Outdoors

Airstream remote-controlled glamper trailer self-drives to the future

Airstream remote-controlled gl...
With the eStream powering its own weight, a Tesla tow vehicle would get it to camp without eating up extra range
With the eStream powering its own weight, a Tesla tow vehicle would get it to camp without eating up extra range
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The eStream concept trailer features a rear sleeper/front dinette layout with technologies like voice control and power management
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The eStream concept trailer features a rear sleeper/front dinette layout with technologies like voice control and power management
Thor revealed two concepts at the Florida RV SuperShow: the Vision Vehicle FCEV motorhome and the Airstream eStream electrified camping trailer
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Thor revealed two concepts at the Florida RV SuperShow: the Vision Vehicle FCEV motorhome and the Airstream eStream electrified camping trailer
With the eStream powering its own weight, a Tesla tow vehicle would get it to camp without eating up extra range
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With the eStream powering its own weight, a Tesla tow vehicle would get it to camp without eating up extra range
At camp, the Airstream eStream could park via app-based remote control and power equipment with its large automotive battery and roof-integrated solar
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At camp, the Airstream eStream could park via app-based remote control and power equipment with its large automotive battery and roof-integrated solar
The Airstream eStream packs a roof full of solar to improve charging capabilities
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The Airstream eStream packs a roof full of solar to improve charging capabilities
Two battery packs find home in the trailer chassis
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Two battery packs find home in the trailer chassis
The eStream drive system uses a motor at each axle
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The eStream drive system uses a motor at each axle
Thor showed a simple app-based control system for maneuvering the Airstream eStream into a campsite or driveway
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Thor showed a simple app-based control system for maneuvering the Airstream eStream into a campsite or driveway
The all-electric camping experience of the future is drawing closer
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The all-electric camping experience of the future is drawing closer
Instead of backing the trailer up, simply unhitch and maneuver it in via app
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Instead of backing the trailer up, simply unhitch and maneuver it in via app
Camping out with the Airstream eStream electrified trailer
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Camping out with the Airstream eStream electrified trailer
Airstream eStream electrified glamping trailer
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Airstream eStream electrified glamping trailer
Push/pull: the Airstream eStream motors its own wheels behind the Tesla tow vehicle, ensuring that range isn't decimated
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Push/pull: the Airstream eStream motors its own wheels behind the Tesla tow vehicle, ensuring that range isn't decimated
Thor doesn't estimate charging time but promises a full power management system to make battery monitoring and charging less of a hassle
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Thor doesn't estimate charging time but promises a full power management system to make battery monitoring and charging less of a hassle
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Self-propelled trailer technology looked quite cool and cutting-edge on the curvy Dethleffs Coco, and it looks even cooler below a classic Silver Bullet silhouette. The Vision Vehicle isn't the only fun electric toy Thor Industries has brought out at the Florida RV SuperShow. The new Airstream eStream concept packs an e-drive that can propel the trailer's weight, maneuver into tight spaces via remote control, power up appliances at camp, and even serve as a backup power supply at home.

"Self-driving" and "self-parking" are not concepts we originally thought about for towables, but three and a half years ago, Dethleffs opened the door on that possibility when it partnered with ZF on the E.Home Coco trailer, a dual-motor caravan concept that promised to greatly decrease the pull on the tow vehicle, boosting efficiency and range.

Dethleffs' work began before Thor acquired its parent company Erwin Hymer Group in 2019 and has continued since. Thor recently typed out the terms of an official agreement with ZF toward the continuation of self-powered trailer development. The Airstream eStream concept has become the latest showcase of their work and the first time we've seen a trailer other than the Coco equipped with the electric drive system.

At camp, the Airstream eStream could park via app-based remote control and power equipment with its large automotive battery and roof-integrated solar
At camp, the Airstream eStream could park via app-based remote control and power equipment with its large automotive battery and roof-integrated solar

Last we heard, the E.Home Coco had a dual-40-kWh battery pack, and Thor doesn't say whether or not it updated that pack, outlining only that the eStream carries a high-capacity two-piece battery pack in its chassis. The vibrantly colored concept interior even includes a transparent floor panel to show the battery off.

