By Mike Sokol
The RV Industry Association (RVIA) hosted a webinar earlier this week on “e-RVs and the Impact on the RV Industry,” with the key takeaway being the RV industry as a whole is developing products and lobbying for the necessary infrastructure for the coming electric-vehicle (EV) revolution.
Hosted by RVIA’s Monika Geraci, the webinar brought together five industry leaders to discuss the electrification of the RV industry and how it can best partner with the EV industry for a better customer experience.
The following RVIA members attended the panel discussion:
- McKay Featherstone, THOR Industries senior vice president of Global Innovation
- Ashis Bhattcharya, Winnebago Industries senior vice president for Business Development, Strategy, & Advanced Technology
- Toby O’Rourke, Kampgrounds of America Inc. president and CEO
- Jay Landers, RV Industry Association vice president of Government Affairs
- Bryan Ritchie, RV Industry Association head of Standards
The RV industry is already working on many of the challenges as the U.S. transportation industry adopts electric vehicles, it was noted. The consensus is that RV customers will continue to demand more power, more storage and more usage.
Challenges include the following:
- More education and training is needed about clean energy as it relates to all vehicles including EVs and RVs, so that there’s a consistence message to customers from marketing, dealerships, maintenance and campgrounds.
- Production volume is still low, so e-RV prices are higher than existing technologies, but government incentives can help fill in the financial gaps until production scale reduces costs.
- Charging station location and Design is important to allow tow vehicles and trailers to charge without having to disconnect the trailer from the truck. In five years 20% of EV charging stations on the road should have pull-through and multi-vehicle charging designs.
- EV and e-RV charging at campgrounds is a challenge since existing pedestals aren’t suited for the continuous current requirements of charging 100kWh batteries. Most campground will need additional Level 2 chargers in common areas and a minimum percentage of EV chargers at the campsites. New campgrounds are being designed built for this challenge.
- Many positive ideas were also discussed:
- Solar power is viewed as a refined technology, and will continue to grow.
- Lithium batteries are seen as the best solution for providing the customer with a great off-grid experience. Battery energy density will increase as costs continue to drop.
- All digital devices in an RV should able to communicate with each other and be controlled under a common smartphone app so that customers don’t need to switch screens to control everything.
- Improved appliance efficiency is a manufacturing goal since that means more off-grid time with fewer batteries.
- The RV industry plans to become the best possible towing partner with the EV manufacturers, for example; by improving aerodynamics to help reduces the range loss of EV trucks like the Ford Lightning, and offer self-propelled e-RVs like the Airstream E-Stream trailer with on-board batteries and traction motors.
- The RV industry plans to start with smaller Class B e-RVs and using existing vehicle chassis that are already powered by lithium batteries.
- Since many states alreadyhave legislated aggressive zero emission standards, some beginning as soon as 2030, the RV industry is ramping up the development of new products that can meet these deadlines while meeting customer expectations.
- Early EV adopters are already towing small RV trailers with EVs and it’s expected that in 10 years there would be a 50% rate of EV adoption by the public.
In all, the RV industry seems to be aware of the major challenges facing consumer adoption of e-RV technology, and is working closely with the federal government and vehicle manufacturers to help with the transition from fossil fuels to a renewable energy infrastructure.
What’s the best way to deliver a premium EV-charging experience?
According to a blog on ChargePoint.com, many business operators can benefit by adding EV stations at their website. If you’re considering meeting the growing need for this ancillary service at your RV and boat storage facility, Chargepoint states that once EV drivers find your business, they’ll expect an easy and familiar charging experience, whether it’s a charging brand they know because it’s already in their home or an in-vehicle experience that’s intuitively integrated into their driving habits. You’ll bring in more revenue by choosing a charging leader that EV drivers already rely on. You should also ensure that your charging stations are easy to find and use, with clear signage and convenient parking.
Can you power this growing market?
Bob Hayworth, CEO and founder of Baja Construction, predicted a couple years ago that storage facilities would need to turn their attention toward the needs of the EV industry, which is expected to grow at an exponential rate.
“We’re going to need a lot of energy because we don’t produce enough for all these cars,” Bob said in an interview in 2020.
Baja Construction has been developing carports for luxury toy storage for more than 30 years. In the last decade or so, the company started also designing carports with solar panels to maximize space and energy.
Solar panels should be installed at the beginning of projects, when the carport canopies are erected, Bob adds, to ensure the canopy is designed to handle the extra weight. Not all manufacturers of carports build with solar panels in mind. Thus, retrofitting might not be an option.