The $50 billion RV industry is finally joining the electric vehicle ecosystem. Traditional companies like Winnebago and newcomers like Lightship and Pebble are not only electrifying their systems but also changing the vehicle model.
As more Americans turn to electric cars, the towing industry has to evolve because towing drains the battery quickly. The battery’s power load can make it prohibitive to tow a motorhome long distances with an electric vehicle.
California-based startup Pebble Mobility has invented a remote-controlled, self-propelled trailer. The 25-foot vehicle seats four people and has its own electric motor. It propels itself, saving the power needed by the car that drags it.
“We have a generous electric vehicle battery on board and a solar panel integrated on the roof of the travel trailer, thus harnessing renewable energy from the sun and powering the entire vehicle,” said Bingrui Yang, CEO of Pebble.
Yang, an Apple alumnus who helped build the iPhone, says he’s using that knowledge to improve the VR experience.
“We brought an iPhone-like experience to the RV, automating the hardest part like hitching, parking, towing and setting up camp, so anyone can easily access all the freedom the RV has to offer without any hassle.” he said.
The user can use the Pebble app to maneuver the trailer on their own, which helps in tight spaces. That high technology is a focus for investors, like UpHonest Capital, which is seeing a generational shift in RV use, from baby boomers to millennials.
“This group of consumers is very different from baby boomers, they are more technologically advanced. They are tech-savvy, they want a better experience, they want a better toy experience. So they have completely different demands than the older generation,” said Ellen Ma, CEO of UpHonest Capital.
In addition to UpHonest, Pebble is supported by Lightspeed and Vision Plus. So far it has raised $13.6 million in funding.
Trailer pricing starts at $109,000 with the self-propelled engine. Potential tax credits could reduce that figure. The powered version starts at $125,000, which is comparable to other RVs. Yang said that as they continue to grow the company, they will launch more products at different price points, meeting consumers’ needs.
With solar and battery power, Pebble’s makers say it can live off the grid for 7 days, with no propane or generator required. The kitchen appliances, lights, air conditioning and everything else are all electric. Pebble aims to deliver the first models in 2024.
Lisa Rizzolo, CNBC senior weather producer, contributed to this article.