Earlier this month, Winnebago Industries showed images for an all-electric Class A RV platform, built on Motiv Power System’s EPIC series. A first for the industry, it may act as a sign of things to come.
“Winnebago thought that there were two areas where we could really bring to bear our strength in the area of specialty vehicles. One was to take an RV shell and modify it with subsystems that were more commercial quality, and then sell them into diverse applications for mobile work,” said Ashis Bhattacharya, VP of strategic planning and development at Winnebago. “The second piece of it was that we’ve been modifying our RVs to create ‘Ability-Equipped RVs.’”
Announcements like the EV RV are nothing new for Winnebago. The manufacturer has explored the potential of specialty vehicles for three decades.
“When you think about electric vehicle adoption, we are in the early stages in the industry. One of the concerns people have is mileage,” he said, stressing, “in this case, we are looking for applications which are fairly short-ranged. Urban or semi-urban applications where the vehicle will be at a home base, charging.”
Mobile libraries, schools, blood banks … Applications Winnebago had done for years, but now can do it minus the emissions. The search for an all-EV chassis has taken time, and tests and retests over the past few months.
“It’s not something you can pull off overnight,” he said. “We would never launch something without being pretty confident. This is not a prototype or proof of concept. It’s a go-to-market vehicle today.”
Bhattacharya has sat behind the wheel himself.
“It’s completely silent when you drive it,” he said. “Battery technology is improvingso quickly – the charging infrastructure is coming up so quickly. I mean, just in the last 30 days, we have seen announcements from Walmart and Target that in selective stores, they’re going to have a charging infrastructure put in.”
Various states have incentives for such widescale measures, and these investments, Bhattacharya said, are expected to increase. However, recreation is (obviously) a very key component to the industry, so getting to and from those off-the-grid locations might be some ways off for an EV motorhome.
That’s not to say manufacturers aren’t trying.
Aside from Winnebago’s specialty vehicle foray, the company’s 2019 Travato will use Volta’s lithium-energy storage for a completely generator-free experience. And Mercedes’ recent release of an all-EV version of its Sprinter bodes well for similar innovations to enter the RV industry.
For consumers attracted to short jaunts outside of the city, Bhattacharya said, an electric RV might make sense.
“We’re not looking at those applications in the short term, but we still think that this is a technology which is new and different,” he said, “and it gives us an opportunity to test out the technology.”
The specialty vehicle division itself acts as a sort of testbed or “controlled sandbox” for other products.
What appealed to Winnebago was how mainstreamthe Motiv Ford F53, all-electric chassis was. Since it’s built using standard components, as battery tech improves, the system can be upgraded.
“It’s a pretty flexible architecture,” said Bhattacharya.
“(The Motiv chassis) takes us to the next stage because it gives us a high-capacity battery system. We do see that battery technology is getting better,” he said, also in reference to the new Travato.
Expect to see the EV RV on roads soon.