Automotive

Thor drops diesel generator for lithium and solar power on its flagship expanding motorhome

Thor explores the future of onboard RV power with a one-off 45-foot Tuscany concept
Thor explores the future of onboard RV power with a one-off 45-foot Tuscany concept
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Thor and Volta Power Systems present what they call the first generator-free Class A motorhome
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Thor and Volta Power Systems present what they call the first generator-free Class A motorhome
The Tuscany Lithium concept packs 36,400 Wh of lithium power between the headlights; like the generator on the production Tuscany, the batteries are affixed to a slide-out 
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The Tuscany Lithium concept packs 36,400 Wh of lithium power between the headlights; like the generator on the production Tuscany, the batteries are affixed to a slide-out 
Thor explores the future of onboard RV power with a one-off 45-foot Tuscany concept
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Thor explores the future of onboard RV power with a one-off 45-foot Tuscany concept
The concept kitchen area includes a totally updated look, along with handy equipment like a removable indoor/outdoor induction cooktop below the counter-matched lids
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The concept kitchen area includes a totally updated look, along with handy equipment like a removable indoor/outdoor induction cooktop below the counter-matched lids
The Tuscany 45JA floor plan that serves as the base of the Tuscany Lithium concept includes a very spacious layout with rear master bedroom, walk-in closet, and attached dry bath with shower room and his/her sinks
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The Tuscany 45JA floor plan that serves as the base of the Tuscany Lithium concept includes a very spacious layout with rear master bedroom, walk-in closet, and attached dry bath with shower room and his/her sinks
King-size bed in the rear master bedroom
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King-size bed in the rear master bedroom
The 45JA gives campers fireplaces in both the bedroom and kitchen, along with retractable TVs in the bedroom and living area
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The 45JA gives campers fireplaces in both the bedroom and kitchen, along with retractable TVs in the bedroom and living area
Roomy shower room just fore of the master bedroom
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Roomy shower room just fore of the master bedroom
The shower even includes a foldaway seat
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The shower even includes a foldaway seat
Thor experimented with a more residential-style design in the Tuscany Lithium, but the production Tuscany already includes residential touches like this French door refrigerator
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Thor experimented with a more residential-style design in the Tuscany Lithium, but the production Tuscany already includes residential touches like this French door refrigerator
Thor gives its concept Class A motorhome a more contemporary look — we particularly like the stainless steel apron sink
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Thor gives its concept Class A motorhome a more contemporary look — we particularly like the stainless steel apron sink
Anyone can enjoy a fireplace in the bedroom or living room, but how about the kitchen?
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Anyone can enjoy a fireplace in the bedroom or living room, but how about the kitchen?
The Tuscany Lithium concept also previews the upcoming Thor cockpit with Freightliner OptiView digital cockpit and 15-in Garmin infotainment system
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The Tuscany Lithium concept also previews the upcoming Thor cockpit with Freightliner OptiView digital cockpit and 15-in Garmin infotainment system
At the helm of the Tuscany Lithium concept
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At the helm of the Tuscany Lithium concept
Thor thoroughly revamped the Tuscany interior design from floor to ceiling
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Thor thoroughly revamped the Tuscany interior design from floor to ceiling
RVX booths weren't always laid out in a way conducive to shooting 40+ foot expanding motorhomes in their entirety, but we did our best
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RVX booths weren't always laid out in a way conducive to shooting 40+ foot expanding motorhomes in their entirety, but we did our best
A look at the 2019 Tuscany 45JA master bedroom, for comparison
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A look at the 2019 Tuscany 45JA master bedroom, for comparison
The 2019 Tuscany 45JA is much shinier inside, with its glossy cabinetry and flooring
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The 2019 Tuscany 45JA is much shinier inside, with its glossy cabinetry and flooring
2019 Tuscany 45JA interior 
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2019 Tuscany 45JA interior 

One of the most spacious, luxurious motorhomes at this month's RVX show was also created to be one of the most efficient Class As at camp. The one-off Thor Tuscany motorhome concept drops its diesel generator in favor of a massive lithium battery bank and solar panel array. It also includes a fully reworked, residential-style interior with two fireplaces, multiple power-retractable TVs, and handy innovations like a pop-out indoor/outdoor induction cooktop. This Tuscany isn't ready for market just yet, but it is a sign of things to come.

Stretching 45 feet (13.7-m) in length, the feature-packed Tuscany 45JA is Thor's flagship Class A motorhome, making an ambitious base vehicle for a lithium-powered concept. The fully expandable RV usually relies on a Cummins Onan 10-kW diesel generator, 300 watts of solar and six auxiliary house batteries to keep its power-hungry equipment running when not plugged into shore power. With the RVX concept, Thor leaves the slide-out Onan behind, enabling campers to cut the shore power cord without running a loud, emissions-spewing generator to keep electricity flowing.

