A Self-Propelled, Battery-Powered Journey Trailer From Tesla & Different Auto-Tech Alums – A CleanTechnica Unique


My first impressions of the Lightship L1 battery-powered journey trailer are all concerning the design. Clear, glossy strains. Home windows with smoky glass and refined privateness blinds dominate the RV’s façade. A protracted size — it is a substantial RV for in depth journey. With a beginning worth of $125,000 or $118,400 after an accessible tax credit score, this journey trailer is focused at a reasonably prosperous phase of the RV shopper crowd.

A crew of former Tesla, Rivian, Proterra, and Lucid alums leveraged their expertise in automotive EV improvement to construct the Lightship L1. It’s an aerodynamic, battery-powered journey trailer, the primary purpose-built journey trailer with a self-propulsion system that allows close to zero vary or mile-per-gallon effectivity loss for the car towing it. The electrical powertrain with as much as 80 kWh of onboard battery capability permits the trailer to propel itself and obtain near-zero vary or effectivity loss for the tow car. Thus, a 300-mile vary EV used to tow it stays a 300-mile vary EV, and a 25-mpg fuel truck stays a 25-mpg fuel truck.

Consistent with the Tesla disruptive method to transportation, Lightship is taking a “clean-sheet method” to constructing an all-electric RV. Its hyper-efficient design is 3 instances extra aerodynamic than a standard journey trailer, permitting for longer vary and larger effectivity.

Its specs embody:

  • Size: 27 ft
  • Width: 8 ft 6 in
  • Top: 6 ft 9 in (street mode); 10 ft (camp mode)
  • Gross Car Weight: 7,500 lb (absolutely loaded)
  • Sleeping capability: 4-6 relying on configuration

Its sustainability particulars:

  • A no-compromise battery system that may present every week of off-grid energy with out charging
  • As much as 3 kW of solar energy, so the RV can energy the dwelling wants of its occupants and eliminates the reliance on propane and different fossil fuels
  • An ecosystem of all-electric home equipment, linked options, and trendy facilities

Like Tesla fashions, Lightship sells its merchandise on to US shoppers on the corporate’s web site. It’s accessible now for a $500 pre-order, with manufacturing anticipated to start in late 2024.

A Little bit of Background about Lightship

Based in 2020 and primarily based in San Francisco and Boulder, Lightship is symbolic of the macro transition to an all-electric transportation ecosystem. It brings the elevated comfort and efficiency that electrification gives to a pastime loved by 1 in 10 US households.

Lightship accomplished a Collection A funding spherical in the summertime of 2022, led by Victoria Beasley of Prelude Ventures and a Seed funding spherical in 2021 led by Andrew Beebe of Apparent Ventures. Different Lightship buyers embody Congruent Ventures, My Local weather Journey, HyperGuap, Alumni Ventures, Climactic, and Tony Fadell’s Construct Collective.

Previous to co-founding Lightship, Ben Parker took his college expertise constructing hybrid-electric race vehicles to Tesla, the place he spent 5 years as a battery engineer. He labored on the Mannequin 3, Tesla’s first mass-market automobile, designing and validating elements, inventing and growing new manufacturing processes, and serving to ramp this system out of battery “manufacturing hell” and into steady, high-volume manufacturing. As a longtime gearhead and EV geek with a ardour for sustainable journey, Ben goals to deliver the RV trade into the electrical age, beginning with Lightship’s absolutely electrical and aerodynamic journey trailer.

Toby Kraus is the co-founder and president of Lightship. Toby spent 5 years at Tesla, the place he held a number of roles together with main Tesla’s finance crew and overseeing product administration for the Mannequin S. In 2016, Toby took his ardour for car electrification to Proterra, the place he led the Proterra Powered enterprise unit, liable for the deployment of Proterra’s heavy-duty electrical car expertise to quite a few industrial car merchandise. In co-founding Lightship, Toby was impressed to push electrification into a brand new phase and to new demographics who haven’t been beforehand served by the electrification motion.

CleanTechnica Unique: Interview with Ben & Toby

Within the press launch, Ben explains, “One in 10 American households personal an RV, however the RV trade hasn’t skilled innovation for many years.” He additionally notes that the Lightship 1 is “not an historic RV that’s been ‘electrified.’”

Q: Why do you are feeling the RV trade has been so reluctant to implement adjustments? What improvements did you apply to the Lightning L1 that have been impressed by your work with earlier tech-oriented automakers?

Maybe the mentality has been that “if it ain’t broke, don’t repair it,” however the issue is that it’s damaged! High quality points plague the trade, and the rise of electrical passenger vehicles necessitate a wholesale rethink (in direction of larger effectivity and nice new designs that incorporate sustainable pondering) of the leisure car in order that long-range, clear, and satisfying RV street journeys are an choice for individuals sooner or later.

Q: You point out within the press launch that “Lightship is altering the trade perpetually for the higher.” What’s Lightship doing that’s so totally different than different RV producers who’re waiting for 2030 and a zero emissions future?

We approached designing an all-electric RV from the bottom up, designing for the brand new constraints (e.g. battery vitality density) and alternatives (e.g. clear, quiet, seamless onboard energy) that electrification poses, and the product that resulted, our L1, is easier and extra environment friendly than a standard journey trailer on many fronts (vary, value per mile, onboard vitality effectivity, purposeful and human-centered design options, centralized digital infotainment system – amongst others). As an organization ranging from scratch, we get to ask holistic questions like “what does the perfect RV journey and tenting expertise feel and look like?” and reply these questions over time with our merchandise and enterprise mannequin.

