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In The News


Companies hope Hybrid RVs help them see green

Category: RV
Source: Goshen News, IN
Publish Date: Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Summary: Both Fleetwood Enterprises and Winnebago Industries are displaying 36-foot motor homes built on the Freightliner ecoFRED chassis. That chassis includes a front-mounted diesel engine coupled to an electric motor/generator that is tied to lithium-ion batteries.

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By ROGER SCHNEIDER
roger.schneider@goshennews.com

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Two concept Class A motor homes at the RV industry’s show here have shown that hybrid power systems can be adapted to luxury homes on wheels. The question that remains is: Are consumers interested in paying more for the technology to improve their vehicle’s gas mileage?

Both Fleetwood Enterprises and Winnebago Industries are displaying 36-foot motor homes built on the Freightliner ecoFRED chassis. That chassis includes a front-mounted diesel engine coupled to an electric motor/generator that is tied to lithium-ion batteries.

According to Freightliner information supplied to reporters, the electric motor is used when a control system senses it is most efficient to do so. The lithium-ion batteries capture and store energy when the vehicle is braked. The battery is also charged by the engine.

Fuel-efficiency gains are substantial for the hybrid. Fleetwood has not done any scientific comparisons, but road tests showed there would be up to a 42 percent gain over a gasoline-powered motorhome of the same size. Compared to a diesel-powered motorhome, the gain was 19 percent. Winnebago’s comparisons were also informal and were estimated at a 7 percent gain.

Neither company is planning to produce the hybrids right away. Each company is seeking feedback from dealers at the show and ultimately, those dealers’ retail customers.

“We think there are people out there who want to keep the planet green and Fleetwood would like to help that,” said Dave Coffin, director of product development and engineering at Fleetwood.

Paul Eskritt, president of Fleetwood’s RV Group, told his dealers at a luncheon Tuesday that advancing toward more eco-friendly product lines is essential.

“RVs of the future must incorporate advance technology to remain relevant in a vibrant and changing world,” Eskritt said. “So, I am going to make this a priority.”

After the luncheon Eskritt explained that the concept hybrid Class A was built to show the industry what is possible.

“This is a start to the evolution,” he said.

Across the showroom floor at the Winnebago display, the thinking was similar.

“It’s more to take a look at this technology and see how it can be applied to RVs,” said Greg Schulz, chassis/electrical design engineering manager for Winnebago.

The electric hybrid is being utilized in passenger cars but how it will help in large Class A motorhomes designed to cruise the interstates is not yet known.

The large diesel-hybrid technology used in the concept RVs was introduced by Freightliner several years ago. The system has been used successfully to power trucks for UPS and Fed-X.

Hybrids are most efficient, according to Schulz, when drivers are doing a lot of braking and capturing that energy.

Another unknown factor is the cost.

Nobody at the show would give an estimate on what such a vehicle would cost compared to a regular motorhome. In company literature Freightliner said the ecoFRED is a premium chassis that is competitively priced in the marketplace.

Freightliner said it will begin taking orders for the new chassis in the summer of 2009.

Schulz is optimistic that in the long run hybrid RVs will be in demand, noting that new fuel concepts are already popular.

“We want it,” he said, “in our cars.”


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