Checking Out European E-RVs at Caravan Salon 2023

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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.

The Build-Your-Own-ERV-From-Scratch

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!

James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.

    11 thoughts on “Checking Out European E-RVs at Caravan Salon 2023

    1. Graham Smith

      While it is a bit crude at this point, I think Knaus may have the best idea (electric with aux generator) for a longer range eRV – if they can make it work. There’s a company in CA working on a sort of hybrid delivery truck that mates an electric chassis with a mid-range battery and a hydrogen powered engine/generator. Of course, refueling is still the biggest hurdle for all the alternative fuel vehicles.

    2. Michael

      James, I just read a post regarding Volta’s response to your analysis of your new 12v system compared to their 48v system. One key statement was missing from their response. The Volta representative never stated if their system met or exceeded ABYC standards.

    3. Michael

      Great read! IMO, we are at least 10 years out from having the infrastructure to fully support EV’s in general, let alone EVRV’s. Our National Parks’ electrical grids are old and need of a massive overhaul just to meet our current needs. Case in point; we are in Colter Bay and the park experiences ground faults do to the lack of basic grounding. The power needed to operate and charge an all EVRV park is well beyond what our current infrastructure is capable of producing. Until battery technology significantly improves, EVEV’s are not a viable option in the USA.

      On a different note, if the US imported RV’s designed to meet our needs, one of two things would happen, US manufactures would be forced to improve their quality or they would go out of business. The same thing that happened to the auto industry.

      1. James - Post author

        You’ve hit on one of the biggest roadblocks to large-scale EV-RV adoption – the infrastructure build-out.
        Many campgrounds we’ve visited can barely handle the non-EV loads today. A future where everyone is charging both their vehicles and (large) house battery banks at the same time would be a real challenge!

    4. Ian F

      Pretty cool. I think EV caravans have a better chance of working in Europe where travel distances tend to be shorter and it seems like they have more extensive public services (dumps and water stations). Although the Knaus version with the generator definitely has promise.

      While I am definitely considering an EV as a daily driver. None of them quite meet my needs yet – which is basically an EV minivan. So far, the Pacifica eHybrid is the closest.

      1. James - Post author

        Hybrids are interesting. They were a thing for a while, and then, suddenly, the entire industry seemed to leapfrog right over them.

    5. John Turpel

      Hey FitRV just dropping a note to let you guys know I your videos. it’s great to see all the caravan options available around the world. I wish we had all the Japanese and European options available here in the States.

      1. James - Post author

        Glad you like our content!
        We did run into a number of North American RV manufacturers and representatives there at the show. Many of them send folks to Caravan Salon to gather new ideas.

      1. James - Post author

        The floor plans and design options are awesome. But I think most North Americans would quickly miss air conditioning, microwave ovens, and (in a lot of cases) even televisions.

        Super fun to look at and get inspiration though!


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