Jaguar Land Rover has announced plans to create 1,300 new jobs as it continues to accelerate its industry-leading expertise in aluminium and lightweight technologies. “Today’s announcements once again demonstrate our commitment to the advancement of a high-tech, high skilled, manufacturing-led economy. Jaguar Land Rover is committed to delivering more great products. It is that innovation and relentless quest for new technologies that sets our products apart. We want to offer customers greater choice, with even more exciting vehicles, crafted with that special British flair.”
A short piece of history on the innovation and impact Range Rover has had in the 4WD industry. In 1970, at a time when almost all 4WDs used primitive leaf springs, Range Rover pioneered the use of soft, long travel coil springs on all four wheels. This caused a lot of skepticism among off-road journalists. The result was a delay until 1987 introducing this feature to the USA for fear the market may not accept such innovation. The benefit of extreme axle articulation became clear to everyone.
Other 4WD manufacturers started incorporating it some 5 years later. No one could then believe they had been so skeptical, and this innovation became the norm!
Then in 1993, Range Rover suspension design took another leap ahead into the next generation of innovation: electronically controlled, self leveling, variable height pneumatic suspension. (This is where we are today with off-road caravan air-suspension, some 20 years later)
This gave the driver the ability to reduce ride height for high speed cruising, increase it for off-road clearance, maintain a level ride regardless of load, and maintain articulation. The staggering capabilities of this system, in combination with the simultaneously introduced electronic traction control, took the 4WD world by surprise.
Now Range Rover has progressed even further with suspension innovation. Air-springs are cross-linked (left to right) when off-road, reducing the effective spring rate to near zero. This not only softens the ride but increases the ground contact force and traction considerably on a drooping wheel. It also makes the independent setup simulate the articulation motion of a beam axle, getting around the usual criticisms of reduced effective off-road clearance on uneven terrain that independent suspensions usually receive.
With suspension under their belt and diesel engine technology mature, it appears Land Rover are concentrating their Innovation on lighter weight models. Their 2013 Model Range Rover Vogue was a staggering 350kgs – yes that’s right 350kgs – weight reduction over the previous model. The weight-saving all-aluminium body structure was the main contributor.
The “industry norm” crinkle cut caravans achieve lower weight at the expense of strength and off-road ability. However, this isn’t true at Kimberley with the Kimberley Kruiser S Class (single axle) and T Class (tandem axle) off-road caravans.
Aluminium alloy costs on average double the per unit strength of steel and it requires very exact engineering to avoid the pitfalls of fatigue and “shock fracture”. This is why investment in lightweight materials is so significant. The marketing department does not always reward lighter weight… but customers do!
|Body Length||Walk in Height||Tare Weight||ATM (Loaded Weight)|
|5500mm (18Ft)||1950mm (6Ft 5in)||1950kgs||2490kgs|
The new S Class Kruiser starts at a tare weight of 1950kgs for an 18ft caravan with a full width ensuite. The top of the line model with automatic satellite and 480Ahrs of Lithium Battery capacity is only 2150kgs!
What investment is there in aluminium technologies to achieve this?
The engineering investment at Kimberley has been in duplex and laminated alloy technologies. This allows the design team to use one material for strength or finish and combine it with aluminium for the lightest weight as a support or layered material.
Examples of lightweight material technology that Kimberley has been using in off-road caravans are:
- Bench tops are made from solid surface acrylic bonded to aluminium expanded core honeycomb giving super lightweight but stronger than conventional timber tops. And after building hundreds and hundreds of these… no failures.
- Fibreglass finished sections with space punched alloy inserts as used in aircraft construction. This produces a strong but flexible fastening technology. “Using fibreglass glues will create a brittle fibreglass monocoque structure which know does not last more than a few years off-road”. “Using aircraft fabrication principles achieves great flexibility in the joined aluminium wafers whilst keeping the fibreglass finish and protection”
- The incredible hybrid off-road caravan chassis has long steel chassis rails and suspension hangers for strength. The sub-frame though is 100% alloy and is aircraft riveted into the rails for an incredibly strong and lightweight chassis.
- The unique off-road caravan tropical roof is made of only 1.2mm aluminium material which is folded and laminated with the 1.7mm Super thin solar panels to give a rigid second layer roof. One customer stayed at a snowy mountains park all snow season with a snow load on the upper roof with no difficulty. It is even better is managing high heat environments!
- The outside fold-down table is a combination of stainless steel skins and aluminium honeycomb centre for stiffness and ease of handling. The weight drop is 70% with the plastic alternative discarded because of limited product life.
- The premium air bags used in the Kimberley off-road caravan suspension are machined aluminium which results in a far higher quality than the plastic or polyurethane alternatives. Yet they are less than half the weight of the equivalent steel coil springs.
The goal at Kimberley is a 5% weight reduction in off-road caravans and camper trailers every year. This is only possible by investing in lightweight materials and technologies. A great boost for Australian advanced manufacturing and this is a core differentiator to the asian designed and imported camper trailers and caravans.