The fully-electric concept travel trailer includes independent drive-assist wheels for improving towing range and gas mileage, remote control mobility, and a high-capacity battery bank that heralds the future of sustainable, electrified adventures.
JACKSON CENTER, OH (February 3, 2022) – Airstream, Inc., maker of the iconic “silver bullet” fleet of Airstream® travel trailers and best-in-class touring coaches, is excited to reveal more details about the eStream Concept Travel Trailer – an all-electric concept that brings to life multiple innovations from Airstream’s parent company THOR Industries and its partners and subsidiaries. A one-off travel trailer, the eStream is a groundbreaking approach aimed at delivering new technologies, innovative features, and for sparking conversations about sustainable products across the RV industry. With aerodynamic improvements and a high-voltage chassis featuring a battery-powered electric drivetrain and control systems, it’s the most cutting-edge RV design of our era.
More than simply an electrified travel trailer, the eStream features numerous advanced components that promise to give future owners more control, more maneuverability, and more freedom to travel where they please. The heart of the new concept travel trailer is a bank of high-voltage batteries that powers everything from the air conditioning to the all-electric appliances and drive-assist motors in the wheels. This high-voltage power system enables numerous advanced technologies that deliver true travel freedom while living, driving, and moving the eStream on adventures across the country and around the world.
While the eStream is primarily designed to evoke the possibility of the next generation of RV mobility, the concept travel trailer also includes an all-new, modern interior. With a rear bed and front convertible dinette, four people can comfortably sleep and stay in the 22-foot-long floor plan.
“What the eStream represents for Airstream is a glimpse into our future,” said Bob Wheeler, Airstream President and CEO. “We created an aspirational travel trailer — something that supports and encourages a sustainable way to travel and gives future customers the opportunity to spend more time off-grid pursuing their passions without having to worry about managing their resources. It’s really about improving the customer experience and making sure we deliver a sustainability-focused product at the end of that road.”
Living: High-Capacity Batteries for a Versatile Suite of Features and Amenities
A travel trailer at its core is a home on wheels – a place to comfortably stay while experiencing the best of travel freedom. Airstream founder Wally Byam famously proclaimed that Airstreamers could travel with all the comforts of home, and the eStream lives up to that promise with a full slate of amenities, appliances, and design features that make your stay as comfortable as possible.
With 80 kWhrs of power stored in its battery bank, the eStream can provide more than 30 times the power of the lithium batteries that are included with many Airstream models today. The high voltage batteries and electronic systems are essentially capable of providing the experience of being connected to shore power while being far from it. As more and more adventurers look to expand their travel opportunities and ultimately camp off the grid, the eStream exhibits the capability to operate all onboard systems, including the air conditioner, without being connected to shore power. The high-voltage platform also makes it possible to seamlessly charge other electrically powered vehicles — or even your home — by exporting power from the electric drivetrain.
“There’s enough power in this concept travel trailer to bring all the comforts of home and to run all of its systems for an extended period of time off grid,” said McKay Featherstone, Airstream VP of Product Development and Engineering. “It’s going to help customers go wherever they want to go, and to stay there as long as they wish.”
Unlike current travel trailer rooftops that include air conditioners, antennas, vents, and fans, the eStream’s sleek roof includes 900 watts of solar power from five 180-watt semi-flexible solar panels — more than double the solar harvesting capacity of any current Airstream model. The high-voltage battery also allows for the inclusion of kitchen appliances that operate solely on battery power. The updated power system makes it possible to operate the cooktop, refrigerator, or stove without the need for propane or a diesel generator. With a roof covered in solar panels and a bank of high-voltage lithium batteries, the eStream provides users with enough power to go off-grid with many of the comforts of home for up to two weeks.
And because our modern work-play-live lifestyle requires a dedicated connection to the world at large, Airstream is developing groundbreaking connectivity solutions and digital resources for the future owner based on eStream’s capabilities. Still in the development phase, future owners will be able to utilize a state-of-the-art signal booster that provides 5G connectivity and a Wi-Fi hotspot, enabling the operation of lighting and HVAC as well as accessing troubleshooting and support resources through voice commands. Intuitive touch screens will allow future owners to monitor power, water, and waste tanks, and a smartphone app in development promises to make trip planning easier while syncing the information to the eStream’s onboard systems. This powerful trip planning technology will be more than simply directions to get owners from Point A to Point B – it will be curated to maximize efficiency, range, charging, accessibility, and height restrictions.
