For many Americans, going camping with an RV is more gratifying and fun than going to any hotel. Your home on a trip is wherever you plant it. However, going RVing usually requires you to know some basics regarding setting up and taking care of a camper. Startup company Pebble wants to change that with its new camper. The Pebble Flow is an all-electric travel trailer with its own propulsion system, the ability to park and hitch itself, and the ability to set itself up. Let’s take a look.
If this trailer sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because you’ve read my coverage on the Airstream eStream, the Dethleffs E.Home, and the Lightship L1. All three of those trailers are based on the same overall concept.
Those other travel trailers are all-electric and feature their own electric drive systems that assist the tow vehicle in pulling the camper down the road. All of those other trailers also seek to make camping as easy as yanking out your smartphone. Keep these in mind as we talk about what Pebble is bringing to the table.
Pebble was founded in California in 2022 by Bingrui Yang. His mission is to revolutionize how people go camping. From Yang:
“Pebble was developed to create a hassle-free way to live, work and explore. Consumers have been stuck with the same RV experience for decades. A lot of people want to get into such a lifestyle of freedom but are turned off by the pain points in today’s products. At Pebble, we are automating the hardest parts of the RV experience with the same technologies that power the most advanced automotive innovations, making the whole experience simply effortless and magical. If you know how to use an iPhone, you’ll be comfortable using our product.”
For much of the company’s short life thus far, it was operating in the background in what some entrepreneurs call “stealth mode.” Like many of these electric camper startups, Yang and his team have entered the RV field from the tech/EV world. Yang’s experience includes a nine-year tenure at Apple as a leader in iPhone development. Later, he worked at GM’s Cruise and Amazon-based Zoox autonomous vehicle startups.
The company’s Chief Technology Officer is Stefan Solyom, who brings a combined 20 years of automotive and tech experience. Solyom’s background includes a seven-year stint at Apple plus being one of the founding members of the team behind Tesla’s Autopilot system. His other work includes a 10-year tenure at Volvo working on safety and autonomous systems. The rest of Pebble’s team consists of people from tech companies as well as engineers from Cruise, Lucid, and other companies in the automotive sector.
Pebble decided to stop operating in stealth mode in June of this year when it received $13.6 million in seed and Series A funding from venture capital firms Lightspeed, Vision Plus, and UpHonest Capital. Now the company appears to be changing gears and is ready to show off what it’s developing.
The Pebble Flow
The company’s launch vehicle is the Pebble Flow, a 25-foot-long all-electric travel trailer.
As I said before, this trailer’s stated goal is to reinvent the travel trailer [Ed note: Reinventing the XYZ is fairly standard PR talk. -DT]. If you’ve ever owned a trailer before, you know that there’s a whole process to hitch up. Then you have to tow the thing, guzzling down fuel or electrons as you haul a brick to your final destination. You also know that when you arrive at your campsite, you have to park your rig, decouple, set down your stabilizer jacks, open the awning, expand the slides, and potentially a bunch of other setup before you can finally start enjoying yourself.
Some people, like myself, enjoy the work that goes into pulling and setting up a trailer. My father was an over-the-road trucker for over a decade and taught me everything he knows about hauling, so I love it all. Not everyone is like me. A lot of folks just want to get where they’re going and immediately start having fun. The Pebble Flow is supposed to be for those people.
Starting with the exterior, the trailer features a slick design said to be “300% more aerodynamic than a conventional travel trailer.” Remember, the typical travel trailer is basically a box, so it doesn’t take much to do better. The body is made out of composite and it features an aluminum chassis and aluminum structure under the composites. At least from what I could see with my own eyes, there is no wood framing or rubberized roofs in this structure to worry about. So, Pebble is already going in the right direction.
Inside, Pebble says the Flow trailer is equipped with a versatile living space. Starting with the kitchen, you get a removable induction cooktop, a 4-in-1 convection microwave, and a full-size refrigerator. The kitchen window flips open so you can get an outdoors-ish cooking experience if you want to.
This trailer is built around the idea of both work and play. Thus, there are two beds in the trailer, allowing for up to four people to sleep inside. When those people aren’t sleeping, the beds transform into other spaces. The onboard Murphy queen bed retracts away and turns into a desk so someone can work on the go. Pebble doesn’t say what the convertible full bed turns into, but the press photos suggest it turns into a couch or dinette.
Opposite of the kitchen is a bathroom with glass walls. The bathroom features what appears to be a spacious shower, plus a flushing toilet and a vanity. Don’t worry, it’s electrochromic glass so you can get some privacy.
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.
Under The Floor
The interior is nice, but what Pebble really wants you to pay attention to is what’s going on underneath.
Pebble’s headlining feature is what it calls the “World’s first Dual-motor Active Propulsion Assist System.” We’ll round back to that claim in a minute. This system consists of a 45 kWh lithium iron phosphate battery and two electric motors. Much like the trailers I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, the pair of electric motors give the trailer self-propulsion abilities. When your tow vehicle pulls this trailer, the motors assist with towing so that your tow vehicle loses as little range as possible.
It’s compatible with both EV and ICE tow vehicles, and the goal here is that if you were to tow this with a Ford F-150 Lightning, you should be able to go farther on a charge. Range tests have repeatedly shown that heavy trailers cut EV truck range down to 100 miles, not ideal for road trips and camping.
At the same time, heavy trailers also result in single-digit fuel economy for many trucks. So, having a trailer that can pull most of its own weight benefits even internal combustion-powered tow-rigs. Like the aforementioned trailers, the Pebble Flow isn’t designed to haul all of its own weight, so your tow vehicle will still be pulling something, just not as much as it normally would. The Pebble Flow also has active aero to make the trailer more slippery as you go down the highway. Sadly, we don’t get to see what that looks like.
