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Thor works to dominate EV RVing

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
While the possibility of smaller electric-powered motorhomes moves closer to reality, travel trailers are a different story. But industry gorilla Thor is making a move to dominate EV RVing in the towable market. How so? They’ve just signed an agreement with a German manufacturer to develop an electric drive system for towables.

Electric SUV tows RV over the Alps

This isn’t the first we’ve heard about Thor exploring the realm of EV RVing. Back in July, Thor’s Erwin Hymer Group and Dethleffs all went together to show how an EV could successfully tow a travel trailer. They hitched up an Audi e-tron® Sportback, a Belgian-made SUV, to a travel trailer equipped with a system called e-trailer. Picture a smallish travel trailer equipped with electric motors and batteries. While the SUV technically “towed” the trailer, the e-trailer system actually provided most of its own motive power, taking the load off the SUV.

In the July demonstration run, the Audi SUV “pulled” the trailer out of Germany and into Italy, right over the Alps. The whole trip was about 240 miles – just shy of the Audi’s estimated range. The Audi-combo made the trip without any need for a recharge stop.

New deal puts Thor in driver seat

Now Thor has announced it has signed on the dotted line with with ZF Friedrichshafen AG (ZF), which developed the eTrailer System along with Thor and Erwin Hymer Group (EHG) over the last several years. What that means is that Thor now has “exclusive rights” to the system, “in the RV space for a certain period and perpetual rights in key aspects of the intellectual property supporting the development.” It would look as though it puts Thor in the driver seat for future EV RVing – at least with the ZF technology.

It’s more than just the “wheels on the bus go round and round.” In order to keep their wagon hitched up properly, the drive system has to detect just how fast the tow vehicle is going and keep the proper pace. Without that sort of clever sensoring, one could image all manner of difficulties. On the flat, or heading upgrade, too slow would mean the tow vehicle could be hit with an excruciating load. On the downgrade, without smart monitoring, an overspeed trailer could become a major safety hazard, shoving the lead vehicle down the road. Evidently ZF’s technology overcomes these issues.

Still some bugs to work out

Cutaway shows propulsion motors and battery locations. Photo, EHome.

For practical use, it looks as though Thor still has a bit of work ahead before we see a future for EV RVing. In the prototype, the batteries and propulsion units scaled in at 1,320 pounds. That’s a considerable loss of net cargo capacity for an RVer. Certainly the system would need to be scaled up for larger trailers. Developers say they should be able to scale down the weight of the batteries and propulsion to something like 800 pounds for a trailer the size of the prototype.

Boondockers may not think much of the whole idea. Where do you find a 50-kilowatt DC fast charger in the middle of nowhere?

What do you think? We’d love to hear your comments and concerns. Just use the form below, and enter “EV RVing” on the subject line.

Click or drag a file to this area to upload.

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Bob M
21 days ago

Thor should concentrate on improving the quality of their RV’s before getting involved with EV’s. The bad thing about EV’s and RV’s having computers is the manufactures are going to start trying to charge us for computer up grades on their vehicles. I was reading where Toyota is going to start charging $80. year after three years to use the remote start. This is only the start of bleeding money from the consumers.

Richard
21 days ago

Every time I see an article telling of ANOTHER attempt to FORCE us into EVs, of any type, I am reminded of the MULTITUDE of studies showing the grid won’t handle it, “Alternative” sources have a larger carbon footprint in production AND recycling, and the negative effects of producing the raw materials – most of which are being controlled by Communist China.
Once again I think we are being gas-lighted by people with an agenda.

Vincee
21 days ago
Reply to  Richard

I couldn’t have expressed my thoughts any better.

Bob M
21 days ago
Reply to  Richard

Another issue with EV’s I just saw on This old house. Most homes have 100 or 200 amp electric service. They were redoing a house that had 200 amp service. The owners of the house wanted the garage wired for two EV’s. The electric contractor was going to have to review the electrical requirements for the house to see if the present 200 amp service would accommodate the upgrade for 2 EV’s. If not they would have to put in a 400 amp service. Which meant a lot of paperwork to justify upgrading the house to 400 amp service. Required by their electric company.

David
21 days ago
Reply to  Richard

Agreed

Joseph Phebus
21 days ago
Reply to  Richard

Who’s forcing you Richard? The way I read it one of the major RV producers is innovating and experimenting with what may or may not become part of the next generation of RVs. This is what companies that have a long record of success do. They try to anticipate market, environmental and technological change and get out in front of it. For the same reasons Thor is doing this, some of the major fossil companies are (finally) doing the same.

