Friday, March 24, 2023


Lightship self-propelled RV – or self-aggrandized RV – leaves too many questions

Last week readers responded to a piece published about Lightship RV company’s L1. The company puffs it as an “Aerodynamic, battery-powered travel trailer and the first purpose-built travel trailer with a self-propulsion system that enables near zero range or mile-per-gallon efficiency loss for the vehicle towing it.” Readers, on the whole, reflected plenty of skepticism, and the promoters left many questions in our minds, too. We set about trying to get some answers. If you haven’t read Chuck Woodbury’s piece from last week, we recommend you do before proceeding.

“Prices starting at … “

Let’s start with the published stats on L1 – of which there are two “flavors.” The L1 Essential is perhaps the “entry level” model. It doesn’t offer the self-propulsion features of the L1 Long Range. Perhaps the first statistics of interest are the prices. The Essential stripped-down unit “starts at $125,000,” while the self-propelled Long Range “starts at $151,500.”

Lightship RV quickly points out that after tax credits, those “starts at” prices could be as low as $118,400 and $139,600, respectively. Beware the fine print: “The availability and amount of the tax credit associated with the purchase of your L1 trailer is subject to certain criteria and eligibility requirements. You should consult your own tax and accounting advisors regarding whether a tax credit is available in your circumstance,” says Lightship’s reservation paperwork. Who is eligible for the tax credit, and how does it work? More questions.

Specifications lead to questions

OK, money matters aside, what else is known about Lightship’s two product offerings? Here’s the published information:

  • Length: 27 ft.
  • Width: 8 ft. 6 in.
  • Height: 6 ft. 9 in. (road mode); 10 ft. (camp mode)
  • Gross Vehicle Weight: 7,500 lbs. (fully loaded)
  • Sleeping capacity: 4-6 depending on configuration

Some of these specs caused our readers to have their own questions. “Height on the road, 6’9”. One reader wrote, “There’s a reason why mainstream RV manufacturers don’t make this type of travel trailer. It’s because you have to run the top up and down to access inside your trailer every time you need to get something in or out of it. Sure, there are some people who can plan well enough to avoid having to stop and get things in or out, but that’s just not most folks.”

Fully loaded versus unloaded?

Smartness in design, or lack thereof, is one thing. But we were a bit more concerned about the more “practical” aspects of the rig. That spec, for example, that shows a gross vehicle weight rating of “7,500 pounds, fully loaded.” That stat appears to apply to both the stripped model, and the high-end model with self-propulsion motors. It’s all well and good to tell us GVWR, but just how much does the “unloaded” rig weigh? How much gear, food, and water can you add? Any at all?

The promotional material gushes about enjoying the moments of simple living in your Lightship, from cooking a meal, to taking a shower. Uh, taking a shower? How much fresh water capacity? How large are the gray and black water waste tanks? More questions.

Just how much solar for $125,000?

Lightship’s promo pushes the boondocking ethic. No noisy campgrounds. Nada to smelly fuels used in running a generator. No need for a generator, as the material tells us, as even the low-end unit comes equipped with a 40 kWh battery bank. However, the specs raise more questions when they talk about what kind of solar is upstairs. “Solar generation capacity, up to 3 kW.” Is this where that “starting at” price comes into play? Just how much solar is there for $125,000? But, rest assured, you can camp comfortably with “Off-grid power 7 days (while running appliances).” Based on what “standard of living”? With monk-like austerity, or in grand fashion?

How cool is that?

Of that 40 kWh power waiting to be tapped, how much is set aside for use by air conditioning? Wait, that’s another question. Nowhere in Lightship’s materials could we find mention of air conditioning. However, we did find plenty of gushing like this: “Lightship is truly unlike anything you’ve experienced before. Welcome to a new way to camp, with panoramic views and a window to nature from every corner, even the shower.”


Panoramic views and a window to nature from every corner? How much wall surface area is view—and heat—transmitting area? How much of the actual wall surface is insulated—and to what extent? If you’ve sat in your car on a sunny day without air conditioning, you know how hot things can get. Here’s another question: Have the Lightship folks considered how you’ll keep cool?

Codes and certifications

More questions that you should be asking, if you’re even remotely interested in buying a Lightship, are on critical matters. What manufacturing standards will apply to your Lightship’s construction? While most RVs sold in the U.S. today come with the RVIA (Recreation Vehicle Industry Association) seal, will Lightship RV’s rigs? How does it matter?

questionsCertification means standards have been met—and this is a big issue for the Tiny House Industry. To get the RVIA seal means being open to random inspections. There are more than 500 safety codes that need to be met. Those include electrical, plumbing, road-operation lights, heating and fire safety, and included safety features. Buy a rig that doesn’t meet recognized codes and you may find it pretty difficult to find a lender who will finance your purchase. And even if you bought it with cash, insuring a non-certified rig could become far more difficult.

We ask Lightship for answers

So with all these questions, we went to the manufacturer’s mouth. We contacted Lightship with these questions, asking for details for both the Essential and the Long Range models.

