Carbon fiber camping trailer sustains itself off-grid with "endless" power and water
A new style of trailer for an evolving breed of traveler, the Sonic X from KZ Recreational Vehicles adds a little more self-sustainability to the camping trailer world. With its solar-backed lithium battery bank, the 26-footer is designed to run off-grid indefinitely. It also includes lightweight carbon fiber construction, a fresh water harvesting system and insulation-boosting technology for better performance, autonomy and efficiency. Get lost for weeks and months at a time without giving up residential-style comforts.
The new RVX trade show taking place this week in Salt Lake City is challenging the US RV industry to innovate and attract a more diverse set of buyers. The show itself reinvented itself from the RV Industry Association-sponsored, Louisville-based National RV Trade Show with the aim of disrupting the industry, better aligning with changing demographics and building more awareness and buzz. It kicked off on Tuesday with a big reveal competition that sought to identify the most innovative new products for different profiles of buyer, everyone from gritty outdoor adventurers and van lifers to luxury tourists and family vacationers.
The Sonic X was a runner-up in the "City Escape" category, though it could have just as easily earned its spot in the "Sustainability" or "On the Horizon" (cutting edge/futuristic product) categories. It seems like the epitome of what RVIA is looking to accomplish with RVX, generating buzz by applying new technologies and materials to the motorhome and trailer world. In other words, hosting a show that's a little more like a tech or auto show, less a stuffy exhibition hall packed wall to wall with monstrous motorhome and fifth-wheel boxes with loud graphics.
As a subsidiary of Thor Industries, which recently consolidated its place as the world's largest RV manufacturer with the purchase of Germany's Erwin Hymer Group, KZ has some inherent advantages when experimenting with new technologies and design techniques. It applies a variety of new strategies to the Sonic X concept, starting with a carbon fiber body designed to decrease overall weight while maintaining robust durability. Below that glimmering carbon, the Huck-bolted frame offers five times the strength of a welded construction, according to KZ.
The other big innovation on the Sonic X is its power system, which combines a 1,000-watt roof-mounted solar array with a 1,000-Ah nine-battery lithium-ion bank for serious off-grid electrical capability. In fact, KZ says that it's the industry's first 26-foot (7.9-m) trailer with "endless solar power." That endlessness will, of course, depend upon the individual owner's power usage, weather and travel conditions, but the system is built to power everything from the 198-L gas/electric refrigerator to the outdoor entertainment system with HDTV, sound bar and PlayStation 4.
The beefy, solar-backed electrical system helps the Sonic X achieve energy independence, and a Secondary Infinite Water System helps it keep fresh water flowing far beyond campground hookups. Similar to what we've seen on rugged off-road caravans and expedition vehicles, like the Bruder EXP-6 and EarthCruiser EXD, the Sonic X system pulls water out of natural sources like streams and lakes with its 25-ft (7.6-m) hose and heavy-duty pump, filters it and then stores it in a 379-L tank. So when you run out of the fresh water you set out with, you don't have to head back to civilization just to fill up.
The Sonic X isn't quite so rugged as the aforementioned Bruder, Terra Trek TTE or some of the other Aussie-built off-road camper trailers we've looked at in recent times, but it is designed to chase adventure into the mud and dust. It rides on 30-in off-road tires cushioned by torsion-axle suspension. A triple-tube bumper, 360-degree nerf bars and skid protection help to fend off damage from rocks, roots and other trail hurdles, while a custom-designed kayak rack and four-bike carrier get the paddles and pedals to their respective starting points. An illuminated pass-through storage garage adds extra gear-haul space; integrated LED roof bars help light up the campsite after sundown; and a backup camera makes maneuvering easier.
KZ ups interior weather protection and energy efficiency with deep-tinted frameless windows and Chroma-coated roller shades, helping to prevent heat and UV rays from getting inside. The interior is quite spacious and comfy, featuring a front Murphy bed/loveseat, central dining area with sofa and butcher block table, and a well-equipped kitchen. The rear dry bathroom is roomy enough to take your clothes off in. Indoor amenities include USB and 110V charging outlets, an HDTV with DVD player, a dual-power fan with rain sensor, and a concealed wall safe.
The 6,030-lb (2,735-kg) Sonic X is billed merely as a concept, but hopefully it's an indication of the type of forward thinking and smart design that is on its way to production RVs. We're on the floor at RVX and will be looking at more of these forward thinking RV innovations in the coming days.
Source: KZ Recreational Vehicles