Knaus concept caravan controls light with adjustable smart glass window
Just a few months after we looked at the multipurpose Deseo 400 TR camping trailer, one of our favorites of 2017, Knaus is back on the show circuit with the equally impressive Travelino Skyview Concept. This light, compact caravan slides a tint-adjustable picture window between campers and the great outdoors so they can enjoy a restful night of sleep behind dark glass before waking up to clear, clean views of the sun mountain-climbing up the craggy horizon.
The Travelino itself was a concept just a few years ago, showing how light construction techniques and innovative sliding and folding equipment could create a small caravan that lives much larger. Knaus eventually reworked the Travelino concept into a production model, packing it with enough innovation to call it a revolution in caravanning.
Knaus' revolution focuses on lightweight design through new materials and construction processes. That means the Travelino does away with wood and traditional caravan frame design and relies on a self-supporting FibreFrame; fiberglass walls, roof and structural elements; expanded polypropylene (EPP) furniture; and a weight-optimized micro-galvanized chassis with torsion rod spring axle.
Knaus explains that the self-supporting nature of its FibreFrame frees up interior design possibilities as the furniture no longer has to contribute to the structural integrity of the greater caravan, paving the way for more varied and flexible interior layouts. Knaus also frames the lightweight construction techniques as a way of ensuring new mobility solutions – such as electric and hybrid vehicles – are able to effectively take over for larger, more powerful ICE-driven vehicles.
The Travelino was the first model to use these new materials and techniques when it was introduced in 2016, and the aforementioned Deseo followed as another chapter in the lightweight "revolution."
With the Concept Travelino Skyview, which was on display at the recent CMT show in Stuttgart, Knaus is exploring a new way of making the small Travelino feel even larger and more open. The concept caravan features a large "skyview" front window made with electrochromic glass with an infinitely adjustable tint.
Occupants use a simple button to adjust the glass, and the particles within it align to allow more or less light in. So the occupants can set it to the darkest setting when they want some privacy or sleep, turn it transparent when they want crystal-clear views of the outdoors, or set it somewhere in between to fine-tune the amount of light flowing in without completely blocking off the window with a shade or curtain.
This type of "smart glass" window technology has been advancing and expanding in recent years in a variety of applications. In the automotive market, Mercedes-Benz has its Magic Sky Control roof technology, Continental has expanded switchable glass from the roof to the car windows, and just this month, Fisker showed a quad-zone tint-adjustable roof on its EMotion electric sedan.
Research Frontiers, the company whose SPD-SmartGlass technology underpins not only Knaus' Skyview window, but also Mercedes', Continental's and Fisker's efforts, says the window technology's advantages go beyond merely adjusting light levels, also acting as an effective thermal barrier. The darkened windows keep heat out to maintain a cooler interior while decreasing reliance on the air conditioning system. The company says the tinting can be controlled with a switch, dimmer dial, smartphone app, voice control or automatic light sensor-based adjustment system.
Knaus admits that the Skyview option is only a concept for now but suggests it could work on vehicles beyond the Travelino, perhaps an upmarket caravan or motorhome like the Boxdrive or Eurostar. The company previously played with the idea of adjustable glass on its forward-looking 2013 Caravisio concept, which featured rear doors said to adjust between clear and frosted at the touch of a smartphone app, the frosted glass serving as a projector screen.
The production Travelino may not offer a large, fancy electrochromic window option just yet, but it does appear to be a cozy, versatile trailer option made for easy towing. The four-sleeper weighs as little as 1,650 lb (750 kg) and includes a kitchen with dual-burner stove, 80-liter fridge and sink, integrated LED interior lighting, a bathroom with toilet, and more. The bathroom takes inspiration from the original concept in using a multi-panel door and fold-away sink to contract when not in use, freeing more interior living space. The Travelino starts at €18,499 (approx. US$22,800).
See more photos of both the Concept Travelino Skyview and the production Travelino in our gallery.
Source: Knaus Tabbert