By on January 18, 2022

Winnebago has revealed the electric e-RV camper van concept at the Florida RV SuperShow and it looks to be right in the sweet spot for North Americans interested in partaking in van life. However, the motorhome manufacturer has said the model is only capable of driving 125 miles between charging, drastically limiting how much wiggle room is in the travel itinerary.

On the upside, the 86.0-kWh battery pack does run the cavalcade of appliances the e-RV comes without the same need for maintenance as the deep-cycle units that typically go into recreational vehicles. But that also means every time you run the modern conveniences it’s been equipped with you’re losing range. 

That makes the Winnebago e-RV Concept is a testament to the benefits and shortcomings of electrification. The company took a standard Ford Transit as its canvas and ripped out the gasoline engine to install an electric motor with partner Lightning e Motors, which electrifies fleet vehicles domestically using batteries from China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL).

On the surface, it makes a lot of sense to electrify a camper van. The e-RV eliminates the need for having a dedicated battery system for appliances by using lithium-ion packs that should require more power and fewer headaches. The design is also fairly futuristic, using ambient LED lighting in a manner that’s reminiscent of neon displays. But Winnebago wants you to see the model as green, requiring mention that the Transit van uses natural and recycled materials wherever possible. For example, the walls take advantage of a woolen trim that provides sound deadening and superior installation. Rubberized cork graces the floor in a similar capacity. The kitchen and bathroom/shower also make use of repurposed materials, though the electrical appliances should probably all be new.

But it’s an early draft of the concept, so a lot of the important details are missing. Winnebago isn’t set on the layout and is disinterested in providing power estimates of the electric motor at this juncture. We also don’t know what kind of charging times to expect. That’s okay because the e-RV hasn’t yet been confirmed for duty and exists more as a way for the company to experiment with electrification as the technology matures.

To be fair, most other electric RVs have had trouble breaking the 100-mile barrier and nobody is matching what you’d find on a modern, all-electric passenger car.

Though these are things that will have to be addressed eventually and it’s a little hard to take this concept seriously as a camper in the present guise. As nice as it would be to have access to the sizable battery pack while parked, that 125-mile range seriously limits where the e-RV can go. Winnebago might be better off with a hybrid system that allows for electric or combustion-derived propulsion and still lets appliances draw from a smaller li-ion battery pack. The company also offers plenty of li-ion battery upgrades (sometimes with solar panels) to other products that are dependent upon liquid fuel to get between campsites.

Considering some of Winnebago’s newest products are adventure vehicles presenting themselves as capable of tackling the harshest, most isolated environments (e.g. the Revel). It would be nice to see a hybrid that could run on internal combustion to cover vast distances, with the ability to swap over to electric power for short periods while still having enough juice to operate the included amenities. However, as RV manufacturers do not typically make their own chassis, we may have to wait until one of the big boys decides to build something that fits the bill.

[Images: Winnebago Industries]

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43 Comments on “Winnebago Reveals Electric Camper Concept With 125-Mile Range...”

  • avatar

    You have to crawl before you can walk and walk before you can run.

    • 0 avatar

      Reverend Leroy:

      “To get this congregation moving, we must first make it crawl.”

      “Make it crawl, Rev, make it crawl.”

      “Once it’s crawling, we’ll make it get up and walk.”

      “Make it walk, Rev, make it walk.”

      “And then we’ll make this congregation RUN!”

      “Make it run, Rev, make it run!”

      And to run this congregation, we gotta have money.”

      “Make it crawl, Rev, make it crawl.”

    • 0 avatar

      The buyers had better learn to walk, sounds like they’ll need to.

  • avatar

    Try driving across the west on 125 miles of range, which is under ideal conditions. Fail

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a “concept” and truth be told most RV’s collect dust in a storage lot for 11.5 months of the year.

      • 0 avatar

        I can see a lot of use-cases for it. Campgrounds usually have power enough to run a level-two charger. I’m fine with an EV car, but with an RV, I’d probably want to do the long trips I don’t do with a car, so 125 won’t work. I could make 200 or 300 work, but 125 is too short of a distance for me.

        I actually do know someone that usually camps within 100 miles of home and it would work for them. Just not for me.

        I’d love to see a Tesla semi-based RV. That would have the range to do some serious trips. Lots of large truck-based RVs out there so I’m sure it will happen.

        • 0 avatar

          ev’s are not coming as hyped, they will be a niche

          biomass (not corn) ethanol, high speed rail, “green” energy, ev’s – all are politics displacing science – and done by pretty much the same class of rent seeking political characters

          • 0 avatar

            Burning carbon as though global warming isn’t happening is politics displacing science.

            And done by pretty much the same class of “I see nothing!” dumbkoffs.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        And many do hundreds of miles a day towing a car. There are many uses for EVs and use cases that make sense. This isn’t one of them.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah but at least they can eat and sleep when they charge up

  • avatar

    Let’s see now

    no intrastructure or capacity on the grid
    no lithium
    no battery breakthroughs
    no shortage of gas or propane for ICE vehicles
    older vehicles lasting longer
    a shrinking middle class
    Governments mandating new vehicles

    What could go wrong?

