Friday, June 2, 2023


Self-powered trailer debuts, plus zero-emission motorhomes

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
More and more states are jumping on the zero-emission vehicle bandwagon. California may be the first—and the cursed—but others are following suit. The RV industry can’t ignore which way the wind blows. Zero-emission RVs will at some point have to become a reality if the RV lifestyle is to continue.

Don’t think big

Last week Thor rolled out its own conception of zero-emission RVs. While it’s easy to anticipate that motorhomes would get first place in development, Thor didn’t leave out towables. With their Thor Vision Vehicle motorhome, any visions of a 40’ Class A that recharges outside a burger joint are quickly banished. Large-scale towables likewise seem to vanish like a puff of tailpipe smoke, if Thor’s eStream travel trailer is an accurate future prediction.

Thor rolled out their concept rigs at the Florida RV SuperShow last week. Thor dubbed their release “Welcome to the Future,” with plenty of fanfare. While you could take a close look at these rigs, they weren’t ready to roll down the road. Long on promise, short on useful details, we’ll share what Thor is touting.

Zero-emission motorhome

But Thor wasn’t alone at the show with a concept motorhome. Winnebago also trotted out its own e-RV Class B campervan. Interestingly, both Winnie and Thor base their concept motorhomes on Ford’s full-size Transit Van. Both companies use electric motors in place of the typical fossil-fueled power plant. But here’s where the difference comes in: Winnebago says it will use batteries to power the house and the drive-wheels, giving an estimated 125-mile range between recharges. Thor plays a high-card, claiming 300 miles of range. Neither company provides information about horsepower.

Exploded view: Battery pack and fuel cell. Credit: Thor

But how can Thor claim so much more range than Winnebago? Winnie’s 125-mile projected range isn’t a great deal less than the typical zero-emission passenger car. Thor’s “secret sauce” is both batteries and “including integrated fuel cell components,” says a Thor press release. And just what does that fuel cell need for fueling? “A variety of fuel options” said to include hydrogen.

What’s inside?

What will Thor’s zero-emission RVs provide, aside from an advanced techno drive system? Don’t look for simplicity. From the driver’s seat you’ll see digital displays that do more than simply tell you how soon you’ll need to plug in for a recharge. Advanced GPS displays will help you navigate to Grandmother’s house, or your favorite RV park. And don’t worry about breaking your neck to check your rear-view mirrors. Just glance at the top corners of the dash board. Video displays show what’s behind you, courtesy of the rear-viewing cameras that replace those pesky, old-fashioned mirrors.

Cozy–in a Class B way. Credit: Thor

Luxurious-appearing padded comfort is provided in the relaxation area. In the promo videos, you’ll see the happy RV owner, drinking his morning cup of joe as he pushes a button. No, the button-touch doesn’t roll up day and night shades. Rather, it “unfrosts” the window glazing, taking you from privacy mode to full-light exposure.

Drive it. Sleep in it. Cook in it. Clean up in it. Thor’s vision of the future looks comfortable enough, in a cozy, Class B sort of way.

Zero-emission towable

Back in July, Thor demonstrated its intent to position itself in the zero-emission RV towable market. At that time, the company rolled out a demonstration travel trailer, hitched to an Audi electric-powered SUV. The little SUV pulled the travel trailer 240 miles without a need for a charge stop. We say “towed” in a general sense, because the trailer was equipped with its own motive power source. The “concept” trailer shown off at the Florida RV SuperShow looked decidedly different.

What looks a bit like an Airstream, but comes equipped with wheels that push it around? Well, certainly nothing but an eStream. Thor crows that eStream has “the ability to charge much faster than low-voltage alternatives, providing the faster recharging experience electric vehicle consumers demand.”

Park it without the tow rig. Credit: Thor

How does it work? The system that Thor and its partner have developed carefully synchronizes the speed of the trailer’s driving wheels with the speed of the “towing” vehicle. Proof of how this works is shown in a Thor promotional video that shows the happy owners of an eStream trotting their little trailer around the backyard—without the need of a hitched-up tow rig.

Like its motorhome cousin, eStream is equipped with plenty of gadgets and interior luxury. No doubt the price tag will reflect all this appropriately.

“Concept” versus reality—short on details

So Thor has the “concepts” but what will be the reality? Fact in point, if you’re in the market for zero-emission RVs, you might never buy either of these Thor rigs. No mention has been made when—or even if—Thor plans to put these models into production.

