Home » I Took A Tour Of The Self-Towing Pebble Flow Camper And It’s Surprisingly Well-Built

I Took A Tour Of The Self-Towing Pebble Flow Camper And It’s Surprisingly Well-Built

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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(Images: Author)

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Turkina
Turkina
7 months ago

I’m wondering if all the magic to make tables raise and lower, the glass do its electrochromatic thing, and the rest of the electronics will last through infrequent use in something stored outside, versus manual latches, etc.
A Mercedes or BMW feels solid and quality, until all that engineering magic goes haywire.

Lucy Tycho
Lucy Tycho
7 months ago

I have an unrealistic fantasy about full-time living in an RV and, as an EV fanatic, I wonder how this would hold up for such a use. (It looks more like a toy for software exec weekend getaways).
Another thing I’m curious about is whether the assisted tow will allow this to be pulled by smaller vehicles. I was really enamoured by Dethleffs’ i3-towed concept and relatedly dislike pickups.

Ricki
Ricki
7 months ago

Would the regenerative charging be only during braking? I can see that being a better use of the tech than it being always-on. I wonder if it’s just a phrasing thing. A different phrasing thing than the ones others mentioned.

Also: SHOWER SPACE. HOLY CRAP.

LuzifersLicht
LuzifersLicht
7 months ago
Reply to  Ricki

Yeah I stumbled over that, too. Surely if it’s charging while driving along that’d require the towing vehicle to do extra work, ruining your fuel efficiency/range.

Torque
Torque
7 months ago
Reply to  LuzifersLicht

I was thinking it would allow regen when going down hills where the brakes are not applied by the tow vehicle

Ben
Ben
7 months ago

In addition to all the problems I and others have pointed out with these things:

Pebble is the only one of the three that says the battery will charge itself through being towed.

Through-the-road charging sounds like a horrifically inefficient way to charge a battery. I would love to know what kind of charge rate they think it’s going to get and what impact that will have on the tow vehicle’s mileage. If you thought 100 miles of tow range from your Lightning was bad, has Pebble got news for you!

Also, if people want an eye-wateringly expensive, self-propelled vehicle that doesn’t require you to back up a trailer in order to park in your spot, they already make those. They’re known as motorhomes.

The more I think about these things the more convinced I am that they’re an expensive boondoggle doomed to failure.

Ben
Ben
7 months ago
Reply to  Ben

Also:

When you’re doing this, you’ll likely have people watching you, ready to judge you if you screw something up.

I know the feeling, but keep in mind that the vast majority of the people in a campground are just as bad, or worse, at backing up as you are. On my last trip I had some trouble getting my trailer in the right spot because it was dark and the grass had grown into the edge of the gravel pad. Even though it took me a few tries, the people next door complimented me after I got it parked. Most campers aren’t actually judgmental pricks. 🙂

Sklooner
Sklooner
7 months ago

No bug screens ?

Turkina
Turkina
7 months ago
Reply to  Sklooner

They live in a magical bug and rain free wonderland! Where the stars always shine at night!

JunkInTheFrunk
JunkInTheFrunk
7 months ago

The look of this trailer is fantastic, and the innovation in materials and quality come across well in the pictures. With that said, I’d prefer a configuration entirely without the complexity of a large battery and motors. Why, you might ask?:

  • Batteries are finnicky beasts and the long periods in storage for an RV does not seem fit the usage that lets them live a long healthy life.
  • Batteries are expensive. A good trailer should last 15 years, which is outside the lifespan for an LFP battery.
  • EV drive trains are HEAVY. The battery and motors in this beast are likely adding 1000+ lbs to this beast, taking it from a light trailer to a beefy one.
  • Trailers require maintenance, and this adds a level of specialization and service. Bubba at Camping World will have no idea how to trouble shoot this thing when you take it on a cross country road trip.

With all of that said, I would love to have something like this as an option on the market without the drivetrain. I love my Airstream Basecamp, and this feels like a really cool competitor in the same space.

Rexracer
Rexracer
7 months ago
Reply to  JunkInTheFrunk

I think the extremely narrow band of the population that this actually makes sense, is if you store it at your house, and it could act as a powerwall while there.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
7 months ago
Reply to  Rexracer

Using it to arbitrate electricity prices for people on time of use plans would be doable. Or joining a virtual power plant for other grid services like voltage regulation could be an option.

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
7 months ago

I love the challenge of getting big things into small spaces.”

Are we not doing “Phrasing” anymore?

