In the spring of 2020, an idea was born from a conversation between Jack Johnson, Volta’s chief technology officer, and Lance Lees, product manager for Grand Design’s Momentum trailers.
The two wondered how energy produced by towing a trailer could be stored for use while camping. They also wondered how much power that system would garner a potential boondocker.
Out of this was born the Grand Design and Volta collaboration: an electrical power system providing 6-kilowatt (kW) hours of storage and 3,200 watts of alternating current (AC) power. Further storage is offered in the advanced systems — 18 kW hours with 6,400 watts of AC power for additional amenities such as all-day air conditioning (or several days depending on weather). The base units charge from shore and a maximum power point tracking solar controller while the towing vehicle is idling or driving.
The solar-based trailer system, designed similarly to Volta’s motorhome-based alternative energy systems, can capture enough energy to run high-draw electrical appliances overnight. Lees said runtime was a main concern based off prior experience with solar-driven systems.
“High consumption usage like air conditioners while being off-grid means your run times are nothing,” he said. “I was intrigued by Volta, because the ability to have larger power banks and more efficient systems enables us to run up to three ACs at one time and essentially replace generators on a larger scale, which to my knowledge no one has been able to do.”
Johnson agreed, noting that with lagging campground infrastructure, in addition to not enough campgrounds to serve the rising consumer demand, RVers need enough power to go off-grid, at least for a night. Lees said others seeking adventure with a toy hauler for extended periods tout off-grid power systems’ importance in standard RVs and travel trailers.
Lees and Johnson said the Volta system is designed to integrate with Grand Design’s Momentum fifth wheel and travel trailer toy haulers. The system can provide up to 18 kW hours in energy storage — enough to run overnight air conditioning, entertainment and other high-draw appliances, Lees said.
The partnership debuted their collaboration at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas today. The team demonstrated the system with a Grand Design Momentum fifth wheel toy hauler connected with a Dodge Ram truck and Tomcar TX4 electric ATV.
A secondary 9,000-watt alternator on the Ram charges a 40-kilowatt hour storage system on the RV while driving or idling. The trailer is upfitted with exportable power to recharge the Tomcar ATV. A 2,250-watt solar array from Future Solutions can extend runtime for hours or days.
For Volta, the system is a jump from serving motorhomes. The new system is production friendly, Lees said. He said the company will be ready to take first-quarter orders at the Tampa SuperShow, scheduled for Jan. 19-23.
“This system is so much more diverse in its abilities than just adding more solar panels and controllers,” Lees said. Earlier this year, Grand Design leadership announced a move toward adding more solar power to its lineup.
“We kind of pumped the brakes on expanding our solar packages, because this is a better alternative to generators,” Lees said. “Consumers are not really looking for solar – they are looking for something to replace generators.”
Johnson said Volta is using a 240-volt stack converter, and consumers can track their power usage through the Volta phone app.
“What is most fun is watching what consumers do with the system,” Johnson said, noting that the options for the energy usage are wide-ranging. “With this system, you can run your electric 4×4 up and down the mountain all day, and still have enough power to recharge it and run your AC when you get back to camp.”
Johnson also said the power system can be utilized while towing, enabling users to maintain towed vehicle climate control.