Caravan review: Harvok Suit of Armour 1960

John Hughes — 16 January 2024
Featuring monocoque technology and a gasless setup, the Harvok stands apart from other vans and in this review we will explore why.

The Harvok has emblazoned on its side ‘MONOCOQUE TECHNOLOGY 48V ELECTRIC VAN’. These features well and truly make it stand apart from other vans and in this review we will explore why.

Recently I reviewed a big-name brand twin axle 20ft van with a decent off-grid power system capable of running a 3000W inverter. It wasn’t cutting edge in that it still needed 2 x 9kg gas bottles to supplement energy requirements. Nonetheless, I saw it as compelling value at just over $100k. Then along comes the Harvok Suit of Armour 1960 with a 48V (gasless) power system that blows everything else out of the water in that it is currently retailing for $95k. 

The closest price we have seen for a 48V gasless twin axle van has been around $150k and many are pushing $200k and above. On top of that the Harvok has a radically different method of construction that is almost completely devoid of external seals. As a somewhat seasoned campaigner now, this is among the most interesting vans I have had the pleasure of reviewing. Does this mean you should consider buying one? Hopefully, this review will help you decide.



Who is Harvok?

Harvok launched in Australia in 2020 under the leadership of CEO Ben Liu. He is a qualified mechanical and aerospace engineer who has been involved in product design and manufacturing in the Australian caravan manufacturing industry for the best part of a decade. Ben saw the opportunity to combine his local design expertise with the scale of economy of Chinese manufacturing.

In its short history, Harvok has a track record of innovation and rapid evolution. First-generation models featured early adopter 48V gasless systems. This was quickly followed by steel-body monocoque vans built along the same lines as a car body with welded joins and almost no seals. While highly innovative, the steel bodies were quite heavy. The latest models have slashed hundreds of kilos mainly by switching from steel to aluminium bodies.

Who is it for?

It’s a bit of a mouthful but this Harvok is known as the ‘Suit of Armour’ due to its unique construction method of aluminium panels welded together to create the caravan body. The model number 1960 designates it’s a 19ft 6in body which must be the internal body dimensions as the body length dimensions supplied were 20ft 4in. The Harvok, like most vans these days, is pitched at those looking for a heavy-duty spec vehicle capable of extended dirt road touring. We’ve already mentioned it has lots of power for running 240V appliances for off-grid living; and it’s available in couples and bunk layouts.

Built different

To a casual observer, it looks like many other vans, but when you look closely you can see the Harvok has a one-piece body (with one exception) with the front, side and roof aluminium panels all being robotically seam welded together. These welded joints eliminate seals in turn removing potential leak points, which is a good thing. The exception to the one-piece body is the rear panel which is fitted later in the manufacturing process to enable preassembled furniture and appliances to be fitted in the van. It looks like a smart way to do it and the rear panel has a decent-looking seal.

Inside the exterior panels are aluminium ribs which are welded together to reinforce the monocoque shell. Between the ribs, sprayed in polyurethane insulation is applied. Harvok tells me this provides outstanding sound deadening and thermal insulation. The floor is a one-piece honeycomb composite 25mm polymer panel supported by an aluminium subframe. 

Like many other Aussie companies co-developing and bringing in Chinese vans, Harvok is sticking with Australian running gear. Cruisemaster has done an amazing job of maintaining much of the Australian component market while camper trailer/van building steadily moves offshore. Cruisemaster, with its XT trailing arm independent suspension, DO35 coupling and 12in electric brakes features prominently in this van. It’s a bit disappointing that sway control is not fitted as standard, but you can have this retrofitted locally for around $1000–3000 depending on which option you choose. 

The chassis features a 150 x 50mm A-frame and main rails with a 150mm riser for increased body height. Up front, the A-frame is colour-matched to the body in a light grey while the rest of the chassis sports a form of matt black rubberised coating.  

