As manufacturers around the country race to build a lead in the new electric RV category, one man is betting his company has the right answer in Nashville, Tennessee.
Coast, a subsidiary of Aero Build, is taking its Model 1 fully electric RV on a road trip beginning this week from Tennessee through North Carolina and back to show the 21-foot travel trailer to potential customers.
CEO Brian Fuente said the manufacturer has numerous pre-orders already in place but is not going to ramp up manufacturing too quickly.
“We just started production,” he said. “We plan to build a handful this year. In 2024 we will probably produce between 60 and 80 units. In five years, our goal is to produce upwards of 1,000 units a year.”
Coast’s expertise in building RVs came in large part from Aero Build, which has been building custom trailers, studios and mobile businesses since 2017. Fuente decided to move from building commercial trailers to residential ones, designing the Model 1 RV about 2½ years ago.
“We must have designed 150-plus different layouts, different lengths,” he said. “You name it, we designed it, and we had to make decisions.”
Fuente grew up in a camping family, one in which his mother also was an interior designer. As the Model 1 design plans evolved, he said he wanted to create an RV that would be comfortable for his wife, who did not grow up camping, to be comfortable in and something that felt like a modern home.
“When you are talking about the appliances, the fixtures,” he said, “in many ways, we are looking at the design of the product.”
Aesthetics helped inform the company’s appliance and fixture choices, including a high-end Smeg brand refrigerator, cooktop, microwave and range hood.
Efficiency also played a role. Fuente said Truma’s Aventa air conditioner, for example, brought the right mix of aesthetics and efficiency.
“It is so efficient that you can run your AC all day long and it’s not going to drain your batteries,” he said. “We chose Truma based off of the efficiency, but it is also just the most beautiful AC in the market.”
To power the RV, the Model 1 features five solar panels totaling 1,320 watts of power. The solar panels are monocrystalline panels made by a California-based supplier named Newpowa.
“We have some friends in Nashville that are in the solar space, and when we looked at different panels, these guys have just been raving about them for quite some time,” Fuente said. “It is a really high-quality panel. It is a thicker panel, so it is going to last a lot longer.”
The panels feed into a pair of 3,000-watt Victron inverters and three 270-amp-hour Battle Born Batteries lithium batteries.
“That is enough to power everything on board,” Fuente said. “If you managed power correctly, it could run for weeks.”
The Model 1 weighs 6,000 pounds dry with a 14,000-pound GVWR. The interior ceiling is just shy of 7 feet high, another bonus Fuente said he wanted to enable the RV to feel more comfortable while in use.
Other models are in the plans. Fuente said original designs called for a larger travel trailer before market research led the company to settle on the 21-foot model as its first release. A 26-foot model is in the plans, one which comfortably sleeps four to five. The 21-foot model can sleep up to four with a queen bed and fold-out dinette but is expected to be used more by couples and Type B motorhome consumers.
“The Van Life movement is huge, and we know a lot of people are downsizing,” Fuente said. “A lot of people want something that is going to be really easy to tow and maneuver through the country. We landed on this (21-foot) size.”
Additionally, a 16-foot model is planned for later release, dropping the weight even further to expand tow vehicles’ compatibility with the RV.
What is not in the immediate future is a wholesale dealer relationship. Fuente said starting out as a custom manufacturer means building a direct-to-consumer model.
“The idea is to put up showrooms, one on the West Coast, one on the East Coast and one in Nashville,” he said. “So, as it stands, the business model is direct-to-consumer.”
Fuente took his message directly to consumers Tuesday as the Coast and Truma teams stopped in Asheville, North Carolina, on the Model 1 road trip. The teams met with friends working at the New Belgium Brewery in town, and Fuente said everyone had a blast.
“A lot of people showed up, and people were excited about the product,” he said. “The Truma team and the Coast team are such great partners. It was really a lot of fun.”