Insideoutback Campers on an innovative project, known as “Bruce”

Posted on November 30, 2020

Now complete and ready for family travel, “Bruce” the motor home represents the prototype for a low-impact vehicle with pioneering green credentials. 

The brainchild of architect, Dick Clarke, Bruce is the first Australian motorhome from InsideOutback Campers whose body is built almost entirely from biologically derived materials, grown in a forest or a paddock. 
 
“The walls and floor are custom DuFLEX composite panels, manufactured by ATL Composites on the Gold Coast. We used ProBalsa end-grain core with structural skins of woven flax fabric laminated with a bio-epoxy 

Built on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, the project is a new mid-size 6 berth-plus 6 seat motor-home with the guiding principal of using only environmentally friendly components and without fossil-derived materials. 

“Fundamental to my work since that time was the aim to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions. It has to be about the eco-impact of the materials you’re using as well. In 2016-17, I built a motor home that was vacuum bag foam sandwich construction, extremely light and strong, but with conventional materials. When I was looking to make an awning cover, I discovered these new organic composite materials and fell in love with them and decided to work with them on a prototype motor home for our kids and grandkids to travel with us.” 

The relationship with ATL has its origins years ago, when Dick worked with Ian Wright from Norman R. Wright & Sons on his modular home, dubbed “Eco Casa”, constructed with the DuFLEX panel system. 

Dick contacted Mac Dalton, ATL Technical Sales Manager in May 2020 and the sustainable campervan project began. 

The structure is much like an ocean racing yacht, with panels joined by layers of woven flax fabric, aided by small amounts of carbon fibre in high stress points, all laminated with bio-epoxy resin. 

“The floor is 50mm thick and the walls are 25mm thick. The roof weight was minimised by using 20mm Divinycell PVC foam core with e-fibreglass skins, in bio-epoxy. The bio-epoxy is zero-VOC when cured, but importantly is low odour during curing – so, very different from conventional polyester resins!

“This has some carbon fibre as well, used strategically in the high stress joint areas. The bio-epoxy resin combined with the flax on a balsa core makes for a motorhome body built almost entirely from biologically derived materials – grown in a forest or a paddock. “All connections are glued and screwed, for long lived structural integrity regardless of vibrations. Door and drawer latches in contrasting black from Dorset Australia in Melbourne. 

“The roof is raised on gas struts made to order in Brisbane by Aussie Gas Struts. It is lowered by gravity and a pulley system taken from a catamaran mainsail downhaul system by Ronstan. The canvas pop-top is a cotton-poly blend selected for its breathability, zero-VOC, and UV protection, made by Affordable Canvas in Sydney.  

“Flooring is a flexible sheet made of recycled rubber and cork chips, and the wall and head lining is made with recycled PET bottles, also zero VOC. 

“The electrical system is very powerful, having 400AH of LiFePO4 (lithium) batteries with sophisticated battery management.  “Four 290 watt e-Arche solar panels provide nearly 1.2kWE of power to the batteries.  A 1,200 watt inverter provides 230v power, and there are a number of 5v USB power outlets. 

“Hot water is provided by an Australian designed 12v ‘Duouetto’ system, heating 10 litres at a time – enough for two showers, before reheating in 20 minutes. Cooking is by two Origo ethanol cooktop burners, therefore there is no gas on board, saving space and weight 

The beds are located above the cab (small double); a queen bed that folds down at the back with an inflatable mattress and in-bulit air pump; a large single on the back seat of the cab (which seats four abreast), and another on the settee. 

Upholstery is hemp fabric which is very sustainable, extremely robust and easy to clean, while being very nice to the touch.  

The galley is equipped with a full-sized, stainless-steel sink, the two-burner cooktop, a 208 Litre fridge and freezer, and copious storage in drawers and cupboards.  

“The days of big heavy campervans and motorhomes are numbered,” he states. “The era of the compact fold-out campervan and motorhome has arrived.  

“We have three guiding principles: agility, economy, connection. Agility refers to compact campers and motorhomes that can travel light on the country with ease, low centre of gravity, low wind resistance, low tyre wear. 

“Economy means lower capital cost, vastly lower fuel and maintenance costs, lower depreciation: keeps you on the road longer, bank balance healthier. Connection refers to keeping you in touch with the land you came to explore, not cocooned in a hot-box with project-home decor. We design ultra-compact expanding vehicles that work from the inside out.”