What else is missing? Details. Like, just how much power is stored in the batteries of the eStream trailer. What kind of weight is tied up in the battery system, leaving how much load capacity for food, clothing, and other gear? And, of course, that ever-important part of the equation: How much will these rigs set you back? We’d hope it’s not a matter of, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” After all, like it or not, the future of RVing will likely come down to zero-emission RVs. But will you and I be able to hack the price tag?

What do you think? Are you ready for zero-emission RVs? Share your thoughts by filling out the form below. Please include “zero-emission RV” on the subject line.

Click or drag a file to this area to upload.

Update: Corrected gloss that indicated Winnebago as a subsidiary of Thor. Obviously NOT the case. 1/23/2022 0831 MST [Diane messed it up late last night. I’m sorry (not to mention mortified) that I did that! —Diane]



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Bill N Stacey
1 year ago

A Liberal/Progressive “Agenda” being forced on Industries…

1 year ago

Electric RVs, towable or self propelled, and cars, take a realistic look at the estimated amount of lithium currently available world wide in mines open today. You know, the ones with a stellar environmental record. Then consider the already exploding market for lithium, its growing expense, its fire hazard, its deminishing capacity to re-charge, its limiting range. Never mind all the other concerns. Despite the hype, I don’t see how lithium will ever be ready to replace the ICEs. There are other alternatives that may have the actual capacity to do so in the future but this rush to lithium will prove detrimental in the long run.

David Binkley
1 year ago

Great Coal Powered Automobiles!

1 year ago

Engineers in a wind-swept western US state are developing the nation’s first truly self-sufficient, carbon neutral, all-electric RV with an unlimited range: the WindGo Eterna Class A. This articulated vehicle features electric drive wheels on both sections; the forward section is devoted to luxury passenger accommodations; the rear power section mounts a telescoping tower equipped with a multi-blade wind turbine featuring rare-earth elements in a super-conducting electro-dynamic rotary configuration.

A lithium battery bank powers the vehicle to a start velocity, after which the WindGo generating turbine produces sufficient electro-motive drive force to further accelerate the RV to a self-powering speed. As speed further increases, the WindGo turbine output increases and excess energy is diverted back to the lithium-cell storage bank to sustain RV systems and provide reserve power for a restart cycle.

US patents and grant applications are pending.

Last edited 1 year ago by Gray
BILLY Bob Thronton
1 year ago
Reply to  Gray

You just described the brother to the “Flux Capacitor” Dr. Brown

1 year ago

Grumble, grumble, grumble – “It will take 20 or 30 or 40 years before this could happen.” Grumble, grumble. Why isn’t it? – “Wow!, we are seeing the beginning of something new!”

Brian Burry
1 year ago

Energy Independent United States, with 550 years of known oil reserves doesn’t need to go all Electric RV’s. If those who want that, then by all means you should get one. Others who have spent their hard earned dollars on an RV they enjoy should do that as well. A free country is so wonderful for all.

Dave Harris
1 year ago
Reply to  Brian Burry

Fossil fuels are peaking. Sifting crude from tar sands & cracking the rocks to find gas…the writing is on the proverbial wall. We have an infinite amount of fossil fuels, BUT if it won’t satisfy our needs…we are in trouble.

Personally, I don’t like electric whether it is cars or lawnmowers.

As far as the new green deal?

Sometimes the sun does not come out for a week in the Rustbelt and the wind does not always blow. Solar & wind are good supplements, but they are not fungible replacements for fossil fuels, hydro or nukes.

Our world was built on fossil fuels if you rip that out you will have lots of causalities. Petrochemicals make up a large part of our modern existence. Without crude you would have no tires, no lubricating oils, no asphalt roads or rubber roofs on your RV or shingles on your house.

We can do better with cleaning up our world, but to get rid of ALL crude, coal and NG would be a disaster.

Jeff Craig
1 year ago

God…. The irony.

So many ‘old timers’ whining about changing technology. When the majority of us here were born, the ‘Jet Age’ was just getting into the air. Armstrong and Aldrin had not even become astronauts and cars had no seatbelts, AM radios and big fins.

You have all adapted to RV’s that have microwave ovens, satellite radio, streaming TV of Discovery Channel shows (pulled from a cellular/mobile phone network or satellite internet connection) about space based telescopes discovering planets in orbits around other stars.

