Hybrid motorhomes are closer to becoming a reality thanks to a collaboration between German chassis manufacturer AL-KO and electric drive innovator, Huber.
In the Dusseldorf Caravan Salon feature in the September 2019 issue we reported on a new diesel/electric hybrid motorhome chassis being brought to market. Called the Hybrid Power Chassis, it enables emission-free, all-electric and diesel/hybrid operation. It combines a Fiat Ducato cab module with an AL-KO chassis that houses a Huber battery pack and an electric rear drive axle. With a gross vehicle mass (GVM) rating of 3.5-5.0-tonnes, the Hybrid Power Chassis can provide up to 100 km of zero-emission electric drive, which is ideal for urban operations, plus hybrid diesel/electric drive for longer journeys.
Fiat Ducatos with AL-KO chassis have been used for many years in motorhome applications – think Trakka’s Trakkaway and Avida’s Eyre and so the incorporation of the hybrid drive system is a logical development. The Fiat’s front-wheel drive system means the rear axle, or axles, are load-carrying only. Lacking the need to allow for a long drive shaft or bulky rear drive axle/suspension system, an AL-KO chassis allows a very low floor height. It also allows for custom chassis design to a manufacturer’s requirements for water tank locations and weight distribution.
The Hybrid Power Chassis takes this configuration to a different level, because its electrified rear axle, which has an output of approximately 90 kW (122 hp) can be switched on when needed. Battery power for the electric motor comes from one or, optionally, two battery packs. In a motorhome application their weight and location will have to be balanced against payload and water tank location, although the latter can be moved into the motorhome body structure, which already is common in Euro designs to prevent freezing.
In addition to its ability to operate in emissions-free electric mode the Hybrid Power Chassis has acceleration and operating economy benefits common to all hybrid vehicles, as well as 4WD operation when required for additional traction (there goes the old whinge about front-wheel drive!). The on-board batteries can also operate electrical equipment and power motorhome systems, including off-grid air conditioning.
No show pony, the Hybrid Power Chassis made its world premiere in 2018 and has already been given a limited release in Germany in mid-2020. A development has seen the inclusion of a recharging system to allow the batteries to be topped-up from mains power as well as the diesel engine’s alternator when driving. While there’s no word yet when we’ll see the first motorhome on a Hybrid Power Chassis, but there’s a good chance it will be from German giant Hymer, which has been working with AL-KO and Huber Automotive on custom chassis development. Check out the system operation in this Huber video: