Electric Winnebagos are coming, but they won't be road-tripping the American West just yet
With more and more battery-electric vehicles hitting the market, and driving ranges going up and up, EVs are starting to become practical for more types of driving tasks. They still have a ways to go before all-electric road trips in bus-like Class A motorhomes become common, though. One of the more famous purveyors of big, beastly motorhomes, Winnebago is taking a first step, developing an all-electric Class A platform. As a commercial platform, the electric Winnebago won't be touring highways and national parks just yet, but it will offer a zero-emissions vehicle option for business customers.
Winnebago may be best known for its huge motorhomes (with a side of awesome camper vans), but it also has a commercial vehicle business. Its Specialty Vehicles Division sells both basic vehicle shells and custom-built models to businesses that need large motorhome-style vehicles. These vehicles offer standard and available features like Thermo-panel sidewalls, underlying extruded aluminum structure and embedded steel attachment points, space-enhancing slide-outs and solar power.
Now Winnebago's commercial line-up also includes 33- and 38-foot (10- and 11.6-m) all-electric shells. The Iowa-based company has teamed with Motiv Power Systems, a Silicon Valley company that specializes in electric conversions.
The collaboration follows Motiv's recent launch of the Electric Powered Intelligent Chassis (EPIC), a production line-ready, turn-key electric chassis solution converted from Ford underpinnings. After years of adding its electric powertrain kits to vehicles like school buses, Motiv was selected by Ford as an approved electric qualified vehicle modifier, paving the way for its electric chassis program. Ford's announcement was made at the 2017 Work Truck Show, and Motiv debuted the EPIC at the 2018 show in March.
Winnebago will use the Ford F-53 motorhome-based EPIC chassis as the basis of its all-electric, zero-emissions specialty vehicle platform. The gross vehicle weight rating of the Winnebago vehicles will top out at 26,000 lb (11,800 kg). After conducting road testing, Winnebago estimates a driving range between 85 and 125 miles (137 and 201 km).
Winnebago is aiming its new platform at customers that travel in urban and semi-urban areas, where they'll be able to stay within the range limit and also have access to charging. Examples of uses it envisions include mobile medical clinics, bloodmobiles, and educational and outreach support vehicles.
"Winnebago Industries is a company that is focused on creating customer value through innovation and technology," said Ashis Bhattacharya, chief of Winnebago's Specialty Vehicles Division. "We believe that all-electric vehicle applications continue to evolve to serve numerous end-user needs and this is our first step as a participant in this space."
Winnebago's announcement doesn't include any mention or inference of all-electric RVs, and it seems too early to start seriously thinking about such vehicles. While German motorhome specialist Dethleffs recently explored the idea at the concept level, and a few converters have created all-electric camper van projects, we reckon it'll be a while before battery electric driving ranges are on par with the touring mileage demands of a commercial motorhome. We do expect to start seeing more electric camper vans once Volkswagen gets the I.D. Buzz bus onto roads, though.