Q: The stagnation of the RV trade is partially the results of the market being dominated by only some giant corporations, Ben says. What has the expertise been prefer to coalesce a bunch of like-minded innovators who have been dedicated to change the way in which that RVs are manufactured?

It has been a dream, and the dream has solely simply begun! We love that we get the chance to deliver our expertise and passions to an trade that’s comparatively untouched by trendy expertise and product improvement practices. The last word end result for us might be making RVing simpler and extra accessible, extra pleasing, and extra environmentally sustainable for current and future generations.

Q: Your web site says that you just all “spent 1000’s of hours within the digital wind tunnel for a towable that’s glossy and steady, floating down the street with ease.” What sort of information did you search for in your early wind tunnel experiments? What have been a very powerful takeaways that you just gained from the wind tunnel testing?

Aerodynamics engineering work was the primary space of focus in growing the product idea. We used automotive simulation instruments and labored with an incredible aerodynamicist who comes from an automotive background. We ran many rounds of iterative simulation and geometry improvement to reduce the frontal space of our journey trailer and the mixed coefficient of drag of the tow car and L1. We proceed to refine our car exterior to optimize the L1’s aerodynamic efficiency, setting a excessive bar within the trade and maximizing the towing vary we provide our prospects.

Q: Toby says that “we’re leveraging our experience in automotive EV improvement and design.” What particular experiences have been relevant to creating the Lightning L1?

There are various classes and greatest practices throughout design, engineering, manufacturing, provide chain administration, high quality management, and person expertise design (amongst others) that we’re making use of from our time engaged on electrical autos within the auto trade. Engineering from first rules and minimizing manufacturing complexity by decreasing the variety of doable product variants whereas nonetheless providing prospects high-value customization alternatives are a few key ideas to name out.

Q: Please distinction the expertise of touring within the Lightship 1 with typical RVs and their “inefficient, unreliable product designs and an influence expertise that depends on smelly, noisy, fuel or propane turbines.”

“Set it and neglect it.” The thought we try for is a product that’s snug, straightforward to make use of, seems to be nice and has considerate design options that shock and delight. It’s long-range and offers worry-free energy to run your home equipment and energy your campsite (e.g., cost your EV), and lasts for generations of use.

Q: Toby’s bio explains that he desires “to create a extra environmentally acutely aware world – in hopes that his son and daughter can roadtrip within the Rocky Mountains and backpack the identical trails he grew to like as a child.” How does that translate into halting extra habitat and biodiversity loss?

RVing is massively fashionable and, we imagine, a pastime that has the potential to attraction to much more demographics of individuals if we’re in a position to create merchandise which might be straightforward to make use of, super-efficient and superbly designed. For me personally, RVing has created a possibility for my household to enterprise into the outside in a way more sensible and pleasing approach (I used to only throw a backpack on and hike into the woods and sleep in a tent, not really easy with two younger children…). We’re motivated to not solely make the pastime of RVing sustainable which may have the direct impact of bettering our planet but in addition to ask extra forms of individuals into the exercise as a result of we imagine that the extra individuals which might be in a position to join with nature, the extra they may wish to protect the outside for generations to return.

Q: What sorts of “wonderful expertise(s) of touring within the open air” do you envision the Lightship 1 vacationers to take pleasure in?

You title it! The great thing about an RV that appears nice, has clear and quiet energy for days, and may go lengthy distances is that there are quite a lot of issues it will probably do and locations it will probably go. Some individuals will go to state and nationwide parks with them, others will dry camp on BLM land or at Hipcamp websites, others will go to sports activities video games and music festivals to tailgate and lounge in consolation. Folks might use Lightships at distant or low-services job websites, others might use them as an ADU (house workplace, visitor bed room, and many others. ) on the identical property the place they reside … the probabilities for a product that’s an EV / photo voltaic system, a contemporary dwelling area, and a shopper electronics product are huge. Ben, for one, plans to make use of his L1 as a pop-up meals truck on occasion and has preemptively roped his girlfriend into the endeavor.

Q: The Lightship L1 was a finalist within the 2023 SXSW Innovation Awards design class. How did that competitors go? What sort of reactions did the Lightship L1 obtain?

The response to Lightship from the group, members of the media, RV trade veterans, and design judges at SXSW in Austin was distinctive! Even our musical visitors (who carried out at our outside venue every evening) have been wowed by the L1 prototype and spoke enthusiastically concerning the product between songs. We had guests who flew midway throughout the nation to see our prototype in individual after having seen it on our web site which went reside a couple of days earlier than the occasion. Folks visiting SXSW from Europe instructed us that the L1 was probably the most thrilling “caravan” they’d ever seen. We couldn’t have requested for a greater response to our public unveil and are massively appreciative for all of the assist we’ve acquired up to now. Your assist galvanizes us in direction of manufacturing subsequent 12 months!

Q: Ben’s mission is to “advance the electrification of every thing and convey Individuals of all stripes collectively – on the street, across the campfire, and into the nice open air. There’s an undercurrent on this imaginative and prescient of battle decision, peaceful societies, and even utilizing nature as a bridge to constructing commonality.” What would Ben say to that synthesis and the place of the Lightship L1 as a mechanism to perform social good?

Ben would say (actually, is saying) that he agrees. There are few settings as disarming and humanizing because the campground; it’s so straightforward to attach and share experiences with individuals from all walks of life throughout the campfire or out collectively on a ravishing hike. That’s my expertise each time I hit the street for an out of doors street journey. It’s a turbulent time in our nation’s historical past, and I hope that Lightship may help promote therapeutic and unifying conversations and nice lifelong connections cast within the open air.


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