it could serve as a mobile office with a view, if not for one critical shortcoming: For nine months out of the year in Portland, it’s too cold, and for the other three, it’s too hot. Without adding thousands of dollars for a battery power system, my best bet was heavy socks and gloves. But EcoFlow gave me a glimmer of hope at CES 2023 when I spotted the EcoFlow Wave 2. With an onboard battery, it promised to heat or cool anywhere, no external power system needed.

So could it turn my Delica into a comfy mobile office? I welcome a good challenge, so I took my review unit and loaded it into the van, along with my laptop and a Thermos of coffee, and headed down by the river – literally – to dabble as a vanlifer.

An EcoFlow Wave 2 air conditioner and heat pump inside a Mitsubishi Delica van.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Down by the river

Look, nobody said staying comfortable in a glass box would look cool. Since the Wave 2 needs to both draw air in and puff it out, it requires a maniacal-looking tangle of tentacles that vent to outside air to work properly. While EcoFlow includes a foam rectangle with cutouts for the tubes, it was far too small to fit my window, so I spent 30 minutes with a box cutter and gaffer tape to custom-fit some cardboard. My final install ended up looking a bit like something you would build in StarCraft.

Lest you think this janky-looking setup would alarm my beachgoing compatriots, you haven’t been to Portland recently. At the parking lot, I ended up sandwiched between a couple of biker bros who rolled up on Harley Softails to smoke weed and a blonde lady in a GMC Denali who spent the whole time shouting into her phone or flossing with her door open. Neither of them tried to tell me about their startup, so I still considered my new digs superior to a coworking space.

A Mitsuhbishi Delica van parked at the Columbia River.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Reclined in my swiveling captain’s chair with a view of the Columbia River, I fired up the Wave 2 and got to work on my laptop. Though I had imagined using it in heat mode on a 58-degree spring day, the afternoon sun blasting the Delica’s greenhouse-like design left me sweltering as soon as I parked, so I flicked on the AC instead. Fifty-degree air pumped out the louvered vents in just a few minutes. To my surprise, it was so quiet, nobody even noticed on video calls.

Opening all the windows would have truthfully been a more reasonable way to keep cool, given the outside air temp, but I had committed to suffer for my gadgetry, so I sealed myself in and cranked the AC.

Though it’s rated to provide 5,100 BTU of cooling, which should really be enough for a small room, the Wave 2 struggled to keep up with the sheer amount of sunlight enveloping the van, and temperatures hovered around 78 degrees. In short sleeves, I was perfectly comfortable, but it wasn’t really what I imagined for such a cool day.

Impressive battery life

What was admirable was the battery life: Though the app predicted three hours of runtime under my nonstop use, the battery reached 1% and proceeded to inexplicably keep ticking for another 45 minutes. It was either a miracle fit for the Torah, or poor battery prediction in the app, but I have to admit I was happy for the extra time. Since I started my experiment after lunch, it got me to the end of the workday, but you’d really have to augment this thing to get eight hours of nonstop operation. The Delta Max 1600 would probably be the best pick from EcoFlow’s catalog, but any solid portable power station with over 1kWh of capacity would probably do the trick, by my estimates.

To test the heating function, I headed back out on an overcast 49-degree afternoon. My van started at 67 degrees (remember all that glass) and the Wave 2 worked its way up to 70 in less than 5 minutes of pumping out air that reached 105 degrees at the louvers. Since it was no longer fighting a relentless battle with the sun, it even managed to cycle on and off, keeping my space perfectly habitable.

We don’t yet know what the Wave 2 will cost, but considering the last-gen version goes for $1,500, we can rest assured it won’t be cheap. But there is literally nothing else like it right now. The previous-gen Wave doesn’t do heat, and any other heat pump solution would require a massive wiring project. Plus you could use this thing in a tent, a yurt, or just in place of a window air conditioner in a room that doesn’t get cold enough with your home HVAC.

After returning to a toasty warm van in a spring rainstorm, I think I could get used to this whole “van office” thing. I just need to build a bed for Marty.

Editors' Recommendations

Nick Mokey
As Digital Trends’ Managing Editor, Nick Mokey oversees an editorial team delivering definitive reviews, enlightening…
Best grill deals: Summer savings on gas, charcoal, and pellet grills
People grilling outside.

Warm weather is here, and so is grilling season. Now is as good a time as any to set out in search of one of the best outdoor grills, and it’s never a bad time to keep an eye out for a discount on one as well. Whether you’re a grilling beginner ready for some burgers with the family or a seasoned pro looking to host summer gatherings around one of the best smart grills and smokers, we’ve tracked down all of the details you need to land a deal on a grill that’s right for your needs. Read onward for more details.
Everdure CUBE charcoal grill — $150, was $199

The Everdure CUBE charcoal grill is a unique little grill that can truly go almost anywhere with you. It’s lightweight and only 17-inches long, yet still can handle almost any grilling challenge a griller on the go could hope to throw at it. It has a built-in heat protection shield and chrome handles that remain cool while cooking, and the removable charcoal tray offers easy cleanup when you’re finished at the campground or on the beach. Wherever you intend to do some grilling this summer, the Everdure CUBE charcoal grill is a great option as a copilot.

Read more
Speed up your daily commute with these e-bike deals
ENGWE EP-2 Pro e-bike right side shot next to an unmowed field.

The best electric bikes have come a long way in recent years and we don't just mean in terms of the miles you travel. With technology changing quickly, there are also an increasing number of electric bike deals around and we've picked out some of the very best. Electric bikes are a great way of getting around more easily and without necessarily needing to use as much stamina as a regular bike. Below, you'll find fantastic e-bike bike deals from many different retailers. There'll be something for every need here. Let's take a look at them.
Jasion EB5 Electric Bike -- $430, was $750

With a 350w brushless motor, the Jasion EB5 Electric Bike can achieve a top speed of 20 MPH with a range of up to 25-40 miles per charge. It has four working modes with a PAS mode where the motor assists with a moderate amount of power as you pedal, along with a Pure Electric Mode, a Pedal Mode, and a Booster Mode where the bike assist on hills and anywhere else you might be struggling. 26-inch puncture-resistant tires provide excellent durability while there's a high-strength front fork suspension, Shimano 7-speed gears, dual lights, and an LCD display. The latter offers controls for adjustable backlight brightness with one of five levels, along with mode controls.

Read more
Jackery graduates from pioneer to sustainable master with latest launch
Jackery 2000 Plus used outdoors while camping

This content was produced in partnership with Jackery.
In 2012, at a critical time when sustainability efforts were ramping up everywhere, Jackery was born. The prevailing vision behind its creation was to provide accessible green energy to everyone. Years later, in 2016, Jackery launched the world's first outdoor-friendly portable power stations, and soon after, introduced the world's first portable solar panels. They would change many lives for the better but also transform an entire market that's now dedicated to green, sustainable energy solutions. Today, over 11 years later, Jackery is still going strong, and getting ready to launch one of its most advanced products to date, the Jackery Solar Generator 2000 Plus.

Ideal for outdoor applications, portability, and emergency backup usage, the Jackery Solar Generator 2000 Plus delivers some incredible features that honor Jackery's original mission -- "to make green energy accessible anytime and anywhere". More importantly, it offers safe and reliable power independence for all, thanks to a combined software and hardware defense system, which we'll explore in more detail below, and industry-leading fast-charge technology to get you working, playing, or back in the game as quickly as possible.
Learn More
 
Advanced technology for a better anywhere experience

Read more