The recreational vehicle industry has evolved a lot since its roots in the early 20th century. Now emissions-free camping with an RV is highly desired, and all-electric RVs catch a lot of eyeballs during the dead-of-winter RV shows. Are all-electric RVs viable? Are high expectations for all-electric RVs entirely in alignment with today’s battery and charging technology? Is a smart all-electric RV at a desired price point?
In their earliest years, recreational vehicles were mainly the domain of itinerant people whose lives and livelihoods made travel far and near a fact of daily existence. After World War II, new materials and technology enhanced the comfort and home-away-from-home allure of RVs, and, as the RV industry matured, so, too, did clubs and camping parks catering to these seasonal travelers. Competitive accommodation options and facilities allowed the middle class to tour scenic locations with their personal comforts close at hand in the luxury RVs of the era.
Today’s RVer hardly resembles that earliest incarnation of a campfire/pit toilet/coin shower iconography. In fact, a high-end RV customer is likely to be wealthy, so top-of-the-line RVs require upscale, luxury design and amenities. Indeed, an RV can be regarded as a sign of social status, no longer indicative of a casual lifestyle.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has integrated an assortment of devices and technologies that can remove the necessity of human intervention in all kinds of tasks, including recreational travel. In fact, IoT has established a norm among higher income RVers in which smart travel comes with an expectation for sustainable living, increased comfort, and high tech toys away from home.
Convenience prevails in high-end all-electric RVs in the entire cycle of ownership. An all-electric RV has many perks, including little-to-no-maintenance due to a small handful of moving parts instead of the hundreds of moving parts in an internal combustion engine. Breakdowns on the road virtually become a thing of the past, and there’s no more stops at gas stations. Charging occurs at home or offsite on the road at any outlet or EV charger, from Level 1 (regular wall outlet) to Level 2 (at-home fast chargers) to Level 3 chargers (DC Fast Chargers found at charging stations around the country).
Case Study: A Fully Customizable Smart Electric RV
Grounded, an all-electric RV startup, has announced its launch of the world’s first fully customizable smart all-electric RV. The company developed the G1 in response to a growing demand for spending time in nature and the outdoors, which has coincided with infrastructure development that will support outdoor recreation with electric vehicles. The company’s G1 offers sustainable travel combined with layout personalization, solar power, and zero-emissions.
The G1 utilizes Ford’s E-Transit platform, which combines with an innovative modular interior and fully integrated electronics. The current generation of this chassis has a published range of 108 miles. The most expensive single component of the van is the batteries — a roughly 68kWh battery, about the same size as a Tesla battery. Both the powertrain and the living systems of the G1 are fully powered by electricity and aided in part by 650 watts of solar capacity.
What does it mean to give people what the company says is the “freedom and self-reliance to live, work, and explore anywhere, sustainably integrated with nature?” CEO Sam Shapiro says he started Grounded to redefine what’s possible in an industry rife with offerings that are both dated and out-of-reach.
That means the G1 features innovations inside and out to provide RVers an enhanced user experience.
- A new assembly system allows the manufacture of customized designs at scale.
- A library of components enables numerous layouts.
- Aluminum, known as the green metal for its infinite recyclability, is used in constructing the modular interior structure.
- Grounded’s proprietary software connects all of the electronics.
- Sustainable interior design offers a fresh and minimal environment.
- Sustainably-sourced Baltic Birch is used throughout — the natural finish on the strong, lightweight wood provides a warm and contemporary feel.
- Optional components include a queen-sized bed, kitchen with a convection oven, dry-flush toilet, seating for anywhere from 2 to 8 occupants, and an outdoor shower.
- Fully integrated electronics can be managed through the Grounded+ app, allowing RVers to view usage patterns, control surroundings, and diagnose potential issues.
- The smart RV experience offers the ability to remotely control all aspects of the vehicle and living space.
- Solar panels on top allow small amounts of charge from the sun every day. Built-in solar helps to power appliances and augments the powertrain charge.
Founded in 2022 by a dedicated group of ex-Tesla and SpaceX engineers, Grounded manufactures the G1 in Newlab’s Michigan Central Mobility Studio in Detroit.
Grounded will begin delivering its first G1s via a monthly subscription model, annual lease, and direct purchase in April, 2023. The monthly subscription model is priced just under the median cost of rent across the US. The purchase cost of the Grounded G1 is $125,000. Grounded will begin manufacturing the G2, with a range of 250 miles, in July, 2023.
Interview With Sam Shapiro, CEO Of Grounded
Before founding Grounded, Shapiro worked as a Senior Software Engineer at SpaceX, where he wrote embedded software for Starlink hardware. We at CleanTechnica were able to catch up with Shapiro for some quick Q-and-A.
How has the combination of your attributes as a technologist, former SpaceX employee, and entrepreneur combined to create Grounded?
“I consider myself a generalist with a range of unique experiences – I built and lived in my own camper van, shipped software into outer space, and led engineering teams. I’m passionate about bringing people into the outdoors in a sustainable way, and at Grounded we’re building an engineering-led organization focused on fulfilling that mission.”
How is Grounded different than other EV/RVs, and do you feel it could be the model for the rest of the electric RV industry?
“The RV industry has been around a long time, and it’s extremely popular around the world because people have an innate desire to explore the outdoors. Electrification and software present an opportunity to radically transform how we think about living and travel, and Grounded is focused on innovating on how these can come together.
That being said, we’re also focused on shipping quickly with an iterative product development approach. Rather than spending millions of dollars and years in stealth mode before getting a single product into our customers’ hands, we’re bringing a product to market less than 8 months after launch.
Our modular, platform-agnostic system can be extended to multiple EV platforms, and leverages the large EV platform investments already being made by many OEMs.”
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