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Friday, January 27, 2023

Electric motorhome concept with range-extending rotary engine isn’t a Mazda

When you hear something about a rotary engine, Mazda is always involved. This time, however, that’s not the case. Making a surprising debut at the 2021 Caravan Salon in Düsseldorf is a concept motorhome from Knaus Tabbert called the E.Power Drive. It looks like a normal Fiat-based small motorhome inside and out, but underneath it’s anything but normal.

That’s because Knaus swaps out the typical diesel engine and six-speed manual transmission for an electric motor driving the front wheels. Maximum output is 241 bhp (180 kilowatts), which is enough to push the sizeable motorhome to speeds over 68 mph (110 km/h) should you so desire. That will draw extra juice from the 35 kWh battery, which offers an electric-only range of 60 miles (90 kilometres) per WLTP testing. Recharging the battery takes three hours, but that’s where the rotary engine comes in.

Knaus E.Power Drive EV Motorhome Front View

Knaus doesn’t offer specific details on the mill or where it comes from, other than to say it’s a three-rotor that can charge the battery and supply electric power directly to the motor. The total range utilising electric power and the engine isn’t listed, but the engine also supplies standard 230-volt electricity for the cabin. In that role, Knaus says it carries enough fuel to sustain power for five days in normal-use conditions.

The compact size and smooth operation of a rotary are listed as benefits over typical petrol or diesel internal combustion engines in this application, but Knaus says other engines could be used in place of the rotary. Additionally, Knaus says it’s looking at hydrogen fuel cells as an alternative to internal combustion power.

As for the motorhome, it’s based on Knaus’ familiar Ti 650 MEG Vansation, built from a Fiat chassis. It can sleep three people and is fully equipped with a complete kitchen, bathroom with a shower, and two 95-litre (25-gallon) tanks for fresh and waste water. Since there’s no transmission in this concept, Knaus installs a simple push-button panel in the dash along with a large touchscreen to monitor and manage the various systems.

It is only a concept at this time so the E.Power Drive is not available for purchase. However, it does point to an electrified camping future from the noted German-based motorhome manufacturer. It also shows that interest in the rotary engine isn’t limited to Mazda.

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