Dethleffs makes camping greener with production plug-in hybrid camper van

After introducing the E.Home photovoltaic motorhome and E.Home Coco electric-drive camping trailer concepts at the respective 2017 and 2018 Düsseldorf Caravan Salons, Dethleffs is bringing electric power to market at this year's show. The new Ford-based Globevan e.Hybrid camper van brings together the robust range of a gas engine with the localized zero-emissions commuting of an all-electric drive. The 196-in (497-cm) mini-campervan can sleep four people during vacations and quickly fold back into an everyday driver.

Always eager to bolster its reputation as an eco-responsible forward thinker, Dethleffs introduces the Globevan e.Hybrid before the Ford Transit Custom PHEV has even hit the market. It's not only the first Transit Custom plug-in camper van, but also the first plug-in hybrid camper van from the world's largest RV company, Thor Industries/Erwin Hymer Group. And just like that, a motorhome industry that seemed hellbent on pushing out fully electric camper vans and motorhomes before EVs were really ready to handle road-tripping responsibilities now takes a detour into the more immediately capable world of PHEV camper vans.

"At the 2019 Caravan Salon, we are showcasing new approaches such as the Globevan e.Hybrid from Dethleffs, the first production-ready plug-in hybrid motorhome, as well as the VisionVenture concept study by our core brand Hymer," explains Erwin Hymer Group CEO Martin Brandt. "In so doing, we are responding to a trend that is seeing more and more customers striving for a sustainable caravanning lifestyle – and wanting to distance themselves from mass tourism."

It seems Dethleffs was just waiting for the right van to come along and serve as the foundation of its first plug-in camper van. Ford introduced the production version of the Transit Custom PHEV a year ago at the IAA Commercial Vehicle Show and is set to begin deliveries later this year. The van offers the same one-tonne payload and load volume as its diesel sibling but adds the ability to drive for up to 31 miles (50 km) without emitting a puff out of the tailpipe.

More importantly for Dethleffs and van lifers, Ford's plug-in powertrain incorporates a 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine generator for increasing total range up to 310 miles (500 km). The electric motor continues to drive the front wheels while the engine-generator supplies the power. Factor in the ability to refill at any gas station, and you have a camper van that can keep up with the spontaneity of long road trips, music festival hopping and full-time road living, eliminating any nagging range anxiety, obsessive battery level watching or mandatory charging pitstops. When it does come time to plug in, Dethleffs says the 13.6-kWh li-ion battery will take about three hours to top off at a fast-charging station, 5.5 hours at home.

Dethleffs makes camping greener with production plug-in hybrid camper van

We suspect plug-in motorhome manufacturers will eventually follow Rivian's lead in powering camper equipment off the high-capacity vehicle battery, but 13.6 kWh is a far cry from 180 kWh, so Dethleffs keeps it conventional with an auxiliary camper battery, reserving automotive battery power for driving duties. The 95-Ah leisure battery and 2.8-kg LPG tank team to power up onboard camper equipment.

Inside, the Globevan e.Hybrid has a classic small camper van cabin layout with a folding dual-seat rear bench next to a kitchen block. The cleanly designed kitchen packs a dual-burner stove and sink below a pair of lids. Buyers can drop an available 16-L fridge box next to the stove to complete the kitchen. A removable dining table snaps into the kitchen block to serve up to four people sitting on the rear bench and swivel driver area seats.

The Globevan sleeps up to four people on its combination of 75 x 35-in (190 x 90-cm) folding downstairs bed and 75 x 43-in (190 x 110-cm) pop-up roof bed. The pop-top also increases interior standing height to 96 in (244 cm) at the B pillar.

Dethleffs isn't just selling the dream of a cleaner, greener camper van, but imagines the Globevan serving customers as a versatile, do-it-all machine that need not be reserved for vacations. The improved fuel economy and on-demand all-electric driving can prove just as useful in everyday commuting, particularly in urban centers where emissions restrictions come into play. While the kitchen doesn't remove, as in Hymer Group's CrossCamp van, the rear bench is adjustable via the floor rails and can be taken out to make room for cargo.

The 2020 Globevan e.Hybrid will launch next spring for €74,990 (approx. US$82,300), a hearty premium over similarly sized ICE-driven European camper vans like Ford's own €53,220 (US$58,400) Transit Custom-based Nugget. The Globevan options list will include a camper heater, gooseneck lights in the roof area and base vehicle upgrades. Prospective buyers can register their interest at this week's Düsseldorf Caravan Salon.

Dethleffs' isn't the only plug-in motorhome on show in Düsseldorf, and we'll be reporting back on others after we drop down in Germany on Thursday. We're eager to take a closer look at the growing trend of reduced-emissions camping.

Source: Dethleffs (German)