Australian technology startup OzXCorp has developed the world’s first hybrid drive technology for a recreational vehicle. The system was publicly launched at this year’s Victorian Caravan, Camping and Touring Supershow.
OzXCorp founder Andrew Huett said the technology would allow a caravan to ‘push’ a car up a hill, and deliver a better driving experience across all types of terrain.
“One aspect of caravanning that remains a burden on every driver is the constant reminder that your caravan is affecting the performance of your vehicle, fuel consumption and manoeuvrability,” he said.
“Many adventurers opt to buy vehicles that are equipped with significant engine capacity and gross vehicle mass to mitigate the burden of towing and power loss; however, this improvement in driving experience comes at a significant cost in the purchase of vehicle, fuel and the environment.”
In essence, the technology – which is not yet commercially available – comprises special motors on each wheel that ‘drive’ the caravan, offsetting the ‘dead weight’ of the van so that the load in lateral acceleration is reduced or, in some cases, mitigated completely.
The motors are powered by an onboard 16kW/h battery, which is charged by the energy that is normally lost in braking. This battery can also be charged off the tow vehicle via a DC-DC charger, as well as solar on the van.
“Hybrid drive technology is not new but the adaptation of these principles to caravans is a unique challenge by virtue of the caravan being an autonomous vehicle,” Huett said.
Aside from mitigating the weight of the van when towing, the system can be used when parking or reversing the caravan.
A torque control feature puts the user in control of their trailer from their mobile device at a maximum speed of 2km/h, with the ability to crawl up and over gutters, up and down driveways, and back to your vehicle to re-hitch.
SAND AND MUD ASSIST
“Every keen adventurer will know that pulling a trailer through mud and sand is risky, and sometimes just embarrassing once stuck,” Huett said. “You typically have to apply significant speed to negotiate this type of terrain and in most respects that is due to the trailer acting as a ‘dead-weight’ on your tow vehicle.
“OzX uses bespoke settings like Sand and Mud Assist, driving the wheels in a combination of torque and speed control to actively drive the trailer through mud and help the trailer plane-up on sand, not dig in.
“When enabled, Hill Assist will allow you to rock-crawl over extreme terrain typically experienced exiting a river crossing or traversing a rocky incline. Think of the trailer having either two or 4WD capabilities with traction control and electronic differential-lock. In combination with your 4WD vehicle, you have an unstoppable platform empowering the most adventurous of adventurers.
The hybrid drive system has the added advantages of real-time stability control, torque vectoring, ABS and brake-blending, Huett said.
“Systems that would normally be of significant cost, complexity and fragmented architecture are now harmonised and embedded in the DNA of hybrid drive,” he said.
Essentially, the system can replace the need for traditional electric brakes and sway control features.
“Features such as torque vectoring would add a new level of controllability by braking one wheel but driving the other so that both the vehicle and the caravan have a responsibility to vector safely in a new direction,” Huett said.
“In some countries, break-away systems are compulsory and avert an uncontrolled trailer from spearing into oncoming traffic at speed. OzX’s hybrid system immediately recognises a breakaway situation and applies braking, indicating and undertaking a controlled deceleration process.”
According to Andrew Huett, the hybrid-drive system is “affordable, practical, and transposes to your domestic requirements once you reach your destination”.
An added benefit of the onboard 16kW/h battery is the ability for the van to become entirely gas-less. All power functions that were otherwise powered by gas can be powered instead by battery.
“It is both impractical commercially and weight-wise to make the trailer fully electric-driven; that is, fitted with greater than 80kW/h of battery. However, most of the benefits of an electric-drive system can be realised by making a hybrid-drive system that utilises a smarter energy management system,” Huett said.
“To that end, our customers can plan their trip and our systems maximise their return-on-investment by saving maximum fuel, maximising the driving experience or a blend of several attributes, including re-charging from an EV charge point. Further, prior to arrival to destination, you will be fully recharged to ensure your camping experience is supported with a 5kW inverter married to a 16kW/h battery pack.
He said that when set-up at a destination, it was possible to recover 1500 to 2200kW of solar energy. OzX Corp has jointly coordinated a caravan rooftop design that would support the necessary amount of solar panels.
“Running your air-conditioner, cooking on an induction cooktop, and even make use of the power to run a mobile coffee business, is all now possible on this gas-less hybrid drive platform,” he said.