Liveability

Overall, the interior is like many competing Aussie-made vans with a rear door, bathroom at the back, mid-section kitchen/dining area and queen bed up front. The colour scheme has a pleasant contemporary feel that I suspect most customers would quite like. Plenty of decent-sized windows let in lots of natural light and views to admire. 

Ergonomics and storage throughout the van work well with one opportunity for improvement. We don’t keep a database of dimensions, but I feel pretty confident this rear bathroom had a slightly more cramped layout compared to other comparable vans I have looked at. I suspect this is because Harvok has opted for full-depth cupboards and benchtops rather than the more typical approach of shallow bathroom storage. The downside is it feels a bit squeezy and there is limited room for larger Aussies to sit on the toilet. The upside is you actually get more storage and bench space.

I really like the integrated panel incorporating a bank of switches for various lights and the water pump. It also has analogue gauges for AC power output, battery charge percentage and fresh/grey water tank levels. This is so much easier to see at a glance and intuitively follow rather than toggling through touchscreen panels seen on many other vans.

The appliance suite is made up of a Dometic 200L compressor fridge, a Robam induction two plate cooktop, a Ranger rangehood, Telair reverse cycle air-conditioner, a 3.5kg top loader washing machine and electric only Swift 20L hot water service. In a traditional 12V van setup the only appliances you could expect to run without plugging into mains power would be the compressor fridge and rangehood. In this van fitted with a big power bank and inverter you can run them all off-grid. Plus, you can run even more appliances like coffee machines, toasters, air fryers and hair dryers. 

It doesn’t mean you can run everything at once forever! As a hypothetical guide, if:

a) the air-conditioning was running flat out continuously (pulling say 1000W for easy maths) without cycling on and off 

b) there were no other electrical devices running at the same time and 

c) there was no electrical charge going back into the 10kWh battery 

then the air-con would run for 10 hours. 

Technically, it would be a bit less run time because the battery management system would protect the battery from fully depleting and shut the whole system down. The 10-hour run time may not sound that impressive to the uninitiated but trust me, it is — air-conditioners are very power-hungry. In the real world, you would get significantly longer run time because the air-con is likely to be cycling on and off and you are likely to have access to some sun to top the batteries back up. Another trick is to run the air-con while you are still driving to bring the van temperature down before reaching camp, thus saving the battery.

If you used the variables above but used a compressor fridge with an average usage of 80 watts instead of the air-con, you would get a continuous run time of 125 hours before needing more charge.

Looking to the outside there is a nice tunnel boot upfront, apart from that external access storage is limited. There is no external cooking provided. If you put some form of kitchen in the tunnel boot your storage will be gobbled up. Harvok doesn’t supply an A-frame-mounted toolbox as standard to keep the tare weight down. Optioning a toolbox might be something to consider to bolster storage. It would also help with putting some more weight on the front of the van — we will cover this in more detail below.

Electric awnings like the one fitted float my boat because they cut out a lot of stuffing around compared to manual roll-out versions.

Roughing it

I have touched on it already, but the standout feature for off-grid living is the 48V power bank system. Put simply, this kind of system has more ability to capture and store energy to be converted to 240V power through an inverter, enabling regular household appliances to be run.

This comes together with a 1200W DC-DC charger, to enable plenty of charging from the tow car while driving and 1080W of solar panels to feed the batteries too. A 10kWh 48V lithium battery bank gives you plenty of capacity and the 3000W inverter converts to 240V power for running appliances.

Two hundred litres of freshwater is fine, but a 70L grey water tank only enables you to capture 35 per cent of the freshwater — the typical benchmark is 50 per cent.

Towability

The Harvok Suit of Armour sat stably behind the LandCruiser 200 Series used for towing duties. The published specs are 3500kg ATM, 2750kg tare (yielding a 750kg payload) and 200kg towball at tare. The tare weight aligns with typical locally built vans of this size, so the aluminium construction does not deliver any great weight-saving advantage. The 200kg towball calculates to 7.3 per cent of the total weight unloaded. Ten per cent is considered a magic number for towing stability so it wouldn’t hurt to add some weight towards the front of this van when packing. I believe this provides a good argument for adding a toolbox to the front of this van to enhance weight balance and boost storage.

