The automotive industry has finally been forced to face an inescapable truth that it purposefully chose to ignore for decades.
If it wants to survive it needs to change. Tomorrow’s problems won’t be solved by yesterday’s answers and having been confronted by a government policy that has wholeheartedly rejected fossil fuels and is in the process of adopting a zero carbon emissions program, car manufacturers have at long last realised what the rest of us have known for a decade. That the future is electric.
With climate change becoming an increasingly desperate problem that can only be solved by a fundamental shift in the way we all use transport, both public and personal, it was only ever going to be a matter of time until world governments adopted a blunt and forthright position that led to a monumental and irreversible shift in emission legislation.
With the UK Government committing to ending the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by two thousand and thirty, the only way that the domestic automotive manufacturing is going to make it through the next two decades is by adapting to the new, carbon-free world.
Change is never easy, and due to the colossal shift in government policy, the next ten years are going to be focused on changing the infrastructure of the country to one that supports electric vehicles rather than the traditional diesel and petrol cars.
The fact that the government has turned its attention to completely eliminating the diesel and petrol car market hasn’t escaped the attention of van and lorry manufacturers either.
They also know that they won’t be able to slip under the radar and that their vehicles are going to have to embrace the same emissions-free future.
1) The Electrical Problem
The elephant in the room which the government seems to have chosen to ignore is that with a century of constant development under its collective belt, the car industry had reached a point where the vehicles it makes are designed to be efficient, affordable and reliable.
It’s in a better position and more ecologically responsible than it has ever been, and yet its been asked to abandon all that it knows in order to blindly try and achieve the seemingly impossible
The main problem is that at the moment, as exciting as they are, electric cars are nowhere near as advanced as their fossil fuel counterparts.
The battery technology that electric cars use usually means that they have nowhere near the range that diesel or petrol cars do, and the time it takes to charge an electric car is exponentially longer than it takes to fill a tank full of either diesel or petrol.
Granted, the speeds that electric cars are capable of reaching in a staggeringly short amount of time and their nearly silent motors make them an attractive prospect, but they’ve got a long way to go if they want to keep up with their conventional counterparts.
And if electric cars are facing these challenges, imagine the problems that the motorhome manufacturing sector must be facing in an attempt to keep up with the looming industry-wide changes?
2) Engineering the Electric Motorhome
Even though it seems like the motorhome industry has an enormous mountain to climb in order to meet the challenge that the UK government has laid down (one that other governments will doubtless adopt or follow in some shape or form), one company has already picked up the electric motorhome baton and started to run with it.
German motorhome specialists Iridium recently announced the release of their second-generation electric motorhome, which debuted at the Dusseldorf Motorshow a mere eight months after their first generation electric motorhome was introduced at Stuttgart Motorshow.
Having refined and further developed their ideas and design to make it far more driver friendly, Iridium are racing out of the electric starting gates while almost every manufacturer has barely had time to let the ink dry on their initial blueprints.
The Iridium e-motorhome probably looks familiar to most camping devotees and anyone with more than a passing interest in camper vans, as the company uses an already popular Mooveo model as the basis for the vehicle.
Using the idea that they can make a motorhome that already has a devoted following even better, Iridium took the Mooveo and completely stripped it of all its mechanical parts.
They removed the diesel engine, gearbox and drive-train and replaced them with an electric motor, a vast array of Li-Fe batteries and ceramic separators and a single-speed transmission that delivers all of the power that the motor makes directly to its wheels.
It’s a staggering leap forward in electrical motorhome development and one that nobody, least of all us, saw coming.
3) Laying the Electric Power Down
If you’ve ever sat behind the steering wheel of an electric car, you’ll know that they accelerate instantaneously and as soon as they start accelerating they won’t stop until they reach the limit of their power band in an astonishingly quick time.
Electric motors are famous for the amount of torque that they can, and do, produce and the motor that Iridium uses in their e-motorhome is no different.
In real-world terms, it produces close to two hundred horsepower which makes it a formidable vehicle to drive, but the real revelation, as it is with any electric car isn’t the horsepower, it’s the aforementioned torque.
The torque that any engine, or motor in electric cars and vehicles, produces governs both acceleration and the amount of weight a vehicle is capable of towing or carrying. And the e-motorhome creates a jaw-dropping seven hundred Newton metres of torque.
While that might seem like an arbitrary figure that’s been plucked randomly out of mid-air, it actually means that the power that the e-motorhome can produce almost instantaneously is nearly twice that of the average Formula One car, which makes around four hundred Newton meters of torque.
Which means that the hills that used to slow you to a crawl won’t even trouble the e-motorhome and it’ll be able to weave in and out of the lanes on the motorway with ease and can, and will, leave sportscars in its wake.
Even though Iridium hasn’t released any top speed figures for their motorhome, we can’t imagine that it would be a slouch and as such will almost certainly be fitted with an appropriate governer that will limit its top speed to that of vehicles in its weight class and size.
After all, even though it’s probably capable of burning rubber up and down the A-roads that litter the countryside, being escorted to the nearest police station in a motorhome is the last thing that anyone would want to happen if they put their right foot down a little too hard.
4) It’s All About The Distance
One of the upgrades that Iridium have made to their second-generation e-motorhome is the battery pack that it uses.
