Electric Camper Pulls Its Own Weight, Acts As Powerwall


A green asset year-round.

Dethleffs, an RV manufacturer based in Germany, wowed us last year with its solar-covered camper. Now, it’s followed up on that concept with the e.home Coco travel trailer study at the Caravan Salon Düsseldorf 2018. This pull-behind contains its own electric drive system and battery that takes a load off your hauler and provides owners with benefits year-round by acting as a solar-assisted Powerwall.

Ignore the big leaf decal on its exterior extolling its green virtues and the camper looks like any other you’d see headed to the beach or mountains. However, it’s hiding some secrets. Hidden in the floor is a massive 80 kWh battery, and each wheel get its own 40 kW (54 horsepower) electric motor, capable of producing 347 pound-feet of torque, to help the home-away-from-home pull its own weight. It doesn’t take the entire load off the tow vehicle, but it’s smart enough to maintain a selectable amount of effort. Speaking of smart, it also features torque vectoring — it can vary power output to each wheel — for improved handling. But wait, as they say, there’s more.

Its roof is home to solar panels which complete the suite of practical, but environmentally friendly, features. Taken together, the system can not only vastly extend the range of the tow vehicle by taking away most of the pulling effort but, parked up alongside a house, it can act as a source of backup power, or can be integrated into your solar system.

The drive system in the Dethleffs e.home coco also makes itself useful when setting up your camper. Using its own app, you can maneuver it while it’s detached from the tow vehicle, making it easier to set up in tight or awkward spaces. Brilliant!

Not yet available for sale, the company plans on taking it on the road in 2019 for further testing. There’s no doubt that if it makes it to showrooms the price tag will reflect the increased cost of its hidden assets though, over time, the energy storage system could reduce the overall cost of ownership.

Check out the video (below) showing an animated version of the travel trailer being put through its practical paces.


Source: New Atlas, Dethleffs

Categories: ESS, General, Videos


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19 Comments on "Electric Camper Pulls Its Own Weight, Acts As Powerwall"

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I like the idea of the trailer being powered. It solves a lot of the problems with EV range being cut in half when towing. The other nice thing about this is it could work just as well with ICE vehicles as well. A car that might be too small to normally tow a trailer might be capable of it with this tech.

Exactly! The tow ratings may become complicated if rvs like this start popping up.

Great for re-gen going downhill too.

I had this idea years ago, kinda shocked somebody actually executed on it.

Seems like an awfully expensive, Rube Goldberg kludge to equip a trailer with its own battery pack and EV powertrain just because the current crop of BEVs don’t store enough energy in their battery packs to be able to pull a camper trailer without serious loss of range.

The real problem is trying to use a car which isn’t appropriate for towing. The proper solution is to use a more appropriate car or light truck, not to make an expensive modification to the trailer to deal with the inadequate energy storage of the current generation of PEV battery packs!

I don’t know if it ever makes sense to build EV’s with enough capacity to be able to pull a RV of a distance over 200 miles. It just a lot of wasted capacity that isn’t needed most of the time. This is a solution to the problem. The best solution – don’t know.

I think this is the perfect application of BEV. Motors to help accel, at lights and uphill, and regen braking to save your brakes going downhill.

Plus add 500kw of rooftop PEV and you can refuel while camped.

500 kW of PV? I think that would be about the size of a tennis court! I think this trailer would be lucky to put out 500 W.

But I really like the idea of the trailer hybridizing the car 🙂

Two words: regen braking.

Is an RV trailer ever “cost effective”. They are just a cost and the value is in the eye of the beholder. Adding a battery to only be used only when camping is a bit of a wasted additional cost if you don’t travel much, but is no cost if used in place of a Powerwall for your home when not traveling. The electric motors may be hard to implement as described and add a fair amount of expense that don’t really help much unless it extends the tow capacity of the system.

Nice idea, but the cost of the battery alone is going to be cost ineffective…

But using it as portable backup power has appeals for certain events.

I’ll take “how to make a little camper obscenely expensive” for $500 Alex.

Or buy a Tesla semi, modify it to be a motor home and attach your Tesla in the back

Cool, but would it ever be possible/allowed to tow it with an i3 as in the image?

I think, the idea is great, but the battery should be between 10 and 20kwh with maybe 1kwp of solar, as in most cases you have a plug and a low demand of power when not driving (except air-con) and the trailer could as well recuperate and work in the fashion of a hybrid setup.

With a bigger and more expensive battery many vehicles will get in trouble when the heavy trailer is completely discharged. As well drivers might not be used to handle that mass anymore as they get used to the active support by the motors.

If you could use it to power part of your home that would be awesome as otherwise it is a waste of materials and pretty bad for the environment

A very good idea. The last part of the video shows it being connected to the house for energy storage. But there is a problem: some super villain has figured out how to levitate large chunks of land. Spider-Man where are you?

I’ve had my old Airstream Bambi for 18 years, there’s been some traveling but it’s mostly been a spare bedroom/office/garden art. My tow vehicles have ranged from a dually pickup that couldn’t tell I was towing anything, to my present “04 4cyl Tacoma, that could make a 100 mile trip if it was done carefully.
What I’d like to contribute is that when pulling something around, the weight is important for handling but more important is the longest wheelbase for the tow vehicle as possible. My ’83 LTD wagon was plush and heavy but the short wheelbase meant fancy sway bars and caution was required, so I’m not sure how a smaller car would handle this, even with modern electronic stability controls.
If offered with a variety of battery sizes, tied into my home solar panels it would be great (if there was a miracle and it didn’t cost millions of dollars).

I think the way this would work is it would almost appear as your not towing anything. It said the tongue weight is only about 200 pounds. You could argue in theory this wouldn’t even need to be physically connected to your vehicle – platooning.

precisely. the controller electronics is an interesting problem; ideally there wouldn’t even be a hardware connection between the vehicle and trailer, the trailer would just literally drive behind you.

would that be cool or what?

Love the concept but only a small niche market will pay an extra $10 k I expect.