Dethleffs puts a new spin on towing with an electric camping trailer that nearly drives itself
Last year, Dethleffs shook up the motorhome world when it debuted the E.Home concept, an all-electric motorhome covered in solar panels. At that very same Düsseldorf show, it revealed the curvy, lightweight Coco caravan concept. Fast-forward a year, and Dethleffs has smashed those two concepts together to create the E.Home Coco, a small, stylish concept trailer with a floor-mounted lithium battery and a dual-motor axle designed to decrease towing demands, add mobile power capabilities and provide handling advantages on the highway and at camp.
An all-electric motorhome makes immediate sense, even if the battery technology isn't quite there to make it more than a concept just yet. Replacing a loud, emissions-spewing gas engine with a quiet, emissions-free electric powertrain sounds like a much better way to get out and camp in nature. But a caravan doesn't have an engine to begin with, so why would you suddenly add electric motors?
Dethleffs believes that adding electric motive power to the otherwise passive camping trailer makes sense for a number of key reasons, so it's integrated a lithium battery skateboard-style into the E.Home Coco's chassis. At 80-kWh, it's no small auxiliary pack – it has more capacity than the the base-level Tesla Model S. The battery sends power to the electrified axle, which puts a 40-kW motor at each wheel. Solar panels on the caravan's roof help keep the battery charged.
The critical advantage of having a caravan spin its own wheels is cutting down the tow load on the vehicle out front. The E.Home Coco's intelligent control electronics manage the electric motors and cut the effective weight on the tow vehicle to a predefined number. So instead of towing, say, 2,000 lb (907 kg) worth of trailer, the tow vehicle is effectively towing a much lower amount of weight, which Dethleffs puts at 220 lb (100 kg) as an example.
Cutting the tow weight means that even a small vehicle with limited towing capacity can pull the E.Home Coco to camp. It also means that an electric car won't experience the devastating range cut that it would otherwise experience when towing a big, heavy trailer.
Each of the E.Home Coco's motors is capable of producing up to 347 lb-ft of torque, and the trailer is equipped with a torque vectoring system that can independently vary the torque delivery at each wheel for improved performance and stability.
The electric powertrain also helps out upon arrival at camp, and the E.Home Coco can maneuver under its own power, rather than requiring the vehicle to tow it into place. Using a smartphone app, the driver can easily park it into the designated camping space.
A large-capacity battery and roof-mounted solar panels could prove quite useful at camp, running standard electrical equipment like LED lighting, optional add-ons like air conditioning and heating, and accessories like tools, coffeemakers, blenders, etc, all without the noise or emissions of a gas generator.
Eventually camping season ends, and the typical trailer begins months upon months of taking up space and collecting dust. Not the E.Home Coco, which is designed to work the entire year. Dethleffs imagines it being hooked up to the home grid, its battery serving as a backup power supply or an active part of a solar system.
The E.Home Coco is part of Dethleffs ongoing research into more sustainable RVing. The company plans to test its effectiveness at cutting strain on the tow vehicle in the first half of 2019.
A pretty stylish, little trailer in its own right, the (non-electric) production Coco is on show right next to the E.Home Coco in Düsseldorf. We'll be taking a closer look at it in a forthcoming article.