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Leon Kaye headshot

Winnebago and Airstream Envision an All-Electric RV Future

By Leon Kaye
Winnebago

If you still believe that life in a recreational vehicle was more past then present, think again – or try to book a campsite across most of the U.S. last minute. The chances are high that scoring a campsite within the Rockies or the California coast is a fool’s errand unless you booked that prime spot several months ahead of time. And once you’ve arrived, you’ll notice many a Winnebago or other RV scattered all around you. So yes, RV culture is very much a thing as it’s a $22 billion or so market; plus the pandemic has made the recreational vehicle scene an even more popular one.

During a recent trade show in Florida, Winnebago announced it has come up with its concept e-RV, one that once available will have a range of 125 miles; that may appear short at a first glance, but the company notes that market research has shown that most RV buyers prefer to take trips under 200 miles.

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The Winnebago e-RV was developed over a two-year period and is a fully functional, all-electric concept vehicle.

The e-RV would also include energy-efficient in-vehicle appliances to optimize battery performance. The RV’s chassis is based on Ford’s Transit platform, with Lightening e Motors providing the electrical power system. As for the battery, let’s recall why that 125-mile range shouldn’t be a huge problem: RV drivers need campsite spaces where they can be hooked up to a power supply, so they’d generally be charging during off-peak hours. Winnebago says its e-RV battery system can recharge at a high-current station in about 45 minutes.

In addition, Winnebago has indicated that the e-RV will have more of an eco-friendly ethos within its cabin, with features such as cork flooring along with woolen panels for thermal insulation.

It’s not only Winnebago that is creating buzz at this year’s Florida RV Supershow.

Thor Industries has also announced its own concept of an all-electric motorhome, as well as a 21st-century version of everyone’s boujie camping and road trip favorite, the Airstream.

Billed as the eStream, the shimmery travel trailer features an electric drive axle that eliminates any drag on range for electric cars and for conventional vehicles, helps reduces gasoline consumption.

The eStream dramatically reduces loss of range for electric tow vehicles and improves gas mileage for traditional tow vehicles.
The eStream could reduce any loss of range for electric tow vehicles and improves gas mileage for traditional tow vehicles - and of course its controls can be set via a tablet or smartphone.

"Our proprietary technology addresses the top concern of electric vehicle users—range limitation. Studies have established that electric vehicles experience a significant loss of range even when towing a small trailer. The technology we co-developed creates a synchronized relationship between the trailer and the tow vehicle, enabling the trailer to move in harmony with the tow vehicle, reducing the pulling effect required from the tow vehicle,” said Josef Hjelmaker, Thor’s chief innovation officer in a public statement. “This, in turn, dramatically improves the possible range of the combination. In essence, we've turned the trailer into an electric vehicle. The technology is game-changing for our industry and others.”

In case you’re still wondering why an electric travel trailer would be a big deal at all, the eStream’s battery system allows this next-gen version to move back and forth on its own power – eliminating the hassle of backing up and positioning the trailer at any site.

Mind you, both of these announcements are about concepts; as of press time, there are no official dates for when the next-gen Winnebago and Airstream go into production. Nevertheless, the fact both companies are mulling an all-electric product line shows an emissions-free future is closer than we had thought only a few years ago. Plus, camping and enjoying the great outdoors could be more of what it should be: a quieter, emissions-free experience.

Image credits: Winnebago corporate site; Thor Industries; Unsplash via Saad Chaudhry via Unsplash

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye