A young all-electric RV startup called Lightship looks to turn a lucrative yet stale segment in recreational mobility on its ear beginning today with the official debut of its L1 electric travel trailer. This purpose-built design is loaded with modern day innovations in aerodynamics, electric efficiency, and renewable energy could not only disrupt the RV industry, but truly change the way we approach the camping experience using an all-electric, sustainable eco system. Not to mention it looks sleek as hell. Be sure to check out the full launch video from Lightship below.
Lightship is a San Francisco, CA and Boulder, Colorado-based startup that describes itself as the first all-electric RV company designing battery-powered trailers for the inevitable electrified age of mobility. It was founded in 2020 by Ben Parker and Toby Kraus – two industry veterans with notable tenures at Tesla as well as other electrified innovators like Proterra.
The original premise of a complete ground-up redesign of the RV for the electric age started where many great ideas stem from, the stomach. Cofounder Ben Parker was frequenting the food trucks outside of Tesla while working as a battery engineer on the Model 3, and noticed the nasty emissions from gas and propane generators pouring out of each truck and into the next.
It was there that the idea for an electric RV was seeded, as Parker left Tesla at the start of the pandemic to embark on a 6,000 mile journey across the US to soul search and speak with RV owners along the way to identify the current wants and needs of a $140 billion a year industry.
After incorporating the Lightship brand from the road, Parker soon connected with Kraus, who had also worked extensively at Tesla and shared an interest in bringing similar, environmentally conscious technologies to new industries in support a cleaner future for his children and beyond.
From there, the cofounders sought to take their knowledge of disruption and holistic design learned at companies like Tesla in order to apply it to the RV industry. Parker explained:
One in 10 American families own an RV, but the RV industry hasn’t experienced innovation for decades. Inefficient, unreliable product designs and a power experience that relies on smelly, noisy, gas or propane generators fundamentally hinder the amazing experience of traveling in the outdoors.
Lightship looks to change all that beginning today with the official unveiling of its L1 electric RV trailer at SXSW. This travel trailer is not only unique its aerodynamic modular design, but is also equipped with its own all-electric powertrain and battery pack, alleviating the towing capacity for the vehicle in front it, allowing owners to driver further and more efficiently without having to recharge as much.
Lightship’s electric trailer could revolutionize the RV industry
After three years of development, Lightship officially shared its flagship L1 electric RV with the public this morning, kicking off the potential dawn of a new age of recreational mobility should the travel trailer reach production.
As you can see in the images above, the L1 is a clean-sheet approach to the traditional RV, focusing on hyper-efficiency while being towed before transforming into a spacious camping space offering complete ecosystem of battery powered amenities.
The 27-foot trailer measures 8.5 feet wide and can power its height up and down from 6 feet 9 inches in road mode to ten feet tall when parked in camp mode, offering the capability to sleep 4-6 people. Being sleek and spacious is one thing, but the performance of this electric RV is truly unique and should be an enormous selling point to consumers, whether they’re towing it with an EV or a combustion vehicle.
The L1 itself is equipped with its own electric powertrain and 80 kWh battery pack (Lightship is not sharing its battery supplier at this time). As a result, the trailer propels itself behind the towing vehicle, offering near-zero range loss. That means a 300 mile range electric pickup towing the 7,500 pound (when fully loaded) L1 will maintain near full estimated range. In fact, Lightship’s cofounders told us that combustion trucks towing the L1 actually gained fuel efficiency in certain cases thanks to the trailers advanced aero. Score! (Those drivers still should go all-EV though, just sayin’.)
A huge thorn in the side of current electric truck owners is the extensive range losses when towing – up to two-thirds in many cases. By keeping the force behind the towing vehicle near-zero as much as possible, Lightship owners will someday be able to take longer road trips without stopping to recharge, or reach their destinations with even more power to spare when camped. Lightship cofounder and CEO Ben Parker elaborated on this design approach in an interview with Electrek:
It’s a pretty rare and awesome chance we’ve gotten where there is an industry that hasn’t changed a ton for a few decades. It’s huge. There is the sort of product opportunity where given the state of the technology, if you don’t do a from-scratch approach here, you can’t make a product that meets all the specs you need it to. It can’t be long range enough, it won’t be lightweight enough. Only through a ground-up approach can you make an efficient enough product for it to also be cost effective enough that you can sell it at any volume.
There’s a catalyst too. Electric trucks are taking off. What do people do with trucks? They do truck stuff – they go towing. You literally can’t tow a traditional travel trailer for more than about 100 miles right now. People are not going to stop RV’ing, this is a massive pastime. So it’s the convergence, the sort of the confluence of a few things that makes this so cool.
Cool indeed. Know what else is cool? The power in the electric RV itself is further bolstered by solar panels across its large roof, offering up to an additional 3 kW of renewable power to support the amenities and appliances within the L1 without any reliance on gasoline or propane generators. Below are some renderings of the interior of Lightship’s L1.
When scheduled production begins in late 2024, Lightship expects to sell the L1 electric RV trailer at a starting price of $125,000. The cofounder shared this price point is by no means the top tier level in RVs and they are instead targeting consumers interested in a travel trailer similar to an Airstream. Lightship will instead offer a similarly priced, all-electric option that is three times more aerodynamic than the next best traditional trailer.
Top comment by Schwa
I think you could drop the cost of this by eliminating the powertrain. Trailers and towing vehicles already need a connection to power the lights on the trailer. A more robust connection letting the EV draw from the battery in the trailer seems like an answer to the towing range anxiety without bulking up every truck with 200kwh of batteries for around town driving.
And it's an idea virtually everyone has thought of anyway.
Furthermore, Lightship’s cofounders explained to us that the L1 can be sold for $118,400 after an available tax credit. Due to its price point, the L1 currently does not qualify for the traditional federal EV tax credit revamped in the recent Inflation Reduction Act.
It does, however, qualify as a dwelling. If you add solar and an electric battery to that dwelling, it can qualify for a separate program called the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) that usually applies to your house rather than the EV in your driveway. A nice little loophole there for Lightship and yet another huge selling point for potential consumers.
Lightship completed a Series A funding round last summer after an initial seed round before that, but cofounder and President Toby Kraus explained the startup will need more funding to get the L1 into scaled production:
There’s no doubt that we’re launching a complex manufactured hardware product, but we’ve been very capital efficient to date. We’ve spent less than 10 million dollars to get to the point we’re at and we’re very confident in our runway and we’re feeling good, but I think definitely, to get to capacitized production we will raise more money.
With its official launch today, the L1 electric RV trailer is available for reservations on the Lightship website for $500 down. Again, production is scheduled for late 2024. As we look to learn more about this exciting new spin on the RV industry, you can learn more about the Lightship L1 in the full launch video below.
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