Today’s motorhomes are not the same as they used to be: if we compare the products of the 2020 season with those from 2005, or even 2010, we can realize there has been an important evolution.
Words Andrea Cattaneo
We often underestimate the extent of the changes that have taken place in the camper sector over the years, but if we compare the products of the past we can see the changes that have taken place. Today’s campers are not the same as those of a few years ago, and it is not necessary to go back as far as the 1990s to highlight the changes.
We have tried to take a brief look at the historical evolution that has occurred from, roughly, 2005 to today using some prominent models as examples. Changes have not only occurred in building methods and plant engineering (including electrical systems), but also in the type of product, especially certain sectors of the market; for example, think of the decline in the bulky overcab beds and the evolution of camper vans, as well as the rise in semi-integrated models with drop-down beds. We’re going to start with five very different models from five different brands: we will continue our analysis in the next issue.
Mobilvetta has always tried to link its image to good design and Italian style: from the Euroyacht of the early millennium to the current K-Yachts TeknoLine and TeknoDesign, there have been several changes and in the middle there are the experiences of that jewel that was the Nazca, presented at the end of 2004, and the first K-Yacht in 2009.
Frame: from the standard version of the Fiat Ducato chassis, they moved on to the special, lighter version and the AL-KO chassis was offered an alternative.
Construction: from polystyrene walls and fir frame, they moved on to the extruded polystyrene panels with closed cells (water proof) and a plastic frame. There has always been a double floor on its new motorhomes.
Cabin: previously, the cabin was manually layered fiberglass and had two doors, which consequently impacted on the weight and interior space. Now there is only one door and a combination of fiberglass front and sandwich panels have been adopted.
Exterior design: they tried to eliminate visible screws as much as possible. The rear has evolved, working on a three dimensional design. The new curved connections between the roof and sides create a very pleasant visual effect. Mirrors: from standard door mirrors to bus-type ones.
Interior design and construction of the furniture: where possible, the plywood panels have been replaced with honeycomb panels. The design system has changed to have better quality and reduce assembly errors. Washroom: they went from the thermoformed ABS to the use of special materials. Other useful solutions have been used for the kitchen, such as acrylic stone with integrated basin.
Electrical system and internal lighting: the electrical system is now much more complex than 15 years ago due to the increase in the number of lights; today a mixed system is used (90% traditional and 10% Lin bus) which allows numerous light points with low impact on production. They have gone from halogen lights to LED lights, and from direct to indirect lighting.
In the 1990s, with the launch of the Ecovip series, Laika consolidated its presence in the major European markets. For various reasons, the Ecovip range, which is central to the Laika offer, has undergone various evolutions, such as: a need to control weights in the face of continual increases in size; the desire to create ever-larger loading compartments and less need for beds. The name Ecovip has remained, but much has changed.
Frame: in 2004-05 the Ecovip motorhomes and semi-integrated were based on a Fiat cab with AL-KO chassis. Today, all production is still based on the Fiat but with a special chassis, while on semi-integrated Ecovips a hot-dip galvanized subframe increases strength.
Construction: the sandwich panels replaced the wooden frames that were used before; now they are made of polyurethane. Today, the wall-roof joint is padded inside and the insulation is greater thanks to the use of extruded polystyrene foam (XPS). The wall covering remains in aluminum but fibreglass is now used for the roof and underbody.
Casings: for weight reasons they have moved from aluminum to ABS. Until 2019, ABS was also used in the external casings of the front of the motorhomes, in the domes of the profiles up to 2017 and in the rear casings. Now, some of these components, such as the front of the domes, have returned to fibreglass.
Floor: they went from a double floor through to a double technical floor, to increase the habitable volume. Today the floor is not resting on the frame, but suspended on special crosspieces to be in line with the cab.
Range: in 2005, the range consisted of five coach-built, two semi-integrated, and six motorhomes. Today, the range offers 10 semi-integrated and five motorhomes.
Lengths: today there are models that reach 7.5 metres long, with the dynamic external design (including the Ducato cabin) hiding the generous dimensions. In 2005 the 733 cm H730 looked like a giant!
Layout: in the early 2000s, all the coach-built models had a classic dinette – the semi-dinette did not arrive until 2006, but already in 2005 some face-to-face living rooms were in fashion on some semi-integrated models.