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
7 months ago
Reply to  Pupmeow

Insert classic Michael Scott comment here.

Kenneth Moore
Kenneth Moore
7 months ago

I don’t have any interest in travel trailers or motorhomes, but I always enjoy Mercedes’ articles on them. She’s so knowledgeable about them, and her enthusiasm is infectious.

Elhigh
Elhigh
7 months ago

I’m a little concerned about the axle placement in relation to the hitch; it looks like there’s an awful lot of tail to wag the dog. I’m assuming the mass of the battery pack must be forward of the axle to keep jackknifing at bay.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
7 months ago
Reply to  Elhigh

I wonder if they’re using the motors to self balance, kinda like a Segway.

Gordon Mitchell
Gordon Mitchell
7 months ago
Reply to  Elhigh

This was my first thought too. Looks like the bathroom is in the back which means the tanks are probably close by. Maybe it corrects itself while towing?

Speedway Sammy
Speedway Sammy
7 months ago
Reply to  Elhigh

This also seems like a lot of trailer on a single axle. Hope they have some really good tires. My neighbor had one tire blow on his 5th wheel (which has dual axles) and it was thousands in damage to the bodywork. With a single axle it could be a lot worse.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
7 months ago

I love the challenge of getting big things into small spaces”

Mercedes, I just had a vision of you as Dot Marie Jones (Coach Beiste) in that Allstate ad: “Nana! It’s not going to fit!”

Jim Zavist
Jim Zavist
7 months ago

I’m old and when it comes to camping, I’m also a big believer in KISS. There are multiple storage yards around me where many RVs end up spending 90%+ of their lives. High-tech and extended storage rarely play well together, and when combined with RV’s well-known rapid depreciation, it’s hard to justify dropping $100K+ just to have something slightly easier to back into a spot.

Jim Zavist
Jim Zavist
7 months ago
Reply to  Jim Zavist

That being said, it would look pretty sweet behind some tech-bro’s Rivian R1T . . .

Lucy Tycho
Lucy Tycho
7 months ago
Reply to  Jim Zavist

That rear light does match brilliantly with a Rivian

JumboG
JumboG
7 months ago
Reply to  Lucy Tycho

Yet I wonder how much they cost to replace when you back them into something.

3WiperB
3WiperB
7 months ago
Reply to  Jim Zavist

Yeah, these on-board battery systems could make sense for full timers, but not so much for people like me that may get out camping for 20-30 days a year. I even feel the same about large solar systems and lithium battery banks that are going into a lot of campers now. It’s a lot of investment if you aren’t using it 90% of the time.

Scone Muncher
Scone Muncher
7 months ago
Reply to  3WiperB

As someone said above, if you can use it as a UPS battery (“powerwall”) for your house when it’s not in use as a camper…that’s kind of genius. Not everyone’s going to have that use case of course.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
7 months ago

You mention that the glass bathroom walls are unnecessary – but that’s what makes the bathroom not only feel spacious, but it is more spacious – as an RV wall is a couple inches thick, and glass is only .375-.5”? Plus the glass is gonna be super easy to clean. And it’s gotta be able to obscure – unless watching one another poo is a thing for your family.
Of course the self-driving aspect is intriguing- but I have visions of Shawn the Sheep taking control, much to the hilarious frustration of Blitzer the Dog.

Library of Context
Library of Context
7 months ago

Still waiting for the real test of this trailer: make David and Torch live in it for 24 hours.

“It’s just pickle juice, why are you being so weird?”

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
7 months ago

I really want one. And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the price actually seems fair these days for what you get. I think I might choose one of these over an Airstream.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
7 months ago

This is actually pretty neat and looks to be very good quality…obviously expensive but of course will be to begin with…
Have to make the comment that of course I hope the bathroom isn’t see through ha ha

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
7 months ago

Just from a visual of the position of the axle, it appears to be rear heavy. Trailers are usually about 10-15% weight on the hitch. I’m sure that because the wheels drive the trailer that also transfers some of the weight forward. Also the batteries are probably placed forward. What happens when the trailer battery runs out, how does it affect the tongue weight?

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
7 months ago
Reply to  Knowonelse

What happens when the trailer battery runs out, how does it affect the tongue weight?”
You didn’t mean to ask that really, did you?

Michael Fortenbery
Michael Fortenbery
7 months ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

Electrons don’t weigh that much! 🙂

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
7 months ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

Yes, I did. If they are expecting the tongue weight to be increased due to the torsional loading from the driven trailer wheels, is that enough to change the effective CG and change the effective tongue weight when there is no torsional loading applied.

