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E.Home Caravan image courtesy of Dethleffs

Clean Transport

THOR & ZF Partner To Develop Battery-Powered Towable RVs

THOR Industries, parent company of Airstream, will partner with ZF to develop battery-powered travel trailers.

Indiana based THOR Industries, parent company of Airstream, has signed a memorandum of understanding with ZF, a major Tier One supplier to the automotive industry based in Germany, to jointly develop a high voltage electric drive system for towable recreational vehicles (travel trailers). In a press release, Thor Industries says the electric platform for travel trailers is designed to maintain or even extend the range of an electric vehicle while towing a trailer.

ZF has already partnered with Dethleffs, a European travel trailer manufacturer also owned by THOR, to build the dual motor electric camping trailer with an 80 kWh battery that was towed across the Alps behind an Audi e-tron Sportback, which has an EPA range of 218 miles. Together the car and the trailer covered 240 miles before stopping to recharge. That’s pretty impressive.

And here’s the thing. The trailer doesn’t care what the tow vehicle is. The electric trailer package can reduce or eliminate the inevitable drop in fuel economy that happens whenever a gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicle tows a camping trailer.

Electric vehicles experience a significant reduction in range when towing any load, including a trailer. Unlike an ordinary trailer, a trailer equipped with the eTrailer System is capable of moving under its own power. Using a sophisticated system of sensors, the speed of the trailer is matched precisely to the speed of the tow vehicle, which leads to a minimal loss of range.

“THOR is thrilled to enter into this partnership with ZF, a global technology company enabling next generation mobility. The eTrailer System… the only high voltage solution available in the RV space,” stays Bob Martin, CEO of THOR.

“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. 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. Our relationship with ZF gives THOR the exclusive rights to this technology in the RV space for a certain period and perpetual rights in key aspects of the intellectual property supporting the development.”

battery-electric travel trailer

Image courtesy of Dethleffs

THOR says the partnership with ZF has led to a concept travel trailer equipped with a prototype eTrailer System. Through the joint venture agreement, Thor will receive the exclusive rights to the technology in the recreational vehicle space for a certain period, with perpetual rights to certain aspects of the intellectual property supporting the development.

A Rivian executive recently towed his beloved vintage Ford Mustang on a trailer from Michigan to southern California. He had to stop 27 times along the way, averaging only 100 miles between charging stations. Imagine how that journey would have been different if that trailer has been equipped with a version of the eTrailer System.

Prices for the battery-powered travel trailers have yet to be announced, but if they can make a vacation enjoyable instead of a hassle, many RVers would happily consider owing a self-powered trailer. Time spent pumping gas or recharging a battery is time not spent in vacation mode. Some things are more important than money.

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Written By

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?


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