Drop-down bed on semi-integrated: today the use of this type of bed is widespread, but before 2009 it was not adopted.
Rear beds: today under the twin beds there are practical garages, and the central bed has replaced the longitudinal one, while the transverse bed above a garage still exhists on those that must be under seven meters long.
Exterior design: the rear wall was flat, on two dimensions, but since 2006 we have worked on depth to give it more and more of a three-dimensional look. In the past, the external graphics were reduced to a minimum, they were limited to the Laika logo, while now we try to give impetus to the vehicles with graphics that continue the sensation of movement given by the cabin.
Motorhome exterior: the old Ecovip H series had futuristic shapes and used taylor-made components (such as doors), solutions that were subsequently abandoned to respond better to the needs of the European market.
Windscreen: they have significantly increased, by at least 30 percent.
Rear-view mirrors: previously those from the Iveco Daily were used, but since 2010 there have been bus-type mirrors descending from above.
Semi-integrated exterior: the height has increased to incorporate the drop-down bed and ensure there is a sufficient headroom underneath. The domes have also changed because the big overcab sunroof is now preferred.
Doors: the Laika-made fibreglass entrance door was introduced in 1995 and was fitted on some models until 2018. Externally-produced doors have now been adopted. The same applies to the cabin doors of the Ecovip motorhomes, but it should be noted that in 2005 all motorhomes had two doors, but now the general preference in Europe is towards a single door on the driver’s side as this makes the best use of all available wall space for storage on the passenger side.
Interior design and furniture construction.
Floor: transition from dark linoleum to one with a wood effect.
Furniture: in 2005 the furniture had more classical shapes, wooden elements were also used, but there were also many pre-printed plastic elements. Today, due to the weight penalty, solid wood has a very limited use and so the plastic elements more prominent. The open shelves under the wall unit have completely gone.
Cushions: the sofas are now more ergonomic with high comfort padding, the beds use slatted bases and memory foam or cold foam mattresses.
Washroom: before it was fitted almost entirely in thermoformed, but today the thermoformed is used only for the shower. An attempt was made to use every single stowage space.
Kitchen: over the years, the wall units have undergone multiple changes from angular to softer forms, from the use of shutters to doors.
Interior lighting: halogen lights have been abandoned, to make way for LED lights, even dimmable, with multiple controls. Great attention has been paid to ambient lighting.
2020 is an important anniversary for the Knaus Boxstar: thanks to this model, 15 years ago, Knaus entered the campervan market with increasingly positive results. Sales of last season’s model testify that in Europe the Knaus-Tabbert Group has become more and more of a market leader in this segment, thanks also to the introduction of its Weinsberg ranges. Much has changed from the first Boxstar to today’s model and the company no longer talks about campervans derived from vans, but has coined the concept of CUV (Caravanning Utility Vehicle) to identify more comfortable vehicles with an automotive feel and able to satisfy multiple needs.
Isolation: the vehicle is now winter proofed (maximum reduction of thermal bridges and water pipes protected from frost), whereas, in the past, it was not perfectly suitable for winter holidays (with insulation only in the recesses and floor, without additional frost protection.
Load balance: today the vehicle is more balanced on the road: the heavy components (battery and fresh water tank) are positioned above the rear axle and the grey water tank is also close to the rear axle. The water tank is integrated into the side wall to save space.
Furniture construction: today, the furniture has a full body construction with ‘gusset’ technology, and wardrobes and drawers have a soft closure. In the past, most of the furniture was not a full body, there was no dowel technology and the doors were closed with a Pushlock. In addition, today’s Boxstar is equipped with an excellent suspended table without a support leg.
Windows: today they have an integrated chassis, which was not the case in the past.
Interior lighting: this has been improved over the years and switched to the latest LED technology.
Comfort and space: the study of materials and ergonomics have increased the comfort inside the vehicle. Washrooms and kitchens have changed a lot. In addition, new layouts have been introduced and there is a wide range of rear and front beds (also drop-down).
Accessories: previously, it was not possible to have air conditioning on the roof, or TV and satellite systems.
