Inside Lightship’s electric RV
Lightship finally showed off to the world — or at least those attending SXSW in Austin this week — a prototype of the L1, an all-electric RV designed to remove a barrier for owners of all-electric SUVs and trucks who want to haul a travel trailer on long road trips.
The result, which earned the startup a finalist spot in the 2023 SXSW Innovation Awards design category, is a travel trailer that manages to cram in loads of storage space, a queen-sized bed, bathroom, living area, a kitchen that includes a dishwasher and tech while sitting managing a spacious and airy feel.
The startup co-founded in 2021 by Ben Parker and Toby Kraus shared renderings of its L1 earlier this month. But in Austin, it was a different story. This time, Lightship showed off the real thing. And this wasn’t your industry-standard prototype of non-working parts.
The prototype L1 shown at SXSW, which Parker described as an alpha prototype, was equipped with the battery pack and powertrain, a heat pump and even working lights. While Kraus emphasized that the fit and finish of the L1 was far from complete, it felt like a near-finished product.
Lightship plans to begin production of the travel trailer in late 2024. The company started taking refundable $500 deposits to reserve a spot. The base price of the RV will be $125,000 or $151,500, depending on the variation.
Nuts and bolts
The Lightship L1 is a collapsible travel trailer that is lowered while being towed. Upon arrival, the travel trailer roof can be raised to turn into a livable space.
The L1 will be available in two trims. The L1 Essential will have a 40 kWh battery pack and lacks the drivetrain that helps propel the travel trailer as it’s being towed. This version, Parker explained, is ideal for customers who own a gas-powered truck. “And it’s more than enough battery power for off grid camping,” he noted during a tour, adding it provides a week of off-grid power with charging.
The travel trailer is also outfitted with up to 3 kilowatts of solar power. And no, there’s no propane on board.
The L1 long-range is equipped with an 80 kwH battery pack plus a drive motor that acts as a self-propulsion system. This is meant for customers who own an all-electric truck or SUV. An EV truck with a 300-mile range traveling at 65 miles an hour with a traditional travel trailer in tow becomes a 100-mile truck. This battery pack-drivetrain combo preserves range.
And it works to preserve fuel economy on gas-powered trucks too.
Inside the RV
The co-founders see an opportunity to make advances in the RV industry, which has been dominated by a few large companies. And the interior is a departure from many of the traditional travel trailers on the market today.
Walking inside, you’ll see a large seating area to the right framed by large bay windows. Underneath is a bed that pulls out and pops up to turn the space into a queen-size bed. On either side of the U-shaped sofa/bed area is a pop up light and wireless charger.
A spot for the iPad, which contains an app to operate all of the functions and features in the RV, is also located in this area. Although Kraus says that designated spot may be different in the final production version.
Moving to the middle and left, the bench-like seating continues to a dining or living room area. Storage is located underneath the entire bench. A light wood table sits in the middle and can be automatically lowered to the level of the bench seating. Cushions stored underneath can be pulled out to turn this area into a second bed.
Above the bench seating is a rail system that can be used for storage as well. Lightship designed a zippered storage bag that is secured on the rail system. Kraus said it’s configurable though, and could be used to hold a surfboard, fishing pole or other items.
The kitchen is located along the same wall to the left of the dining area. A sink, drawer-style refrigerator and freezer and storage comes first. At the end of the kitchen is a two-burner electric stovetop, spice rack, drawer-style microwave and a dishwasher.
At the end of the L1 is the bathroom, which includes a toilet, collapsible shelf and shower. A large mirror, which spans the width of the bathroom, can be pushed open like a window. (Yes, you’d probably want to be in a secluded area if you showered with this open.)
Moving back out of the bathroom and now moving along the opposite wall (immediately across from the kitchen) is long counter, with more storage underneath and built-in trash bin. Finally, before you reach the door, there is silver rectangle that is actually a wireless charger for a phone.
Perhaps one of the more interesting features is an interface that allows the owner to control lights and other functions via an iPad. Parker and Kraus said an app will be developed and launched alongside the RV. Oh, and all of those giant windows? Opening the app, a user can slide on the tinting feature and the windows immediately go dark.
Users can view the battery range, tank levels and solar power via the app. It also controls the lights, doors and windows and climate. It’s also used to raise and lower the travel trailer.
Check out all of the details in the photo gallery below.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.