EXCLUSIVE: RV Manufacturers Participate in EV & Next Gen Tech Summit

Winnebago's eRV

The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) held the first Electric Vehicle & Next Generation Technologies for Outdoor Recreation Summit April 27 at the Eaton Hotel in Washington, D.C. The Summit fostered discussion around the strategic deployment of electric vehicles and other green technologies into the outdoor recreation market and economy.

The event explored opportunities for electrifying recreation vehicles of all types, recreation’s state of readiness, measures of consumer demand, the challenges of electric charging infrastructure near recreation assets, and other green economy solutions.

The event kicked off with remarks from Austin Brown, Senior Director of Transportation Emissions at the White House and included remarks from Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Laura Daniel-Davis, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management, and KOA President and CEO Toby O’Rourke.

Winnebago Industries Senior VP of Business Development and Advanced Technology Ashis Bhattacharya participated in the five-person Recreation Industry Tech Challenges and Opportunities panel, one of the two panel discussions at the summit. The panel discussed climate change’s impact on outdoor recreation’s growing contribution to U.S. economy and outdoor enthusiasts’ ability to enjoy the outdoors, he said.

The panel also covered the momentum surrounding e-vehicles and boats, facilities for vehicles of all types, infrastructure and challenges. Panelists raised issues surrounding consumer education, the significance of early technology adopters as well as the importance of data and information in smart, connected products such as RVs and boats.

The second panel was titled Infrastructure on Public and Private Land and Water.

The panels included speakers from Thor Industries/Airstream, Winnebago Industries, Brunswick Corporation, QuietKat and Zero Motorcycles.

Bhattacharya said Winnebago Industries’ research shows consumers are ready to get into electric recreational vehicles. However, because the sector is new, consumers are finding the electric vehicle driving experience, mindset and charging experience different.

Winnebago Industries unveiled an all-electric, Type B concept motorhome in January.

For consumers to become more comfortable with current electric vehicles, education and exposure are important. In fact, education is a very important enabler for consumers, dealers, the entire industry and regulators, he said.

Once customers become comfortable with the available electric recreational vehicle experience, Winnebago wants to enter a process of “co-creation” with the consumers to develop the kinds of electric vehicles that work best for them, he said.

Panelists discussed challenges involved with setting up the comprehensive infrastructure needed for electric vehicles to take to the road freely. The process takes time and funding both from the public and private sectors. Decisions must be made to ensure chargers are placed in the appropriate corridors as well, Bhattacharya said.

The panel discussed how long it will take to set up such a charging infrastructure. Funding planning is underway, he said.

“Recently two of the biggest bills in 75 years have been passed on infrastructure spending. So, there is preparation afoot to really make a significant investment in infrastructure, and that’s where the roundtable convened.” Bhattacharya said. “We need to come up with a joint strategy between the public sector and private sector and policymakers to make sure this happens. But this definitely is coming at us faster than you think; so, I imagine that in the next three to five years, you will see very significant progress on this idea of infrastructure.”

Heinrich said, “With so many of our favorite places facing severe climate threats, the outdoor recreation community has a compelling reason to lead the way in implementing climate solutions and accelerating our transition toward a clean energy-powered and electrified economy. A major part of that equation is going to be the adoption of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure and other clean and carbon pollution-free technologies. This summit is a real testament to the recreation industry’s eagerness to take concrete actions that will allow us to pass on the outdoor places we all love to our children and future generations.”

Jessica Turner, president of ORR said, “The cross-sector businesses and partners gathered today have an opportunity to lead the greening of outdoor recreation experiences, make significant impacts in reducing carbon emissions while helping to create jobs, and build local economies as we introduce next-generation technologies to recreation consumers. This event was extremely important because of the industry-wide thought-leadership on how we begin the transition to cleaner technologies and ensured we can be clear-eyed about the opportunities and challenges ahead.”

The United States hosts a unique outdoor environment, there’s no country in the world with such a wide variety of state and federal parks, wilderness areas, bureau of land management spaces and RV parks, Bhattacharya said.

“We must collaborate. This is a once-in-a-lifetime, once-in-a-generation opportunity. We must make sure we are aligned.” Bhattacharya said. “So the infrastructure funding, the resources, this has got to be something that we all do together to give everyone access to greener transportation, recreation and charging infrastructure across a wide set of locations. Public-private partnerships are very important. Public and private sectors need to partner with government and state agencies to make sure these things happen in the right way at the right time.”

ORR will hold a Capitol Hill briefing and release a whitepaper based in large part on discussions and information shared at the event.

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