One of the biggest problems that camping with an EV introduces is the fact that camping trailers absolutely murder your range. A number of companies are trying to solve this by giving the camper a battery. Colorado Teardrops wants to sell you the Boulder, a teardrop that can charge your EV using a large enough battery to restore your lost range. The trailer can also power your house in an emergency, but these functions come with a disappointing catch.
As EVs have gotten more capable, automotive publications and also actual owners have hitched their rides up to trailers and witnessed the kinds of range losses that occur. Car and Driver performed an interesting test last year, taking a trio of electric trucks, hooking them to a 29-foot, 6,100 pound travel trailer, then observing what towing the trailer did to range. This was a realistic test; Americans love buying sizable campers and towing them with their trucks. The magazine towed the trailers like anyone would by taking them down the highway on a summer day. In the end, each truck lost more than 50 percent of its highway range.
Car and Driver’s test wasn’t surprising, nor was it anything new. Towing a trailer with your gas or diesel truck also means losing a huge chunk of range. However, an ICE truck will usually carry a large enough fuel tank for some decent range between gas pumps. In Car and Driver’s test, the Rivian R1T’s highway range was reduced to 110 miles while the Ford F-150 Lightning came down to 100 miles. If you’re trying to do a summer road trip, stopping every 100 miles to charge can be annoying, especially if you come up to a charger that requires you to disconnect the trailer.
The Boulder is one of a growing list of camper designs trying to combat this problem.
Modern Problems Require Modern Solutions
A number of camper manufacturers are trying to fix this problem. We’ve already seen how Airstream and German manufacturer Dethleffs want to solve this. Their campers contain 80 kWh batteries and electric drive systems that allow the campers to essentially drive themselves, thus allowing the tow vehicle to retain close to its original range.
Colorado Teardrops is taking a different approach. Its Boulder teardrop camper does not have a drive system and cannot drive itself, instead, it houses a 75 kWh battery with the option to upgrade to a 200 kWh battery. This camper will not assist the tow vehicle, instead, it will charge it back up.
Colorado Teardrops launched in 2014 as a company that built teardrop campers and rented them out. Those rental models served as durability testbeds for future non-rental models. After all, if they could service the trials of rental use, they should have no problem holding up for the everyday user.
As Denver Life Magazine writes, Boulder resident Dean Wiltshire took his daughter to Yellowstone in 2011. They stayed in a tent near a sign warning about bear activity in the area. Wiltshire and his daughter camped for a few days without incident, but they heard about a hiker that had been killed by a grizzly not too far from where their campsite was. This was the spark Wiltshire needed to build a camper that was better, more comfortable, and safer than a tent. Wiltshire came from a background in software but picked up skills from his carpenter father. He began building his own campers and today, Wiltshire’s Colorado Teardrops has seven different models. The newest is the Boulder, and it’s built to solve the problem of EV range loss from towing.
The first thing that you’ll notice about the Boulder is that it looks like nothing else built by Colorado Teardrops. While the company’s other campers take on the classic teardrop shape, this one is made to be more aerodynamic while adopting the futuristic design that many might expect from an EV-oriented product.
The whole trailer measures 16 feet long with a 12.5-foot box. You get an interior space that’s 4.8 feet wide and 4.5 feet tall. This is not a trailer that most people will even come close to standing up in, but that’s ok because the interior space contains just one queen bed, a bunk bed, and some storage areas. The Boulder is another one of those campers that you’re really only using to sleep in.
Colorado Teardrops says that the camper is constructed with welded structural aircraft aluminum and the cabin exterior is coated in anodized aluminum. The interior is covered with Hickory wood and you’ll find insulation in the walls, roof, floor, and hatches. Colorado Teardrops campers are designed to be comfortable in all seasons and all weather conditions; the company says that this camper is no exception.
There’s a large galley in the bank of the camper. Standard? There’s nothing in there, but Colorado Teardrops has a vast options list. You can fill your galley with an induction stove, a refrigerator, a hand pump faucet feeding from a 12-gallon tank, an espresso machine, stainless steel surfaces, and a propane tank.
The company says that it can custom-build your camper with the equipment that you’re looking for. Outside of the galley, you can get options like an awning, solar panels, a heater, an air-conditioner, and more. Colorado Teardrops will even sell you a 360-degree hitch. There is no bathroom, but you can option an outdoor hot shower.
Does It Really Extend Your Range?
Now there is a rather large catch and it’s arguably the most important part of the camper. The Boulder comes standard with a 75 kWh battery. This battery serves as your house battery as well as a charging system. It can charge your EV tow vehicle and it can also work as backup power for your house in an emergency. This is all great! However, I’m sure you have a big question just like I did about how it’s supposed to charge your EV.