The bottom line

On paper, there is a ton to like about this van. Eliminating a bunch of seals is a win. In automotive and aeronautical design, monocoque construction is widely accepted as strong and lightweight. A 48V gasless system, full-size offroad spec van for under $100k (at the time of writing) is leading the pack on price. As with many things, your view of this electric caravan will be largely driven by personality type. Conservative types will have reservations about a new organisation running with an innovative technology still in the process of proving itself to the marketplace. Those early adopters among us who love embracing new technology and can’t go past a bargain will find this just about irresistible. 

HITS AND MISSES

Hits

  • Blows any other 48V gasless van out of the water on price
  • Innovative construction method is almost completely devoid of seals
  • User-friendly power switches and gauges

Misses

  • Cramped bathroom due to inefficient layout
  • No form of external kitchen

HARVOK SUIT OF ARMOUR 1960 RATINGS

VALUE FOR MONEY
Blows just about everything else out of the water on price

TOWABILITY
Van was well-matched behind the LandCruiser. I would be loading cargo towards the front to bring the ball weight up

SUITABILITY FOR INTENDED TOURING
A great overall package

BUILD QUALITY
The van presented well

LIVEABILITY
Indoor layout is great. Outdoor cooking would be a desirable addition

SELF-SUFFICIENCY
Plenty of power and reasonable freshwater to go the distance. Grey water capacity is limited

CUSTOMER CARE
Two-year manufacturer’s warranty and five-year structural aligns with the typical industry benchmark these days

INNOVATION
This van is unquestionably innovative as it’s the only welded aluminium body van we have come across

X-FACTOR
If you want something different than everyone else in the caravan park at a jaw-dropping price the Harvok has plenty of X-factor

HARVOK SUIT OF ARMOUR 1960 SPECS

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES

Body length6.2m (20ft 4in)
Overall length8.5m (27ft 11in)
Width2.2m (7ft 3in)
Height3.25m (10ft 8in)
Tare2750kg
ATM3500kg
Payload750kg (calculated)
Ball weight at tare200kg


EXTERNAL

FrameAluminium ribs forming part of reinforced structure of the monocoque shell
CladdingAluminium one-piece shell
Chassis150mm x 50mm steel A-frame and main rails with 150mm x 50mm riser
SuspensionCruisemaster XT trailing arm independent suspension
CouplingCruisemaster DO35
BrakesCruisemaster 12in electric
Wheels16in aluminium rims with Goodride 265/75/R16 mud terrain tyres
Water2 x 100L freshwater, 1 x 70L grey water
BatteryHarvok 10kWh 48V lithium battery bank (equivalent to 833A @ 12V)
Solar1080W with MPPT
Air-conditioner Telair reverse cycle 950W
GasGasless
Sway controlOptional


INTERNAL

CookingRobam induction twin plate
MicrowaveCamec 20L
FridgeDometic 200L compressor
BathroomSeparate shower and toilet
Washing machine3.5kg
Hot waterSwift electric 20L


Harvok Suit of Armour 1960 price from $94,990

MORE INFORMATION

To enquire about this caravan, visit the Harvok website

THE NEXT STEP

If you need help choosing your first caravan or are considering upgrading your existing one, check out the Harvok caravans  available on TradeRVs today.

The sellers will be happy to help and answer any inquiries you may have about the products advertised for sale.

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Tags

Harvok Suit of Armour 1960 Couples van Gasless Electric 48V systems Off-grid Power System Aluminium Body Construction Innovative Construction Method User-friendly Power Switches Towability Behind LandCruiser Value for Money

Photographer

John Hughes