Thor Industries Develops Electric Trailer System

Charging the batteries of the elecric motor. Disassembling the battery of an electric vehicle engine. Car service

Thor Industries, Inc. executed a memorandum of understanding with ZF Friedrichshafen AG outlining the joint development of a proprietary electric drive system for towable RVs.

The development, called the eTrailer System, will maintain and possibly extend an electric vehicle’s range when towing a trailer. Thor stated electric vehicles experience a significant range reduction when towing any load.

“The significance of this technology, compared to other solutions in the space, is the dramatic effect it has on range and the potential for charge and power to both the tow vehicle and appliances in an RV,” Thor President and CEO Bob Martin said. “We believe that this technology is a game-changer, and through the work of our team, Thor is positioned to be the global leader of e-mobility solutions in the industry.”

Thor stated a trailer with the eTrailer System would move using its own power. Using sensors and other technology, the trailer’s drive moves the trailer at the tow vehicle’s speed. The trailer power enables an electric tow vehicle to pull the trailer with minimal range loss.

Thor and ZF jointly developed a concept travel trailer equipped with a prototype eTrailer System. The concept vehicle will be on display at the Tampa RV Supershow from Jan. 17-23.

In July 2021, Thor companies Erwin Hymer Group (EHG) and Dethleffs tested the technology, using an electric Audi etron Sportback to tow an eTrailer System-equipped travel trailer prototype from Germany to Italy, over the Alps. The eTrailer System enabled the tow vehicle to pull the trailer approximately 240 miles through the Alps on a single charge and with power still remaining in the eTrailer System, as well as in the electric tow vehicle. Audi’s stated range for the tow vehicle is about 244 miles.

Todd Woelfer, Thor chief operating officer, said the company’s 2019 acquisition of EHG was in part related to RVelectrical innovation.

“They had initiated this project with ZF in 2018, before we acquired the company,” Woelfer said. “After the acquisition, Thor’s innovation team, led by our Chief Innovation Officer Josef Hjelmaker, helped lead the development and creation of the concept travel trailer.”

Woelfer said the innovation team also will unveil an electric vehicle at the SuperShow. The vehicle includes range extension technology. No further details were released on whether the electric vehicle was a motorhome or an automotive vehicle.

Woelfer said Thor has exclusive rights to the technology for RVs for a period, and perpetual rights in key aspects.

“Long-term investment in innovation is a high priority in Thor’s strategic plan, which led to this outcome,” Woelfer said. “Our commitment to continue long-term investments in innovation should give our shareholders great confidence that Thor will maintain its position as the market leader, even as coming technologies disrupt our industry.”

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