Quickly now, name a cool camper, caravan, trailer, motorhome or RV. Indeed, the only thing even close to cool in this category is a something retro. But this may be changing. Forget the 1973 Winnebago Mini Winnie, forget Shasta Airflyte, forget even the shiny retro Airstream, because a new generation of caravans is just being introduced at the Caravan Salon in Düsseldorf (August 30-September 7, 2008)
Visitors to Europe’s biggest camper show are getting a first look at the prototype of Mehrzeller, a completely customizable trailer. While RV designers and manufacturers the world over were nodding off at the wheel, Theresa Kalteis and Christian Freissling, two students at Austria’s Graz University of Technology’s faculty of architecture, decided to make a move. Their thesis project on “mobile living solutions” under professor Peter Schreibmayer was going to be not just a theory; it was going to become reality and something that will change the world of trailers.
They made the very simple assumption that the people who know best what the ideal camper needs are the people who will use it. On the Mehrzeller’s project website, the designers explain (in German) that when their “configurator” interface is fully functional in the spring of 2009, potential buyers can input their data and wishes, and order their unique Mehrzeller camper online. The name Mehrzeller can be translated as “moreceller,” i.e. something with more cells. The name is fitting as the pods or units that form the Mehrzeller in various configurations do look somewhat “cellular.”
The production will be based on the principle of mass customization, and production costs will not be significantly higher than those of standard campers. The basic architecture and design parameters remain the same, while the customers get to choose pretty much everything else. Using the configurator interface, they input the number and age of the people and animals that are going to be using the camper. Then they input the usage of space — eating, sleeping, cooking, working, entertaining, relaxing and so on — and the relative importance of each function. The system will then determine the floor plan and generate a 3D rendering. Next, the buyers select the materials and appliances. The program then calculates the price and creates the production specifications.
Mehrzeller will most likely move forward, and not remain just a crazy one-off prototype, because it has the backing of such heavyweights as BMW, 3M and many others. If you cannot catch the camper in Düsseldorf, you can see it at the Caravan Salon Austria, held in Wels October 15.-19, 2008. By Tuija Seipell