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The Caravan Salon Dusseldorf is an RV show like no other

If you love RV shows you must visit Dusseldorf, Germany. Consider it a pilgrimage or even a rite of passage. For 10 days each August/September the city’s gargantuan trade-fair ground becomes RV Central and this year, 641 exhibitors from 31 countries took over the 21.4 ha (53 acres) of halls, displaying 2100 vehicles from 130 motorhome and caravan brands. And that’s not counting the myriad accessory and parts stands, plus the massive adjoining RV park: Yes, you can camp inside the Caravan Salon Dusseldorf – and thousands do.

Thinking you can see everything is a rookie error; there are simply too many displays, vehicles and people. Surprisingly, although it’s such an international event and has become the World’s premier RV show, primarily it’s a German show. That means little information on the stands is in English, although the language is widely spoken. Still, the thing to discover – the vibe – is easily found and this year it was e-innovation.

NEWS Caravan Salon Dusseldorf

WORDS AND IMAGES RICHARD ROBERTSON

Main Features
  • Flat panel design offers compact size with big performance
  • Fully automatic with built in 24 Channel GPS for fast signal locating
  • Supports VAST and Foxtel Satellite TV across Australia
  • Automatic retraction once you are travelling above 10KPH
  • Suits Caravan, Motorhome and Motor Vehicle use
  • Easy to install and simple to Use, just turn it on and press “Ok”
  • 1300 Number Help Line to assist you along the way
Automatic Satellite TV System
ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

Electric campervans, motorhomes and caravans were the big stars, even though in reality there was just a handful of them. Make no mistake, however: Electric power is the future of the European RV industry, and by default the rest of the world’s.

Why? Europe has a population pushing 750 million – roughly 10 percent of the world’s total head count – in an area about the size of the USA. Beautiful and cultured as it is, humanity’s impact is increasing exponentially and governments are scrambling to find answers. One solution to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions is ever-tightening vehicle emission controls, with some cities, like Amsterdam, planning to be vehicle-emission-free by 2030, or even sooner. That means electric drive isn’t just a fanciful dream of the Green Holidaymaker, it’s an imperative for the survival of the RV industry.

The big automakers are developing their hybrid and fully-electric light commercial vehicles, and they have potential for RV conversion. A star of this year’s show was the Globevan e.Hybrid campervan, by German manufacturer Dethleffs, of a new Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) version of the Ford Transit Custom. Boasting a modest electric-only range of 50km, the Transit’s diesel engine is a tiny 1.0-litre turbo unit whose sole job is as a battery charger. When required it cuts in and runs at set revs to charge the battery quicker than you can drain it, extending the real-world driving range to something like 500km on a very small tank full. This is a vehicle that could double as a daily driver for a small family and has a lot of potential.

Dethleffs also displayed the e.Home Coco, a lightweight electric-drive caravan designed especially to take the strain off the batteries of electric tow vehicles. Using what appears to be a version of AL-KO’s lightweight electric-drive caravan chassis, the e.Home Coco is claimed to only add about 100kg load to a tow car, thus dramatically increasing range. It has sensors to keep it aligned, prevent sway and in milliseconds respond to acceleration and braking, and provides extra traction in marginal driving conditions.

Dethleff’s e.Hybrid Globevan is a basic camper conversion of Ford’s new PHEV Transit Custom. Built to exist in a new world of low or emission-free zones, it has a minimum electric-only range of 50km at 80km/h. Range anxiety is avoided via a one-litre engine that works at constant revs, purely as a battery charger, providing a total range of around 500km. It’s a clever system in a vehicle that could double as a daily driver as the min 50km electric range could cover the return daily commute for a lot of people.

The e.Home Coco is a development of Dethleffs’ lightweight Coco line, specially developed for small cars. Fully equipped with a bathroom, it’s a contemporary European caravan with an electric drive system that works to remove load from electric-powered tow cars, thus retaining much of the tow car’s original range. Weighing in around one tonne, the e.Home Coco is said to only add the equivalent of about a 100kg load.

