It was great,” said Brad Herzog, summing up a 56-day summer trip with his wife, Amy, and two young sons in Winnebago’s first—and so far only—hybrid motorhome.
We caught up with Brad by phone in Duluth, Minnesota, where the family was winding up its trip through the Midwest and Southeast before turning in the motorhome and flying home to Pacific Grove, California. The family had a busy summer. They went parasailing in Key West, toured the Smithsonian in Washington, visited the Kennedy Space Center on the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, took in a minor league baseball game on the Fourth of July, and drove the length of the 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway through Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi.
Herzog has the ideal summer job. While serving as spokesperson for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, he vacations in a motorhome with his family, blogs about his travels at the Go RVing website, and promotes RVing through interviews with the media.
The Herzogs have been exploring the U.S. in an RV every summer since 1996. As newlyweds, they traveled across the country for a year, and he wrote a book about it. Since then, they’ve made summer sightseeing in an RV a family tradition.
What made this year’s vacation different was the vehicle. Winnebago Industries loaned them a hybrid version of its Adventurer motorhome. The hybrid is a concept vehicle the company is testing before deciding whether to put it into production. It is a 35-foot Class A triple slide model equipped with lots of luxury features.
Herzog had nothing but positive things to say about the hybrid experience.
First, he said, the motorhome was the subject of amazing curiosity. With the word “hybrid” prominently displayed on the side of the vehicle, the Adventurer attracted attention and lots of questions from RVers at RV parks, motorists at gas stations, and even attendants at tollbooths.
Getting the media’s attention was no problem. Herzog was on TV in 20 of the 21 cities they visited.
So if curiosity is any guide, Herzog said, there is a big market waiting for a hybrid RV.
The Adventurer is powered by a Freightliner ecoFRED chassis that couples a diesel engine with an electric motor/generator and lithium-ion batteries. The batteries are constantly charged by the diesel engine and also capture and store energy through the braking system. A controller selects the most efficient mode of operation—diesel, electric or both—depending on operating conditions and driver demand.
Herzog said the system was so seamless that he never knew what kind of power was on. The only clue was that when it was quieter he assumed that electric power was doing the work.
Winnebago has estimated that the hybrid version of the Adventurer should get about 13 miles per gallon, compared with 8 to 10 miles per gallon for the non-hybrid version. Herzog said that seems about right, but he didn’t measure his gas mileage.
All he knows, he said, is that he traveled from just outside Washington D.C. to Dayton, Ohio, on three quarters of an 80-gallon tank of gas. And, he said, he spent much less money on fuel this summer than last. Part of that may have been that fuel prices were lower this year, and also that diesel engines are more economical than gas engines, but hybrid technology also played a part.
He said he is persuaded that hybrid technology “not only protects the planet, but also protects my wallet.”
Still, there are no plans to put the Adventurer hybrid into production anytime soon. It is not part of Winnebago’s 2010 model lineup. So far the only hybrid vehicle that Winnebago has built is the one it loaned the Herzog family for its summer tour.
You can read about the Herzog family’s trip at gorving.com. Herzog has written several travel memoirs and is also the author of alphabet picture books for children. You can learn more about him and his work at bradherzog.com.
Write to Mike Ward, editor at RV Life magazine, 18717 76th Avenue West, Suite B, Lynnwood, WA 98037 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Find First Glance online at rvlife.com.