Automotive

Winnebago's 125-mile electric RV zaps voltage into American van life

Winnebago's 125-mile electric ...
The 125-mile Winnebago e-RV relies on an electric powertrain supplied by Colorado's eLightning Motors
The 125-mile Winnebago e-RV relies on an electric powertrain supplied by Colorado's eLightning Motors
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Winnebago looks into the electric future of RVing
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Winnebago looks into the electric future of RVing
The Winnebago e-RV concept promises up to 125 miles of range, a bit short for many RV excursions but a start toward an eventual zero-emissions camper van
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The Winnebago e-RV concept promises up to 125 miles of range, a bit short for many RV excursions but a start toward an eventual zero-emissions camper van
The Winnebago e-RV would be good for taking a quick overnight hiking trip in a local canyon but not for exploring canyons in remote desert
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The Winnebago e-RV would be good for taking a quick overnight hiking trip in a local canyon but not for exploring canyons in remote desert
Besides the e-drive, Winnebago gives the e-RV a touchscreen-/mobile-based control and monitoring system
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Besides the e-drive, Winnebago gives the e-RV a touchscreen-/mobile-based control and monitoring system
Winnebago reveals two years of electric camper work at the 2022 Florida RV SuperShow
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Winnebago reveals two years of electric camper work at the 2022 Florida RV SuperShow
Like some of Winnebago's side door kitchens, the e-RV rear kitchen includes an adjustable, drop-down worktop for indoor/outdoor cooking
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Like some of Winnebago's side door kitchens, the e-RV rear kitchen includes an adjustable, drop-down worktop for indoor/outdoor cooking
Winnebago plans to get feedback on the e-RV concept before continuing R&D toward an electric production motorhome
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Winnebago plans to get feedback on the e-RV concept before continuing R&D toward an electric production motorhome
Camping with the Winnebago e-RV
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Camping with the Winnebago e-RV
The e-RV explores a different layout, with a side sofa that transforms into front bed and a rear kitchen and bathroom
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The e-RV explores a different layout, with a side sofa that transforms into front bed and a rear kitchen and bathroom
The 125-mile Winnebago e-RV relies on an electric powertrain supplied by Colorado's eLightning Motors
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The 125-mile Winnebago e-RV relies on an electric powertrain supplied by Colorado's eLightning Motors
On the road with the Winnebago e-RV concept
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On the road with the Winnebago e-RV concept
Fold-out bench seats
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Fold-out bench seats
The multi-positional table completes the dining lounge
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The multi-positional table completes the dining lounge
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As promised, Winnebago has kicked off the Florida RV SuperShow with a high-voltage bang, revealing the American market's first all-electric motorhome, a Ford Transit-based camper van with full floor plan. More than just a big battery and electric motor on a regular Winnebago camper, the e-RV concept is a completely reimagined all-electric camping experience that meets all driving and camping needs with its onboard 86-kWh battery pack. It won't be coming to your local RV dealership next quarter, but it's a critical first step in the motorhome industry's move into a zero-tailpipe-emissions electric future.

Electric RVs have made some tiny ripples in the European market, where for several years determined buyers have been able to find aftermarket conversions of small camper vans and even a larger Class C motorhome with up to 250 miles (400 km) of claimed range. They've even been able to roll a plug-and-play camper module inside a large electric cargo van and head for the farthest continental extremities.

The US market has been a very different story. A lack of all-electric van and truck chassis has led to an entirely predictable lack of all-electric motorhomes of any size or shape. The Rivian R1T camper truck with rooftop tent stands as the closest thing to an all-electric RV the US has seen.

Winnebago has taken the first steps toward changing all that with what it calls the e-RV concept. Given the aforementioned dearth of factory chassis with which to work, it ultimately collaborated with a third-party electrification shop. Colorado's eLightning Motors transformed the ICE-powered Ford Transit into the zero-emissions 86-kWh Transit that makes the e-RV concept possible.

Camping with the Winnebago e-RV
Camping with the Winnebago e-RV

That battery is larger than the 67-kWh unit Ford equips to the E-Transit, but it's smaller than the top 120-kWh 170-mile (274-km) option that eLightning offers for its Ford Transit cargo and passenger van conversions. We're surprised they didn't use the largest battery possible, since range is both highly important for a road-trip-ready camper van and under extra stress from the likes of added weight and more electrical draws.

Winnebago and eLightning do, in fact, power all onboard systems and equipment via the powertrain battery pack, eliminating reliance on LPG tanks or other fuels. A 350-volt DC architecture supports the water heater and air conditioner with heat pump, while 110-V AC power fires up the induction cooktop and keeps the fridge humming.

