A question was put to me today in the iTechworld store in Perth.
"What do you think is the future of RV travel?"
Its an interesting thought as the transportation industry is being flipped on its head by taking two of the most basic essentials—the driving experience and fuel—out of the equation entirely.
Self-driving vehicles and rechargeable technology is changing the landscape of driving. That market has been expanding beyond everyday vehicles with advances in things like electric-powered semi trucks. We have also seen the rise of the tiny home market, where solar panels and other green technology is often utilized. Motorhomes have been largely left out of this discussion. That’s for understandable reasons. A vehicle synonymous with the wide-open road (and, inherently at odds with the idea of frequent EV charging stations) has no obvious place in the electric market. Until now.....
Having a few minutes spare time I quickly had a search on Google about the future of RV's and came across something that our very efficient German friends have developed. The company responsible, Dethleffs have come up with something quite remarkable but at the same time something that seems so obvious. An electric motorhome built for the open road, with a sleek design and covered head-to-toe in solar panels. This gives us an electric vehicle that is not dependent on charging stations as the solar panels keep it powered.
The “e.home” was on display at last years Caravan Salon Düsseldorf 2017 throughout September. The marketing team at Dethleffs were cheeky enough to announce it just in time to steal the thunder from Volkswagen’s Kombi van announcement. Clever.
Keeping a motorhome and all its components powered up requires an extensive amount of energy as we all know. To meet that requirement, Dethleffs has covered virtually every inch of the e.home with solar panels, not too dissimilar from the iTechworld 100w flexible solar panel. The RV is built on the company’s Iveco Daily Electric chassis with a 107-horsepower electric motor. The motorhome would have a range just shy of 100 miles if it wasn’t covered in solar panels, but it is. Those babies can make up to 3,000 watts of electricity for its huge battery bank. In other words, you’re all going just keep going and going and going.
The cabin is fully fitted with all of the amenities of a modern motorhome, with all electric appliances, several sleeping areas, a kitchen, a bathroom, etc., but also includes some cutting-edge components that are aimed at increasing the efficiency of the heating system and augmenting the privacy and comfort of the residents of the e.home. By incorporating "latent heat accumulator plates" made with a phase change material that can absorb excess heat and store it to be released after the sun goes down, and by integrating infrared heating elements in the floor and furniture, the e.home is designed to feel cozy to the occupants without consuming excessive amounts of electricity. Two different applications of a foil-based technology, in both the lighting and the windows, one of which allows for "a bright planar light" inside the cabin, and the other enables the windows to be "electrically dimmed" for both sun and heat protection as well as for privacy.
Dethleffs has added some 31 square feet of thin-film solar cells to the exterior of the e.home, creating a 3 kW (peak) solar array and adding a little bit of energy autonomy to the e.home. However, there's at least one major issue with the solar array, which is that it's on all sides of the vehicle, so no more than half of it can be exposed to direct sunlight at any given moment. Perhaps that's intentional, as it would allow some solar electricity gains to be had during the day no matter which direction it's facing, but there's no indication of what the average solar output from the array is, nor how long it would take to charge the e.home battery pack from solar alone.
The Dethleffs e.home concept vehicle isn't for sale, and there are no current plans to put this particular model into production, but it is being used to showcase the future of electric mobility in the caravan sector, which might be coming sooner than expected.
Living in Australia this would seem ideal as the conditions are perfect for this type of vehicle, the only real thing I would be worried about is how hot the solar cells would get on the outside. Exciting times ahead. Our light weight flexible solar panels are already in use around Australia today. Check them out HERE.