Zeus and SylvanSport team on 400-mile electric off-road adventure RV
With established automakers and EV startups preparing electric trucks and vans for launch, the dawn of the electric camper age is fast approaching. The Rivian R1T camper truck should soon be roaming campgrounds and forest roads, and now we have a first look at another future EV-RV. Minnesota startup Zeus Electric Chassis and North Carolina adventure trailer manufacturer SylvanSport are teaming up to create a line of pure-electric RVs with the rugged capability to reach far-off launch points and campsites and the flexibility to carry plenty of gear and comfortably sleep the crew.
Zeus describes itself as a Class 3 to 8 severe-duty electric work truck manufacturer. It's had a whirlwind of a 2021, revealing a working chassis in January, signing its first customer in May, preparing manufacturing facilities, signing partnership agreements, rolling its prototype trucks out to events, and planning for initial fourth-quarter deliveries.
Work and utility may be Zeus' bread and butter, but it's also interested in exploring other potential markets for its e-truck chassis, with recreational vehicles becoming its next target. SylvanSport brings an innovative, multifunctional approach to small RVs that should complement an electric vehicle nicely. It is something of an expert in efficiently packaging a lot of RV into a small, lightweight space.
The newly announced team-up should put Zeus and SylvanSport on the map of pioneers of all-electric RVing, and it could also launch the market's first all-electric all-terrain Class B+/C RV, an immediate, pure-battery competitor to products like the Winnebago Ekko. In an initial batch of basic specs, SylvanSport details a 25-foot (7.6-m)-long all-wheel-drive RV that rides on military-grade axles and independent front and rear suspension. It will be powered by a 290-hp layout of liquid-cooled permanent-magnet electric motors wired to enough battery for up to 400 miles (644 km) of driving range (we'll believe that range when we see it).
"SylvanSport has made a name for itself by creating innovative products for outdoor adventurers, including smartly designed, multipurpose trailers," said Robert Grinstead, Founder/CTO of Zeus Electric Chassis. "The Zeus chassis platform was designed to go anywhere, anytime and be the perfect leading edge for on or off grid, making us a perfect team in this endeavor."
The parties call the first renderings "visionary design concepts," so we assume they plan to smooth the overall design out considerably from there. Right now the pictures very much show SylvanSport's Vast trailer body plopped down atop a Zeus truck chassis with little to no alteration. That's not a bad starting point, but there's a lot that could be done to better marry truck and motorhome, starting with adjusting the heights so the RV box isn't towering so high over the truck cab, left to be connected by an awkwardly tall wind deflector.
The Vast became SylvanSport's first hard-sided caravan upon introduction in 2019, showing some of the same multipurpose flexibility that made its original Go trailers popular. The Vast includes unique features like a convertible sofa/bed that slides forward to create cargo storage for things like bikes and an indoor/outdoor kitchen that pulls out the sidewall, clearing shower space inside the bathroom as it goes. A power-lift bed drops down from near the ceiling to finish off sleeping space for a total of four adults.
While the Vast is an impressive multitool with which to start the electric RV journey, it is not the most rugged, off-road-ready camper out there and might not make an effective off-road motorhome module without some reinforcement and alteration. Some of that is taken care of by riding atop the Zeus "severe-duty" truck platform, but the actual structural and hardware components of the SylvanSport box might also need some upgrading.
Or maybe Zeus and SylvanSport will just develop something new from the ground up.
"While we are at the beginning stages, we are excited about the unique features and benefits that will be brought to life in 2022," said Grinstead.