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AL-KO shows life saving significant development in towing safety in Sandown test run

May 26, 2012
AL-KO shows life saving significant development in towing safety in Sandown test run

Race driver Charlie Kovacs made an ESC believer of GoSee at Melbournes Sandown Park today.

"I believe the ESC will save lives", he said through an impressive handlebar moustache which goes with the man who set a world towing speed record of 204kmh. AL-KO's Electronic Stability Control (ESC)got a perfect day for showing off its Australian innovative design excellence.

A gale driven downpour turned the Sandown racewaysurface into just the kind of trap which catches out too many Australians who tow. Charlie had to be the bravest man on the day as a procession of media and industry people tried the ESC in anger. Some GoSee spoke to had never towed before.

But Charlie has a keen sense of safety and a flat - I will handle the bit with the ESC turned off, filtered through that impressive hairsuite took the bit from the teeth of potential bolters. And bolt the 1500kg caravan he did. There was no doubt the life in extremes with the AL-KO Electronic Stability Control (ESC) turned off is an adventure. Point made Charlie offered GoSee the wheel.

What a revelation!

The best thing about the AL-KO ESC is that most drivers and particularly the newcomers will never know they needed it. Wave the wheel about, abuse the towing friendship, take ridiculous levels of evasive action and still the ESC automatically controls the behaviour of the caravan.

The ESC automatically tracks the caravan towing behaviour for any dangerous sideways movement and takes preventative action, independent of the tow vehicle,immediately by applying the electric brakes to maintain stability of both the tow tug and caravan.

AL-KO said they expect the ESC will add about $1000 to the cost of a caravan and the design copes with caravan axle variations.

The ESC is designed to respond to lateral movement in a caravan in a variety of situations like evassive manoeuvres, high winds, difficult weather, buffeting from other vehicles, bad loading of the caravan, too much speed, incorrect tyre pressures, erratic driving, incorrect ball weight, sudden braking, slowing on steep declines, sharp bends, unexpected obstacles and lane changes.

The ESC reacts instantly calculating the correct application of the brakes for the situation. It applies exactly the right amount of braking force while also checking for any additional change in speed or instability.

AL-KO says - The AL-KO ESC Electronic Stability Control ensures that the driver can handle a variety of unexpected driving hazards safe in the knowledge that the AL-KO ESC provides complete control, control that not only monitors the stability of both the car and caravan but also regulates any dangerous lateral movement and immediately take preventative action to maintain road position.

AL-KO Test rig ready to roll
AL-KO Test rig ready to roll

That became completely clear as GoSee aimed the rig down the gale blasted, rain drenched Sandown straight at the sharp left-right left challenge of closely placed rows of orange witches hats.

Take it to 80kmh and don't touch the vehicle brakes, said Charlie. GoSee sailed the rig through the test course with the ESC reacting far faster than thought.

What a lovely feeling, a caravan behind running on rails in the track of the Holden.

This video shows just what happens with the ESC off and then on -

For GoSee the tow tug was a pleasant surprise too. The Holden auto Sportswagon is a real 'sleeper' with the 1500kg test caravan in tow. The General rates it to 350Nm with a maximum towing capacity of 2100kg with up to 210kg on the towball for the Calais 3.6L V6 version.

GoSee notes with interest that Ford's G6E Falcon is rated to 533Nm with maximum towing figures for the Henry of 2300kg and 230 on the ball.

The AL-KO ESC system is engineered to operate when it identifies critical driving situations - such as a build-up of two small swings, or one large, sudden lateral movement.

AL-KO test rig weaves left-right-left at 80kmh
AL-KO test rig weaves left-right-left at 80kmh

The lateral acceleration sensors inside the AL-KO ESC unit monitor for these repeated side movements or large swings.

AL-KO ESC continuously evaluates the data and when critical lateral movements are recognised, ESC activates and applies the brakes immediately to bring the vehicle back into line in a smooth and controlled manner. Applying the brakes on the caravan immediately straightens the car and caravan and prevents any further oscillation.

The AL-KO ESC is placed behind the axle of the caravan or trailer at the point where the lateral movement can be measured consistently between different caravans.

ESC is powered by a separate 12 volt positive and earth which are connected either into spare pins on a standard 12 pin trailer connector or an alternative two pin connector.

The AL-KO ESC is genuine Australian innovation designed and made at AL-KO's new RV Technology Centre in the Melbourne suburb of Dandenong South. The software has been developed as a joint venture between AL-KO Australia and Germany. It is designed for use on caravans with AL-KO electric brakes.

The spin-offs include that it works to end the fear of towing, this should grow the overall market and also keep older caravanners towing longer.

80 Kmh safe  brake control the AL-KO ESC Sandown May 25 2012
80 Kmh safe brake control the AL-KO ESC Sandown May 25 2012

The ESC is scheduled for production and supply next month (June 2012) for inclusion on new caravans by manufacturers. It will be available for retro-fit in early 2013 by approved installers.

AL-KO has a world-wide patent and the ESC has strong export potential which is aimed at creating extra jobs at the Dandenong South factory.

AL-KO International Technical and Manfacturing Manager Rob Funder said today - AL-KO saw an important need to eliminate the sway effect in caravans which can often lead to the driver losing control of the caravan and the tow vehicle.

Sven Mannfolk, Managing Director of AL-KO International said - We believe AL-KO ESC is the most significant development in towing safety ever developed for the Australian market. It amounts to a new era in towing safety and will ultimately save lives.

Editors Note: In 1993 Charlie Kovacs earned himself a place in the Guinness Book of Records, Driving a EA Falcon and towing a stock standard Roadstar caravan on the Mangalore Airstrip in Victoria he reached 204.2 km/hr.

Charlie says the big stopper is wind resistance.

The Guinness worlds fastest towed caravan benchmark is now 228.62kmh. (141.998mph).

During the run, American driver Jason Sands triggered a quick nitrous boost at around 120mph to provide the extra kick to push the rig to the new record.

The caravan was a 1211kg, compact, single axle Kalispell caravan straight off the factory floor. It was fitted with non-standard high speed rated radials for the run.

To overcome wind resistance and reach the required speed, the modified tow tug GMC 2500 HD diesel pick-ups engine was modified to output up to 1000hp (764kW), with twin turbochargers, an upgraded intercooler, and better exhaust system.

Motorsports driver Charlie Kovacs AL-KO ESC Sandown May 25 2012
Motorsports driver Charlie Kovacs AL-KO ESC Sandown
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