Driving: Leading-Edge Aerodynamics, Unparalleled Safety and Performance
An aerodynamic shape has been part of the Airstream DNA since Wally Byam founded the company in 1931, but the eStream takes streamlined design to the next level. After studying the current aerodynamic profile of Airstream’s Silver Bullet travel trailers in the summer of 2021, the design team incorporated aerodynamic design elements that improved aerodynamic drag by another 20 percent. This translates directly into more range while towing.
Other aerodynamic enhancements include a profile that is 8 inches narrower than the typical Airstream width, a smooth roof with fewer protrusions, and a sleek underfloor with a rear diffuser. With the air conditioning system located in the “basement” area, the rooftop is free from the typical protrusions that create aerodynamic drag.
While the aerodynamic improvements operate to passively extend the range and allow future owners to go farther, the eStream’s chassis actively works to extend towing range in Driving mode. The eStream concept has an electric powertrain integrated into the chassis, comprised of the same high-voltage batteries that provide off-grid power, dual motors integrated with the axle, and an advanced sensor and control system. While in tow, the drive-assist motors actively move the travel trailer forward in concert with its tow vehicle – in essence the eStream follows behind, reducing the energy consumed by the tow vehicle and extending its range.
The powertrain also provides additional traction in difficult conditions, electronic stability control, anti-sway, and anti-theft features that lock the motors when not in use. The combination of drive axle and stability controls also allows the hitch weight to be reduced without compromising overall stability, meaning a weight distribution hitch is not needed – simplifying the overall towing process for owners.
“The foundation of the powertrain is to help you have a more sustainable journey and go farther, no matter what you’re towing with,” said Featherstone. “But once you have powered wheels in your travel trailer there’s so much more that you can do – they can give you more traction for navigating slick roads, or you can lock them while parked for extra protection against theft.”
Developed in partnership with ZF Friedrichshafen AG, the chassis architecture has scalable components. The battery technology is designed to be scalable from 20 to 80 kWhr of power, covering a wide range of vehicle sizes, range, and price points. The electric travel trailer chassis works with any standard tow vehicle, and any of the battery sizes enable the travel trailer to move under its own power, offsetting weight and drag. With the largest battery size, the platform is capable of extending towing range by about 50-75 percent when compared with a non-powered trailer.
Moving: Precision Remote Control for Campsite or Storage Navigation
Aside from towing the eStream in the traditional sense, the new concept travel trailer gives owners incredible freedom to travel farther and more sustainably than ever before. The drivetrain options that provide power directly to the axle and help move the travel trailer while in tow also give the eStream the incredible ability to maneuver independently by remote control at low speeds. Future owners will be able to move the eStream toward the tow vehicle for hitching, or remotely move the eStream into a campsite. With remote control ability and 360-degree maneuverability, for the first time Airstream owners can envision a world where they never have to back into a campsite again.
“Backing up a travel trailer is one of the most intimidating things for new customers – and sometimes even for customers with plenty of experience,” said Featherstone. “With this remote control capability, we’ve completely eliminated that – with one finger on the phone or tablet you can easily move the eStream into any tight spot, or position it so the solar panels catch more of the sun. You may drive the trailer into a tight campsite, or it might just be a gas station or storage or anywhere that you need to maneuver with precision.”
Charging: Compatible with Existing EV Charging Infrastructure
The eStream concept incorporates three methods for charging the battery systems – an important element in a world where Airstreamers travel extensively and need flexible solutions. The eStream is compatible with much of the U.S. electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, and also includes a separate 30-amp input so that it can be charged at an existing RV campground hookup. The solar panels on the rooftop will also charge the batteries while camping and while on the road.
“Not only is the eStream compatible with the current infrastructure, but its solar capacity and 30-amp hookup make it versatile for just about any kind of travel you can imagine,” said Wheeler. “With more charging stations coming across the country and many campgrounds starting to install them, we’re watching that infrastructure grow day by day.”
For more information on the new eStream Concept Travel Trailer and Airstream’s Research & Development efforts, visit www.airstream.com/air-lab/.