Pebble says the 45 kWh LFP battery can be charged just about anywhere from the mains at home to shore power at a campground and AC/DC charging at public charging stations. The company says its choice to go with LFP has to do with the fact that it’s safe. Pebble also says that a full battery can last seven days off-grid. Aiding in keeping you off shore power is at least 1 kW of solar power. The trailer can also fill up as you tow it through regenerative charging.
Thankfully, Pebble was also thinking ahead. Travel trailers often sit for a while between outings taking up space and doing nothing. Well, the Pebble Flow’s battery can also function as an emergency backup power source, like a really big Tesla Powerwall.
To make camping as easy as using a smartphone, the Pebble Flow uses its drive system to make parking and hitching easier. Pull out the Pebble app then activate Magic Hitch, and the trailer will use an autonomous function to roll up to your tow vehicle and hitch itself. I wonder what happens if you use Magic Hitch and the Ford F-Series’ self-hitching system at the same time. Will that start the robot uprising?
When the trailer is off of your vehicle, you can use a remote control function for the perfect parking job. When you’re in your space, hit the InstaCamp function, which automatically deploys the stairs, awning, stabilizer jacks, and parking brakes. Of course, it also works in the opposite direction as you’re leaving camp.
Good Ideas, Confusing Marketing
Now, we arrive back at Pebble’s claim of having the “World’s first Dual-motor Active Propulsion Assist System.” Originally, communications from Pebble to me said the trailer had a “first-of-its-kind system that self-propells the trailer to make towing safer, easier & more efficient.”
These don’t seem correct. The Dethleffs E.Home had a working dual-motor self-propulsion system nearly three years ago. Airstream’s eStream had the same dual-motor tech back in early 2022. Sure, neither of those trailers are on the market yet, but the Pebble Flow isn’t, either. The Pebble Flow isn’t expected to begin shipping until the end of 2024. I’ve reached out to Pebble for clarification on these claims and will update when I hear back.
With that said, Pebble is introducing some features the other trailers do not have. Pebble’s Magic Hitch is a new idea, as is the one-touch setup operation. I also like how the trailer can charge itself on the road. However, that still doesn’t solve the problem with the fact that EV charging stalls just aren’t built for a tow vehicle and a trailer to charge at the same time. You’ll still have to unhook and park both the truck and the trailer into charging spots.
How does this stack up to the other self-propelled travel trailers? The full-spec Pebble Flow is cheaper than the $151,500 Lightship L1 Long Range, a trailer that is two feet longer and maxes out at a thousand pounds heavier. However, the Lightship, along with both the Airstream and the Dethleffs, will have nearly twice the battery capacity at 80 kWh.
Pebble says pre-orders of the Flow travel trailer begin today. The company hasn’t given us a dry weight, but says you’ll need a vehicle that can tow at least 6,200 pounds (the trailer’s GVWR). The base model trailer costs $109,000. For that, you get the trailer and a single-motor self-propulsion system, but none of the automation equipment. If you pay $125,000, you get dual motors plus the aforementioned Magic Hitch self-hitching program, remote control, and other autonomous features.
If you’re going to the Los Angeles Auto Show next month, Pebble says its trailer and its team will be there for the public to take a peek at the prototype in real life.
Update: Pebble has answered my questions as follows:
What makes this trailer the world’s first dual-motor active propulsion assist system? Previously, we’ve covered the Airstream eStream and Dethleffs eHome, both have been in development for at least a couple of years.
Pebble Flow’s dual-motor active propulsion assist system will be the first of such a system to make production.
Pebble Flow is not a concept demonstration. It’s slated to be the first production vehicle to have a dual-motor active propulsion assist system when it reaches production. Our vertical integration of robotics software and drivetrain hardware further enhances the capability of the Pebble Flow to make towing easier, safer and more efficient (Easy Tow).
Is the powertrain the same between the $109,000 version and the $125,000 version?
The Pebble Flow with the Magic Pack ($125,000) adds the dual-motor drivetrain, which enables Remote Control, Magic Hitch and Easy Tow. The standard Pebble Flow ($109,000) does not include motors, but all other features, like the InstaCamp, the Pebble App, 45kWh LFP battery, etc will still be included in both versions.
What is the trailer’s unloaded weight?
Unloaded weight is not being disclosed. Pebble is engineering the production design of the Pebble Flow to have sufficient cargo capacity while maintaining a light fully loaded gross vehicle weight of 6200lb.
How much horsepower and torque do the motors make?
We are not disclosing detailed specs of our propulsion system at the moment.
Update: An earlier version of this story said that the Lightship L1 had a starting price of $125,000. This is true, but Lightship has since updated its specifications since we published our Lightship L1 piece. The $125,000 Lightship L1 Essential has a 40 kWh pack and no drive motor. To get the drive motor and the 80 kWh pack you need to pay $151,500, which is disappointing.
I should note that the Airstream eStream is also not just a concept demonstration. Thor Industries’ CEO has informed me that there will be a production version in the near future. However, Thor is not yet ready to put a date on it. So, Pebble is the first dual-motor self-propelled travel trailer to have a production date and could indeed become the first production camper with such a setup. The true title of “world’s first” will bestowed on the first to actually put one of these to market.
I like a lot of what I’m seeing here. The design looks pretty cool and the self-hitching program sounds like it’ll help a lot of people. Watch our video above, that self-hitching system looks wild! Pebble has some good ideas, and one day, I hope to hitch one of these to the back of a truck and experience what a self-towing trailer feels like.
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