Face it – Some of you are scared of change. A few because you believe it will diminish your ‘way of life’. But, deep down, you just don’t want to be ‘inconvenienced’. Well, I got news for you; The only constant in the Universe is change. Get used to it.

BILLY Bob Thronton
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Craig

Fact; the grid CANNOT handle the projected charge capacity for EVs. So, why should the greenies buckle now to the Auto industry, which they hate i might add, and and agree to assess taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars to build out the system, to benefit vehicle mfg. When, we have enough fossil fuel for at least another 100 years.

Why do the greenies not see this. But dont worry, an economic collapse is imminent, due to the current administration printing trillions of dollars, we cant pay back.

I’m not sure if you greenies have been paying attention, but the real inflation rate last year was 30.5%. That’s what happens when you just print money, and chase to few goods. Its elementary economics, and its called INFLATION, but then again, why pay attention to facts.

1 year ago

Sound like great gimmicks for those who desire them and can afford them, and for that reason I say “go for it”. That’s what free-market competition is all about: Providing what niche markets desire. However, there will always be room at the other end of the spectrum as well. When my wife and I were shopping for a new RV in 2018, we specifically wanted one that was simple..we didn’t even want a slide-out…because we wanted something that would have fewer components to fail/leak/cause problems. We aren’t at all unhappy with our decision to purchase a fairly basic Passport model, we’ve identified a few areas that could be improved, and if and when the market settles and we choose to “upgrade”, our decisions are likely to run towards even MORE simplicity in a more compact space, rather than towards bigger, more flashy, and more complicated. Hopefully, manufacturers will remember buyers like us.

1 year ago

An article in today’s newspaper described the hundreds of thousands of Rivian, M-B, GM, Ford, etc. electric vans that have already been ordered by Amazon, FedEx, Walmart, and other delivery giants. So, unless an RV manufacturer builds their own electric Class Bs from the ground up, they won’t be building anything but “concepts” with electric automobile manufacturer vans until 2030 or so. That’s when the big guys plan to have their electric van contracts fulfilled. Not even Thor is large enough to compete with Amazon or Walmart for vehicles. I doubt I will still be RVing by the time all-electric motorhomes are available!

Michael Butts
1 year ago

When did Winnebago become a subsidiary of Thor? I think you need to check that fact.

RV Staff
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Butts

My mistake. I was obviously thinking of something else when I added that at the last minute after proofing the post last night. I’m sorry, Michael (and everyone else who caught my huge error). –Diane

1 year ago

The “buzz word forty years ago by the so called experts was “non-renewable” resource. Meaning oil and gas. A false claim suggesting they knew we were running out. It wasn’t being made any more. Really.
Nothing comes out of an exhaust pipe that didn’t come from the earth in the first place.
The same entities that have been anti everything “energy” are now seen to be anti freedom, mobility, and yes anti the RV industry and those that love it.
They want us all to ride bikes.

Joseph Phebus
1 year ago
Reply to  Wayne

I suppose you are a proponent of breathing asbestos, allowing children to eat lead paint, and don’t really care about it in your drinking water if law allows arsenic to leech into the water tables. All of these things come from the earth but are known to cause harm or worse.
Why responsible moves to develop alternative technologies when we realize we are harming the earth or ourselves cause for making people apoplectic and ranting about loss of so called “freedom”?

Looking at the current business climate while also looking forward to anticipate risks, market and environmental changes and position your business to get out in front of it and develop a competitive advantage as conditions evolve, is called good business and how the best companies survive.

Jeff Craig
1 year ago
Reply to  Wayne

Shows how you understand the issue – this is all market economic forces. We are now paying the price for generations of pollution – droughts, wildfires, mass migrations, extinctions. You are correct about your ‘tailpipe’ analogy – but the fault in your euphemism is that too much of a byproduct is destroying our environment. Humanity evolved, and our societies grew, in a world with around 100ppm of CO2. We are over 400ppm now. Not to mention the nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, methane and other gases that are normally sparse in our atmosphere.

So, everything IS a trade off. Consumers realize now that we can’t sustain this trajectory. Corporations are still trying to maximize their profits (and CEO’s their pay packages) by playing both sides of the proverbial fence. I look forward to these new, less polluting technologies – Because I really love RV’ing. And I want future generations to enjoy it.