    I am all for electric vehicles when energy density of batteries and cost
    rivals ICE. At this point, no.

    • 0 avatar

      Let’s see now:
      “no infrastructure or capacity on the grid”

      Plenty of EVs on the road now and we haven’t had issues yet. A 10,000 but air conditioner consumes about 1kW per hour so running a home A/C for 12 hours let’s say is 12kW. On a 4 mile per kWh EV, that’s 48 miles of driving. On a 5 kWh/mile ev it’s 60 miles of driving. In many cases, an EV is probably going to consume less power than a 10,000 btu window air conditioner. The infrastructure handled air conditioner and crypto machines, they can build it out to handle EVs.

      “no lithium”
      What are you talking about. Lithium mining, even in North America, is ramping up. Some of the new battery tech like Na+ doesn’t even use it.

      “no battery breakthroughs”
      That couldn’t be further from the truth. So wrong it’s not even funny. Even restricting the breakthroughs to just what’s made it into mass production, we have silicon anodes, Tesla’s LFP batteries, and CATLs Na+ Sodium Ion. A company called Bluetti is even selling storage batteries with sodium-ion batteries. Sodium-ion is probably the really big breakthrough, although it’s going to take a few years for it to get closer to lithium-ions density. Even then, it’s great for storage batteries that are needed to bolster the power infrastructure and also don’t need lithium taking pressure off of the lithium supply.

      • 0 avatar

        so, with all the breakthroughs, this concept vehicle has 125 mile
        range. Maybe enough electrity now is on the grid, but what aobut
        after everyone is required to have a new electric car? Your last statement seems to imply that there is a lithium problem.

        • 0 avatar

          “so, with all the breakthroughs, this concept vehicle has 125 mile

          I haven’t checked out what it’s using for batteries, but not sure it’s taking advantage of many of the breakthroughs. It could be, but they just put in a tiny battery.

          “Your last statement seems to imply that there is a lithium problem.”

          Keeping pressure off the lithium supply will keep prices down and competitive plus give padding to the supply. Some of the new technologies (that are available for purchase right now) eliminate other materials that are in short supply like nickel. Sodium-ion doesn’t need the complex management that Lithium-Ion needs and reduces semiconductor requirements for the management circuitry.

          Another cool feature of sodium-ion is that CATL’s version retains 90% of its charge at -20C or -4f. We’ll probably see the next generation in EVs. Current generation is about 160 Wh/kg, which is fine for stationary storage. The first Leaf had only 132 Wh/kg, so it’s already better than early lithium-ion.

      • 0 avatar

        “Plenty of EVs on the road now and we haven’t had issues yet.”

        not true at all

        CA told people not to charge their ev’s last year because of lack of electricity for more important use

        • 0 avatar

          “not true at all”

          Well, there is California, but those problems are from a crapload of other issues that would have been there without Evs. There is a way out. Grid storage costs should come down and homeowners have the option of adding solar. Provided California doesn’t pass anti-solar legislation. Like WTF is going on there?

          My own little enclave went through it’s own power issues back in the 90’s when farm fields were replaced by mcmansions with huge HVAC systems. Combine that with even bigger real mansions and we had frequent power failures. They got motivated and fixed the issues. Now, we have good power. But it wasn’t EVs that got us, it was other crap that sucks up even more power.

      • 0 avatar

        Camp grounds will have an issue with this. Many have problems with the larger RVS running AC frequently, enough so that a lot charge surcharges for power connections over the standard single 30 amp. Some also have AC surcharges for running multiple air conditioners. Most campgrounds are in rural areas with older grids that have trouble providing the power. This can be fixed but it will take a while. Remember you will be now charging the battery plus still running those power hungry systems. Honestly Hybrids seem like they could make quite a bit of sense in an RV format but I think the volume to support the engineering required might not be there.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Looks like they rushed this concept to the show, and nobody on the team knew 86 kWh was a non-starter.

    They should start with a Lightning to really get things going, if they favor Ford.

  • avatar
    Old Bird

    I don’t understand the problem. Just bring your gas powered generator with you.

  • avatar

    This is for all the campsites that are less than 60 miles from home.

  • avatar

    id feel better if it had propane heat, cooking, and genset. just in case

  • avatar

    Does Ford even produce a Transit with a hybrid powertrain?

    This is trying to take flight before they can crawl!

  • avatar

    When some dude undercooks the pork loin to conserve range and gives his whole family trichinosis, THEN Winnebago will be sorry!

    [This message brought to you by the fossil fuel industry, which loves all of your family members deeply.]

  • avatar

    This is the answer to the question “How can we simultaneously build the worlds most useless vehicle, show that EVs are a colossal joke, and take the first step to ending the RV industry?”

    Imagine actually spending money, both in R&D and the fools that will buy it, on such a horrid vehicle?

    “Hey lets get a camper that can only go to camp sites 50 miles away from our house” Hilariously bad.

