As you will see when you turn to the section on new RVs in this issue, innovations continue to come along as RV manufacturers look for any advance that will give them an edge in the marketplace. Whether it’s the latest electronics, the use of composites in construction, or simply a creative floor plan, new models almost always have something of interest.
One of the most innovative RVs in 2012 is Forest River’s Aviator travel trailer, which uses composite materials in place of wood and takes advantage of tablet computer technology. The Aviator comes with a Sony tablet that you use to control the trailer’s electronics, including the electric fireplace and TVs; access the owner’s manual, and get troubleshooting advice.
High-definition TVs have become commonplace in RVs, but Newmar has gone further and included a Sony 3D TV as an option on its 2012 King Aire.
Of course, the new models come in all sizes and price ranges. Want an RV that can be easily towed? Livin’ Lite makes a 625-pound Quicksilver tent camper that can be towed by a SmartCar. Need something bigger? American Coach will provide 460 square feet of exquisitely furnished living space in its Heritage motorhome, but it will cost you more than $800,000.
Of all the new products arriving in 2012 none is as different as the all-electric E Tahoe from MVP RV in Riverside, California. It was shown as a pre-production model at the recent National RV Trade Show in Louisville.
MVP RV has outdone all RV manufacturers in the development of battery-powered RVs because its leading investor is Winston Chung, a wealthy Chinese entrepreneur and an inventor of lithium-ion battery technology. Chung’s investment enabled MVP RV to buy the former Fleetwood Enterprises factory to build travel trailers, fifth wheels, toy haulers and gas-powered motorhomes and to begin developing electric motorhomes.
In 2010, MVP RV built the first all-electric Class A motorhome, which it showed in Shenzhen, China, and now it has created the E Tahoe, a Class C motorhome the company plans to bring to the U.S. market later this year.
The E Tahoe is built on a Ford E450 chassis with a five-speed automatic transmission. Its electric drive system comes from another California company that Chung has invested in, Balqon Corporation, which develops and builds heavy-duty electric trucks using lithium battery packs.
The motorhome runs on lithium-ion batteries, which also power all the appliances onboard. The E Tahoe shown at Louisville has 96 batteries weighing a total of about 3,000 pounds. Scott Degnan, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing, said that when you subtract the drive train weight that would be in a gas motorhome, the net increase is about 1,500 pounds.
The E Tahoe uses a Balqon-developed system that can charge the batteries in less than 30 minutes. How far can you go between charges? That depends on how many batteries you install in the motorhome, Degnan said, but the range can be from 100 to 300 miles. The charging system is quick and the range is extraordinary, Degnan said, because the E Tahoe employs the world’s most advanced battery technology.
The electric RV has many advantages, of course. No emissions to foul the air. No noise to pollute the campground. And electricity is cheaper than gas.
But right now it’s a lot easier to find a gas station than an electric charging station, and electric vehicles come at a stiff premium.
How much will an E Tahoe cost? Gas-powered versions of the Tahoe start at $68,000 to $80,000, but MVP RV hasn’t set a price yet on the all-electric version.
Is there a market today for an electric RV?
Degnan says frankly that he doesn’t know. But he will find out when they put the E Tahoe on the market. And if you want a bigger, Class A motorhome in an electric version, MVP RV will have that available before long, too.
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.