Lots of folks like to tow a camper (AKA a caravan in Europe and the UK) when they go on vacation. But towing anything behind an electric car can seriously affect range, especially if there are hills to climb along the way.
Earlier this year, my colleague Jesper Berggreen published a comprehensive article on how towing various camping trailers with both a Tesla Model 3 and an Audi e-tron effects the range of each. In both cases, lugging a trailer along behind cut the range of the tow vehicle by about 40%. But let’s be clear. Towing a camper cuts the fuel economy of a conventional gasoline-powered vehicle by about 30%, according to BoatUS.com.
So let’s not pretend conventional cars are not significantly affected by towing a camper or a ski boat. The difference is that a gasoline-powered vehicle may have up to a 20-gallon tank, so it can still go pretty far in tow mode before it needs to fill up. Most EVs start with a shorter range, so adding a trailer has a larger impact overall.
The E.Home Self-Powered Caravan
Dethleffs, a German manufacturer of caravans, has a possible solution. Its E.Home camping trailer is equipped with two 40 kWh batteries and two electric motors each rated at 30 kW of continuous power (45 kW max). The batteries are contained within an inner frame, while an outer frame houses the inverter, charging unit, and control unit. There’s a protective honeycomb crash structure at the rear, and the company tells Green Car Reports it has completed various simulations for stability and reliability.
The batteries plus drive system add about 1,320 pounds to the weight of the trailer, but there are plans to cut the weight to about 880 pounds in the production version. By comparison, the Audi’s battery pack weighs 1,573 pounds. The E.Home can provide power for other camping needs and it can also support solar cells on its roof. It can be charged at up to 7.2 kW on AC and is compatible with 50 kW DC fast charging.
Developed by ZF, the E.Home powertrain features regenerative braking and hydraulically-actuated disc brakes. The Trailer Mobility Control unit is programmed to only add enough thrust to maintain a constant towing load on the tow bar. It also detects and compensates for crosswinds and cornering.
Last month, Dethleffs towed an E.Home caravan 240 miles on a route across the Alps behind an Audi e-tron Sportback with an EPA range rating of 218 miles without charging. The electric camper provides an acceleration equivalent to what the e-tron would have without the trailer hooked up. It should be pointed out that the pace on the mountainous route was leisurely. It took the team more than six hours to make the journey and the batteries in the Audi and the E.Home were nearly depleted by the journey.
How Big A Battery Do You Need?
The E.Home offers a possible solution to the dilemma many people have when it comes to towing campers, ski boats, and other vacation items. Does it make sense to get a bigger, thirstier, more expensive vehicle just for those one or two weeks a year when you need it? Obviously, if it is your daily driver, you are paying for more vehicle than you need the other 50 weeks of the year and paying more for fuel as well.
The E.Home is perfectly happy to be towed behind a conventional car, which could allow drivers to have a more efficient vehicle for daily use and still get to their favorite campground in the summer. The side benefit is the E.Home can power the lights and a few accessories if you prefer to be off-grid while on vacation.
No prices have been released so far and the E.Home is not yet approved for use on public roads in Europe. There is no word on whether it might be available in North America. It is an intriguing concept that could appeal to lots of drivers, especially those who don’t want to drive a big pickup truck or SUV all year round. If gas prices continue to rise, the E.Home could be a serious alternative for many people.
It could also be the perfect vacation companion for those who decide to purchase a new Ford F-150 Lighting or other electric pickup truck and want to use it to tow the family camper on holiday excursions. It makes sense on so many levels, it could be the perfect solution for many families, if the price is affordable.