This camper is currently unable to charge your EV while it’s on the move. That means that you’ll have to pull over, plug in the camper, and wait for your EV’s battery to charge — or just let your car charge while you’re sleeping at your campsite. Colorado Teardrops says that the camper’s onboard DC fast charger can add 100 miles of range in 10 minutes. To get your EV’s battery back up to 80 percent would take 80 minutes. Colorado Teardrops says that thanks to this charging system, you could restore your EV tow vehicle’s range to full, if not extend it. Keep in mind that Colorado Teardrops doesn’t offer any example EVs for these numbers, so it’s unclear exactly which EVs it could charge that fast.
That sort of brings me to what I see is this camper’s biggest hurdle. If you have to stop to recharge your EV using the trailer, then you’re not really improving its range per hour of travel, necessarily. It’s functionally the same as stopping to hook up to a charger, only the charger is your own camper. Then, once the camper’s battery is depleted, you have to charge both tow vehicle and trailer. Some EVs have batteries larger than this camper’s battery. Though, Colorado Teardrops has hinted at a possible future version with a 200 kWh battery. Finally, unlike the Airstream and the Dethleffs, this has no real advantage for the many ICE tow vehicles that will be out there for years to come.
It’s a cool trailer that at least to my eye has a compromise. To Colorado Teardrops’ credit, the company realizes the camper’s charging limitation and it’s working on ways around it. If it can somehow be used on the move, that would be awesome. I also like how it weighs just 2,200 pounds dry. Colorado Teardrops built a prototype late last year and it expects deliveries to begin this year. Starting price is a steep $67,000, though the company says that it will be eligible for the EV tax credit.
Support our mission of championing car culture by becoming an Official Autopian Member.
A Disturbingly Close Look At The 1970s RV Technology That Cooked Your Poop As You Drove Down The Highway
I Drove Winnebago’s New Electric Camper Van And It Excites Me About The Future Of RVs
The Airstream eStream Is A Revolutionary EV-Powered Camper That Can Help Tow And Park Itself
This $15,000 Camper Costs Less Than A Nissan Versa And Fits In Your Garage
I appreciate trying to make RVing more environmentally-friendly, but this is dumb. Let me count the ways this is dumb:
1) It’s a giant waste of batteries, as was also pointed out on the Airstream article. When battery raw materials are in short supply, it’s stupid to tie up a bunch of them in a trailer that will get used, at most, a handful of times a year. Meanwhile time will work its magic and in 10 or 15 years you’ll need to replace them anyway, having put them through maybe a few dozen charge cycles.
2) It’s eye-wateringly expensive. I mean, mass-produced teardrops are all overpriced, but this takes it to a new level.
3) If you have to stop and wait to charge you’re almost better off just finding a charger. Sure, unhooking the trailer is a pain, but with a teardrop it’s small enough you might not even have to, and if you do it’s a lot less of a problem than with a 35 ft. 8000 lb trailer.
4) 75 KWh is smaller than the battery of basically any EV you’re likely to tow with (IIRC, even a base Model 3 is 80). You’re not even doubling the range of the tow vehicle with all this expense, weight, and raw material. In the truck case, I believe this is something like a quarter of the size of the vehicle battery. Granted, a little teardrop behind a Lightning isn’t going to drop it to 100 miles per charge like a bigger trailer, but this also isn’t going to add that much mileage on top of what the Lightning can do by itself. It’s very nearly pointless.
5) If you go beyond the range of the tow vehicle + this battery, now you’re hauling around hundreds of pounds of dead weight. This is only even slightly useful in the tiny window of range between what the TV could do by itself and whatever mileage this can add. That seems like a _real_ narrow use case for something this expensive.
I could probably come up with a few more reasons, but there’s no need to pile on. This thing is DOA, except maybe with performative environmentalists who want the faux green cred that comes with anything electrified these days.
If you’re regularly towing an RV, then an EV truck isn’t going to suit you. I see the market for EV trucks being people that tow a boat to the launch every weekend during the summer, and/or a utility trailer to the dump once in a while. There’s a lot of towing that isn’t going to exceed the capability of an F-150 Lightning.
I don’t know why people get so hung up on the few use cases that an EV truck won’t work for while ignoring the thousands that they will.
I see that name and all I can think of is The Boulder from Avatar: The Last Airbender
The Boulder feels conflicted.
12.5-feet long / 4.8 feet wide / 4.5 feet tall
I have a tent that’s larger along all dimensions, weighs about 20 pounds, and packs into a 12×36-inch duffle bag. Add a cooler, a couple sleeping bags, and a camp-stove, and I’ve got most everything this trailer has (for maybe $100), and I bet the impact to my EV range is almost imperceptible.
At 67k…. Just buy two EVs….hook them together run the systems in parallel…. Remove seats in one and WALLA!!! I better EV camper setup!
Honestly this EV shit has went way off course….
This thing just seems to slightly mitigate a problem it creates (heavy trailer killing range).
It doesn’t seem to offer much more versus just throwing a mattress in a minivan, and the minivan will be much easier to park.
As a minivan with a mattress in the back owner, can confirm. I think an ID.Buzz with a mattress in the back will be a way better way to camp electrically than this.
