VW adventure RV rides like panel van, lives like off-grid micro-lodge
German startup NEXSD is looking to improve the quality of motorhomes with an all-aluminum construction it hopes will catch on with RV brands. Its motorhome build was one of the most impressive of the countless Volkswagen-based RVs at the recent Düsseldorf Caravan Salon, designed to ride lighter than an actual panel van while offering the space of a semi-integrated motorhome. The "One" prototype shows the prospect of a motorbike-hauling B+ four-sleeper that can be driven to camp with a standard driver's license before spending days or even weeks living autonomously off-grid.
A spinoff of Hamburg-based coach builder and prototyping shop SD Automotive, NEXSD Automotive Innovations aims to create a new category of motorhome by melding the panel van with the semi-integrated motorhome. It's a category we'd usually think of as a Class B+ motorhome/plus-sized camper van, but NEXSD puts a little more emphasis on automotive-inspired construction and styling, building its motorhome module out of an alu-skinned aluminum space frame and styling it like a Transporter van carefully matched to the Volkswagen Crafter cab up front.
NEXSD lists many perceived advantages of its aluminum B+ design, the most critical of which is weight savings. Its 690-cm (272-in) One prototype has an estimated weight of 2,757 kg (6,078 lb) when fully equipped, leaving plenty of payload atop the 3.5-tonne Crafter chassis. The 3,500-kg (7,716-lb) GVWR is critical as it's the maximum allowed under a standard EU Category B driver's license, meaning that the owner of a One-style motorhome wouldn't need to upgrade their license.
The Category B convenience stands in contrast to similarly sized Class B+ models like the 699-cm La Strada Nova EB or the all-new 645-cm Hymer Venture S, both of which weigh enough to necessitate a 4.1-tonne chassis that entails an upgrade to a Category C1 driver's license. With over 700 kg (1,543 lb) of payload, the NEXSD One offers this compatibility without skimping on cargo-carrying capacity.
NEXSD's construction is light enough that a 2,140-kg (4,718-lb) empty One Crafter build, without any interior furnishings, actually weighs over 200 kg (440 lb) less than a 684-cm-long (269-in) Volkswagen Crafter panel van with super-high roof specced with the same 130-kW 2.0-liter turbo-diesel FWD powertrain with eight-speed transmission.
NEXSD also says that its aluminum construction improves crash safety and repairability. Aesthetics-wise, the construction allows for a more seamless continuation from cab to motorhome cabin, creating the look of an integrated vehicle. The aluminum structural components are also recyclable.
For its prototype sample floor plan, NEXSD took advantage of its module's vertical walls in creating a spacious, ultramodern space with close to 204 cm (6.7 ft) of standing height throughout. The four-sleeper interior includes 180 x 200-cm (71 x 79-in) and 185 x 200-cm (73 x 79-in) beds and a dual-bench rear lounge with adjustable pedestal table. The compact wet bath has a shower, vessel sink and toilet.
Across from the bathroom cell, the kitchen block houses a Dometic drawer fridge, flush-top sink and dual-burner induction cooktop. That cooker hints at the powerful electrical system on board, which wires a 400-Ah LiFePO4 battery pack to a rooftop solar array. NEXSD estimates power autonomy at anywhere between three days during a cool Norwegian May to 24 days during a sunny Portuguese July. Onboard diesel, meanwhile, supplies power for the heat and hot water.
With its tall tailgate, the NEXSD One is designed for al fresco dining and easy loading of gear as large as motorcycles or e-bikes. Roll those bikes outside, and the natural walnut trim, ambient lighting and fabric wall paneling are left to create a warm, inviting space out of the cold aluminum shell.
NEXSD aims to be an OEM supplier for motorhome manufacturers, so it's not likely that the One prototype will ever become an available RV. At the very least, the redundancy of the rear dining lounge and front dinette would likely be eliminated and evolved into a more efficient layout. The company stresses that the aluminum construction behind the One, which stands 271 cm (107 in) high and stretches 203 cm (80 in) wide (not including side-view mirrors) as a motorhome prototype, is fully scalable and readily customizable in terms of windows and storage compartments. The vertical walls are conducive to easy floor plan design.