If all ICE vehicles are supposed to be replaced with EVs, there’s a big problem to solve: RVs. Unlike large commercial trucks, there’s no profit to be made operating an RV. So, people probably can’t afford the equivalent of the Tesla Semi in many cases. Sure, the Million Dollar RV Club would have no problem buying a Class A motorhome with a megawatt-hour of battery storage, but the rest of us poors are going to have to tow a smaller camper behind our regular EVs.
But, whether you’re driving a big RV with a giant battery pack or you’re pulling a trailer of any size, we have a common problem: we don’t fit in many EV charging stations. With a trailer, you can unhitch the thing and pull into the space to charge, but doing that over and over and over sucks. With a bus-like contraption, you’re either not going to charge up or you’re going to make people mad by blocking an aisle or something.
The problem is in the process of being solved, at least partialy. In NEVI plans, Texas and other states added a requirement that EV charging stations using those Infrastructure Law funds be pull-thru, allowing vehicles and trailers to put the charging station on either side with plenty of room for an RV or trailer without unhooking. Private efforts, like those EVgo, GM, and Pilot/Flying J trucks stops are building up, are also providing pull-thru charging spaces.
But, accommodating RVs with pull-thru spaces is apparently only one part of the solution. Thor Industries has obviously thought about this quite a bit, and came up with an even better design for electric RVs. And, despite all the thinking I’ve done about this, the company came up with some ideas I hadn’t considered.
Thor’s Design For The RV Of The Future
“Electrified transportation will play a central role in the future of RVing as eRVs become available for purchase, and more people opt to pull a traditional or electrified travel trailer with an EV tow vehicle,” said THOR Industries President and CEO Bob Martin. “A charging station ecosystem that can accommodate eRVs and EV tow vehicles is essential to this transformation, which is why THOR is actively exploring options to support the effort. We designed this concept to provide states and rural communities a better understanding of the infrastructure needed near parks, destination towns and other popular destinations to retain the tremendous economic benefits future RV travelers will offer.”
One way Thor is moving toward better charging for RV owners is by working with states to install more EV charging in places frequented by RVers. Normal highway charging infrastructure can support RVs with a few improvements, but the places where that charging is needed most will differ somewhat due to reduced range and places that the average driver won’t be as likely to go.
Another important consideration is the extra time many people pulling RVs will be spending. Because of the extra energy use, a quick charge to get to the next station is going to be a good bit less quick. In many cases, people towing RVs will have to charge beyond 80% to get the extra needed range, which means even more dwell time.
To help with that Thor and industry partners recommend making the station a nicer place to be. Places to stand, walk around, and have something to do can be helpful. If nothing else, a place to socialize with fellow eRVers can be very helpful.
Another important thing is to have some space. People hauling a utility trailer using pull-thru spaces are one thing, but pulling a larger, taller trailer or a big motorhome is another thing. A driver should become skilled and experienced enough to navigate normal pull-thru stations, but if you’re building a station that serves RVs, giving people some extra breathing room is a very underrated amenity.
As usual, who you know is more important than what you know. RV parks, government-run campgrounds, and small towns are all great partners to have for eRV charging stations. Not only does this make the RV driver experience more pleasant, but it also helps local businesses and communities to benefit from the arrangement. Everybody can win.
As was mentioned in this other article I did yesterday, Thor also understands that EV charging station architecture is important. And, by architecture, we aren’t talking about software or charging hardware. The actual look and feel of the overall station is important to the success of eRV charging. Designing a station for people out there trying to enjoy nature wouldn’t be well served by some weird urbanist modern art monstrosity, but it would be better served with a modern and clean look that also blends in well with nature.
Even amenities can be part of the right look. Campground-style picnic tables, playgrounds for the kids, a place to run the dogs, and many other things can make RVers feel at home instead of feeling like they’re someplace they don’t belong. Other things, like berms, trees, and green spaces are all easier to do because there are no underground gas or diesel tanks.
Another thing they got right is that charging stations catering to RVs need to offer other important RV services. A water station to refill the tanks, a dump station to empty the black tank, and air compressors to keep the tires filled up are all essential.
A white paper by the RV Industry Association (RVIA) goes into much greater detail, including some numbers for you numbers people. Whatever the numbers may be, one things is for sure: that a lot of thinking needs to go into getting this right.
For EVs to gain acceptance and not get put back onto the political and market back burners, people need to do everything they currently do with their ICE RVs and tow vehicles. There’s no way to make it exactly the same, but it needs to be as close as possible while making up for the downsides in well thought-out ways. People need to feel like they’re getting the whole experience and not just most of it, and if the industry can make it better, it should.
All images provided by Thor Industries.