HomeTravelsWinnebago e-RV Concept shows how to electrify the road trip

Winnebago e-RV Concept shows how to electrify the road trip

  • The Winnebago e-RV concept is based on a Ford Transit and was converted to an EV by Lightning eMotors of Colorado.
  • On its cross-country trip, the e-RV covered around 300 miles a day with charging stops every 70-90 miles and sticks to smaller roads, since the top speed is limited to only 69 mph.
  • Although Winnebago and its dealers are keenly interested in future electric RVs, this one is just a concept for now.

    Earlier this year at the Florida RV SuperShow, Winnebago pushed the recreational vehicle market into the future by unveiling the e-RV concept. Now the electrified Ford Transit – featuring a powertrain conversion by Colorado-based Lightning eMotors – has embarked on its first road trip, and we caught up with the Winnebago team during their stopover in Detroit to get first-hand experience. with the e-RV.

    The e-RV’s journey began this month at the RVs Move America event in Washington, DC, where Winnebago showed off the vehicle to media, industry honchos and government policy makers. Winnebago’s Fairmont, Minnesota headquarters is the final destination of the 1000-mile trek.


    Venturing on a road trip in an electric vehicle will, of course, raise questions about range. When the e-RV was unveiled, Winnebago quoted an estimated range of 125 miles. While Winnebago said the range figure proved achievable while traveling, the company has typically covered between 70 and 90 miles both depending on charger locations and maximizing charge times. Winnebago acknowledged that the more limited range compared to a gas-powered RV made the trip longer, but was keen to stress that the RV is not a race to get to your destination as quickly as possible, but rather a ride. of the country with opportunities to stop and explore roadside attractions, like the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Still, Winnebago said they were able to travel about 300 miles a day, roughly the distance between Detroit and Pittsburgh.

    winnebago e rv road trip rock and roll hall of fame


    The nature of EV driving also meant that Winnebago mostly stuck to small two-lane roads with lower speed limits, as faster interstate highways had a greater impact on range. Speaking of speed limits, the rear-drive single-motor powertrain, which produces 215 horsepower and 733 pound-feet of torque, is governed at just 69 mph. Winnebago didn’t reveal how long it takes to hit 60 mph, but said it was significantly faster than an equivalent gas-powered RV. On our brief drive, the acceleration seemed more than adequate for a vehicle of its size, with the e-RV weighing around 9300 pounds before passengers and cargo. The e-RV’s center of gravity is about 12 inches lower than that of a similar gas-powered RV, which Winnebago says helped the pickup handle better on country roads.

    Check out these blue LEDs

    Now, if you picture a typical motorhome, you’re probably seeing a blocky beast painted in neutral colors and covered in swooshy decals. The e-RV is not that. Thanks to its Transit roots, the e-RV has a smaller profile than most RVs, making it more convenient at charging stations and when using public infrastructure, and its overall look is more EVE of Wall-E than the beige Dixie mug. Geometric decals on the sides and on the grille accentuate the pure white exterior and play into the futurism that still surrounds the concept of electric vehicles. Blue LEDs illuminating the ground beneath the vehicle and the front logo are the piece de resistance, with ground effect lights also displaying the e-RV’s charge level when plugged in.

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    Enter the cabin and you’ll find an interior that leans on the novelty of an EV less than the exterior. The layout will be familiar to anyone who has been inside an RV. There is storage on the starboard side opposite a sofa that folds out to become the almost full size bed. Touch-activated reading lights frame the couch, giving a more upscale feel, though those lights probably won’t make it into production. At the back there is a bathroom more suitable for emergencies than regular use, unless you are the size of a hobbit. And directly in front is the kitchen area with a host of appliances: a fridge, sink, microwave, induction hob and, for the fun touch, a wine cellar.

    The interior look follows some of the basic patterns of the exterior, with light colored revolving wood throughout and blue wool upholstery on the sofa. The concept vehicle is not carbon neutral, but the design team has strived to use environmentally friendly materials inside. However, with the high weight of the powertrain compared to a gasoline vehicle, the weight had to be reduced from the inside, and it showed. Bearing in mind that we saw a concept and not a production model, many interior features had a light, hollow feel that didn’t seem quite up to the potential wear and tear of the trip.

