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Finally, a camper that could be towed by an electric car

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New technology reduces towing strain

The E.Home Coco debuted at this year’s Düsseldorf Caravan Salon in Germany.
Courtesy of Messe Düsseldorf/ctillmann

Camper lovers in the U.S. may be packing for a last summer hurrah this Labor Day weekend, but over in Europe tens of thousands of people are visiting the Düsseldorf Caravan Salon. As the biggest camper trade show in the world, the annual event showcases just about every type of camper imaginable, from tiny trailers to huge, expedition-ready caravans. Love campers and trailers? Come join our new community group.

And while we always love seeing the new campers on the market—like Volkswagen’s new Grand California—one of the best parts about the Düsseldorf show is the debut of concept campers. Ambitious, innovative, and yet-to-be-produced, concept campers show where the industry is headed. And at this year’s show, it’s clear that the future of campers is looking a lot more green.

It’s ironic that so many adventurers spend time outdoors by using gas-guzzling, giant RVs that are detrimental to the environment. Even small camper trailers reduce the efficiency and range of your vehicle, meaning that you’ll use more gas just because you’re towing a camper.

Germany-based camper manufacturer Dethleffs has been working on this problem. Last year, the company debuted the e.Home Type C, a motorhome powered by head-to-toe solar panels affixed to the camper’s exterior. This year Dethleffs is shaking up the industry with the E.Home Coco, a small trailer that’s 100% electric. The camper uses a floor-mounted lithium battery, rooftop solar panels, and a dual-motor axle instead of a regular ‘ol tow package.

Why would a trailer need to be electric, you ask? It’s not as if it has an engine. Dethleffs says that adding electric motive power will decrease the towing demands of the camper and make handling better while driving. This makes sense because the 80-kWh battery pack sends power to the electrified axle, essentially making the camper spin its own wheels and cutting down the tow load on your vehicle.

In a real life example used by Dethleffs, this means that if you’re normally towing 2,000 pounds, the electrified E.Home Coco would reduce that tow weight to about 220 pounds. Instead of needing a huge truck to pull a trailer, you could use a smaller—even an electric—vehicle. While the Tesla Model X is an all-electric vehicle that can tow around 3,500 pounds, most other electric cars just don’t have the capacity. With the tech behind the E.Home Coco, that becomes possible.

Once at camp, the advantages of an electric trailer pile on. Thanks to its electric powertrain, the camper uses its own power to park into a camping spot, no towing needed. Just control the camper using an app and park it wherever you’d like, no matter how tight the space. And the E.Home Coco’s big battery and solar panels can run lots of the things you need a camp, like heating, cooling, and cook tops. Back at home, Dethleffs says the camper’s battery pack could be used as a home energy storage system.

Of course, all of this is still in the research stage, and Dethleffs says roading testing will start in 2019 to confirm how the electric camper influences range and efficiency. But in an industry that’s all about getting outside and enjoying our natural environment, it’s inspiring to see a camper that could live up to environmentally-friendly standards of true sustainability.