Switching from the eighty six kilowatt pack that the first generation used to a newer one hundred and eight kilowatts vastly increased the range of the second generation e-motorhome, and Iriudm claims that from a full charge, it’s capable of covering two hundred and fifty miles before it needs to be charged.
Being more than a little pragmatic, and having a slightly more realistic view of such matters, we’re assuming that Iridium drove an unladen motorhome through Germany, with no passengers onboard and stuck to a route that mainly used flat roads and maintained a steady rate of speed that their engineers had determined would make the most efficient use of the vehicles battery life.
On paper, the range looks fantastic, but in the real world, the range of the e-motorhome will almost certainly be much less than Iridium claims it is.
The problem is weight, routes (and the number of hills that litter the path from your home to your destination) and traffic conditions can all have a devastating impact on the range of any vehicle.
The harder you need to put your foot and the more often you need to do it (if you’re caught up in traffic jams or congestion), the more power you’re going to need and use, which means that you’ll drain the e-motorhomes battery pack far faster than Iridium’s test driver did.
The real-world distance that the e-motorhome is capable of covering on a full charge remains to be seen, but we’d be, as we imagine you would, incredibly keen to find out what it actually is.
5) Charging Time
Again, on paper, the fact that the e-motorhome has three charging options, the standard two hundred and thirty volt, thirteen amp socket, a twenty-two kilowatt AC fast charge and fifty kilowatt DC fast charge, looks wonderful but in reality, at least in terms of electric vehicle charging, it isn’t great.
Audi and Tesla are already using three hundred and fifty kilowatt fast chargers on their electric cars, and as they’re industry leaders, we’re assuming that the new electrical charging infrastructure that’s going to be a facet of everyday life, will be geared toward the options that they’ve chosen rather than the ones that Iridium have.
Let’s talk about those charging options. Using the slowest and most conventional method (the thirteen amp socket), it would take around twenty-five hours to fully charge the Iridium, which is fine when you’ve arrived at your destination and have parked up, but is absolutely unacceptable when you’re on the road.
Even the fastest charging option that the e-motorhome uses means that it’ll take close to an hour to fully charge it from empty, which can cut a serious swathe out of your allotted travel time and holiday.
It’s a shame that Iridium chose to use these charging options and it seems like they found themselves restrained by the technology that they had available at the time.
Who knows maybe the third generation of their e-motorhome will correct that error and make use of the infrastructure and options that other sectors of the industry and automotive companies are.
6) Heavy Is The Burden The Motorhome Carries
Before you start dreaming about loading up the e-motorhome, you need to understand that it is heavy.
It weighs just over three and a half tonnes and has a fully laden permissible weight limit of four tonnes, which will undoubtedly have an impact on the way that it drives and handles.
And it also means that, if you were hypothetically able to you’d need to check your driving license to ensure that you were legally allowed to drive it before setting off on an adventure in the Iridium e-motorhome.
The main issue is that batteries are heavy and the number of them that Iridium needs to use in order to make the e-motorhome a viable prospect adds an incredible amount of weight to the chassis, which had to be reinforced to cope with the weight of the vehicle.
It’s a common problem that plagues all electric cars and vehicles and with no viable alternative on the horizon, battery weight is an issue that will continue to hamper their development for years to come.
7) Hindered By Progress. And Cost
The greatest issues facing Iridium and the rollout of their e-motorhome are the size of the company and the cost of the vehicle.
As they are a relatively small company, their commitment to production numbers is low, and they’re on record as stating that they won’t be able to make more than thirty vehicles in any twelve-month period because of the sheer amount of work involved in the conversion process.
That means the e-motorhome is going to be a rare sight on the roads, and comparatively, it’ll be a more exclusive vehicle than a top of the range Ferrari.
That rarity and the production costs and development involved in the production of the e-motorhome have also served to burden it with an incredibly exclusive price tag.
At around one hundred and fifty thousand pounds, the e-motorhome is in a price bracket that only the super-wealthy can realistically afford.
Far beyond the means of the average motorhome devotee, it’s a vehicle that’ll remain the stuff of dreams for almost everyone.
And, as Iridium are a German company with no designs on the UK market, all thirty of the e-motorhome that they will produce this year will be left-hand drive vehicles, which will make them far less desirable in the domestic market.
E-Motorhomes Are The Future. But That Future Isn’t Here Yet
While there is little doubt that the future of the motorhome is electric, that future, as the Iridium has proved, isn’t here yet.
The infrastructure that electric motorhomes need to stay on the road and realistically be used as holiday vehicles and weekend getaways doesn’t exist, and even if it did, the amount of time that it would take to charge them so that you could get where you were going, currently makes them an incredibly unrealistic position.
Unfortunately, the non-existent infrastructure isn’t the only factor that’s stopping the mass production of electric motorhomes, as they’re also hampered by the level of current battery technology which means that the effective distance that they’re capable of traveling won’t, and doesn’t appeal to the average motorhome owner.
When that’s coupled with the time that it takes to charge said batteries, the idea of owning and being able to use an electric motorhome becomes, at best, an idle fantasy
And then there’s the final decisive factor that completely eradicates the notion that the electric motorhome will become a feature on our roads at any point during the next ten years. The cost. Like all electric vehicles they are and will remain for the foreseeable future, far beyond the means of the average working family.
Until the technology that makes them a reasonable proposition makes them affordable for the market that they need to embrace in order to thrive, electric motorhomes will remain the playthings of the wealthy.