1. Battery capacity
2. Solar output
3. Holding tank capacity—including fresh water, black water, and gray water.
4. Dry weight of the rig
5. Will these units be RVIA certified?

To their credit, Lightship’s media folks quickly responded to the questions. The response is a quick read:

“The Lightship L1 Long Range has 80kWh of battery and an electric drive motor, and the L1 Essential has 40kWh of battery and no motor. Full specifications and certification information will be provided as we get closer to starting production.” That statement comes from Toby Kraus, Lightship’s president and co-founder. Evidently, even Kraus doesn’t know (or doesn’t want to share) whether or not these new units will be RVIA certified. You’ll know “as they get closer to starting production.” That could be as far out as a year-and-a-half.

Legal fine print matters

Meantime, those who plunk down $500 to reserve a new Lightship should also be aware of things that raise even more questions. Like, what sort of warranty will these new e-RVs come with? Here’s the fine print in the reservation agreement: “You will receive the Product warranty at or prior to the time of Product delivery (“Limited Warranty”).” Warranty? It apparently falls under the same line of all other questions—we’ll know as we get closer to production.

Production starts “late in 2024,” says the literature. A lot of things can happen along the way. Do you have questions when you read this legal statement? “You understand that Lightship may not have completed the development of the Product or begun manufacturing Product at the time you entered into this Agreement and so we do not guarantee when your Product will actually be ready for production or delivered. Your actual production and delivery dates are dependent on many factors, including manufacturing availability.” Yes, if the rig isn’t ready until who-knows-when, you can get your $500 back.

But is what you see now, what you get at delivery? Another big question, vaguely answered in legalese: “Further, you understand that because Lightship may not have completed the development of the Product or begun manufacturing Product at the time you entered into this Agreement, the specifications of the Product are subject to change (even after features are announced). You agree that the Product specifications may change at any point prior to Lightship commencing production of your Product. To secure your final payment and performance under the terms of this Agreement, we will retain a security interest in the Product and all proceeds therefrom until your obligations have been fulfilled.”

Grandma’s advice

No animals were injured in the production of this AI generated cartoon.

Grandmom used to warn the kiddies, “Don’t buy a pig in a poke!” To understand that sage advice means we need to know what a poke is. In Old English, a poke was a sack. If you bought a pig in a sack, you’d never know what the thing looked like. Maybe it only had three legs—which would certainly limit how many hams you’d have for dinner. Lightship RV may really have something going here—but there are far too many questions to be answered before we’d ever plop down $500. We like to know how much fat there is in the bacon.



2.6 11 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
5 days ago

So much vaporware that I’m surprised the 3d render didn’t show it being pulled by a Cybertruck.

Neal Davis
5 days ago

If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas, or eRV, as the case may be. Thanks, but I’ll pass. 😎

5 days ago

What A “Crock”….

Bob p
5 days ago

Yes I am a naysayer, all this EV stuff is still a pipe dream, and the marketing people are doing a good job of promoting it. I do think it will come to be in the future, but until the power grid is upgraded this will not be feasible. When the power companies begin upgrading the grid then you’ll be able to say it’s actually coming. Right now it’s a fad, yes I know when ICE started it was probably considered a fad, actually Steam started first then EVs but battery technology was so poor ICE took over but how many decades went by before anyone could drive more than 50 miles. CA this past summer with their GREEN power gave people the choice of charging their EV or having A/C. A perfect example of the old saying “putting the cart before the horse”. I’m 80, so I say not in my lifetime will this become the norm, my children may see it, my grandchildren will see it. I plan to live into my 90’s maybe if the Lords willing I may see 100, but not massive EVs.

Gordon den Otter
6 days ago

Actually, everything that the manufacturers say about Lightship is very common in any industry that is creating something new. You are basically giving them $500 to help with their effort because you think it’s worth supporting, and in return they are giving you a place in line to purchase what they produce. Because this is an R&D effort, there are no guarantees on dates, prices, suitability, or anything else (including whether they ever deliver anything).

Tommy Molnar
6 days ago

To me, this all just sounds silly (to be polite). You’re supposed to plunk down 500 hard earned bucks for a trailer that has no real production date and no real information about the important stuff like holding tanks, a/c, battery availability, and more. Too much “pie in the sky” here for me. Not that I would spend this much money on such a small trailer anyway.

Bill T
6 days ago

Who wants to spend the first two hours at a campsite cleaning all that glass from being towed over the terrible roads we have. Speaking of roads, are the windows bulletproof? I can only imagine what happens when rocks or some other road debris hit those windows plus how well are they seated in the window seals and protected from driving rain. This is another fly-by-night company trying to capture the newbie “glam” market but it will most likely fail as a company.

6 days ago

So it looks like we can now put Russ and Tina on the RV Unicorn side of the ledger.

Did you remember to ask if the one that comes with its own electric motor can be towed with an electric bike?

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.