Individual axle motors power each wheel, relying on an advanced sensor control system to coordinate speed with the tow vehicle. The trailer is meant to power itself steadily behind the tow vehicle, dropping its effective weight to nothing. Its dual motors can also adjust torque to improve handling and stability.

In testing the E.Home Coco last year, Dethleffs and ZF verified that the electric-drive system was able to fully compensate for the added weight and drag of the trailer. The Audi e-tron Sportback was able to tow the E.Home Coco over the ups and downs of an Alpine road trip without losing range. The testers did not arrive with much car or trailer battery power left over for powering camping equipment, but that could have been easily solved with a mealtime charging stop.

In summer 2021, the Dethleffs E.Home Coco had a successful range-boosting journey through the Alps
In summer 2021, the Dethleffs E.Home Coco had a successful range-boosting journey through the Alps

"In essence, we've turned the trailer into an electric vehicle," explained Josef Hjelmaker, Thor's Chief Innovation Officer. "Our technology also provides important features, including the ability to dramatically improve and extend off-grid camping, power electronics - even your home, operate the trailer from your digital device and remote-control park the trailer after unhitching the tow vehicle, all of which have been very well received and applauded by the RV community."

Hjelmaker lays out some very interesting added advantages of the eStream design. Not having to back a trailer into a tight camping spot with the tow vehicle could definitely take a little stress off the initial arrival at camp. Thor showed a simple joystick-like mobile app that would let campers roll it in like a large RC car.

Thor showed a simple app-based control system for maneuvering the Airstream eStream into a campsite or driveway
Thor showed a simple app-based control system for maneuvering the Airstream eStream into a campsite or driveway

Our readers have often pointed out that an electric camper would be ideal as a home-integrated power source, since it sits idly in the driveway for much of the year, anyway. It's good to hear Thor thinking that way, too. When not out and about towing and camping, the eStream could be plugged into the home grid and used like a backup generator during power outages. It could also feed energy into the grid during peak demand and recharge during lower-demand cycles. And unlike a regular electric car, the trailer wouldn't be away from home for much of the average weekday.

Like Thor's Vision Vehicle FCEV motorhome concept, the eStream trailer uses a comprehensive power management system to allow owners to monitor battery power and charging status from an onboard touchscreen and connected mobile devices. A full-roof solar array adds extra charging capability.

The eStream concept trailer features a rear sleeper/front dinette layout with technologies like voice control and power management
The eStream concept trailer features a rear sleeper/front dinette layout with technologies like voice control and power management

The eStream is just a concept, but Thor's recent agreement with ZF shows that it's a concept the company is actively pursuing. Using it on a premium product like an Airstream makes sense since a battery-powered motor system won't be a cheap option for a trailer.

It will be interesting to see who brings electric trailers to market first. In addition to the Dethleffs/Thor system, we've seen the idea pursued by Australian RV tech company OzXCorp and German chassis specialist AL-KO.

The video below shows the Airstream eStream in action.

Meet the Airstream eStream Concept

Source: Thor Industries

View gallery - 14 images
2 comments
2 comments
History Nut
I like the concept of moving the RV via a remote. Having the RV drive behind the tow vehicle to take the load off the towing EV is reasonable but could work as well allowing the RV battery capacity available to the tow vehicle. One has to remember that there is no 'free energy'. At some point the RV battery and EV battery will have to be recharged. One thing we have to be cautious about is the 'one system' thinking. An electric drive vehicle/RV does not have to only use a battery pack to run. Having a small APU designed to run at peak efficiency as part of the RV could turn it into a charging station for itself an the EV tow vehicle. The RV acting as an energy reserve for the home makes sense for grid outages but it shouldn't feed back to the grid because it is so little energy compared to the grid that it would just be a waste. Combining sources of energy for maximum efficiency should be the goal.
Eddy
Moving your RV in tight spots is simply a matter of using one of several electric jockey wheels on the market that plug into the trailer's 12v battery. I can only imagine how much fitting an electric automobile battery will add to the already huge cost of a trailer. Cheaper to stay in an hotel for your annual holiday.