The horse and buggy stuck around a long time and was a very reliable form of transportation. Then some early adopters, mostly with money, began buying and propelling development of the auto industry. Over time, the technology improved, the necessary infrastructure was built and automobiles became affordable for the middle class. This is the way capitalism and markets have worked for centuries, and although I daresay the automobile had plenty of horse and buggy riding critics back then, they sort of faded away along with the carriage companies that rested on their laurels.

I love our Class A DP and will likely have it as long as it will have us. But I embrace and am excited about what a lot of smart people are working on to replace it should I live that long. In the meantime, if they come up with cleaner transitional fuel I’ll be happy to see and use that too.

There were likely multiple studies saying you’d fall off the earth if you sail too far out to sea. But until they find someone to try it and someone to pay for it no one ever knew there was a whole new world beyond the horizon.

Last edited 21 days ago by Joseph Phebus
Greg Gimlick
21 days ago
Reply to  Joseph Phebus

Perfectly stated.

Jennifer
19 days ago
Reply to  Joseph Phebus

Thank you. Exactly my thoughts when someone complains about EVs.

John Crawford
21 days ago
Reply to  Richard

And are you going to have to stand in line to charge your vehicle at the chargeing station?

BruceC
1 day ago
Reply to  John Crawford

nope..

Jerry
21 days ago
Reply to  Richard

WHY???? Develop the hybrid to get 50-80 mpg. And charge it own batteries?

Joseph Phebus
21 days ago

Man, why are there so many crotchety negative RVers here? Seems like every article about making RVs a little greener and cleaner invites a spray of negativity or is somehow an infringement on so called “freedom”. For heavens sake, no one is forcing anything on anyone, but along with everything else technology emerges and evolves as needs evolve. We used to encourage and applaud American and other technological progress and ingenuity but now it always seems to devolve into some liberal plot to make our lives miserable.

Thor has not done a good job with quality and there is plenty to criticize on that front. But I have to give them credit for being forward looking, anticipating changing market and environmental change, and getting out in front of it versus slowly becoming an industry dinosaur on the way to extinction. That’s called good business with an eye on emerging markets in my book.

Last edited 21 days ago by RV Staff
Les
21 days ago
Reply to  Joseph Phebus

Old dog…new trick? Bah, humbug.

chris
21 days ago
Reply to  Joseph Phebus

I couldn’t have expressed my thoughts any better

David
21 days ago
Reply to  Joseph Phebus

If they’re not forcing it why did they go after energy independence in America?

Rick K
21 days ago
Reply to  Joseph Phebus

Have you been living under a rock for the last year? We were supposed to have a “choice” in other recent matters as well. But if you don’t “choose” what one old man thinks, you face losing your job. It won’t be a choice, it will be a dictate. Our “so called freedoms” are being taken away daily all in the name of what’s “best for us”. I’m all for advancements and would probably embrace it once it matures. We are a long way from that.

Rory
21 days ago

Just look at the train industry, they have been doing DPU’s (distributed power units) for many years. Multiple engines being controlled by the main locomotive.

chris
21 days ago
Reply to  Rory

I wondered how they do that. Not sure why, but engines are not just at the front anymore.

Bruce
21 days ago

Well if this works like a lot of the other component installs and workmanship being cranked out by the RV industry today I would have to say no thanks, enough problems as it is. Same with EV motor homes, wait at the dump stations can be bad enough at times, imagine waits at a charge station 😁

Mike Sokol(@mike)
21 days ago

I have an invite to see this trailer in the flesh next month, and I’ll ask for a towing demonstration whenever a demo unit becomes available.

I do believe that Lithium/Solar/Fuel-Cell power for boondocking is the future of RVing, but battery traction assist in trailers towed by EV trucks is not going to happen very soon. But this demo is a great start.

Yes, the US grid is aged and won’t be able to power all the proposed EVs and eRVs without a major upgrade. Yes, campground power is badly overloaded already and needs serious updates just for standard RVs. And yes there are raw material availability issues for batteries that need to be resolved.

But I’ve talked to some brilliant engineers about this and feel that we’re on the right track for electric RVs, both for RV living power and for transportation power. I’m already discussing these challenges with VW, Ford, GM, Rivian and Atlis. Even Tesla is returning my calls now.

It’s all getting very exciting.