Gee See
Gee See
7 months ago

Does the trailer use hub motors? That will simplify the packaging immensely.

I am always curious about these non metal trailers, how do they do the outside, it looks like one piece that is molded? I assume by hand not some huge injection machine?

Last edited 7 months ago by Gee See
NosrednaNod
NosrednaNod
7 months ago

“….. only Pebble has said its trailer can recharge while you’re just driving down the road.…”

Hmmm…. I don’t know about that.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
7 months ago
Reply to  NosrednaNod

Same. So, you’re out in, say, Oklahoma, and the trailer’s battery is almost flat, so you charge your pickup, then tow-charge to another charger 75 miles away (because that’s your range when tow-charging). Return to first charger & repeat round trip a couple times to charge the trailer up for your week in the wilds?

I could see it making sense if you tow with ICE

Andreas8088
Andreas8088
7 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

I think ICE (or hybrid) would really be the use case for that feature.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
7 months ago
Reply to  Andreas8088

You’re right-and I shouldn’t comment before caffeine.

Clark B
Clark B
7 months ago
Reply to  Andreas8088

I could also see it being useful on downgrades, helping take some load off the brakes.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
7 months ago

That’s an intriguing one, and at a price much lower than I expected. It’s interesting that the axle appears to be dead centered, like a European or Australian trailer, not rear biased like a typical American one.

Nic Periton
Nic Periton
7 months ago

I could tow that with my Bentley, 1930’s meet 2020’s. 90 years apart. It would be a pleasing experiment.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
7 months ago
Reply to  Nic Periton

Ask them if they’ll loan you one for a week: the publicity pictures would be freaking gold!
The pics of the guy towing his modern racecar with his blower Bentley went viral: it’s worth a try

Nic Periton
Nic Periton
7 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

I am waiting to hear back, it turns out that shifting the caravan to the UK is not a simple job.

BentleyBoy
BentleyBoy
7 months ago
Reply to  Nic Periton

Yes, a MKVI would do nicely

Scone Muncher
Scone Muncher
7 months ago
Reply to  Nic Periton

Does your Bentley meet the GVWR requirement? Because that’s an excellent idea I wholly endorse if so.

Nic Periton
Nic Periton
7 months ago
Reply to  Scone Muncher

I have not checked, it is the last but one 8 litre, ( finally delivered in October 1934)
Think more railway locomotive than car, and add the cosy study from a small stately home. I once used it to extricate a stuck Unimog. I am just guessing, but I think it might meet the GVMR .

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
7 months ago

I wonder if the higher tow rating requirement is at least partially because of the regeneration while towing feature? I’d imagine it would add resistance, requiring more oomph to keep it moving.

Also, holy crap that is a huge bathroom for a trailer of that size!!!

I’m a bit surprised it doesn’t have any slide outs, though. Seems pretty standard these days.

Last edited 7 months ago by StillNotATony
OFFLINE
OFFLINE
7 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Slide outs are great in concept but annoyingly fragile in reality. If you want a trailer that will last, avoid them.

Andreas8088
Andreas8088
7 months ago
Reply to  OFFLINE

Yeah, I’ll second this. Slide outs are a deal-breaker for me with any RV/trailer. I avoid them like the plague.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
7 months ago
Reply to  OFFLINE

I’m really surprised at the negative attitude toward slide outs, considering their popularity. Is it because they’re cheaply or shoddily built, or is it more of an inherent design flaw?

OFFLINE
OFFLINE
7 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

(Loudog opinion, YMMV) I think it’s because it requires a good level of engineering and execution to do right. The hardware has to be great, the mounting points have to be stable, and the seals have to be robust. This has to happen from an industry that designs systems that are spec’d to make about 50 trips, tops. Maybe it might work if you build it yourself?

JunkInTheFrunk
JunkInTheFrunk
7 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

When they fail, they fail spectacularly, and leave you stranded. They can be defeated by leaves and snow. The tracks have bad tendency to bend over time, and the walls, roof and floor have a tendency to warp.

They are popular because you are getting additional space for “free”, but they can cause a world of hurt when something goes wrong.

Sean F
Sean F
7 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Slide outs are the killer of RVs as when they break and or start to leak, its not cheap to fix.
They also are a PITA as far as “I am walking around from the back/front and forget about the slide-out and smack my head off of said slide out.

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