How might we build an Electric or robotic RV?

Because of weight and drag, the electric RV doesn't look like this. What does it look like?

At first the idea of an electric RV seems crazy. RVs are gas-guzzlers with limited range. But there is 10KW of charging power in most RV parks, an untapped resource, and once you think about going mostly electric for things we do with propane today, all sorts of things are possible, including long-term off=grid solar camping. In addition, and electric off-road vehicle with no axles and true 4-independent wheel drive could be absolutely astounding. In the article in comment #1, I outline some of the ways we might get to an electric RV.

Plus I tease some more interesting things when the trailer is able to move itself, robocar style.

The Potential New World of the Electric and Robotic RV on


Brad, great food for thought as to how electric propulsion can create temporary mobility living spaces.

Regarding the idea of electrifying recreation, I have been dreaming lately of an electric powerboat that would double as battery storage for home solar when stored (which would be 99% of the time) to help justify a luxury item. The trailer might include hub motors so that it could steer itself into the water (eliminating the need for the driver to have to back it in the always hard-to-navigate ramp).

Looking at the website for Torqeedo, it looks like this is not too far from reality, as they can deliver an 80 HP outboard motor and battery system for about $24k (still a little expensive for my taste, as a boat is still needed). Of course, maintenance and fuel costs and noise levels would be significantly lower than for gas-powered engines and there would be no tail-pipe emissions. While 80 HP might be a little weak for some and the boat would be smaller than many would like, it should be enough to pull a water skier.

The range is a bit shy as it is only about 35 minutes at full-throttle and it wouldn't lend itself to multiple day trips (e.g. tooling around Lake Powell). But, with the continued decline in the cost of batteries and if it can be repurposed as home battery storage during the week, in 5 years or so, this might be a viable option for the casual weekend boater.

Boats, like big RVs, use a lot of energy to move. This makes them harder to electrify. To make electric cars work, they have them down to 250 wh/mile, and with a trailer they might take 300 to 500 wh/mile. But big RVs and boats would go beyond that, I fear.

The one place you would go electric would be bodies of water that want to ban outboards and other motors that cause leaks of oil and fuel into the water. Many lakes only allow fishing boards with electric trolling motors. It could also be considered for sailboats which only use the motor to get into harbour. There it could be cheaper than gasoline, and such boats need mass in the keel and want extra electric power if people do a long live-aboard on them. Recharging could come from solar or shore power cables that can be found at many marinas. However, it would not help you if you are becalmed 20 miles from harbour.

Another interesting option for sailboats would be robotic tugs which can be summoned when approaching harbour.

As an RVer, I'd like to put in my two cents.

First and foremost: NO BATHROOM, NO SALE.

We have a towable (non-luxurious) RV using an F-150 as a TV. Towing mileage is about 11 mpg. When Ford produces its electric F-150, I'd expect range when towing to be ridiculously low for all the reasons mentioned.

"You would be able to drive from RV park to RV park on journeys under 150 miles with no need for other charging and very low costs."--that's a non-starter for us. We do at least one longish trip per year and I believe other RVers would find this unacceptable as well. Not driving two hours and stopping for the night!

As for an autonomous RV, I'd be on board. But that is YEARS away. I'm in the auto industry and I'm fairly well educated on the subject.

Many folks want a bathroom. Some buy campers with just a cartridge toilet. Some have no toilet and rely on the campsite toilets and pee bottles. There are many types of RVers. However, there are pop-ups and even teardrops that have toilets, though not as fancy as a big motorhome.

As for the range of your trip, fear not. The journey of 200 miles per day is for wandering and exploring time. When you are in "get to destination" mode you would use superchargers along the way, and there are more and more of them every day. So you charge up full at your RV park. Go 150 miles to a supercharger. Eat lunch while filling up. got 150 miles to next RV park, or to next supercharger if you are trying for a 450 mile day.

You can do long trips, thanks to superchargers. Even easier in an RV as you can eat while charging right in the RV. What you can't do yet, is do long trips far from the highways and towns. But RV parks let you do wandering trips in these more remote locations.

Because of weight and drag, the electric RV doesn't look like this.

Is the weight and drag too high before or after Brad Templeton gets inside the vehicle?

Hello Brad,
The Future of a successful Electric RV is going to take much more than one persons ideas, knowledge and approach. I believe that it will happen but It will indeed be a multifaceted approach and result in an " Efficient Enough" Electric RV. Of course we have to figure out what that standard of Efficiency will be.

I personally own a 1998 Winnebago Adventurer which I purchased from The American Museum of Natural History in New York City. I am building a Mobile Laboratory and this is the platform. I will be teaching about inventions and innovation. This is the perfect chance to work on this project. I will have to get back to you and see what it is that I can come up with as a start. I am going to be working on this with some super smart people at NYU in the Veterans Future Lab beginning in July. Lets connect and I will be happy to have you come and check out the progress once we get started.
I hope to hear from you with some suggestions.
From a Dingy basement workshop
Lionel Durant
Modern Black Inventors Exhibit. 917 405 0570

Most privately owned RVs sit unused in storage lots or yards for probably more than 90% of a year. Maybe people use them 3-4 weeks per year. So it makes no sense to put a super large expensive battery pack in them. Better would be to rent a high capacity tow vehicle and pull an unpowered trailer. The tow vehicle could be something like a slightly scaled down Tesla Semi. That would have the range you need to make long trips and power all your appliances when camping.

Or you could have something like a Class A motorhome, maybe it has a built-in battery that can get you 25 miles or so from your storage space to a battery rental shop. There you slide in a 300kwh pack and go off on your trip.

Could make sense -- or you could use it as grid storage battery at home if you have solar if you park your RV at home, or people would make RV storage lots designed to act as grid storage facilities.

What's your opinion on using induction instead of propane for cooking on RVs?

For an electric RV. Now using electricity for just heat is a fairly inefficient thing to do -- but it's also something very easy to build and install and control. Induction cooktops are, I presume, more efficient.

I don't think it's bad to have some propane in an electric RV. It is the right source to use for the heater, hot water heater and cooking. Electricity is superior for air conditioning and the fridge/freezer. While propane is better for the hot water and cooking, electrical is easier to manage. I have to admit that even though I've sent many months RV camping, I am probably not typical, and we've very rarely used the stove or oven. Microwave for most things. Or a BBQ outside.

Indeed, the portable cooktop, taken outdoors when nice out, is a good choice, with electricity as a backup.

Thanks 4 article - hope we get tax breaks to switch from diesel Winnebago Vita to electric in a few years - oceanblob killed 1 million birds

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