Last month, a new startup rolled onto the recreational vehicle scene with a promising idea. The Pebble Flow travel trailer is a fresh take on an old concept. It’s a trailer that looks pleasing to the eye, has a well-thought-out living space, and most importantly, this all-electric camper has a drive system that assists its tow vehicle in hauling it. I took a tour of the prototype of the Pebble Flow and came out impressed. It’s even better in real life than it is in press photos.
If you’ve owned an RV before, you know that quality in this industry often stinks. RVs are sometimes built so poorly that they’ll be broken right there during a camper trade show. Price doesn’t seem to matter, either. I’ve seen multi-hundred thousand dollar coaches with parts falling off just like something under $20,000.
Whenever a new brand and a new camper comes onto the market, one of my first questions is if the interior sucks. I’m happy to say that, after touring the Pebble Flow here at the LA Auto Show, the interior is pretty good.
The Pebble Flow
Pebble was founded in California in 2022 by Bingrui Yang. His mission is to revolutionize how people go camping. Specifically, Yang wants to target the pain points of camping with a travel trailer. A lot of people, my parents included, find no joy in the process involved with hitching up a trailer. It doesn’t end there, as you still have to tow the thing, park it into a space once you reach camp, and set everything up.
If you’ve never towed a trailer to a campground before, let me explain how fun the process of parking can be. Many campgrounds have narrow spaces lined with trees and infrastructure. If you’re doing things the old-school way, you will be reversing your rig into the tiny space with maybe some help from a spotter. If you’re lucky, it’ll be daytime. When you’re doing this, you’ll likely have people watching you, ready to judge you if you screw something up. I love the challenge of getting big things into small spaces, but a lot of folks don’t.
Yang’s vision for the Pebble Flow is to build a camper that takes all of the stresses out of camping. As I noted in my opening article about the Pebble, Yang brings experience from the tech world, specifically from Apple iPhone development. He also has experience working in autonomous vehicle startups. The rest of his team is similar, bringing talent from Apple, Lucid, Tesla, Volvo, and more.
At the heart of the Pebble Flow is its drive system. Pebble says it has the world’s first dual-motor traction system in its Flow. Pebble was not the first to invent this technology, but if it can meet its expected release window of late 2024, it will be the first to put this tech into production.
Anyway, the dual-motor system carries multiple functions. It pairs with a 45-kWh LFP battery to help the tow vehicle haul it. The idea here is that when you tow your Pebble Flow, the trailer will help pull itself along, saving you precious fuel or battery charge. Range testing has shown that towing a large trailer can do some heavy damage to the range of an EV. If you have a Ford F-150 Lightning, towing something like this trailer can cut your range to just 100 miles, which would make for an annoying trip. This isn’t surprising, as towing with an ICE vehicle also carries a huge hit for mileage. If the trailer could help tow itself, that could help you maximize your range.
Like the Lightship L1, Dethleffs E.Home, and Airstream eStream, the Pebble Flow is not designed to overpower the tow vehicle but to help it along. In other words, there will still be tension on the tow hitch so that you don’t get into a situation where the tail wags the dog.
Outside of helping itself be towed by your vehicle, the dual-motor system brings along some automation. The Pebble Flow’s drive system pairs with some smart technology, including a system that allows the trailer to drive itself up to your tow vehicle and hitch itself to it. No more guesswork! On top of that, you also can get a remote control function so that you can park the trailer with ease.
Pebble has also baked in some functionality for when you get to the campground. With a traditional camper, you have to park, decouple from the hitch, deploy your stabilizer jacks, open your awning, and set your parking brakes or wheel chocks. With a touch of a button, the Pebble Flow does all of it by itself, making camping streamlined. You really do just arrive and let the camper set itself up.
One of my favorite parts about Pebble’s dual-motor drive system is the fact that when the battery is depleted, one of the ways to charge it back up is just by going down the highway. The trailer will use regeneration to top itself back up. While the aforementioned brands say their future trailers will be able to recharge on the move while braking or through solar, Pebble is the only one of the three that says the battery will charge itself through being towed.
Other ways to charge the battery include using the 1 kW of solar power on the roof as a trickle charger. You can also charge the battery, which also works as your house battery, from the shore power provided by your home or a campsite. The battery also functions as an emergency backup power source in an emergency.