The electric drive system sits between the chassis cross-members. It powers the wheels via sensors that detect acceleration and braking, plus keeps the caravan aligned with the tow car and prevents sway. Electric power also lets you manoeuvre the caravan on its own via an app, which is great for parking at home, coupling and setting up camp. The battery system also powers the caravan’s electrics.

“Caravan Salon Dusseldorf is a show like no other. It’s also a pilgrimage Australian RVers should make at least once"

view the
range
Garrison
sabre
governor
avalon

Interestingly, the electric caravan chassis is an offshoot of AL-KO’s new Hybrid Power Chassis for motorhomes and light delivery vehicles. Developed to work with front-wheel drive chassis like the Fiat Ducato, it adds a battery pack (or two), and a drive system for the rear wheels. It integrates with the vehicle’s engine and management system and provides four modes: engine only, electric only, combined and generator (for charging batteries as you drive). Like the Transit, it features 50km electric-only range at up to 80km/h, to traverse low or emission-free zones, and switch-over is automatic via GPS so the driver can’t miss a boundary. A side benefit of the Hybrid Power Chassis is it effectively delivers all-wheel-drive traction – a real bonus for motorhomers, especially those put-off by front-wheel drive.

At the top end of the e-scale at this year’s show was a pre-production version of the Iridium: A ‘proper’ motorhome on a Fiat Ducato cab-chassis, but one with a battery pack and electric drive system replacing the Fiat’s engine and gearbox. Touted as having a real-world range of 400km, I had a quick drive, and it was an eyeopener. Quiet, smooth and relaxing, it had plenty of get-up-and-go thanks to more than 650Nm of torque. Production versions will have 730Nm and a 108kW battery pack, while the next generation will also integrate into your home and double as a storage battery for solar. Iridium’s downside is a near 200,000 Euro (A$300,000-plus) price tag, but of course that will improve, and already early adopters have signed up for many of the initial 30-vehicle production run.

AL-KO has worked with Fiat to integrate the Hybrid Drive System into the Ducato’s dash display. Here it is in Hybrid mode, showing simultaneous real-time information for the engine and battery systems. The display changes according to the mode, which also serves as a reminder to the driver as to how the vehicle is operating at that moment.

Fiat’s Ducato cab is designed from scratch for motorhome use and comes with a factory-engineered cab cut-out for motorhome body integration. AL-KO’s low-riding aluminium chassis is a beauty and bolts to the back of the cab on special Fiat-engineered flanges. The Hybrid Drive System sits neatly between the cross members and can be fitted with a second battery pack.

The Iridium is the end product of a process that takes a standard production Fiat Ducato motorhome and turns it into something special, under the skin. With a real-world driving range of 400km and 730Nm of torque-on-demand in the full production version, the Iridium drives like a big golf cart – albeit one that has no trouble keeping up with autobahn traffic! Eventually, the electrical display will integrate with the Fiat’s dash, but for now, it displays on a separate screen. Driving the Iridium becomes something of a computer game, with the goal to keep the needle in the small dial only just in the red and reading between 9 and 20kW. This prototype had a smaller battery and engine, hence the readout for 188km range remaining on 60 percent battery life.

The other trend of note at this year’s Caravan Salon Dusseldorf was a move towards younger buyers and more relaxed and flexible living. Concepts like Hymer’s awesome Vision Vantage are signalling the conservative mainstream’s acknowledgement that the VanLife movement ‘is a thing’. Ironically priced well beyond the means of its target market if it ever entered production, Hymer says it’s not even a concept vehicle, but more like a materialised thought bubble. However, the Vision Vantage’s design features – from an office desk that folds out of the passenger’s B-pillar to a proper staircase leading up to a roof bed in an air-inflated pop-top – are inspired. Ditto the clever expanding bathroom, pop-up dining table that folds out from under a lounge, and even the interior lamp on a long cord that can be hung like a lantern over the wooden-decked tailgate (which becomes a raised deck, complete with access ladder). It’s all cool sounding stuff, but actually quite simple and I don’t think it will be long before we see elements of this Vision Vantage’s design appearing in Hymer products. The only thing better would be to see the whole thing in production.

