By Tony Barthel
If you’ve been looking at new RVs and not been thrilled with the aesthetics of their design, perhaps you might want to consider a Living Vehicle. Now, this isn’t a machine that talks to you (although it can have Apple’s Siri in the optional home theater system). It’s a rather forward-thinking travel trailer that incorporates some really unusual features and characteristics that was designed by architect Matthew Hofmann. Together with his wife, Joanna, they have come up with something quite different in the Living Vehicle.
The Santa Barbara couple’s goal, as stated on their website, is to create a sustainable living solution by working to develop a completely self-supporting, net-zero product. Cool.
What is the Living Vehicle?
Essentially, the Living Vehicle is a travel trailer that features an interior that can be described as upscale IKEA, and that’s not meant as a pejorative at all. The trailer kind of looks like a large cargo trailer made of aluminum. It is packed with energy and cool stuff that I think should be in more use, frankly.
There are three versions of the Living Vehicle – from a well-equipped one to a model that has so much power aboard it can charge your electric vehicle. For real. The three model variants are Core, Max and Pro.
Starting at the top, there is a minimum of 1,320 watts of solar up to 3,080 on the Pro model. But what’s the most innovative, to me, is that a whole bank of those panels is the optional solar awning (depending on model). So rather than a fabric awning, you hit a button and the panels extend out like an awning and shade the camp-side windows. It’s absolutely brilliant.
The fruits of all those solar panels are stored in 8,700 kWh of nickel manganese cobalt lithium batteries. All of this runs through a 3,600-watt Xantrex inverter system.
You can charge your tow vehicle with the Living Vehicle
But the most remarkable thing about all this power is that the company says you can get a model with a Level 1 charging system. So, in theory, you can charge your tow vehicle. Seriously. Now, let’s be honest. This is a big, heavy, boxy rig. So you’re not going to be using those solar panels for a cross-country endless driving trip. But you can get a boost or charge an electric vehicle while camping.
There are actually three levels of solar/energy packages depending on which of the three Living Vehicles trailers you choose. The Core, Max and Pro models all have varying degrees of solar and other goodies included.
The goal of all the models is to be able to drive the whole trailer, including the AC, with solar power. The Max and Pro models also have enough energy storage so that you can run everything overnight.
You can see the design influence here of someone who doesn’t spend their days in the RV industry by the clean, simple choice of interior elements. According to the website this is, essentially, a blank canvas that you add your own sense of style. That’s pretty cool that they recognize this – since this is literally what every RVer does anyway.
Inside there is a dinette at the very tail of the trailer that folds into a bed. There is with a second optional bed that drops down from the ceiling like in a toy hauler.
The galley consists of a long counter along the road side of the trailer into which are placed a flush-mount three-burner RV stove with 22-inch oven. The counter makes a right turn at the wall and that’s where you’ll find a residential refrigerator, which can easily be run with any of the built-in battery systems.
The camp side of the Living Vehicle is what made me drool
That’s where you’ll find a large drop-down wall section that forms a patio. This makes so much sense, and I’ve seen this in toy haulers with drop-down patios on the side.
The bathroom is next down the trailer and features a countertop-mounted bowl sink – which my wife loves. (And which I’m installing in our sticks-and-bricks while I write this. Well, after the article’s done.) Along the road-side wall is a teak floor with the shower that has a curtain that surrounds it and faces the toilet. You get a choice of traditional RV-style toilets or a composting model.
The bedroom is another area where this RV is very different. There’s a Murphy bed along the road-side wall that can accommodate up to 8” of mattress and bedding.
When that bed is up it makes the bedroom area very, very open and spacious. But you can also have a desk option where it sort of lifts up when the bed is up. This makes for a nicely sized office, and this is a terrific way to implement that. In fact, I may steal the idea for my own trailer, which has a Murphy bed.
Around the bedroom are closets and drawers, and the company has also done entertainment differently.
There is an optional projector on the road-side wall and a screen on the camp-side wall. Included in that are an AppleTV and Sonos speakers so you have access to programming and a great audio system through which to hear what you’re watching. This could also make the ultimate Zoom meeting space, as well.
“Hey, I’m here overlooking the ocean in Malibu while you suckers are all in the frozen Midwest.” Wait. Maybe that’s also a way to get fired. Unless you own the company.
I would hope if you’re dropping more than the average price of a house on a travel trailer that you get superior build quality, and, in fact, you are. The whole shell of the trailer is made of aluminum right down to the frame and the flooring.
Other things made of aluminum are all the cabinets and drawers. Frankly, wood is a great material in a stationary home. But an RV is a vehicle and it is said that an RV rolling down the road is the equivalent of a magnitude 4.5 earthquake. Truthfully, all aluminum cabinetry really makes a tremendous amount of sense if you want something that’s going to last a long time. Yes, wood is warm and cozy, but aluminum can withstand the constant vibration and shaking along with opening and closing.
The “Core” model has great insulation as it is, but you can upgrade even that depending on where you think you’re going to be using this trailer. Considering that the company is headquartered in Santa Barbara, one of the nicest places in the country weather-wise, those who don’t stray far from the factory are going to be fine with the standard insulation package.
Basically, this is a really different RV in so many ways. It’s extraordinarily well-made and really thinks outside the box. But at a base price of $229,900 for the Core model, going all the way up to $369,995 for the Pro, it’s not going to be at every RV park you come to. But, for the right customer, this could absolutely be the unique RV to fit their lifestyle.
These RV reviews are written based on information provided by the manufacturers along with our writer’s own research. We receive no money or other financial benefits from these reviews. They are intended only as a brief overview of the vehicle, not a comprehensive critique, which would require a thorough inspection and/or test drive.
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