  • avatar

    You guys are right. This is 125 miles under ideal conditions. Take your motorhome out west and climb from 3000 to 7000 feet? And do it when it’s 30° outside. You’re 125 miles gets cut down to 60 miles very quickly. Let’s say there’s a charging infrastructure everywhere out west all over nature. ( never going to happen). You still have to wait hours until you can go the next 60 miles. This is a no go.

    I know some of you live in locations where the charging stations are abundant. I’m not certain if you live on the east or west coast or in larger cities. But as someone that travels in the United States all the time for business. I would say in over 99% of a landmass in the United States, there really are no charging stations.

  • avatar

    So all it needs is a 400kWH battery. Easy. But you might have to spend a few days at the KOA because I don’t think you’re going to find a particularly fast charger in the (out of the way) places you might want to go camping. Good luck with your 30A hookup.
    Not ready for prime time. More effort needs to be put into larger hybrid drivetrains where batteries have the greatest impact on efficiency and emissions, and result in a more practical and affordable drivetrain.

  • avatar

    See America! One charging station at a time!

    (This friendly travel slogan is brought to you by Sbarro Pizza, Roy Rogers, and A&W – the three places you all thought went extinct until you travel the toll roads of the Mid Atlantic and New England states.)

  • avatar

    You guys are missing the point. This is the perfect vehicle for the California working class. Priced out of ever buying a home in their lifetimes due to structural planning problems and asset inflation. But this will allow them to wander the streets of California in relative comfort.

    Is the cart boy at Whole Foods tipping off the manager that you have shopped there for 8 hours every day this week? No problem! Every neighborhood is your neighborhood now!

    If your new neighbors happen to give you static over you plugging in to that extension cord that mysteriously appeared between their yard outlet and your RV … Well, that’s just a new wind in your sails! Time to set sail for sunnier climes, 4 streets over.

    Maybe it will come with a lineman’s toolkit to allow impromptu power drops wherever the spirit of adventure takes you. Like a lighting stanchion in the remote parts of a Wal-Mart parking lot!

  • avatar

    125-mile range BEFORE you use anything in the camper?? Great for camping in the backyard.

  • avatar

    While most concepts are simply part of a marketing strategy and the future of RVing certainly involves large batteries…this feels like a DIYers shoehorned tin-can…not a concept…

    This type of content is the antithesis of the Truth about cars…but not unexpected…

  • avatar

    You could tow your electric Fiat 500 (remember those?) behind it for the ultimate crappy-range fleet.

  • avatar

    It’s just a ford e-transit (126 miles of range- LOW ROOF MODEL targeted) with a conversion. Literally anyone could get this done-but this is likely better executed. Winnebago likely didn’t engineering on this- all the appliances are likely driven with the inverter from Ford. Which isn’t a knock on winnebago, and it’s not really a fail. It’s just their way of showing they’re paying attention to trends.

  • avatar

    I don’t understand why anyone in the commercial van/chassis space hasn’t created a hybrid model, or even a diesel/electric hybrid. I have a Winnebago 26′ with a Ford V-10 gasser that does 8-9mpg, just like box trucks. And even the Ram/Transit/Benz Sprinter style vans are ~15mpg. These are working vehicles that are driven all day and rack up mileage quickly. Bumping that by 10mpg would likely pay for the vehicle itself over time. Seems most fleet managers would switch to the one brand that is the first to do that and retain long haul capabilities (so hybrid, not full electric).

  • avatar

    Dear Toyota: Please build a commercial hybrid chassis so you can once again take huge market share from the brands that refuse to pursue obvious opportunities

  • avatar
    Tree Trunk

    This is what concepts are for. Demonstrate what a manufacturer is planning for the future and see how the market responds.
    eRV will not suit all users especially if the final product does not have greater range but for those that just do short weekend trips or leisurely overland travel this might work just fine. On a fast charger eTransit can get 80% charge in 34 minutes or a full charge on a regular connection overnight.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Would it not make more sense to make this vehicle propane powered? Then it could use the propane to power the fridge/stovetop/etc as well. Back in the 1980’s/early 90’s the Ontario government had subsidies for propane and natural gas powered vehicles and we ran dozens of small buses and vans powered by propane or natural gas. Chrysler even had a factory option for a propane powered 15 passenger bus/van.

    As for EV’s I regard them as a ‘stepping stone’ towards whatever technology eventually ‘permanently’ replaces ICE vehicles. Like spiral fluorescent light bulbs or VHS tapes, they EVs are most likely a short term, stop gap technology.

  • avatar

    Things that make sense as an EV: your typical, daily commuter vehicle.
    Things that make NO sense as an EV: an RV

  • avatar
    Add Lightness

    Not all use of an RV is for long haul trips. In fact, fuel cost vs hotel cost makes these things less attractive for that.
    Full electric is perfect for short hauls and if they get rid of all the motorhome clues, big electric vans are perfect for ‘urban camping’.

  • avatar

    Your betters have decided that electrification of the vehicle fleet will be so. Best to just accept it and bend over.

  • avatar

    The grille on that thing looks kinda like a bathroom exhaust vent. But the island setup in the middle is interesting, even if the fold-out seating looks a bit flimsy.

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