Caravan Salon Dusseldorf is a show like no other. It’s also a pilgrimage Australian RVers should make at least once, because then you can truly appreciate how isolated our marketplace is and what we are missing out on. Some might view that as a good thing – certainly, we don’t need Europe’s crowds and congestion – but a wider product choice and better design would be a great thing.

Astella is a luxury line by Slovakian manufacturer Adria, and this concept van blurs the lines between caravan and holiday home. Designed with double doors and an open floorplan, it appears made more for stop-and-stay holidays than daily touring, especially being around 10m (33ft) long, which is huge by Euro standards.

The special body incorporates a split tailgate with glass top section and wooden-deck bottom half – complete with an aluminium access ladder. It’s just the place to sit on-high and enjoy the outdoors, but needs a big sliding insect screen to make it truly practical.

A proper staircase leads to the bedroom and even has a motion-activated light beneath each step, which comes on as you ascend. The stairs make bed access easy and are a world away from the flimsy aluminium ladder usually found with roof beds. The stairs also make the rooftop bedroom feel ‘proper’ rather an afterthought.

Lightweight, Euro-styled cabinetry and appliances are the obvious differences in this Euro Airstream. However, the iconic bare aluminium finish remains, which is the brand’s major point of difference and attraction.

The Caravan Salon Dusseldorf features more than 2000 RVs from 130 manufacturers around the world and is on a scale Australian RV show-goers can’t really imagine. Every imaginable – and some unimaginable – RV type is on display, from conventional caravans and motorhomes to concept vehicles and even the weird and whacky. It’s a show everyone should visit at least once, to see how a proper RV show can be done.

NEWS Caravan Salon Dusseldorf

The Caravan Salon Dusseldorf is an RV show like no other

If you love RV shows you must visit Dusseldorf, Germany. Consider it a pilgrimage or even a rite of passage. For 10 days each August/September the city’s gargantuan trade-fair ground becomes RV Central and this year, 641 exhibitors from 31 countries took over the 21.4 ha (53 acres) of halls, displaying 2100 vehicles from 130 motorhome and caravan brands. And that’s not counting the myriad accessory and parts stands, plus the massive adjoining RV park: Yes, you can camp inside the Caravan Salon Dusseldorf – and thousands do.

Thinking you can see everything is a rookie error; there are simply too many displays, vehicles and people. Surprisingly, although it’s such an international event and has become the World’s premier RV show, primarily it’s a German show. That means little information on the stands is in English, although the language is widely spoken. Still, the thing to discover – the vibe – is easily found and this year it was e-innovation.

Mother of two, Mrs Gray (53) explained it took three or four days for Lotus to contact them once the news had broken. “They could hear how distraught we were and what we were going through. We had been told so many lies, right up to the end when we were told our van was going to be delivered in two weeks – yet we found out it hadn’t even been started because no money had been paid to Lotus Caravans!” Mrs Gray said.

“We got a phone call from Dave to tell us they, Lotus, were going to honour the contract. I was gobsmacked; I was speechless. I didn’t know what was going on because we’d been to hell and back. I remember there must have been several people in the room when George said, ‘let me get on the phone, let me tell her’. He came on the phone and told me, and I just burst into tears.”

WORDS AND IMAGES RICHARD ROBERTSON

Automatic Satellite TV System
Main Features
  • Flat panel design offers compact size with big performance
  • Fully automatic with built in 24 Channel GPS for fast signal locating
  • Supports VAST and Foxtel Satellite TV across Australia
  • Automatic retraction once you are travelling above 10KPH
  • Suits Caravan, Motorhome and Motor Vehicle use
  • Easy to install and simple to Use, just turn it on and press “Ok”
  • 1300 Number Help Line to assist you along the way
ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

Electric campervans, motorhomes and caravans were the big stars, even though in reality there was just a handful of them. Make no mistake, however: Electric power is the future of the European RV industry, and by default the rest of the world’s.