Thor doesn't seem to have a proper name for its Tuscany concept, so we'll just call it the Tuscany Lithium, since the beefy lithium battery-based electrical system is the unequivocal highlight. To get more specific, Michigan's Volta Power Systems developed an electrical package with 36.4 kWh of automotive-grade lithium-ion battery storage concentrated into two large packs stored on a slide-out tray in the temperature controlled compartment up front. Volta and Thor are rather vague on details about what those batteries can power and for how long, but they do say they're powerful enough to operate all onboard electrical equipment and keep the air conditioner blowing for a comfortable midsummer night's sleep.

The Tuscany Lithium concept packs 36,400 Wh of lithium power between the headlights; like the generator on the production Tuscany, the batteries are affixed to a slide-out 
The Tuscany Lithium concept packs 36,400 Wh of lithium power between the headlights; like the generator on the production Tuscany, the batteries are affixed to a slide-out 

Running the power-hungry equipment of the spacious Tuscany will still deplete the batteries, and likely sooner rather than later, so Volta gives the system three charging solutions. Traditional shore-power charging relies on three pure-sine inverters for roughly 11,000 watts, while a 540-watt roof-mounted solar panel array provides an off-grid option. The third system should see a lot of use, especially during long tours with short overnight stops, running an 11-kW 58V alternator off the powerful diesel vehicle engine so that the batteries charge during driving. The charging systems can work independently or together, and an auto shutoff stops charging once the batteries are full.

Volta estimates the weight of the total system at 600 lb (272 kg), which is actually less than the 767-lb (348 kg) generator it replaces.

Volta's intention is to make lithium set-ups that last the lifetime of the vehicle, and it wires in a smart management system that cuts off battery power when the batteries drop to 10 percent, helping to ensure a longer lifespan. In the Thor video below, Volta cofounder and director of operations Jack Johnson says the Tuscany Lithium's batteries will retain 80 percent of their capacity after 10 years of use (2,000 cycles). He cites a general vehicle life expectancy of eight to 10 years, but mentions that in relation to cars, not motorhomes.

US Bureau of Transportation statistics show the average age of American automobiles increasing steadily over the last two decades, from 8.2 years in 1995 to 10.1 years in 2017. At the same time, America's RV and motorhomes were much older, rising on average from 13.2 years in 1995 to 15.8 years in 2017. The discrepancy seems intuitive enough – you drive your car every day, but you might only drive a motorhome a few times a year.

We suppose lower onboard electrical usage will follow less frequent RV usage, but the different ages and use cases of American cars and RVs does raise questions about how much life is enough for an expensive, custom-built RV lithium power system and whether auto industry-based lifecycle testing is applicable. It's not a big concern for a concept vehicle like the Tuscany Lithium, but it's something for consumers to keep in mind as production RVs make the switch from generators to lithium power.

Thor thoroughly revamped the Tuscany interior design from floor to ceiling
Thor thoroughly revamped the Tuscany interior design from floor to ceiling

The RVX show was all about previewing the future, and Thor didn't stop at the Volta electrical system, overhauling the Tuscany Lithium cabin with a more modern, residentially inspired design. We'd say they're quite successful in creating an updated look worthy of the huge living space, a nice improvement over the stuffier, over-glossed 2019 Tuscany interiors.

The range-topping Tuscany 45JA floor plan introduced last year already offers a very roomy, homey interior space thanks to the dual slide-outs on either side. Highlights include a rear master bedroom with walk-in closet, roomy dry bath layout with his/hers sinks, kitchen and bedroom fireplaces, and a 566-L residential French door refrigerator.

From there, Thor strips the cabin down from floor to ceiling and builds it back up with a rustic-contemporary look that's much less "RV" and more modern condo or apartment. The dark, flat-finish cabinets, moldings and frames are offset with light-beige, wood-look flooring, metal cabinet hardware and trim, off-white countertops, and multi-tone walls and accent walls.

The concept kitchen area includes a totally updated look, along with handy equipment like a removable indoor/outdoor induction cooktop below the counter-matched lids
The concept kitchen area includes a totally updated look, along with handy equipment like a removable indoor/outdoor induction cooktop below the counter-matched lids

The interior equipment package comes updated with the latest hardware and features, some of which will launch on the production 2020 Tuscany. One such feature headed for production is the full-length heated tile floor, which lets you walk barefoot in complete comfort, year-round. Another feature coming next model year, the large, unbroken countertop is pieced together with counter-matched covers for both the set-in induction cooktop and stainless steel apron sink. Interestingly, the cooktop quickly pops out of the countertop for outdoor use, a nice bonus for tailgaters and others who enjoy cooking outside.

