Tuesday, May 17, 2022

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RVelectricity: Electric RV mileage study update

Dear Readers,
Last week RVtravel.com ran a poll asking you how many miles of range an electric RV would need before you would consider buying one. Read last week’s poll article HERE. While I don’t have all the answers yet, I have had some electric RV trailer towing experience and spent a lot of time crunching the numbers.

But first, let’s look at the poll results…

While fully 1/3 of those responding said they would never buy an EV RV, 38% said they would consider an electric powered RV if it had a 500-mile driving range. And only 10% of those responding said they would accept a 300-mile range.

This tells me a few things…. First of all, there’s a lot of RV owners who want to drive more than 300 miles a day. In fact, in some of the comments they stated that driving over 600 miles per day was normal for them. While I used to drive my Sprinter Van 800+ miles per day solo across the country, I wasn’t camping. I was driving to my next seminar gig around the country, so time spent on the road was money lost. However, when I’m camping I prefer the more leisurely pace of 300 miles a day.

Is that true range while towing a trailer?

Well, you can’t believe everything you see in a television commercial, can you? In my limited testing last summer I found that adding even a small trailer to an EV SUV resulted in a loss of more than 50% of driving range. And there was even more of a loss if you drive at 70+ mph.

Some of my readers even stated that it was dangerous to pull a trailer at 55 mph because traffic would try to run them over. I tend to agree. I did a few 40-mile towing tests on Interstate 70 at 55 mph (the posted limit for towing trailers). Everyone was beeping at me and doing dangerously close passing. So, in most states you need to be able to tow at 65 mph or risk getting hit.


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More technology to the rescue

So without some sort of extra technology, an EV pickup truck with a rated 400-mile range might drop to 200 miles when towing any reasonably sized RV trailer at 65 to 70 mph.

But all is not lost. Both Airstream and Lippert are currently working on RV trailers that have a built-in 75 kWh battery and motor/generators in the trailer wheels which help push the trailer down the road at highway speeds. So it’s just possible that a new Silverado 1500 EV pickup with an advertised 400-mile range could to tow a medium-size EV RV trailer that same 400 miles. But I won’t know until I get an EV truck and trailer to try out.

What about charging on the road or at campgrounds?

Well, I’ve been studying this as well. While it’s coming along slowly, it’s still going to take you at least 45 minutes to an hour to recharge your EV truck from a high-speed charging station.

Many campgrounds are installing separate (and metered) Level-2 chargers that can completely recharge your EV truck in about 10 hours. But you’ll also need to recharge your EV RV trailer at the same time. So that’s another consideration.

I’m talking to a number of decision-making groups about this. However, it’s slow going and I have zero budget for this sort of study. So, if I want to fly out to California to see the Salton Sea Project, I need to do it on my own dime while losing time from my consulting business. But I am snooping around for a grant that could help me pursue this deeper.


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What about materials for lithium batteries, and will we recycle them?

I believe that the lithium sourcing problem will be solved soon since there are now a number of mining technologies that reduce the amount of environmental impact by as much as 95%. You’ll want to read my Salton Sea Lithium Extraction Pilot Program HERE.

And yes, there are other rare/expensive metals needed as well such as cobalt and nickel. But there are a lot of really smart and highly motivated scientists and engineers working on ways to reduce the need for these materials that often need to be sourced from other countries.

As far as recycling used EV batteries, I think that there’s a lot of money to be made, so very few (if any) will end up at the landfill. It’s just like throwing gold jewelry away … that just doesn’t happen except by accident.

What about fuel cells?

Actually, I’m studying fuel cells under an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) and can’t comment on it yet. But as soon as I can publish what I’ve learned, I’ll be sure to write about it here.

However, I can say that lithium batteries are the current front-runner, and every major energy supplier is working on renewable energy options that won’t require coal to be burned to power electric vehicles. But I look at every report I get with a jaundiced eye, so I won’t make statements I can’t fact-check and corroborate with other sources. But we sure do live in interesting times….

Let’s play (and charge) safe out there….

Send your questions to me at my new RVelectricity forum here.

Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.

For information on how to support RVelectricity and No~Shock~Zone articles, seminars and videos, please click the I Like Mike Campaign.

##RVT1051


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Brian D Anderson
7 days ago

Thanks for the article and look forward to more coverage of electrification of the RV industry. I had to cringe a bit at the irresponsible and just plain wrong statement about driving speed. Not only is it safer to drive at 55 (statistically), but it is the law where posted.

Mike Sokol
6 days ago

I’m just reporting what happened. I literally had semi trucks tailgating and blowing their horns at me while I was towing at 55 mph in the right lane. And lots of hand signals from those who passed me. That section of Interstate highway has a 70 mph limit and everyone drives 80 mph it seems.

Troy
9 days ago

I always wonder why can’t a gas generator recharge at the same time that you are driving? If this could happen then even if it can’t totally keep up with the demand at least it could get you farther down the road. Also even though it wouldn’t be totally independent of fossil fuels it would be way better using a small one or two cylinder engine than the V-10 or V-8 that’s in there now. Why don’t we ever hear about an option like this? This is what I think of when I think about a hybrid, and my motorhome has plenty of room to set something like this up on.

Mike Sokol
6 days ago
Reply to  Troy

The numbers just don’t work out. I’ll write a full article about this next week.

Diane Mc
9 days ago

I picked 700 because we get that in our diesel pusher. We only travel 200 to 400 miles per day. Reason we like the higher distance is we don’t have to fuel everyday! We don’t always rundown to the light coming on, but sometimes it’s more convenient to go farther. Many times due to price or just would like to get to where ever we are stopping earlier.

