Mercedes wanted to geek out way, way more than the interviewer allowed her to, so now instead of saying “Here’s a problem EVs have with towing, here are some solutions,” she was only allowed to say “Here’s a problem EVs have with towing.” Drat! Still, what a great experience having our very own Mercedes Streeter REPRESENTING on live TV. And hey, I got to go on there, too. But of course, I forgot my damn dry cleaning tag on my suit jacket.
Johnathan Gustin, who works at ABC12 out of Flint, is a true car geek. He’s one of us. As such, he was interested in chatting with The Autopian here at the Detroit Auto Show. So he put both Mercedes and me IN THE HOT SEAT. Mercedes talked about camping — specifically some of the drawbacks to electrification as it relates to built-out vans or tow-behind trailer campers. What Mercedes wanted to say was… well, let me just let her tell you:
What I wanted to say was that the Grounded G1 is one of the first fully electric camper vans to hit the market. It’s pretty neat with an IKEA-like modular interior, but the Ford E-Transit the van is based on goes just 108 miles on a charge. Stopping every 100 miles on a road trip means taking a very long time to get where you’re going. It also means you have to camp within somewhat close range of a charger. Another thing you can do is tow a traditional travel trailer with an electric pickup truck. However, that presents its own problems. Various range tests have shown that you can expect huge range losses when towing a 6,100 pound camper. Take Car and Driver‘s range testing, for example. Its testers hauled a camper behind a Rivian R1T, a Ford F-150 Lightning, and a GMC Hummer EV. The Ford and the Rivian both saw their ranges cut down to about 100 miles while the Hummer went 140 miles. Likewise, charging gets a bit weird as many charging stations are stalls, not pull-through spaces. So you’ll have to decouple the trailer, charge, then hook back up again.
A potential solution to this is already in development. A number of manufacturers are building fully electric travel trailers with lithium traction batteries and electric motors. For example, Airstream is developing what it calls the eStream, a camper with an 80 kWh battery pack and electric motors. The camper’s motors assist the tow vehicle and thus, eliminate as much range loss as possible. In theory, because the camper can haul itself, a 300-mile EV tow vehicle retains its range. Even cooler is the fact that the trailers also work with ICE vehicles, so your F-150 gasser also doesn’t take much of a range hit. This makes the aforementioned charging stall problem only worse as you now have to charge two EVs at the same time, a but it does get you further down the road. For now, it seems like burning fuel is still the best way to go camping, but maybe one day it won’t be that way.
Click the following link and see what Mercedes was able to say in the rather short interview titled “The Road Ahead For Camping.”
She may not have gotten all her words in, but I’m proud of Mercedes. This is a big moment! Mercedes’ first time on LIVE television. She arrived at that interview prepared; she knew about the van’s platform, its price, its range, and just before being cut off (by a very nice interviewer who, of course, has strict time constraints), was about to let the world know about some of the clever solutions that range-anxious campers might soon have at their disposal. This is just the start, I feel; I’ve always believed that Mercedes needs to be in front of the camera more, as she has an incredibly infectious personality. We’ll make sure that happens.
Anyway, here’s a look at my interview. It was about some of the nerdy EV tech here at the auto show. I specifically talk about how electrification brings pretty much an entirely new vehicle philosophy; suspensions, braking systems, cooling systems, bodies, HVAC systems and on and on — it all changes when you go from an ICE to an EV. The typical person on the street maybe doesn’t realize that a power-source change from gasoline to wall-electricity completely alters the way the vehicle is built, and the Detroit Auto Show — with its copious cutaways and suppliers on site — gives folks a great opportunity to see those alterations. This is a step-change, I say in the video, when it comes to vehicle technology.
It wasn’t particularly insightful for a car nut like you or me, but hey, it was on LIVE TV. With my dry cleaning tag out for everyone to see.