On the road with the Winnebago e-RV concept
On the road with the Winnebago e-RV concept

With all that in mind, Winnebago estimates e-RV range at 125 miles (201 km), competent enough for local sightseeing and camping, but certainly not ready for a (convenient) cross country road trip. According to Winnebago's research, though, that range will meet the needs of the 54 percent of new RV buyers who prefer to keep their trips under 200 miles (322 km), which further leads us to believe they should have added more battery and gotten closer to that 200. If that 200-mile trip is one-way, then drivers are looking at 400 total miles, with three charging stops along the way (maybe two if they hyper-mile their way to extra mileage).

But the e-RV is still an early concept and EV ranges in general are quickly rising, so we suspect a Winnebago e-camper van will boast 200+ miles by the time it gets close to market. And the 45-minute fast-charging time Winnebago estimates wouldn't be all that bad in a Tesla, let alone a full camper van in which occupants can prepare a complete meal or grab a nap on a proper bed. In addition to public fast charging, the e-RV can charge at home or properly equipped campgrounds.

Besides the e-drive, Winnebago gives the e-RV a touchscreen-/mobile-based control and monitoring system
Besides the e-drive, Winnebago gives the e-RV a touchscreen-/mobile-based control and monitoring system

To make the e-RV a technological showcase beyond electric drive power, Winnebago has added a comprehensive control system that looks similar to Mercedes' MBAC, combining onboard touchscreen operation and mobile control and monitoring. The system also optimizes electrical load efficiency. Winnebago says it aims for residential-grade Wi-Fi with a beefier, dual-modem router system.

As for living arrangements, the e-RV has a unique layout that differs from anything in Winnebago's current camper van lineup. The indoor/outdoor kitchen is at the passenger-side rear, across the aisle from the bathroom. A driver-side sofa converts over into a front bed, completing a configuration that's virtually the opposite of a typical camper van layout. When it comes to dining, an adjustable swivel table swings over the sofa, and two extra seats fold down across the way.

The e-RV explores a different layout, with a side sofa that transforms into front bed and a rear kitchen and bathroom
The e-RV explores a different layout, with a side sofa that transforms into front bed and a rear kitchen and bathroom

Winnebago completes its concept interior with the type of trendy sustainable materials that have become standard fare for concept cars. In this case, it's recycled-cork flooring and woolen wall trim.

Winnebago executives didn't surprise the Florida RV SuperShow today with availability or pricing estimates, emphasizing instead that the e-RV is a living concept that will continue its development. Over the next few months, Winnebago will solicit feedback from potential buyers and observers.

Source: Winnebago

View gallery - 13 images
8 comments
8 comments
guzmanchinky
Most excellent first step! I have been vanlifing for many years and love my Sprinter 4x4, but I would much rather have a silent electric that runs the a/c quietly. But I will wait for a bigger range. Most of the RV parks here in the US have signs saying "no charging of electric cars or golf carts" since I don't think their electric system can handle the additional draw...
Chase
It would be neat if the camper could also act as a UPS when plugged in at home. It would be a shame for that big of a battery to just sit there between trips.
paul314
@guzmanchinky I wonder if the ability to offer charging services will start to be a selling point for campgrounds and RV parks. The ones who do will have prime access to a growing slice of well-heeled customers. Then a typical road trip might be a couple of fast charges during the day, followed by arrival, moderate-rate top-up during a stay of a few days to a week, then back home again.
Daishi
The cost of an aftermarket retrofit for EV is going to be higher than buying a native EV platform to build on later when that becomes possible. RV's are one area where built-in solar is useful because onboard systems use less power than the drive system. Related to charging it might take 20-40 hours to charge an EV on a 120v outlet but depending how long you are going to be parked there camping it might not be the end of the world.
Gordien
I'm surprised that a hybrid model didn't appear first. Double the battery size, and add a large solar array. The UPS idea is very good. Great start though - I agree.
vince
It's about time. All RV's in the future will be 100% electric. It's time to get rid of the extremely hazardous propane tanks which I know of 6 people myself that had their RV's blowup and totally destroyed due to leaking propane fittings or stoves. Propane doesn't have the sulfur compounds added so that people can smell the leaking gas and thus it's double dangerous. Then the diesels kill many with carbon monoxide and pollution and the noise is horrendous and most RV campgrounds prohibit their use after 10 pm because people can't sleep with so many generators running in the evening hours. Then too the pollution from RV's that get 5 to 6 mpg is ridiculous just like it is for gas or diesel trucks. Few have the pollution controls that under 10,000 lb cars do so they pollute a lot more than typical cars on the highway.

Again, it's about time.
ReservoirPup
Thanks, @vince , you have reinforced my distaste for ICE RVs.
ReservoirPup
It’s an excellent start. The high roof, driving habits and expectations of comfort don’t allow for a truly long range BEV RV now. If I were the designer I’d strive for the smallest cross section and weight. But who would buy an RV as roomy as Toyota Yaris?