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Tesla alums promise long-range electric-driven RV

The dream of a truly electric-driven RV thus far has been largely that. A dream. Yes, Thor and Winnebago have made a lot of noise with their “prototype” rigs, and perhaps there’s some promise there. But when will e-RVs trot off either of the two manufacturers’ lines? Who knows? Maybe it’s a problem of an RV manufacturer trying to fit electric drive into an existing RV concept. But this week, a new industry startup says it will become the first electrically driven RV seller when it releases its e-trailer which is “designed like an EV.”

From food truck to RV

Who makes such claims? It’s Lightship (LightshipRV.com), a company thought up and populated by former Tesla workers. Imagine a couple of guys who used to work for Elon Musk. Ben Parker who worked on Tesla battery design, and Toby Kraus. The latter oversaw the Model S program, then later bailed out and worked in management at an electric bus manufacturer. Kraus and Parker kicked around a few ideas and initially thought about building all-electric food trucks. Imagine your favorite carne asada truck slipping into the neighborhood silently, and—well, for at least the wheel-power—odorlessly.

The more the two talked up their idea, the more others said, “Hang on, why not an e-RV?” Neither of the two were RVers, so they decided they’d best research the lifestyle. They rented “the most aerodynamic trailer” they could find and hitched it to a Model X Tesla for a 6,000-mile research tour. Things didn’t go as some EV proponents would like. They recall at one point having to drop the trailer on the shoulder of a freeway off-ramp when the Tesla pooped out. With the extra load of the trailer, the EV couldn’t even make it to the next charge station.

It must have been an interesting series of lessons. Maybe engineers and executives from the RV industry should try taking their own rigs out on the road, and experience the frustration of real RVers—but we digress. In any event, the Lightship guys learned in a hurry that for an e-trailer to be practical, it would need rethinking from the pavement up.

Truly “e” in nature

“Our goal is definitely to create a super satisfying long-range, EV roadtripping experience,” Ben Parker told electrek.co. “As any good Tesla alum would work, we started with going back to the fundamentals and asking, ‘What should a travel trailer be?’”

For Lightship, looking at RV sales statistics, what an “RV should be” turned into an e-trailer. In the fossil-fuel-driven RV industry, a trailer is simply a box on wheels you hitch up to a drive unit. That was the snafu that left the Lightship team stranded by the freeway. The team now envisions their new e-trailer to be truly “e” in nature. An electric drive unit will help to propel their trailer, taking some of the load off the tow unit.

The goal for the EV owner: To keep whatever expected solo range, even when towing. A 300-mile range e-auto would keep its 300 miles between charges, while their e-trailer carries its own load. And no, you wouldn’t need to have an EV to tow their trailer—it could be hitched up to a conventional fossil-fuel vehicle.

The devil is in the details

e-trailer
Photo: Lightship via techcrunch.com

How does any of this translate into the real world of RVing? That remains to be seen. All the company website says about their e-trailer is this: “We’re on a mission to reimagine the recreational vehicle experience for the electric age, starting with our first Lightship — a seamless, modern, connected, aerodynamic travel trailer.” And in a published quote, Ben Parker said of the new rig, “It is aerodynamic, it is all electric, the inside is modern and connected with a big, beautiful touch display and on the roof, nothing but solar.”

Like the man says, “Talk’s cheap. Show me the money.” Either Lightship’s founders are very fast talkers, or they’ve got something they aren’t showing everyone. It takes a lot of flim-flam, or something somewhat real, to talk your way into $23 million. Not long ago, Lightship gained $23m in “Series A” funding to help them gear up their e-trailer development. Lightship is now looking for a bevy of tech-heavy workers to staff its San Francisco, California, and Boulder, Colorado, facilities.

One of the big financial backers is Prelude Ventures, a venture capital firm that focuses on climate change issues. Prelude’s Victoria Beasley explained her firm’s financial backing. “We’re looking for opportunities to accelerate EV adoption,” she told manufacturing.net. “The recreational vehicle industry is a large market with massive opportunity for innovation; nearly 1 in 10 American households owns an RV, 90% of which are towables. The reality is that clunky RVs on the market will never be reliably towable with an electric vehicle.”