Why? Europe has a population pushing 750 million – roughly 10 percent of the world’s total head count – in an area about the size of the USA. Beautiful and cultured as it is, humanity’s impact is increasing exponentially and governments are scrambling to find answers. One solution to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions is ever-tightening vehicle emission controls, with some cities, like Amsterdam, planning to be vehicle-emission-free by 2030, or even sooner. That means electric drive isn’t just a fanciful dream of the Green Holidaymaker, it’s an imperative for the survival of the RV industry.

The big automakers are developing their hybrid and fully-electric light commercial vehicles, and they have potential for RV conversion. A star of this year’s show was the Globevan e.Hybrid campervan, by German manufacturer Dethleffs, of a new Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) version of the Ford Transit Custom. Boasting a modest electric-only range of 50km, the Transit’s diesel engine is a tiny 1.0-litre turbo unit whose sole job is as a battery charger. When required it cuts in and runs at set revs to charge the battery quicker than you can drain it, extending the real-world driving range to something like 500km on a very small tank full. This is a vehicle that could double as a daily driver for a small family and has a lot of potential.

Dethleffs also displayed the e.Home Coco, a lightweight electric-drive caravan designed especially to take the strain off the batteries of electric tow vehicles. Using what appears to be a version of AL-KO’s lightweight electric-drive caravan chassis, the e.Home Coco is claimed to only add about 100kg load to a tow car, thus dramatically increasing range. It has sensors to keep it aligned, prevent sway and in milliseconds respond to acceleration and braking, and provides extra traction in marginal driving conditions.

Dethleff’s e.Hybrid Globevan is a basic camper conversion of Ford’s new PHEV Transit Custom. Built to exist in a new world of low or emission-free zones, it has a minimum electric-only range of 50km at 80km/h. Range anxiety is avoided via a one-litre engine that works at constant revs, purely as a battery charger, providing a total range of around 500km. It’s a clever system in a vehicle that could double as a daily driver as the min 50km electric range could cover the return daily commute for a lot of people.

The e.Home Coco is a development of Dethleffs’ lightweight Coco line, specially developed for small cars. Fully equipped with a bathroom, it’s a contemporary European caravan with an electric drive system that works to remove load from electric-powered tow cars, thus retaining much of the tow car’s original range. Weighing in around one tonne, the e.Home Coco is said to only add the equivalent of about a 100kg load.

The electric drive system sits between the chassis cross-members. It powers the wheels via sensors that detect acceleration and braking, plus keeps the caravan aligned with the tow car and prevents sway. Electric power also lets you manoeuvre the caravan on its own via an app, which is great for parking at home, coupling and setting up camp. The battery system also powers the caravan’s electrics.

view the
range
Garrison
sabre
governor
avalon
ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

“Caravan Salon Dusseldorf is a show like no other. It’s also a pilgrimage Australian RVers should make at least once"

Interestingly, the electric caravan chassis is an offshoot of AL-KO’s new Hybrid Power Chassis for motorhomes and light delivery vehicles. Developed to work with front-wheel drive chassis like the Fiat Ducato, it adds a battery pack (or two), and a drive system for the rear wheels. It integrates with the vehicle’s engine and management system and provides four modes: engine only, electric only, combined and generator (for charging batteries as you drive). Like the Transit, it features 50km electric-only range at up to 80km/h, to traverse low or emission-free zones, and switch-over is automatic via GPS so the driver can’t miss a boundary. A side benefit of the Hybrid Power Chassis is it effectively delivers all-wheel-drive traction – a real bonus for motorhomers, especially those put-off by front-wheel drive.

At the top end of the e-scale at this year’s show was a pre-production version of the Iridium: A ‘proper’ motorhome on a Fiat Ducato cab-chassis, but one with a battery pack and electric drive system replacing the Fiat’s engine and gearbox. Touted as having a real-world range of 400km, I had a quick drive, and it was an eyeopener. Quiet, smooth and relaxing, it had plenty of get-up-and-go thanks to more than 650Nm of torque. Production versions will have 730Nm and a 108kW battery pack, while the next generation will also integrate into your home and double as a storage battery for solar. Iridium’s downside is a near 200,000 Euro (A$300,000-plus) price tag, but of course that will improve, and already early adopters have signed up for many of the initial 30-vehicle production run.