Am I being EV clueless here, or would a better solution be a gas powered generator capable of charging your EV (do they exist? If not, why not?) that you just take with you in the trailer you already own?
“Americans love buying sizable campers and towing them with their trucks.”
Honest question – where does this happen? I live in the Mid-Atlantic, drive about 300 miles a week, and never, ever see a camper. This week I saw a boat on a trailer, and I noticed it because I don’t remember seeing another on the road in the last few years. Meanwhile, there are many, many trucks, quite often in the center of my medium sized town, where parking is difficult at best.
FWIW, I live in a Chicago suburb, and there are at least 4 travel trailers and 1 motorhome within 3 blocks of my home, and they are all used at least a couple of times a year.
Not sure where in the Mid-Atlantic you live, but I see multiple campers each day. Granted, most are parked this time of year, but I still see plenty on I81.
SW Virginia, btw
I95 North heading to Maine / NH is absolutely packed with large trailers on summer weekends.
Try Florida….it’s one big trailer park
Living out in the Burbs 9 out of 10 trucks I see are pulling something. Trailers with cars, boats, business campers, etc
IS this thing safer than a tent against a Grizzly bear? I have doubts.
Before I plunk down more than Wal-Mart tent money I wanna see PROOF! I wanna see what that thing looks like after a week in Jellystone park, loaded with candy bars and ham filled picnic baskets.
My guess: Shredded.
Man Mercedes you have a soft spot in your heart for every thing on the island of misfit RVs.
1. In EV lingo an uncharged vehicle is referred to as a brick. So lets call our EV a boulder.
2. Hey ICEman you like camping? Do you like towing a 36 foot fully equipped camper to the woods? Well nonbelievers what if i told you that you could do this with an EV and an EV Camper? Sure the camper is cut down to a third the size. The only amenities in it are a mattress and a battery. But you can get all this for the same price as a fully equipped camping trailer 36 feet long.
Sure the trailer is a bit more but i think it is the cost of furnishing a full bedroom living room kitchen and bathroom with a shower.
That’s a lot of dough for a rolling bed with a giant battery underneath.
What this could enable is Rivian owners to get way out there without worrying too much about finding a charger.
Also, it’s sorta funny that they have a propane stove in the picture. A 2 kW inverter would allow for an induction cooktop. May as well use that giant battery for hot food too.
An induction stove is listed in the options.
Stuff like this just needs to wait until batteries are more efficient / solid-state is a thing.
It needs and the EV market needs a charging/power harness to the trailer hitch, similar to, or combined with lighting and brakes.
Maybe a ‘run of the mill’ ICE RV generator to increase the travel options. (-;
Hows ’bout a test of one of the self powered EV trailers pulled by a certain Changli. (-:
“ICE truck will usually carry a large enough fuel tank for some decent range between gas pumps.”
Also you can easily find a gas station made for trucks or pull through and just block just 1 other pump at a normal station.
EV chargers see to be always pull/back in, so you’d have to probably unhook the trailer.
Think about how much money you’ll save from not having to get gas though. The thing you use once a year will pay itself off in no time!
It looks like something from a low-budget 70s or 80s sci-fi show.
It’ll be right at home behind a Cybertruck!
Probably better to have it refill your battery at the site. I don’t think charging from an external trailer while driving is necessarily a great idea. Beyond the need to defeat any mechanisms to ensure you are parked while charging, you are adding another cable dangling between the vehicle and trailer. Also, I suspect that a charging and discharging at the same time on a vehicle not designed for it could create some thermal management issues.
The price is wrong, but the idea and execution are right.
No… the price and execution are wrong but the idea is right. It makes WAY more sense to include some motive force or concurrent charging (the latter is probably near impossible because of the tow vehicle manufacturers).
I don’t think it’s about the number of miles between chargers, it’s more about the number of miles I can go before I have to stop to recharge. That’s coming from someone who regularly tows with an ICE.
If nothing else, this helps reinforce the value of the energy content of carbon based fuels.
I suppose that would be more accurate. It is a good idea. But it needs some more work.
It would be nice to have the trailer charge the car while driving, but with Level 3 charging capability, I think it is okay that the vehicle has to stop. A 10 minute charging stop every two hours isn’t a big deal when know a charger is readily available.
The lack of available chargers is the biggest problem with owning an EV today. I can deal with frequent charging stops, but it completely sucks to have to search for a charger every two hours when the charger you find is likely to be occupied or broken.
Can’t charge a vehicle while driving.
You *probably* can’t charge one while moving, I imagine most manufacturers disable the motors during charging, but there’s no practical reason why it couldn’t work. It’s just like using your phone/laptop/etc. while it’s charging.
I wouldn’t be surprised if some custom built vehicles could charge and drive, as an accidental oversight.
To me this is as rolling divorce waiting for a place to land.
67k for a wooden bench and battery! Shout out to the early adopters.
I would be interested to see how many of these sell over the next year or so.