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Knaus reveals its first electric motorhome

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Leading German leisure vehicle manufacturer, Knaus, has unveiled its first electric motorhome

The new Knaus E.Power Drive uses a bank of batteries to power the vehicle and a small rotary engine to recharge it when plug-in recharging is unavailable.

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How does it look?

The motorhome, which is based on the current Van Ti 650 MEG Vansation low-profile coachbuilt, was built in partnership with HWA AG - a leader in the motorsport and engineering field.

panel-controls

Photo courtesy of Knaus

Visually, it still resembles the conventional low-profile motorhome, although the complex technology of the electric system can be seen in the cab. First there is no gear lever as there is no propulsion engine and thus no need for a gearbox.

In its place are push-button automatics that replicate the controls of a typical automatic transmission: P (Park), R (Reverse), N (Neutral), D (Drive).

A further two buttons on the panel turn on the motorhome's heating (this also heats up the batteries when the outside temperatures are too low), and the other button turns off the recuperation system during adverse driving conditions such as ice or packed snow.


On display

At the same time the charging status of the batteries, which have a capacity of 35kWh, is displayed.

Knaus E.Power Drive electric motorhome dash display screen (Photo courtesy Knaus Tabbert)

Photo courtesy of Knaus

A 12in touchscreen display also enables users to manage the infotainment and it can also display additional information about the driving mode.

A second display shows the operating status of the motorhome, the speed or the currently requested driving performance.


What's the performance like?

In place of the familiar diesel engine with transmission, an intelligent combination of electric motor and reduction gearbox comes into operation.

The e-motor performs at up to 180kW and enables this fully equipped, four-seater motorhome to travel at over 65mph (110km/h).

It can also recuperate during manual mode, meaning it can produce electric energy that is stored in the high-voltage battery fitted close to the axle in the rear floor of the motorhome.

At best, the lithium-ion cells of the front-wheel drive motorhome can be recharged within around three hours at a charging point.


Running on electricity

During testing, the range in pure electrical operation was determined at around 52 miles (90km).

When the battery has reached its threshold level, or just before then, the range extender starts up automatically during drive mode.

It is coupled to a generator, removing the need for less convenient and time-consuming charging stops.

Knaus E.Power Drive electric motorhome dash display screen (Photo courtesy Knaus Tabbert)

Photo courtesy of Knaus

The range extender's main job is to charge the battery pack but it is also able to supply electricity directly to the drive motor.

At the same time the range extender also supplies energy to the living space of the recreational vehicle.

The installed DC/AC converter (direct current/alternating current) provides the living space with normal household 230V and, in doing so, increases the self-sufficiency of the motorhome.

The company says in normal weather conditions, it should be possible to live in the motorhome independently for up to five days (lighting, cooking, heating).


Rotary power

Knaus E.Power Drive electric motorhome (picture courtesy Knaus Tabbert)

Photo courtesy of Knaus

An essential component of the range extender is a rotary engine, which operates in the optimum rpm range and efficiently powers a flange-mounted generator.

The benefits of this three-disk rotary piston engine are its compact dimensions, easier assembly and less components than a reciprocating piston engine (no camshaft, no valves, no cam chain), smooth and quiet operation, can be used at an ideal rev range.

But conventional combustion engines (petrol or diesel) are also an option.


Other electric motorhomes

This is not the first all-electrically propelled motorhome. Iridium launched a model in 2017 and then put the latest version on sale across Europe in 2019. While Dethleffs revealed its concept electric motorhome back in 2017.


Making changes

Knaus says its long-term goal is to install a fuel cell in place of the rotary piston engine, which produces the required energy in an even more clean manner because it only emits water vapour.

The required hydrogen is then stored (crash-proof) in a special pressure tank instead of the conventional diesel tank.

In addition, in future, the vehicle will be 'gas-free' and therefore exclusively operated in full electric mode, offering additional potential to save on weight.

The ultimate aim is to provide a basic motorhome in the popular 3.5-tonne class, approved for operation with four people, with a reasonable, useful vehicle load capacity.

So other road users can hear the super-silent motorhome, a sound generator has been installed for safety purposes, which produces a modern driving sound.

If you're thinking of buying a new motorhome, read our essential guide first.


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