AL-KO has worked with Fiat to integrate the Hybrid Drive System into the Ducato’s dash display. Here it is in Hybrid mode, showing simultaneous real-time information for the engine and battery systems. The display changes according to the mode, which also serves as a reminder to the driver as to how the vehicle is operating at that moment.

Fiat’s Ducato cab is designed from scratch for motorhome use and comes with a factory-engineered cab cut-out for motorhome body integration. AL-KO’s low-riding aluminium chassis is a beauty and bolts to the back of the cab on special Fiat-engineered flanges. The Hybrid Drive System sits neatly between the cross members and can be fitted with a second battery pack.

The Iridium is the end product of a process that takes a standard production Fiat Ducato motorhome and turns it into something special, under the skin. With a real-world driving range of 400km and 730Nm of torque-on-demand in the full production version, the Iridium drives like a big golf cart – albeit one that has no trouble keeping up with autobahn traffic! Eventually, the electrical display will integrate with the Fiat’s dash, but for now, it displays on a separate screen. Driving the Iridium becomes something of a computer game, with the goal to keep the needle in the small dial only just in the red and reading between 9 and 20kW. This prototype had a smaller battery and engine, hence the readout for 188km range remaining on 60 percent battery life.

The other trend of note at this year’s Caravan Salon Dusseldorf was a move towards younger buyers and more relaxed and flexible living. Concepts like Hymer’s awesome Vision Vantage are signalling the conservative mainstream’s acknowledgement that the VanLife movement ‘is a thing’. Ironically priced well beyond the means of its target market if it ever entered production, Hymer says it’s not even a concept vehicle, but more like a materialised thought bubble. However, the Vision Vantage’s design features – from an office desk that folds out of the passenger’s B-pillar to a proper staircase leading up to a roof bed in an air-inflated pop-top – are inspired. Ditto the clever expanding bathroom, pop-up dining table that folds out from under a lounge, and even the interior lamp on a long cord that can be hung like a lantern over the wooden-decked tailgate (which becomes a raised deck, complete with access ladder). It’s all cool sounding stuff, but actually quite simple and I don’t think it will be long before we see elements of this Vision Vantage’s design appearing in Hymer products. The only thing better would be to see the whole thing in production.

Caravan Salon Dusseldorf is a show like no other. It’s also a pilgrimage Australian RVers should make at least once, because then you can truly appreciate how isolated our marketplace is and what we are missing out on. Some might view that as a good thing – certainly, we don’t need Europe’s crowds and congestion – but a wider product choice and better design would be a great thing.

Astella is a luxury line by Slovakian manufacturer Adria, and this concept van blurs the lines between caravan and holiday home. Designed with double doors and an open floorplan, it appears made more for stop-and-stay holidays than daily touring, especially being around 10m (33ft) long, which is huge by Euro standards.

The special body incorporates a split tailgate with glass top section and wooden-deck bottom half – complete with an aluminium access ladder. It’s just the place to sit on-high and enjoy the outdoors, but needs a big sliding insect screen to make it truly practical.

A proper staircase leads to the bedroom and even has a motion-activated light beneath each step, which comes on as you ascend. The stairs make bed access easy and are a world away from the flimsy aluminium ladder usually found with roof beds. The stairs also make the rooftop bedroom feel ‘proper’ rather an afterthought.

The Caravan Salon Dusseldorf features more than 2000 RVs from 130 manufacturers around the world and is on a scale Australian RV show-goers can’t really imagine. Every imaginable – and some unimaginable – RV type is on display, from conventional caravans and motorhomes to concept vehicles and even the weird and whacky. It’s a show everyone should visit at least once, to see how a proper RV show can be done.

Lightweight, Euro-styled cabinetry and appliances are the obvious differences in this Euro Airstream. However, the iconic bare aluminium finish remains, which is the brand’s major point of difference and attraction.