Power trailer/wagon

I would like to have a travel trailer but am irritated by the fact that I have to buy a large high gas consuming vehicle to tow it. I would much rather own only one car that is best suited to the majority of my driving which is urban, errand running and commuting. With this in view, I would like to hear comments on the practicality of a trailer that has it’s own power plant that would move it’s own weight thereby permitting a less powerful tow vehicle. For the remainder of this discussion, I will replace the phrase ?Tow vehicle? with ?Guide vehicle? just to keep this concept out front. In order to maximize the choice of guide vehicle I further propose to consider towing a wagon rather than a trailer with the wheels concentrated at a central location. This would allow the guide vehicle to not be required to support any tongue weight. Backing up such an arrangement should be no problem since all power for this could be supplied by the wagon which in this operation becomes the guide (lead) vehicle. My idea is that the wagon would be towed by a shock absorbing draw bar that that could vary in length (say between 3 and 5 feet) depending on load. A load sensor in the draw bar would control the amount of power supplied to the wheels of the wagon such that tension in the draw bar was kept at an absolute minimum and any sign of compression (pushing of the guide vehicle) would result in immediate and appropriate (proportional) braking action in the wagon. I suspect that the most sensitive level of control would be provided if the wagon was powered by a combination of internal combustion engine and electric motor on a split drive such as done on a hybrid vehicle similar to a Prius. In addition to load sensing, the draw bar would also be required to assure proper tracking of the wagon.

I look forward to hearing hearing your comments. Would this arrangement be legal on the highways? What about safety? With regard to safety, it seems that all control of vehicles of the future will be turned over to a dependence on electronics anyway and that standard precautions such a automatic braking on loss of connection between vehicles, could be developed. I do believe that great care will have to be given to assure that the guide vehicle can not be pushed (or pulled) off its course by a too large load in the draw bar at turns. I guess the same holds true for similar loads on the wagon. What do I need to know? How will loads be divided between the streamlined guide vehicle and the less aerodynamic wagon considering slip stream, weight differential etc? What about percentage of load will be due to inertia and what to air resistance? Can control system react fast enough to keep the draw bar length from varying less than a few inches so that the remaining extensibility can be used for shock absorption.

Thanks for reading.

Ps. I particularly like the idea that once you reach your destination, you could get out of you car, stand with the best view of your wagon and any obstructions and, with the aid of a remote control, guide it to it’s final parking place with precision and no damage.

Trailer brakes are designed to assist the tow vehicle with stopping, but the tow vehicle still has a major role in stopping the vehicle. Motorizing your travel trailer would probably work the same way. The motor would assist the tow vehicle, not do all the work. If that is the case, you would still need to adhere to the vehicle’s towing capacity. So the tow vehicle would still need the same horsepower, but now it would have a little extra help. A vehicle’s towing capacity is based on more than horsepower. Your idea would not solve problems related to frame and suspension components.

Insurance on a travel trailer will be as much as insurance for a motor home if you put a motor in the travel trailer. You don’t want that. The difference in insurance premiums is large.

If you are willing to spend some extra money on a weight distribution trailer hitch and a sway control bar, you can tow a light-weight travel trailer with a minivan, which gets decent fuel economy in everyday driving. You could also buy an old police car to use as a tow vehicle if the trailer is light enough.

As is usually the case, your proposal is complex while there are less complex alternatives available. For example, you could buy a pop-up trailer like this one http://www.integrityrv.com/popuptrail.html . You could also buy a T@B like this one http://www.tab-rv.com/story/index.php or a T@DA like this one http://www.tada-rv.com/trailers.php?tab=photo . You don’t need a big gas guzzler to tow any of these trailers.

I think you have an invention waiting for development.

I think having the power actually coming out of a towed unit will result in very unpredictable handling. But what might be an idea would be having an auxillary generator on your trailer that connects to a hybrid vehicle with the Honda-style system so you can run the electric motor and the gas motor simultateously all of the time.

I think there’s a lot of potential in hybrid electric working vehicles because of the instantly-avaliable torque with an electric motor. Currently hybrids are very trendy, so the companies are essentially selling them as luxury cars, but I think when the fad is over, there will be a lot of niches for hybrid vehicles and perhaps this could be one.

Why not put the cart BEFORE the horse? This is already invented and used by a lot of people. It’s an RV towing the fuel efficient car behind it…

Here’s an alternative - you can rent RVs, the costs can be much less than buying, once you roll in all the payments, maintenance, and storage $$.

I’d much rather tow a trailer that my vehicle can handle. A trailer is parkable as you galavant around your destination. You don’t need to buy insurance on, and maintain, two driving vehicles. you don’t have to batten down the hatches,( as with RV only ), to go sight seeing and visiting. My parents, who tend to stay a month at a time, dumped an RV for a trailer for all those reasons and absolutely loved the traveling flexibility and maneuverability of the trailer ( 30 ft.pulled by a Dodge dakota v8 ) over the RV.