Roller Team Granduca
The new Granduca, introduced in September 2019 changed a lot compared to the previous 2018 model, but if we look at the model from fifteen years ago we really notice huge differences. Today, the Granduca is one of very few mid-level European vehicles with a true double floor. The construction system of sandwich panels reflects the changes put in place several years ago by Trigano Spa.
Frame: today, the special version of the Fiat Ducato chassis is used which is lighter than the standard version.
Construction: in the past, EPS and multilayer with fir frame were used to make sandwich panels, whereas today extruded polystyrene with closed cells (water proof) and fibreglass are used with a plastic frame.
Lowline roof: it is now in ABS, while the old version was made of heavy fibreglass.
Junction profiles: they were once screwed while today they are glued (as screws were a possible cause of water ingress).
Floor: even without using an AL-KO frame, a double floor is now created (190 mm cavity). Heated tanks are installed inside the two floors and there is room for stowage compartments.
Doors: the dimensions of the door have grown and now there is a window and a centralized double locking point has been introduced. The electric step has been replaced by an integrated step to reduce vehicle weights.
Garage doors: they have gone from opening with a gull-wing to the side opening.
Exterior design: the big overcab sunroof has been introduced. The strips had many visible screws, over time they have shrunk for aesthetic reasons.
Evolution in the use of external graphics: decals fill the side more and add a visual continuity between the different external components in order to harmonize them. Another evolution involved the rear walls, they went from very simple with few decorative elements to much more decorative.
Layout: production has moved entirely to semi-integrated models with a drop-down bed, a solution that fifteen years ago did not exist. For the living area, the popularity for the face-to-face dinette has been growing in the last few years. The transverse rear bed above the garage has almost disappeared to make room for the numerous versions of the central island and twin beds.
Bathroom: previously the shower was integrated into the toilet compartment, now washrooms with a separate shower have been introduced.
Interior design and furniture construction: the trend has been to increase the visible thicknesses and honeycomb panels are used to ensure lightness. Wood has been abandoned to use ultra-bright and matt solid colours with particular finishes and greater colour contrasts to give depth and movement to the environment. The table has also evolved: they have gone from tables applied to the side to island tables. This has also changed the way we treat the table leg which has become a piece of furniture.
Washroom: we went from the exclusive use of thermoformed ABS to the use of special materials such as ocritech, acrylic stone, fenix, both for sinks and for decorative panels, as well as lighting effects and special accessories.
Accessories: from the silver finish to chrome, but also finishes that are in trend with the furniture sector, like shiny gunmetal and bronze effects. For the handles of the wall cabinets, they have gone from using mini pushlocks to handles of large dimensions with an integrated locking system.
Electrical system and internal lighting: the electrical system is much more complex than 15 years ago due to the increase in the number of lights. They have changed from halogen lights to LED lighting. Diffuse lights and indirect lighting, reflected light and stage effects have been introduced. The light modules are integrated into the furniture structures.
Heating: the efficiency of the system has been improved thanks to tests done in a climatic chamber. Today the heating control is almost always digital for the temperature setting.
For several years, the Charisma has been one of the most prestigious motorhomes on the European market. The current model of the Charisma is the evolution of the third generation born in 2012, when it had an “honorable mention” at the “Caravanning Design Award” for particularly well-executed detail solutions and for amazing panoramic roof-window. The shell is at the highest levels: very thick sandwich panels, made with external/internal aluminium plates and RTM thermal insulation, and double floors with a 470 mm cavity.
Chassis and construction: with the change from Charisma I to Charisma II the cab platform was introduced. This allowed the stepless transition to all living areas and was the innovation par excellence at that time.
Range and layout: in the beginning, the Charisma included standardized models, today only motorhomes. Once upon a time, in the rear of the passenger compartment there were also living rooms and bathrooms, today we have large bedrooms and large bathrooms as a separation between the living and sleeping areas. In 2005, there were still longitudinal and transverse beds, today for the most part there are island and twin beds used.
Interior design and furniture construction: the interior design has changed a lot from linear and total wood furniture to curved wall units with interesting colour contrasts.
Plant design and accessories: over the years, the demand for comfort and self-sufficiency has increased more and more. Inverters for mains voltage are used. “BirdView” systems, “Active Air” and many assistance systems have been added in recent years.