The Living Part Of The Equation
Alright, so the Pebble Flow is plenty innovative, but I think the part that matters to many people is if it’s going to be decent to live with. After all, what’s the point of a fancy dual-motor drive system if you won’t want to sleep in the camper?
Starting with the body, it’s made out of composite and it features an aluminum chassis and aluminum structure under the composites. In person, the body of the trailer appeared to be built well. The composites seemed solid and the body has fewer places to leak than your typical camper. I also love the design. Many campers just look like uninspired boxes, but this looks like it could have been penned by a Porsche designer. You can even spot some automotive-inspired design from the trailer’s lighting and its lines.
The trailer’s ports and connections are all in their normal places, but they’re hidden by sleek panels. Sadly, not all of the black pieces you see here are windows. Certainly, the Pebble Flow has some sizable glass, but you’re looking at glossy black composites.
As customary for our site, I took a peek under the body. Unsurprisingly, the guts underneath were covered up by aero panels.
Moving inside, I was impressed with the thought put into the living space. Up front, you get a bench and dinette. With the push of a button, the table retracts down by itself, turning the dinette into a bed fit for up to two adults. On the far end of the trailer is another bedroom-type space. By day, it’s a small office for two. By night, you pull down the Murphy bed for another sleeping space for two adults.
What I like most is what’s going on in the middle. On the right side of the trailer, you get a removable induction cooktop, a 4-in-1 convection microwave, and a full-size refrigerator. The kitchen window flips open and the sink turns around so you can bring some of the cooking experience somewhat outside.
Across from that is an incredibly spacious bathroom. If you’re big like me or tall like many others, you know how terrible RV showers get. It often seems like many RV builders design the rest of the living space and then remember that they have to put in a shower. The result is you get a shower space that feels smaller than a broom closet. Thankfully, Pebble’s designers knew better. Check out all of this room!
Also nice is the fact that the bathroom itself is sizable. It’s rare that I get into a travel trailer with a bathroom so large I could take a picture of it without switching to wide-angle mode. I even like the electrochromic glass. Sure, it’s entirely unnecessary, but it’s a fun touch that doesn’t detract from the experience of using the trailer.
What I found most impressive is the quality. Remember, this camper is Pebble’s prototype demonstrator. There are a few bits here and there that feel a bit “pre-production,” but overall, the quality is far beyond most of the RVs I see at the Indiana and Florida trade shows. Everything feels like it could survive ten years or more of use. Edges of surfaces are clean and those surfaces feel great to the touch, too. The only part I wasn’t sure about was the soft strip of Alcantara lining the walls. It felt and looked great, but I have these nightmare images in my head of kids rubbing Cheeto dust on them.
Adding functionality to the living space is plug-and-play Starlink connectivity, a 37-gallon tank for fresh water, and a 50-gallon tank for your waste. You also get a 240-volt AC outlet to juice up high-power gear at the campsite. Pebble had the unit’s HVAC unit running at the LA Auto Show and it purred pretty quietly. I also like how the camper’s air-conditioner is not on the roof, eliminating a hole that could leak in the future.
The quality of this interior is what I’d expect in a six-figure trailer. Obviously, you’d expect something costing over $100,000 to be solid, but Winnebago will sell you the Revel camper van that’s over $200,000 with an interior befitting something with a 0 lobbed off of the price. So, paying a lot of money is no guarantee of getting something nice out of the other end.
Pebble expects its first trailers to hit the market at the end of 2024. The starting price for the Pebble Flow is $109,000. For that, you get the trailer and no motors. The base model also does not get the self-hitching automation or remote control. If you pay $125,000, you get dual motors plus the self-hitching program, remote control, and other autonomous features. If you’re interested, Pebble says something that tows at least 6,200 pounds (the trailer’s GVWR) will be required.
It’s often hard to believe startup companies when they say they’re going to disrupt whatever industry they’re entering. Sometimes, such disruption never happens, if the company even gets its product off of the ground. If Pebble can pull this off, I’m not sure it’ll revolutionize camping. However, for the person looking for a luxury camping rig, I think they’ll be happy and cozy with their Pebble. What I’m excited about is the fact that EV owners will soon enough have some solutions to the devastating range loss caused by towing.
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