What happens when Tesla, Rivian, Proterra, Lucid, and Zoox veterans leverage their automotive EV design and development expertise to disrupt the stagnant RV industry? You get a San Francisco- and Boulder-based all-electric RV company founded in 2020 called Lightship. Self-proclaimed to be America’s first all-electric recreational vehicle company, its men and women are on a mission to advance travel trailers lightyears ahead. Its first intergalactic space traveler is the purpose-built, all-electric, Lightship L1 battery-powered travel trailer—EV not included.
Lightship co-founders Ben Parker and Toby Kraus know what it takes to break the mold, to innovative, to think outside the box in a segment that is perfectly content with, well, thinking inside the box. After all, they had both been employed by Tesla during the years when that all-electric startup was really shaking up the automotive market. Reimagining—and electrifying from the ground up—the recreational vehicle is proverbially right up their alley. Even the Lightship name seems to testify to the duo’s former immersion in the Tesla culture.
The Lightship L1 is not a traditional travel trailer retrofitted with an electric heart in lieu of propane and electric (via gas-powered generators) systems. It’s a clean-sheet approach that results in an aerodynamic, self-propelled travel trailer with a seamless, connected all-electric ecosystem, including appliances, features, and modern amenities.
The company claims it is three times more aerodynamic than a traditional travel trailer, which is really important when it comes to maximizing the tow rig’s range (or fuel economy). If you’ve ever towed a brick-like traditional travel trailer, you understand all too well how some thought into aerodynamics would be a darn good thing.
The lightship L1 does not have slide-outs. Rather, the whole roof slides up for more room. The idea isn’t new, but the execution is newer. It’s like a really modern, sophisticated hard-sided “slide-up” pop-up camper. Obviously, you drive with it down. In aerodynamic road mode, it’s 6 feet, 9 inches high, extending to 10 feet when in camp mode. The pop-up section is full of windows for an open-and-airy, atrium-like atmosphere that makes you feel connected to nature instead of claustrophobic and utterly trapped.
The Lightship L1 has a self-propulsion system (Tesla guys, remember). This electric powertrain, with up to 80 kWh of onboard battery capacity, helps the travel trailer propel itself to assist in towing, resulting in minimal efficiency loss for the tow vehicle by helping the go-process rather than hindering.
This system works in conjunction with the travel trailer’s battery system (backed by up to 3 kW of solar power) to provide a week of off-grid energy without charging, according to Lightship. Notice that the whole roof and the extendable awnings are covered in solar panels. The goal is a noise-free, hassle-free unhindered outdoor experience where you don’t have to worry or think about electricity.
The Lightship L1 is 27 feet long (a tad longer than the new Toro Bravo 4×4 Silver Spear) and 8.5 feet wide. Its Gross Vehicle Weight (that’s fully loaded) is 7,500 pounds. It can sleep between four and six occupants, too, depending on configuration.
Production of the Lightship L1 is planned to begin in late 2024 (patience, young grasshopper), but customers can reserve one now for $500 at lightshiprv.com. It starts at $125,000 (or $118,400 after available tax credit). That may not be a bad deal for a travel trailer galaxies beyond its dinosaur ancestors.
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