Tow-Behind Hybrid Camper Concept Needs Work

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Conceptually, the hybrid camper described by Gas 2.0 is a neat idea. You drive to your chosen campground and the camper stores electricity that then allows you to have power to run appliances without needing to hook up to an outlet somewhere. At first blush, the idea seems like a winner…but then reality hits us.

Knaus Tabber hybrid camper.

Knaus-Tabber's hybrid camper concept might be a good first step, but there are lots of problems with this idea...

Here’s why the current concept being floated by Knaus-Tabber (the hybrid camper concept manufacturer) seems destined to fail:

Decreased vehicle power. One way that the camper generates power is by having generators steal power from the turning wheels. The result of this is that the generators create additional drag beyond the sheer weight of the camper. This extra drag artificially raises the weight of the camper. Anyone with experience towing loads knows that the more weight being towed, the less power is available to tackle hills. In addition to robbing the vehicle of extra power, the extra drag could have severely detrimental effects on handling.

Inefficient energy conversion. What the tow-behind hybrid camper does is essentially transform gasoline or diesel fuel into electricity. The problem with this specific application of the idea though is that it does so by forcing your truck to fight against its generators. With large trucks already getting abysmal gas mileage, the tow-behind hybrid camper will make the situation even worse. Unlike a stand-alone generator that is designed to directly convert fuel to electricity with the loss of some unwanted heat generation, the hybrid camper forces your truck to convert fuel to motion (again, losing some to heat), then steals this motion and converts it to electricity, losing even more to heat and friction. This extra step and extra waste is an added fuel cost that will apply for the lifetime of the camper.

Of course, the biggest gripe here is that regular old electric generators that run on a small amount of gas are incredibly efficient. Stealing power from the tow vehicle seems like it would be inherently less efficient than a good Honda generator.

Regenerative trailer brakes could be a bad idea too. Trailer brakes are already a poorly performing component. How many times have we heard stories of trailer brakes failing, fading, etc.? While upgrading to regenerative trailer brakes might improve the quality of the brake system on the average trailer, the brakes might not perform as well or or as consistently as low-tech drums. Considering how crucial trailer brakes are to safety, monkeying around with their performance in the interest of generating electricity seems foolhardy.

What do you think: Would you buy a camper with regenerative brakes or generators on the wheels?

Filed Under: Tundra Towing


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  1. LJC says:

    Nope. What’s the matter with solar panels? I see a good amount of realestate on the roof of the camper.

  2. BobG says:

    So what is the point? Virtually every 5th Wheel, Travel Trailer, and Pop-up already has a lead-acid battery that is charged from the tow vehicle’s alternator when being towed. When you get to the campground, you unhitch, and run off of the battery. This is nothing new. And as previously mentioned, stealing power from the trailer wheels is not free energy. It will introduce drag, and the energy will come from the engine in the tow vehicle; exactly the same place the energy from the alternator comes from. The article makes mention of running an air conditioner from the battery. Really now? A typical AC unit for an RV (13,500-15,000 BTU) can easily suck 20 amps of 120VAC power. At 12V, that would be more like 200 amps. They must be planning on putting about a thousand or more pounds of batteries in that so-called green camper. As for the appliances, all modern RV’s already have a fridge, water heater, stove, and furnace that use propane for the heavy lifting, and need only a small amount of 12V power to operate.
    Just a guess, but this sounds like some hair-brained idea out of Europe. What do they know about camping.

  3. Mickey says:

    Unless they made the trailer lightweight to counter the batteries and drag I don’t see where this is a good deal. The price I bet is up there too. I prefer a tent anyway. Easily dropped into the bed with a few other things and off we go for the weekend.

  4. Mason says:

    That is a great idea; trailer and towable RV manufacturers should get in on the fuel saving.

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