Last edited 21 days ago by Mike Sokol
chris
21 days ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

cool. Wish I were young enough to get a job in the EV industry. I don’t shake my fist at new things. The grid has plenty of time to upgrade.

Last edited 21 days ago by chris
bill n stacey
21 days ago

An Agenda Is Being Pushed On Corporations And The Sheep Will Buy…..

Rick K
21 days ago

More things to fail and more cost. It can be troublesome now to just plug in a 30 amp cord and get good and reliable electric. Now imagine plugging in your car and trailer to charge as well. Better not go to California. With rolling brownouts and blackouts you may not make it out.

Tommy Molnar
21 days ago
Reply to  Rick K

Your first sentence says it all, Rick. Our ‘normal’ cars are already fraught with technology glitches – all the time.

KellyR
21 days ago
Reply to  Rick K

Rick, you are correct. The ONLY problem I have had with my 2014 Roadtrek, on a Chevy chassis, has been the computer that runs the engine. I had it to the Chevy dealer five times for a no start situation. They changed out computer parts each time or “could find no problem”. Once it was out of warranty they found the problem with the computer at a cost of $900 to me. I never had so many frustrating problems with my many pre-computer vehicles.
Farmers are fighting with manufacturers right now to get access to the computer programs that run their equipment so they can fix it themselves, like they have fixed their equipment themselves all thru history. Some of our food costs are going to manufacturers of equipment that require farmers to pay the dealer to tweak the computer in the tractors and other equipment. Proprietary software holds us all hostage. I do not make enough money, nor did I ever, to be able to live in a computer driven society.

Steve
21 days ago

I don’t see any issues or problems that will be difficult to overcome. Your vehicle already does what was questioned regarding speed control, it’s called cruise control. More power up hill and reduced speed downhill. Downhill would use regen braking which helps keep batteries charged. Solar collectors on the trailer will help keep batteries charged. Regarding sensors, they will be similar to the electronic sensors used for cruise control. This is a great idea. And this in my opinion is what is needed to make EV camping viable.

TIM MCRAE
21 days ago

Brake charging?

Bob p
21 days ago

This would be a major safety issue as anything electronic will stop working before long, by the time they work out a safety circuit to guarantee the electronics will not short circuit and cause a tragic accident because the trailer “did a runaway on a down hill run” the EV fad will be over. This is a fad that will not be feasible for the next 50 years, the country’s infrastructure will have to be completely upgraded. At the present time I don’t see any electrical companies scrambling to spend millions of $$ to upgrade their systems. When they start their upgrades then I’ll take it seriously, at 78 I don’t think I’ll have to be concerned. Lol

Sharon L Boehmer
21 days ago
Reply to  Bob p

Bob, I don’t think this is a fad, I think it is the future. Just like the computer that took a whole room now sits on my lap, we have moved from BA gas guzzling cars to hybrids and the next step is EV. You may not see it in your lifetime, but at 62, I will. And infrastructure is already starting to upgrade, the demand will require it. I saw where a winery in small town northern WI installed 4 charging stations in their parking lot. BTW, my 84 yo dad is on his second hybrid car in 12 yrs and loves them. He says he is doing what he can to reduce his carbon footprint.

Warren G
21 days ago

Well said!

chris
21 days ago

You have a pretty cool dad.

Bob p
20 days ago

I watched a video on what’s wrong with EVs on YouTube. It was a study by a university studying the carbon footprint of EVs and ICE cars. The total carbon footprint was greater for the EV when calculating from start to junk yard. They included everything from the factories that make the raw materials and battery through its lifetime and finally to the recycling at the end of their life, the results were amazing. This is not God send to save humanity, our great grandchildren will pay the price for this FAD!

KellyR
21 days ago
Reply to  Bob p

Bob, I don’t think a fad, but being at the front of something new, it is always a hard row to hoe. I wish this new technology would have waited until I was gone. However, this is where I have been placed in this point in time, so I will have to live thru it. I just hope there is enough oil to keep me going until I’m gone. lol

Bob p
20 days ago
Reply to  KellyR

Me too! I may have misspoke in calling it a fad, but we are way far away from the time this is viable. Elon Musk has even stated the infrastructure is not ready for even 50% EVs.

Donald N Wright
21 days ago

The trailer in the photograph has a split A/C system on the A-Frame rather than the roof. Sounds like better aerodynamics for the trailer. As for a powered trailer, I would like one that can back itself into tight spaces, and out again later.

Charlie Sullivan
21 days ago

It’s coming…wait and see.