Winnebago Industries’ Advanced Technology Group has completed its first public-facing project: an all-electric, Type B concept motorhome with a net-zero or even negative carbon footprint, built with a focus on sustainability and forward-facing technology.
The all-electric vehicle has no propane, generator or other fuel included, and Winnebago executives said the vehicle can be charged at home, through shore power at campgrounds (with an interface cable) or a regular EV charger. Through its proprietary 350-volt DC power system, all systems within the vehicle are powered, including the induction cooktop, refrigerator, roof-mounted AC and water heater, receiving power through a rooftop solar array.
The concept vehicle has a range of 125 miles. Winnebago partnered with Lightning eMotors, a supplier of electric power trains and chassis, to use a standard Class 3 Ford Transit chassis, with a few technical changes to allow for the additional electrical load presented by an RV. When utilizing a high-voltage electric vehicle charger, Winnebago officials stated the eRV’s drive train batteries can be fully charged in 45 minutes.
Ashis Bhattacharya, Winnebago senior vice president of Advanced Technologies, said his group’s goal was to redefine efficiency and functionality. As a concept vehicle, there is no defined date for when RVers might be able to obtain one of their own. If the vehicle is well-received, he said there could be an opportunity for it to launch to dealers in 2024 or 2025.
“We were clear on electrification being a huge trend, and we wanted to get out ahead of this trend,” Bhattacharya said. “It would have been very easy for us to take the electric drivetrain and put a conventional RV structure on top of it, but we wanted to go back to basics and completely redesign the RV for the electric vehicle age.”
He said the goal for the vehicle was to be useable for a regular RVers, and with 54% of RVers driving 200 miles or less to get to their destination according to RVIA data, the 125-mile range is less intimidating.
“It was not our intention to maximize the range,” Bhattacharya said. “A large number of RV customers do go for short trips…with technology changing, Winnebago is being very careful with quality in terms of launching a commercial vehicle, because we fully expect that when it finally comes to launching the vehicle the range will be much more. Then there are other emerging models coming out…so while yes, you cannot use this concept vehicle in precisely the same way as a Type A or Type C, it is still a very compelling offering.”
Shailendra Singh, vice president of advanced technology, said the group pulled back further than normal when starting the vehicle design process.
“We could have taken an electrified chassis and built upon it,” Singh said, “but we went back to the basics and designed it for high-voltage electric system.”
Kash Sethi, Lightning eMotors’ chief revenue officer, said this is the first RV the company has worked on, but the company used the same underlying chassis in cargo vans and passenger vans.
“For our purpose, the base vehicle is our standard Class 3 Transit,” he said, noting that a Class 2 Transit is available on the market, but has less battery weight capacity. “However, there are additional upgrades that we did for Winnebago. That had to do with just the additional equipment Winnebago was adding to the vehicle, and how to provide appropriate power to them and basically power electronics around that.”
He noted that the company included the fastest possible charger in the chassis. Part of the reasoning behind the faster charger, he said, was to be forward looking for technology advancements.
“We are proud to be Winnebago’s partner, and we could not have picked a better partner for our first RV,” Sethi said. “We are excited about the potential of this product, and we know that Winnebago is a household name with dealers around the country.”