The Tuscany concept rides on a 2020 Freightliner diesel RV chassis, complete with the new OptiView all-digital instrument panel. As a Daimler brand, Freightliner taps into the in-vehicle tech expertise of Mercedes-Benz, modeling the OptiView after the dashboard of the Mercedes S-Class. The new system combines traditional gauge data with multimedia information, full 360-degree camera integration, Bluetooth connectivity, and touchscreen and physical steering wheel controls.

The Tuscany Lithium concept also previews the upcoming Thor cockpit with Freightliner OptiView digital cockpit and 15-in Garmin infotainment system
The Tuscany Lithium concept also previews the upcoming Thor cockpit with Freightliner OptiView digital cockpit and 15-in Garmin infotainment system

Thor complements the OptiView with an all-new 15-in Garmin touchscreen infotainment system that merges together RV-specific navigation with multi-zone Fusion audio and infotainment features. The tablet-style touchscreen can be split into sub-screens for optimized viewing of mapping, audio, onboard systems data and camera feeds. Both the OptiView and 15-in Garmin system will be packaged into the 2020 Tuscany.

To finish it all off with a proverbial bow, Thor splashes on a vibrant custom paint job with fades, shadows, visual texturing and mirror-polish finish.

RVX booths weren't always laid out in a way conducive to shooting 40+ foot expanding motorhomes in their entirety, but we did our best
RVX booths weren't always laid out in a way conducive to shooting 40+ foot expanding motorhomes in their entirety, but we did our best

Unlike some of the other luxurious Class As we toured at RVX, the Tuscany Lithium didn't have a pricing sheet inside because it's a one-off concept with a number of features that may or may not ever see production. That said, Thor mentions more than once that certain features are what you'd expect from a seven-figure motorhome. The base 2019 Tuscany 45JA starts at US$479,850, without the Volta power system, conceptual interior or MY2020 features.

Thor put the Tuscany concept out there at RVX for people to have a look and offer feedback. The company intends to consider that feedback when moving forward with future product planning. We certainly hope to see Thor, and the RV industry at large, follow the auto industry in moving slowly but steadily toward electric power, and we look forward to camping next to more RVs running silent lithium in place of rumbling generators.

As it did with the Sequence concept camper van, Thor really dove into the details in its Tuscany Lithium videos. The first 18-minute video below walks through the electrical layout with Volta's Jack Johnson, while the 22-minute video that follows it looks more closely at the interior features and aesthetic details. If you don't have that kind of time to dedicate, you can walk through the interior more quickly in our photo gallery and compare the concept styling with a few interior photos of the 2019 Tuscany 45JA.

See How A Motorhome With No Generator Is More Efficient I Thor Motor Coach Tuscany at RVX

Thor Motor Coach LIVE at RVX with a special Tuscany with an electric twist!

Source: Thor Motor Coach

6 comments
guzmanchinky
That is an excellent concept, but I would ask: How long do the batteries last? If you have a diesel generator, you can run power for weeks for a/c and fridge, etc. And how long before the batteries need to be replaced? I would almost rather see a concept RV that uses an almost silent engine from a Honda Civic buried deep in the RV, run through several noise silencing or even noise canceling exhausts routed to the roof as a generator.
guzmanchinky
I'd also like to see an RV that does a good job of driving itself down freeways, since the tech is based from Mercedes this should be possible, I would think?
VincentWolf
Pitiful storage when an electric pickup would have 200 kW of batteries and a model S can have 120. 200 kW would last a week or more. Thats whats needed.
Daishi
Generators are a huge nuisance to listen to. The useful thing about panels is even if you are drawing more power than the panels provide it buys you time between needing to run a generator. There is not enough square footage in panels to run air conditioning on panels alone but you can get thin film solar panels that can be rolled up and stored when you aren't using them to augment the roof panels. As much as panels and batteries have gotten cheaper I'm surprised there isn't more uptake on systems like this for RVing and camping yet.
Stomps
Daishi, that's a great idea, roll up solar panel disguised as an awning...
larry95
What a pitiful amount of solar generation for a battery powered system. 45ft long by 6ft wide (its got to be wider then 6ft but im being conservative) is equal to 270 square ft. Average solar panel produces 15 watts per square ft so this has more then enough space to have a 4kW system instead of this garbage 0.54kW system. Its not like its a cheap option, it would clearly be over 500 000$ so quit skimping. With 4kW on the roof you could produce about 16kWh per day or 480kWh a month, which is a regular amount of usage for a small apartment so it would actually be self sustaining almost 100% of the time. Even on a few cloudy days the battery should allow for 2+ days normal use and the solar could nearly add an extra day when cloudy. Missed opportunity.