Dethleffs GmbH & Co.'s solar-powered concept camper, introduced last year, is one of four winners in the transportation category of the German Innovation Award 2018. The "e.home" features 334 square feet of thin solar panels and a heating system that uses phase change materials to absorb heat when the outside temperature rises above 79° F. Fully equipped, its driving range on a full charge is just over 100 miles.
Christoph Gawalleck, technical director at Dethleffs, oversaw the two-year development of the e-home. He answered a few question via email:
Q: Describe the phase change material used in the vehicle.
A: “The PCM is Micronal from BASF. But BASF sold this business unit to Microtek Laboratories in May 2017. It is a paraffin. The melting point is 26°C, the solidification takes place at 23° C.”
Q: How is the PCM contained?
A: “The PCM is in aluminum plates that are shaped like corrugated cardboard [right]. So the heat can be passed very quickly to the PCM. The plate contains 4 kilograms of Micronal per square meter.”
Q: How much PCM is used in the camper?
A: “Approximately 35 kilograms.”
Q: Have you collected data on how well the PCM manages temperatures in the camper? Has it met expectations?
A: “The vehicle was at many shows last year, so the tests are still running at the moment.”
Q: What was the development team's great challenge?
A: “The biggest challenge was to get access to the battery capacity of the vehicle in addition to the solar cells.”
Q: Are there plans to commercialize the e.home camper?
A: “The vehicle was meant to present our ideas to customers and match them with their wishes. Of course, various individual elements, such as connectivity, will be incorporated into production vehicles.”
Q: Are there plans to use PCM technology in other Dethleffs campers?
A: “This is not known until the tests have been completed.”