Bob p
10 days ago

There is a lot of infrastructure that has to be improved before any of these pipe dreams will come to pass. The combination rigs are going to have their own recharging stations, campgrounds are going to have dual power stations for charging RV and tow vehicle ( I’m sure every independent campground will jump at the chance to spend that kind of money). All this will eventually happen when our energy resources are depleted, when did Trump say that would be? 100 years from now! I hope I’m still around 20 years from now, but I won’t be concerned after that. Really I’m not concerned now, as soon as the party in charge is replaced by common sense people everything will smooth out.

Brian D Anderson
7 days ago
Reply to  Bob p

A bunch of us are already living the “pipe dream”. I tow a 17′ trailer with a Tesla Model Y. It just goes to show that “the future is here, it’s just unevenly distributed”.

Dave
10 days ago

Electric vehicles are a very nice concept. So many benefits. It’s early days though. Still a ton of growing pains to figure out if they can be a reality. Until we figure out if it can scale with real distance, recharge timing, and natural resource capacity…let’s chill on the government rules. Government should focus on investment to figure out future reality vs. regulations with no clear reality.

Brian D Anderson
7 days ago
Reply to  Dave

Electric vehicles have been a reality for over 10 years. We are 100% electric since 2020 and have been driving an EV since 2015. We are also towing a 17′ trailer with one. Demand far exceeds supply, unfortunately. I agree, a great role for government is to kick-start technologies needed to complete conversion. Unfortunately, our current government and laws are bought and paid for by lobbyists and the fossil fuel industry is one of the largest.

Crowman
10 days ago

60 percent of the USA’s electricity is produced by natural gas, coal and oil. They say zero emissions but they just can’t see them from the drivers seat but they’re there.

Mike Sokol
10 days ago
Reply to  Crowman

That will change as more solar systems come on line. But it takes time…

Firefly
9 days ago
Reply to  Crowman

Yes. But the point behind doing it that way is it is more efficient from a production and emission control standpoint to have fewer large scale production facilities with professional staff rather than millions of small ones (cars) with inexperienced operators.

Brian D Anderson
7 days ago
Reply to  Crowman

EVs are zero emissions *at the tailpipe*, but of course, every manufactured object has a carbon footprint. EVs are less carbon intensive than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, even when powered by 100% fossil fuels. But, renewable penetration in the grid is making it cleaner every day.

Korey Jackson
6 days ago
Reply to  Crowman

US electrical production from wind and solar set a new record in April (20%). California recently reached (for a few minutes) 99% production from renewables.
It may take some years, but the USA is making progress.

https://electrek.co/2022/05/10/us-hits-a-record-20-of-electricity-from-wind-and-solar-in-april/

Diane McGovern
6 days ago
Reply to  Korey Jackson

Just announced. Blackouts this summer in CA, where we live.

Admin
Kim Christiansen(@imkimc)
6 days ago
Reply to  Crowman

Even when using coal as a power source (fairly dirty both pollution wise and carbon wise) the efficiency of a large power plant making electricity and then using that electricity to power cars is less carbon intensivce than just using gasoline to power cars (once extraction, refining, and transport has been taken into account). NG is better, by at least 30%. I haven’t seen any studies of oil but it’s less than 0.5% of the total so not widely used.

Improvement of these stats in a meaningful time frame will take willpower and fortitude that our elected leaders do not seem to posses.

-Kim

T Edwards
10 days ago

Great concept, but at what cost? I would love to have electric motor driven axles on my 5th wheel to help propel us up hills and improve my mpg when towing.

What will these systems cost? How many miles must I drive to repay me for that added expense? And the majority of electricity is generated from fossil fuels – so there is no meaningful benefit for CO2 reduction by adding battery operated electric driven RV’s.

EV RV’S are the rich men’s toys. And 110 mile range towing a small trailer at highway speeds? Pull that into a small EV spot to recharge to 80% capacity in an hour? NO! Unhook the trailer, recharge, hook back up to drive another 90 miles then repeat. Sound practical to you?

Eventually we’ll need to find alternatives to fossil fuels, just like eventually humans will return to the moon and venture on to Mars.

tom
10 days ago

Until electric vehicles are as easy to provide a battery pack as my electric tools, I’ll pass.
But, I love my electric riding mower.

Ed K
10 days ago

Even if I only drive 200-300 miles in a day, I want a 750-1000 mile range so I don’t have to worry about a charging station every day. I have a 700+ mile range on my Diesel pusher and I am comfortable with that.

Mike Sokol
10 days ago
Reply to  Ed K

There’s a Plugless charger that’s essentially a flat plate you can lay on the floor of your driveway that can charge an EV at up to 10kW without physically plugging it. It works like an induction smartphone charger with a 95% efficiency. So every time you park over top of it, your EV would automatically start charging and could do a complete recharge overnight.

BILLY Bob Thronton
10 days ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

Would need to study EMF’s, and potential side effects being level of energy transmitted much more, before wide use of that gizmo.

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Kim Christiansen(@imkimc)
6 days ago
Reply to  Ed K

EVs can charge (refuel) at most campgrounds, unlike your diesel pusher. You can plug into a a 220v outlet with a level-2 adapter and charge the batteries. It’s not fast but it works. You can do 110v as well, but that’s really slow, but some range is better than nothing.

Challenges are obviously when you’re headed long distances with overnight stays without any ability to plug in and also with boondocking.

We’ve got some work to do with battery density and charging systems and infrastructure before we start buying EV RVs. I’m glad Mike is getting us the data we really need!
(YAY Mike!)