Primo Rudy's Roadhouse
1 year ago

Do we know what we’ll do with all of these batteries at the end of their life?

1 year ago

Same thing we do with all the ICE’s now.

Jim Prideaux
1 year ago

Interesting ideas. But they will really have something when people say “I can get better value for my dollar with that!”

Silas Longshot
1 year ago

EV everything won’t be a reality until our grandkids are having grandkids. First is price. $70 – 90,000 base price for the tow vehicle? Then at least that or more likely $125 – 150,000 for something like the ‘e-stream’. Second is recharging. Until there are charging stations as thick as gas stations are today, including out in the rural ‘boonies’ areas which is where RV’s go, you’re not going, right? Like some of those Canadian roads between the USA border and Alaska and all over Alaska, for instance.

Roger V
1 year ago

“Concept” vehicles people! May be viable in 10, 20 years or never! Many concept vehicles come out every year and never hit production. Their main purpose is to generate Buzz for the brand, and in that respect, they’re already wildly successful.

Last edited 1 year ago by Roger V
1 year ago

Zero Emissions?! How about we at least be honest, and say, “Remote Emissions”?

People are in for a rude awakening as the electric utopia unfolds, and reality sets in.

1 year ago
Reply to  1HasBeen

Spot on! We need to stop the charade that some how electric power doesn’t mean there isn’t a carbon footprint. Sure, the vehicle doesn’t have a tail pipe so you don’t see the emissions but where do folks think all this electricty comes from? And how do you think those batteries are made?  Mining and processing the minerals, plus the battery manufacturing process, involve substantial emissions of carbon. Lithium mining, needed to build the lithium ion batteries at the heart of today’s EVs, has also been connected to other kinds of environmental harm. And what happens when those batteries are worn out? They magically disappear and vaporize into thin air? Of course not. All that extracted raw material — once the batteries are worn out — will land somewhere.  To be sure, electric power is very cool technology but let’s at least been honest about it’s true carbon footprint and stop selling these technology for something it isn’t.  

Tommy Molnar
1 year ago

More pie in the sky. Can’t you just see that mid-sized Tesla towing that Airstream? That’s just inviting a disaster. Way too many bells and whistles. I don’t want ANYTHING controlled by my phone. I’m not talking to Alexa OR Bixby. I’m getting out of bed and pressing a button that is wire connected to whatever I want to use. Yup, old guy totally wrapped up in old school. Plus, I don’t want a trailer pushing me down the road, unless we’re going downhill. Oh, and just where did they store those kayaks?

Last edited 1 year ago by Tommy Molnar
Bob p
1 year ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Amen, you noticed too! 40 years from now maybe. When you see the power companies spending billions to upgrade their systems to handle all this recharging then I will start believing EVs are becoming practical. Until then it’s fluff, CA all ready has trouble supplying electricity to customers because they’re relying on wind and solar power generators, add millions of EVs and see what happens. I read an article awhile back that said Californians are trading their EVs in on ICE vehicles because of the power shortages.

1 year ago

Don’t hold your breath. We have industry titans who can’t produce a consistent wiring diagram or build something without duct tape & bubble gum. GMAB!

We don’t yet have affordable factory Lithium / Solar systems or completely integrated electronics. Do you think these geniae can produce a vehicle from the rims up? Which was the last RV maker to design, build, and get approval for, a complete vehicle? Come on man!

It will be someone else’s chassis with a wood & plastic box stuck on it and none of the two systems will really work with each other!

Gas & diesel are not going away in my lifetime. My vote is for a F53 or Freightliner chassis with Liquid Spring & self drive or semi self drive controls. Hopefully, that I can afford to buy used (or buy gas for).

1 year ago

And just how is all this electricity going to be generated? Coal fired boilers? Diesel generators? Atomic reactors?

Tommy Molnar
1 year ago
Reply to  Ed


1 year ago
Reply to  Ed

100 years ago people said “And where is all this gasoline going to come from to power these new fangled horse-less carriages”. Here we are having to drill miles into the ground to find oil, or squeeze it out of sand and rock. Talk about being destructive to the environment.

mike henrich
1 year ago

If you’re boon docking and run out of electric, just fire up the gas powered generator. Of course, you’d have to find a place to store it while towing with a Tesla.

1 year ago
Reply to  mike henrich

And if you live in California you won’t be able to buy that generator since they’re banned to buy after 2024.

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