Clunky RVs? Certainly not energy efficient but, at present, the only game in town. If Lightship can, in fact, redesign RVs from the pavement up and bring them in at an affordable level, then the era of “clunky RVs” may come to an end. But that’s a mighty big “if” at this point. We’ll see if and when Lightship’s e-trailer becomes a sellable reality.

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GARY S.
2 months ago

So you’re basically talking two powertrains to power your tow vehicle and your camper. It’s hard to see how the economics would work out to justify that over a single fossil fuel powertrain pulling. I think we’d be closer to the industry finally getting a decent amount of range from a tow vehicle only. Short of regulations forcing it, or fuel getting WAY more expensive, I don’t see this happening.

Micheal Whelan
2 months ago

Hmmm, an electric trailer seems like an unnecessary duplication of resources to make something happen that technology isn’t ready to do yet. If you are going to have an electric tow vehicle it needs to be able to do the job. and electric trailer INMHO, is using up resources that we are supposed to be trying to save. But that is just me….

Gary Reed
2 months ago

Fuel Cell powered vehicles will be the way of the future. If they put as much effort and money into fuel cell development as they are into battery technology we could have fuel cell vehicles leaves EV on the side of the road waiting for a ice power generator to charge them up while the fuel cell vehicles take just minutes to refuel with hydrogen.

Micheal Whelan
2 months ago
Reply to  Gary Reed

Have to agree with you Gary. . . and to go with that make use of distributed nuclear power to generate clean electricity.

Gary
2 months ago

Motornhome owners tuned in and got a big fat nothingburger. Click bait.

sally
2 months ago

You cant sell electric vehicles if gas is $2.00/gal and you cant refine oil if gas is $2.00/gal.
Govts way of forcing EVs

Dave
2 months ago

EV is no agenda. It’s to help the planet”.” And it’s a better product (quiet, less maintenance, cheaper long run). Yes I want one. But they aren’t ready…yet.
I believe the animosity to EV is how progressives are forcing it (the extreme sides are the only ones that get media attention). There is absolutely no sane reason to stop energy support from traditional sources. Keep the oil & gas flowing and continue to support the industry. Also, invest in future energy needs because energy reliance is a weapon (see Putin/Rus).

In 5-10 years I look forward to the 600+mi range Truck with Tow that I can charge anywhere overnight or from the sun while I drive that has barely any parts that break down.

Bob p
2 months ago
Reply to  Dave

The first thing to save the planet should be the effort to bring countries like china on line with pollution standards. The US and most of Europe lead the way on pollution standards, but countries like china don’t care. EVs in Europe and US are not going to cleanup the earth’s pollution. The manufacturing process of building EVs creates more pollution than ICE vehicles. Diesel trucks are so clean you can put a white handkerchief over the exhaust pipe and it will still be clean when you remove it. Environmentalists are barking up the wrong tree with EVs, between the mining operations for the batteries, and the electricity (which is fueled by fossil fuel) used in manufacturing all the parts, and the actual building of the EV nobody wants to talk about that. The idea of a RV that powers itself down the road sounds great until you factor in the weight of the process, and you also have to factor in the recharging infrastructure. Right now they are single space parking places with a charging

Bob p
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

(Cont’d) station. Recently a video on YouTube showed an EV pulling a trailer blocking 4 spaces while recharging the tow vehicle. Wow how to influence and win friends, block off 5 spaces just to recharge for and hour. In another video it showed a block long line of EVs waiting their turn. Nope the future of mass EVs is a long way into the future, like 40 years.

Dave
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

Bob – we’re not going to force another country to change that. We can lead by example though. But it is going to be because it is a better product for a consumer vs. anything else. I want an EV (not now but future) because they are better products. Quieter, more fun to drive, and less maintenance. The fact that battery tech will improve over time to be more efficient and easier to produce is a bonus. Rivian is a gem but too expensive. Hope they figure it out.

B N S
2 months ago

An agenda being forced on Citizens by the WEF. A Big NO to EV! Thankyou..

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