Vision Vehicle fuel-cell electric RV is a 300-mile wheeled smart home
This year's Florida RV SuperShow is serving as a major coming-out party for American electrified camper technology. Winnebago already showed its first electric camper, and the US' largest RV brand has laid out its own plans. With the Vision Vehicle, Thor Industries is pushing past the limited ranges of all-electric motorhomes with a fuel-cell hybrid drive that offers up to 300 miles. The Class B+ oversized camper van concept also folds smooth lines, lightweight materials and a high-tech user interface into the mix, providing an early preview of the seamless RVing of the future.
If you had told us yesterday that the Winnebago e-RV had a 300-mile range, we'd have been among the first to sign the preorder list if they offered one (they didn't). But at 125 miles (201 km), the concept was clearly just a very early step toward an electric camper van to potentially debut at some point in the future.
Thor has gone a different direction with its Vision Vehicle, offering a more robust range right out of the gate. It gets there by teaming up with Ford aftermarket specialist Roush on a chassis-integrated range-extended electric layout that pairs a high-capacity battery with a fuel cell, for a combined range of 300 miles (483 km). That won't be enough for every type of RVer or road-trip enthusiast, but it's certainly robust enough for many motorhome owners and potential owners. Thor says the 300 miles is within the non-stop travel distance of most RV drivers, and given that it represents five hours at an average speed of 60 mph (96.5 km/h), that sounds plausible enough.
To help it reach that mileage, the Vision Vehicle employs aerodynamic-boosting measures such as the smoothly sculpted above-cab roofline of its chassis-mounted B+ motorhome module, covered wheels and sleek side-view cameras. Thor has also mixed in the lightest materials it can to help save weight on the large Ford Transit-based design.
"Our team has conducted a massive amount of research targeted at understanding the impact of design elements on extending range, including aerodynamics of the units," said Todd Woelfer, Thor COO. "Our strategy to create a unique electric experience specifically tailored for RV users has identified a number of product enhancement opportunities that we can and will implement well before we industrialize the electrified units."
Thor isn't the first to explore the possibility of a fuel cell motorhome, as Mercedes-Benz did the same in 2018, and Knaus-Tabbert also mentioned the possibility when showing its Wankel-extended motorhome concept last August. Thor has taken its concept a step farther, though, offering a comprehensive drive and off-grid camping power management system accessed via the large infotainment screen in the cab, the touchscreen command center inside the sliding door and even the pop-up TV.
The system keeps updated information about remaining power and local charging points at the owner's fingertips and provides local information so that he or she can make use of their spare time while the vehicle charges. The greater infotainment system also offers smartphone push-to-motorhome route-planning with local POIs, digital checklists, full control of living area equipment like lighting and heat, and a digital instrument panel with navigation.
From the smooth curves of its B+ shell to the sleek, rounded nature of its interior furnishings, the Thor Vision Vehicle clearly borrows from the awesome 2019 VisionVenture concept from Thor subsidiary Hymer, albeit with a simpler, more straightforward layout. The Vision Vehicle's expanding interior looks primed to attract both modern recreational RVers and full-time digital nomads.
The tall tablet-style touchscreen command center is joined by an Alexa-powered voice control system for easily operating onboard systems such as multimedia and lighting. There's also a hideaway TV on an electric lift integrated into the long countertop across from the driver-side sofa. Up above, long, thin solar panels flank a skylight that lets in plenty of natural light.
Upon arrival, a driver-side slide-out wall module adds serious elbow room, while digital slider-controlled adjustable-tint windows ensure privacy. Thor hasn't shown the entire floor plan in any detail or provide an equipment list, but what we can glean from video clips is that it's a front sleeper with expandable sofa-bed. The kitchen includes a microwave and fridge across from the main countertop area with what looks like an induction cooktop and sink. The rear houses a dry bathroom setup with a toilet room and separate shower.
The load area is split off from the living area by a rear wall. Open the double doors, and you gain access to a sporting-goods-store-grade gear organizer garage lined with tracks for adjustable shelving, baskets, hooks and mounts.
It seems like a motorhome with this amount of size and tech should have a second bed, but it's a concept, so it doesn't need to be practical. We'd imagine a production version would include at least one floor plan option with two beds.
Speaking of a production version ... well, there won't be one, not anytime soon, at least. The Vision Vehicle is more of a first visible step in Thor's roadmap toward future electrification and technology integration. Perhaps, as we've seen with Hymer's VisionVenture, some elements of it might make their way into future Thor designs and products well before an electrified Thor RV rolls out.
The two-minute video clip provides a nice overview of the Thor Vision Vehicle's features and how they'll contribute to a more seamless road-and-camp experience of the future.
Source: Thor Industries