One of the hardest hit industries during the course of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic has been the travel and leisure industry. With rolling lockdown orders, quarantine requirements in various parts of the world, and airline services curtailed due to a lack of demand, the travel industry has seen a huge contraction throughout the year. Could an electric RV help boost the travel industry’s prospects?
The U.S. Travel Association’s research shows that November concluded with a $40.2 billion reduction in travel spending, representing a 44 percent year-on-year decline, while warning new surges of COVID-19 cases as the winter season progresses will likely force further declines still.
One bright spot in this gray landscape, however, has been a spike in popularity in the use of recreational vehicles (RVs) for domestic travel this year. Business Insider reported during the summer that 20 percent of U.S. residents surveyed had become more interested in RV travel instead of flying, tent camping, taking cruises or spending vacations in rental properties. A way to stay socially distanced but still allowing families to safely head for a change of scenery, RV rentals spiked by an astounding 1,000 percent in May this year.
Potentially good timing, then, for startup electric truck maker Lordstown Motors and Camping World to announce a partnership to electrify the RV space.
Initially, the partnership will focus on building an electrified travel trailer to go on sale by 2022. The trailer will feature on-board batteries to power appliances, replacing the typical fossil-fuel generator. To be clear, travel trailers still need to be towed by a truck, so it’s the planned next phase which offers the potential for full electrification.
In the next phase, the two companies eventually intend to produce a fully electric RV which they will designate as a “Class E” electric RV, which should be considerably more energy efficient than ones powered by internal combustion engines.
Traditional diesel RVs are not exactly miserly with fossil fuels and though mileages will vary by class of vehicle, at the low end, RVers typically have to live with single-digit miles per gallon. Consequently, an electric RV alternative is an exciting proposition - providing the partnership builds something which can cover a decent range between charges. Since campgrounds typically have electric hook-up points at each site, though, presumably the existing infrastructure lends itself to recharging vehicle batteries, too?
In addition to product development, the partnership dovetails nicely with Camping World centers taking on board servicing requirements for Lordstown Motors’ Endurance electric pickup. This arrangement sidesteps the need for Lordstown to build out its own servicing network and down the line, offers the ability for Camping World to serve as retail locations for Lordstown’s vehicles as well as the partnerships’ electrified trailer and RV.
It seems there is a fair amount of detail yet to be filled in with respect to the specifications of the proposed electric RV that will be birthed from this partnership, though it’s expected that Lordstown will adapt its electric pickup platform to accommodate an RV body. But whatever is in the pipeline, in these dismal times, it’s nice to think that COVId-19 might slingshot one of the few buoyant sectors of the leisure industry into a more sustainable future.
Image credit: Rob Hayman/Unsplash
Phil Covington holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School. In the past, he spent 16 years in the freight transportation and logistics industry. Today, Phil's writing focuses on transportation, forestry, technology and matters of sustainability in business.