Home System concept All-electric motorhomes are coming, with greater range and charging challenges than electric cars

All-electric motorhomes are coming, with greater range and charging challenges than electric cars

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The impending onslaught of electric trucks and SUVs – already underway with the Rivian R1T and R1S, and the Ford F-150 Lightning – has people thinking of emissions-free camping and RV living as something viable in a near future.

As we’ve pointed out in the past with Tesla tow reports and other scope reality checks, taking on Davis Dam Grade with 11,000 pounds might be possible, but is it really doable in the vacation setting? pleasant?

It’s no surprise that potential buyers of this type of vehicle have high expectations, which might not be fully aligned with today’s battery and charging technology, at the desired price point.

Earlier this year, several concept vehicles showed that the traditionally quite conservative RV industry is no slouch. Between the Winnebago e-RV concept and the Thor Vision electric RV concept, some of the big players have provided potential insight into what’s in the works, in very different forms.

Winnebago e-RV electric motorhome concept

Winnebago e-RV electric motorhome concept

Winnebago e-RV electric motorhome concept

Winnebago e-RV electric motorhome concept

Winnebago e-RV electric motorhome concept

While the Ford Transit-based Winnebago e-RV has an 86kWh battery and will provide 125 miles of range – enough to satisfy 54% of RV buyers, it says – Thor Industries has gone in a completely different direction. Also starting with the Transit, it included a battery, hydrogen fuel cell and solar roof, adding up to 300 miles of range.

Although at the time it seemed very complex, Thor recently revealed study results that supported his approach. Its North American Electric Motorized RV Study was conducted in December 2021, the month before the Vision. This study was based on 675 respondents who currently owned an electric vehicle or had some level of RV experience (owning, renting, camping or borrowing) in the past 10 years.

Thor's North American Study of Motorized Electric RVs

Thor’s North American Study of Motorized Electric RVs

His study – or rather a poll, sounding like it – found that 97 per cent expect to drive three more hours before recharging. Nearly half (45%) of those surveyed said they expected to drive five or six hours from home before needing to recharge, a figure that Thor considers a sweet spot and roughly compatible with charging of 300 miles.

Almost one in five saw that point to be eight hours or more on a charge, suggesting a range of over 800km. While 300 miles might be a realistic goal in a few years, the higher number is likely a physical impossibility given price and battery weight constraints.

Thor Vision electric RV concept

Thor Vision electric RV concept

People who use such an electric RV would do so often as well. While many motorhomes in the United States sit idle for much of the year, 47% of respondents to this survey said they would use an electric motorhome at least once every two to three weeks. , some at least once a week.

The most popular answer for an expected charge time was in the range of 45-59 minutes, suggesting the need for DC fast charging not only in products like this, but as a need for infrastructure, in the campsites of the country. It’s a big step up from the typical 240 volt, 30 amp outlets at US campsites to fast charge compatibility.

Surprisingly, 70% of respondents said an on-board hydrogen fuel cell system to help top up or charge the battery would positively impact purchase intent. While establishing more refills at campsites would be an infrastructure hurdle, distributing hydrogen or fuel cells looks like an even bigger headache.

Airstream eStream Electric Camping Trailer

Airstream eStream Electric Camping Trailer

In addition to the electric RV project, Thor earlier this year unveiled the eStream travel trailer concept – an electric camping trailer that would essentially provide its own propulsion, carrying 80kWh of battery capacity and adding to the acceleration and brake regeneration with its own motor system.

Alternatively, RV maker Colorado Teardrops is planning a version of its RV trailer that also brings extra batteries for the ride, but without the propulsion system. You charge both overnight, then during roadside breaks it charges your electric tow vehicle instead.

Colorado Teardrops Boulder EV Camper Trailer

Colorado Teardrops Boulder EV Camper Trailer

Both of these solutions help solve the range problem, but underscore the need for serious, high-power charging infrastructure in campgrounds. Who is going to step in to deliver this? It’s another chicken or the egg, again.