The Electric RVs We Can’t Wait to See Launched

electric rvs

The Electric RVs We Can’t Wait to See Launched

Rivian’s plans to build out its Adventure Network of chargers and trailhead chargers being installed by Stellantis to support its Jeep Wrangler 4xe are putting EV recharging convenience at the fingertips of off-roaders. Beyond Jeeps, pickups, and SUVs, these companies are exploring exciting prospects of enjoying the wide open spaces in eco-friendly all-electric RVs (recreational vehicles).

Automakers from Ford to Winnebago are on the cusp of releasing EV camper vans for outdoors enthusiasts desiring greener transport. These vehicles will add another dimension to the EV outdoor scene that already has all-electric ATVs and UTVs available. Here are six of the most exciting options that are in the works right now.

1. Winnebago Industries’ e-RV

Winnebago’s leadership in the RV world makes its upcoming e-RV camper van an especially intriguing one for RVing aficionados. The company’s engineers chopped the ICE engine out of a gasoline-powered Ford Transit van. They replaced it with an electric motor and an 86 kWh battery. Winnebago buys the motors from Lightning eMotors rather than trying to build the unfamiliar equipment itself.

A Winnebago press release says the e-RV gets a 125-mile range per charge. The company claims this suffices for 54% of new EV owners, whose first forays are typically shorter than 200 miles. Designers limited the RV’s top speed to 69 mph.

Winnebago took the vehicle on a 1,400-mile trek to Minnesota from Washington DC to demonstrate the new design. Car and Driver says the drivers took back roads since highway speeds cut sharply into range. Each hop between charging stops covered 70 to 90 miles, adding up to roughly 300 miles daily.

The Winnebago e-RV is a slick modern camper van for those wanting to take a leisurely cross-country trip or visit local attractions. Owners use electric power to run various conveniences and appliances Winnebago outfits each e-RV with. The campers can store their food in the included refrigerator and heat it on an induction cooktop.

A water heater offers hot showers and a rooftop air conditioning unit cools the interior in the summer sun. There’s both alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) power on tap for appliances. There’s also wi-fi connectivity and eco-friendly, sustainable materials to show off your dedication to greener living.

2. Ford E-Transit

Adventurous outdoorsy types have been turning Ford Transit vans into small camper vans for years despite the lack of an official camper variant. The E-Transit also looks ripe for this conversion, whether done on an individual basis or as a custom conversion by companies.

Winnebago chose the ICE Transit as the basis for its electric e-RV camper. However, this required the company to kludge in a Lightning eMotors electric drive system. The E-Transit itself seems an excellent candidate for the electric camper role.

For European campers, Bürstner is doing just such a conversion, New Atlas reports. The company, now a 60-year veteran of camper van building located near the border between France and Germany, says its E-Transit camper will have a 197-mile range.

Owners in Europe may find this range sufficient for a camping trip, but it’s less impressive compared to America’s wide-open spaces. Bürstner plans to cram a bed, kitchenette, bathroom, and dinette – possibly with a third-occupant spare bed – into its E-Transit concept. Even if its model doesn’t see American sales, it shows the E-Transit platform’s potential for professional electric camper van conversion.

Ford’s also making a medium-sized E-Transit Custom that could be an even more compact camper van’s foundation. The Blue Oval says the model will have a 236-mile range.

This range boost could increase its utility in getting to campgrounds in the same state or the next one over. The E-Transit Custom will start production in late 2023, meaning camper van concepts could appear sometime in 2024.

3. Volkswagen ID. Buzz Microbus EV Van

electric rvs
The Volkswagen ID. Buzz is based on the dedicated battery electric MEB platform.

Volkswagen pioneered the camper van back at the end of World War II with some of the world’s earliest designs. Youngsters and the day’s “cool crowd” seized on the Volkswagen Microbus as an affordable, fun vehicle able to transport a whole group. When Volkswagen launched the Westfalia camper van in 1950, with “Westies” gaining red-hot popularity in America in the mid-50s.

