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A few months ago, we had the opportunity to test-camp in Winnebago’s all-electric E-RV2. It was our first experience in an electric vehicle (let alone an all-electric RV), and we learned a lot. Fast-forward to Caravan Salon, the world’s largest RV show in Düsseldorf, and I thought it would be interesting to see what the Europeans are doing when it comes to all-electric RVs. This video is the result, enjoy!
While I’ve seen (and written about, for RV magazine) some of the more ambitious attempts by European RV manufacturers in the world of E-RVs, those tended to be more technology trials or show pieces. What we saw at Caravan Salon were a lot more practical and down-to-the-road approaches. We didn’t see, for example, self-propelled travel trailers (though they have made them). What we did see boiled down into a few kinds of examples, which you’ll see in the video.
German builder Knaus had the most ambitious offering we saw (though I’m pretty certain it wasn’t for sale). They had taken one of their standard motorhomes, gutted the Fiat Ducato chassis, and built their own electric-drive system in partnership with HWA. The vehicle did have an internal combustion engine in it, but that engine was only to run a generator for battery charging – it did *not* drive the vehicle directly. They were then able to tap into that same battery bank to run the house loads, which did seem to be all electric.
In a lot of ways, this reminded me of Winnebago’s first E-RV, which took the same approach to building a chassis. In Europe, this makes a lot of sense because the RVs there are much more weight-conscious than what we have in North America. This has to do with a variety of regulations about who can drive what. Against that kind of backdrop, allocating the weight for two distinct battery banks just isn’t in the cards, so the one battery bank makes a lot of sense. Of course, you also have to remember that European RVs usually don’t have the power hungry appliances (air conditioners, microwaves, etc.) that North American RVs do, so it’s all a bit more practical.
Travel Trailers Take Baby Steps
Like motorhomes, travel trailers in Europe are also lighter than their North American counterparts. The regulatory environment hasn’t caught up with the idea of self-propelled RVs yet, so an all-electric travel trailer pretty much just means getting rid of the propane, which is easy enough to do. And again, remember that these RVs won’t typically have air conditioning or microwaves, so the battery power requirements are much less than you’ll find over here. We found some travel trailers (caravans) also from Knaus, that had embraced their all-electric future.
For the most part, this seemed to be a pretty simple transition, since their goal for boondocking seemed to be spending just one night disconnected. The one thing that wasn’t clear to me was heat. What will these propane-less travel trailers do for heat? In the current iteration, I can imagine people bringing space heaters along to ensure comfort in cooler weather. But the battery power to run an electric heater all night is not something you’ll usually find in a European RV, so it remains to be seen what these trailers will do for four-season comfort.
The Transition is Easier for Vans
We did see some vans there that had gone all-electric. For the most part, these seemed to be van-builders that had models built on, for example, a Ford Transit. They took these same floor plans and just ported them over to an e-Transit platform. We tried asking the representatives at the show how far they had gone toward truly integrating with the e-Transit vehicle, but with the language barrier and a busy show, we didn’t get very far.
The one piece of information we did get was that the e-Transit we show from MTC had a 100Ah house battery bank – the same as their non e-Transit variant. This told me that beyond the basic change from the Transit to e-Transit, they hadn’t made many other changes. So while there was, for example, an induction cooktop in the van we saw… you’d have to be plugged into shore power in order to use it for very long. They didn’t seem to have done any work to update their charging capabilities either.
Car Campers are REALLY a Thing Here
We saw a LOT of car campers at Caravan Salon – far more than you’ll see at any US or Canadian RV show. These very basic RVs are short work to convert to an all-electric model, as usually it’s just the chassis that has to change. We show one pretty good example of this in the video, but there was a whole hall dedicated to smaller campers like these! You won’t get bathrooms in these, and you typically won’t find much beyond a bed and a basic galley. But if you’re weight constrained, and want to build something quickly on an all-electric platform, these are just the ticket.
And that’s sort of the state of all-electric RVs as we saw them at Caravan Salon this year. I’m sure this will change as time goes on. If you have any questions, feel free to sound off in the comments below and we’ll answer them as best as we can.
Thanks for watching!