The big question is whether the market is now ready for the all-electric caravan. Knaus Tabbert certainly thinks so and has launched no less than 13 layouts in two model ranges – the Sport and the Südwind
Much has changed in our industry in the last few years to make the all-electric caravan an attractive proposition. Firstly, more campsites than ever are offering 10 amp or 16-amp hook ups on their pitches, especially in mainland Europe, where most of these caravans are expected to sell. It’s not so long ago that 6 amps was the norm, with 10 amps if you were lucky.
Many of today’s caravanners want all their home comforts whilst away and this has inevitably led to a demand for more power. At the same time campsites have been standardising on the European 16-amp rated CEE17 hook up connection and taking the opportunity to upgrade to 10 amps, if not the full 16. Secondly, weight has become much more of an issue, especially for the increasing numbers of those who passed their driving test after 1st January 1997. They are limited to train weight maximum of 3.5 tonnes and it’s a figure that can easily be reached, especially if you have a heavy towcar. Weight is also a big issue for hybrid and all-electric towcars, many of which are not even homologated for towing. Thirdly, ease of use. Having to maul and change heavy gas bottles can be a positive chore, especially if you have to go a long way for a replacement. Also, the Covid pandemic has attracted many newcomers to our industry and, if we are to keep them, we need to make using a caravan as simple and easy as possible. Eliminating gas goes a good way towards that. Eliminating gas also means that the fridge can be a much lighter (and less expensive) compressor type.
Two models are offered, 98 litres and 150 litres, depending on the available options. The water heater can be simpler, lighter and cheaper too. Knaus’ solution is to use the Truma Therme, although it’s just used in the 230-volt mode, rather than also taking heat from the blown air system. It’s compact, efficient, lightweight and simple – just what the doctor ordered for this type of caravan. Cooking comes courtesy of a two-burner induction hob. Such devices are light, very efficient and easy to clean – perfect for any caravan where 230-volt power is available. With an all-electric caravan there is always a worry that the pitch fuse will be tripped through overloading. Knaus has thought of that one and has a two-pronged solution. The main consumer of electricity in a caravan is normally space heating. However, instead of a conventional heater, Knaus has chosen the Dometic FreshWell 3000, under bunk air conditioning unit, which can be used for both heating and cooling. When used for heating it is particularly efficient, producing nearly three times the energy (2500 watts) it consumes in electricity. This make it especially useful for those situations where the electrical supply may be limited. The heat output can be further boosted to 3000 wats by using the inbuilt 500-watt heater. The FreshWell comes with a remote control making it very easy to operate. The other prong of defence against tripping is the smart energy control system. All you have to do is set the fuse protection in amperes to that given on the pitch. It then ensures that the electrical devices are automatically controlled according to demand and the available power. To this end they may be regulated, prioritised, switched off or added, to keep the current draw within the set limit. With the best of planning there may always be the odd night where you want, or need, to camp without a hook up. Fortunately, Knaus has thought of this and come up with a rather novel solution, albeit it’s a €399 option, and not offered as standard. In partnership with German power tool manufacturer Einhell, Knaus has produced a power package that runs on a 6Ah lithium battery pack from a power tool. When no hook up is available power is fed from the battery into the 12-volt system. Apparently, there is enough power to supply the lighting, water pump and compressor fridge for one night, hence Knaus is referring to it as the ‘one-night stand system’. When power is restored, the battery is automatically recharged. Another option for caravans up to a body length of 5 metres is electric floor heating. This could be a good choice for those wishing to use the caravan in sub-zero temperatures, when the air conditioning unit will struggle to produce any heat. Alternatively, the Truma E-Kit can be specified. This boosts the warm air system courtesy of two 900-watt electric elements.
Removing LPG not only makes for simpler operation and maintenance it creates more space and allows for a greater payload. It’s also very much in tune with today’s drive to reduce CO2 emissions. Knaus could be onto a winner with its E.POWER models. Time will tell.