The “Westie” featured a pop-up roof, an icebox, and a sink to act as a small home-away-from-home on wheels. It even appeared at Woodstock and other famous events of the Sixties. Volkswagen gave the following T2 “Breadloaf” version more space and a bay window.

Today, Volkswagen revived the Microbus in the form of the ID. Buzz EV, a surprisingly faithful all-electric rebirth of the original. The new ID. Buzz has the fun-loving, cheerful look of the original and is due out in 2024, by current estimates.

It’s expected to cost $55,000 to $60,000, a mid-priced option by EV standards. People estimate its range at 264 miles or more, possibly up to 342 miles on a charge. Volkswagen will likely build it with both a rear-wheel drive (RWD) and an all-wheel drive (AWD) variant. The AWD ID. Buzz should go from 0-60 mph in a sporty 5.5 seconds.

Multiple sources confirm a camper van version of the ID. Buzz is due out in 2025. Volkswagen might name it the ID. Buzz California Camper, the ID. California, or some other moniker. Volkswagen has supplied almost no details at this point beyond the probable ID. California name.

It’s not even certain if the ID. California will be sold in the United States. However, with camping more popular than ever and EVs on the upswing, this is one promising camper van we’ll be keeping a sharp eye out for.

4. Thor Vision Vehicle RV

One of the biggest electric RVs currently planned, the Thor Vision Vehicle is a beefy Class B RV, not a smaller Class C camper van. Thor Industries’ designers gave it the sloping aerodynamic front of an oversized sprinter van. It appears to come standard in a handsome silver-gray tint accented by slim stripes of color.

Remarkably, Thor claims the Vision can achieve a 300-mile range on a single charge for longer RVing adventures. The company keeps details close to the vest at this point. However, the system appears to blend battery-electric power with a fuel cell Thor says recharges the battery on the fly.

Official company commentary on its YouTube video states the fuel cell range extender might use “LP gas, natural gas, hydrogen, and possibly other fuels.” Of course, aerodynamics plays a major role in achieving this range, too. Engineers even pared down the side mirrors to a narrow, minimal width, boosting their effectiveness with video assistance.

Thor Industries’ estimate of how long the Vision RV can operate internal systems is a full week. This allegedly includes the use of the air conditioning system. Thor probably includes the maximum possible contribution of the 1,500-watt array of roof-mounted solar panels in its estimate.

If true, this would require the owner to park the Vision in full sunlight in a bright climate such as the American Southwest or California. Nevertheless, even five to six days of full electricity use while camping would be an outstanding engineering success. If Thor builds the Vision EV RV to match its buildup, this electric recreational vehicle should be one of the finest available.

5. Dethleffs E.HOME Caravan

Electric vehicles lose a lot of charge towing trailers, despite having very impressive towing payloads thanks to torque-rich electric motors. People report trailers halving their EV pickup truck’s range, and tests by MotorTrend and other sources confirm this. EV owners will see their range cut sharply if they try to tow a current caravan-style RV.

Caravan manufacturer Dethleffs appears to have a solution. German businessman Arist Dethleffs founded the company in 1932 and introduced the world’s first RV campers at the time. Today, his enterprise stands at the cutting edge again with a self-powered towed RV caravan, the E.HOME.

This caravan solves the problem of EV range loss from towing by featuring a separate battery pack. Engineers built in an electric motor to power the E.HOME’s single axle, so the caravan propels itself while being towed.

Dethleffs tested the E.HOME electric caravan RV on a roughly 240-mile route through the German Alps. This included an 18.6-mile climb through the Brenner Pass. The engineers discovered the towing EV’s charge didn’t fall any faster than if it was driving without the trailing caravan.

The E.HOME RV’s self-powered driver also helped increase safety and stability on steep downslopes. Both trailer and towing EV had a 20% charge remaining at the destination on the shores of Lake Garda. The company’s designers also built the E.HOME so its battery can power cooktops, refrigerators, and electronics inside.