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    The front driver and passenger seats, meanwhile, are unchanged from the e-RV’s previous life as a Transit, with manually adjustable seats and a stripped-down center console. However, behind the driver’s seat on the wall is the brains of the operation: a control panel for the climate control system and water temperature, which also displays information about the e-RV, such as where the power is directed and the fresh water level. , black and gray water tanks. Water levels are displayed as percentages, accurate to within 3%, useful for planning the logistics of a trip.

    Charging logistics and battery specifications

    The charging port logically occupies the same space as the Transit’s gas tank opening, right next to the driver’s door. The layout of charging stations can vary, and depending on factors such as the length of the charging cord, EV drivers have had to adjust their vehicle to plug it in. Although the e-RV has an edge over electric trailer RV concepts like Airstream’s eStream when it comes to maneuverability, the e-RV with its front-located charging port can still fall victim to the perils of an underdeveloped EV infrastructure and may have to be put in funky positions to fill.

    load winnebago e rv


    The juice is routed to the electric motor via two 43.0 kWh batteries positioned on either side of the driveshaft in the middle of the e-RV, and the vehicle has a 400-volt electric architecture. Although an 86.0 kWh battery is relatively small these days, Winnebago explained that overall vehicle weight was a limiting factor in battery size selection, but denser batteries in the future should alleviate this problem. The company also said the e-RV charges at a rate of between 35 and 65 kW and spends around an hour at each charging point. On a brief drive, we felt the regenerative braking was strong, but there was no real one-pedal drive mode, as the vehicle weaved its way at low speeds.

    The 86.0 kWh batteries not only power the rear wheels, but also a lot of equipment. The water heater – required for features such as the sink and shower – and the roof mounted air conditioner with heat pump run on 350 volt DC power. The induction cooker and fridge, meanwhile, run on 110-volt AC, although the fridge can also run on 12-volt DC for added flexibility. The e-RV also has a solar panel on the roof, which can generate up to 200 watts to directly power the 12V auxiliary battery. This allows the vehicle to run electrical systems without the key or engine running, and it also means the fridge can always be turned on to prevent perishables from rotting.

    roof winnebago e rv


    The e-RV began development in 2019 before the launch of the E-Transit, so it’s built on a traditional Transit chassis fitted with a Lightning eMotors powertrain. Many existing RVs are built on commercial platforms, but Winnebago predicts that as the market for electric RVs grows, there will be a shift towards purpose-built EVs. For now, however, the e-RV is more of a proof of concept. Winnebago just wants to collect as much data as possible with this concept vehicle before trying to market the e-RV. The company said it will aim to price the e-RV competitively against gas equivalents once it reaches production, although there is no concrete information as to when that day will be. could happen.

    When it does, Winnebago predicts that the e-RV will fill a niche in the market for the many people excited about the possibilities that electric vehicles bring to the RV world. Responses to the e-RV concept have been everywhere, but on this road trip, Winnebago said he found many people fascinated by the concept, including dealers, who like the idea. Yet purists and those afraid of losing the comfort of a gas-powered vehicle have also backed down. The reach and consistency (or lack thereof) of charging networks across the country are two factors limiting the usefulness of e-RV.

    winnebago erv


    The classic VR experience

    However, Winnebago points to data from the RV Industry Association that more than half of RV trips are less than 150 miles. It’s similar to the range on the e-RV. For hardcore RVers, the e-RV can take advantage of existing 50-amp electrical hookups at RV stops, so future e-RV owners don’t have to miss out on the classic RV experience. Aside from traditional road trips, Winnebago thinks the e-RV would also be useful for local adventures like setting up a self-contained tailgate with cold drinks and air-conditioned respite on the couch.

    Right now, with electric recreational vehicles still in their infancy, it remains to be seen how different the RV will be in an electric vehicle. There’s still a lot of development work to do, especially in the range and charging departments, but the Winnebago e-RV proves that electric motorhomes are possible and even likely in the near future.

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