Users won’t need to drain their EV battery to power these conveniences in their RV. Dethleffs appears to have solved a major problem for towed RVs by giving its caravan a separate battery and electric drive. It’s only a matter of time before towed RV caravans that don’t reduce the towing EV’s range are on the road.

6. Airstream eStream Caravan

Famous RV brand Airstream independently developed its own self-powered EV towed caravan, the eStream, joining the Dethleffs as an option. The Thor Industries subsidiary has built the first concept eStream to test the RV ahead of release.

The eStream features a sleek exterior with exact geometric shapes and angles to make its air resistance as low as possible. Additionally, its designers made it with a powered axle, much like the E.HOME. Paired electric motors drive the e-Stream’s single axle. While this means the owner needs to charge another battery pack, the e-Stream powers itself to prevent loss of range in the towing EV.

The caravan also includes its own set of computerized sensors. These sensors link to a set of stability controls, so the eStream balances its own weight while traveling. As a result, owners don’t need a weight distribution hitch when they connect the RV to their electric vehicle. Rooftop solar panels help to extend battery life slightly in sunny weather.

Four people can bunk inside the eStream’s 22-foot-long chassis. It also includes a small kitchen. Occupants can enjoy the use of a wi-fi hotspot with mobile 5G connectivity. The EV RV caravan even drives itself slowly over short distances.

By engaging “Moving Mode” and using a smartphone app as a remote control, the owner can drive the eStream to the EV to hook it up or move it into a campsite position. Other modes include Driving Mode for the highway and Living Mode for appliances and electronics.

Electric Camper Vans vs. Full-Size Electric Motor Homes

So far, EV engineers seem focused on building smaller camper vans. Companies apparently haven’t yet mastered bringing all-electric power to big Class A motorhomes. Winnebago announced a 38-foot Class A motorhome-style vehicle in 2019, but earmarked it exclusively for commercial sales. It ran on 8 batteries, requiring prolonged charging, and offered a range of only 85 to 125 miles.

These limits made it unsuitable for consumer motorhome use. In fact, Winnebago has since dropped it from its future product lineup. The “Winnebago All-Electric Specialty Vehicle’s” product page now gives a 404 error and the company lists only gasoline and diesel Specialty Vehicle variants on its site.

The Specialty Vehicle EV’s troubles probably highlight why no big battery-electric motorhomes are parked in US campgrounds yet. Their sheer size increases the difficulty in getting ranges high enough, and charging times low enough, to be viable passenger vehicles.

But for enthusiasts of camper vans and EVs, the very near future is looking bright. Several companies should be manufacturing worthwhile EV options for camping out in the great outdoors within the next few years. We’re eagerly looking forward to seeing all these great RVs. That, and others building on their success in bringing BEV power to those who want to enjoy America’s campgrounds and spectacular scenery responsibly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are any of the electric RVs listed available for sale?

All are still in the concept stage but will likely be released in the near future.

How much will these electric RVs cost?

No prices are yet available but they will probably cost as much or somewhat more than existing camper vans or Class B RVs. The Thor Vision could be several hundred thousand dollars based on similarly large, elite ICE campers. 

What is the largest upcoming electric RV and what is the smallest?

The Volkswagen ID. California (ID. Buzz) model is likely to be the most compact among those listed. The largest is the Class B Thor Vision Vehicle RV.

Are there any full-size RV motorhomes slated for near-future release?

Winnebago was planning to make a “Specialty Vehicle” for commercial customers, very similar to a full-size motorhome. However, it appears to have dropped the project and no other companies seem to be currently close to solving the engineering challenges.

Is Tesla going to make an EV camper?

Several websites, such as AutoEvolution, have proposed camper variants of the Tesla Semi truck. However, these concepts, like the Tesla Semi-Home, are completely unofficial.

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