Perhaps the most recognized name among travel trailers in America, Airstream has been part of this country’s landscape for almost 100 years. During that time the company has made numerous advances in the world of RVs, and now the storied brand introduces a concept product that showcases the future of camping — the highly advanced Airstream eStream concept travel trailer.
At first glance, the eStream concept carries all the styling and features expected of an Airstream trailer, including its shiny aluminum skin responsible for its Silver Bullet nickname. But there’s considerably more here than meets the eye — beneath that familiar silver skin sits a fully electrified high-voltage chassis, an electric drivetrain (yes, a drivetrain in a trailer) as well as a long list of new high-tech features.
Look Into the Future
“What the eStream represents for Airstream is a glimpse into our future,” said Airstream President and CEO Bob Wheeler. “We created an aspirational travel trailer — something that supports and encourages a sustainable way to travel and gives future customers the opportunity to spend more time off-grid pursuing their passions without having to worry about managing their resources. It’s really about improving the customer experience and making sure we deliver a sustainability-focused product at the end of that road,” noted Wheeler.
The eStream features a bank of high-voltage batteries that power everything from the air-conditioning to the electric appliances, allowing for a no-compromises off-grid RVing experience. With 80 kW hours of battery power, the eStream delivers more than 30 times the electric power provided by today’s trailer batteries. “There’s enough power in this concept travel trailer to bring all the comforts of home and to run all of its systems for an extended period of time off grid,” said Airstream VP of Product Development and Engineering McKay Featherstone. “It’s going to help customers go wherever they want to go, and to stay there as long as they wish,” Featherstone mused.
Today’s travel trailers typically carry air-conditioners, vents, antennas and other items on the roof, which adds considerable drag and reduces the fuel economy of the tow vehicle. Not the eStream. Additionally, the eStream is 8 inches narrower than the typical Airstream trailer, and a rear diffuser helps smooth airflow around the unit. All of this contributes to a 20 percent improvement in aerodynamic efficiency.
By designing a trailer roof devoid of irregularly shaped objects and obstructions, Airstream engineers were able to line the top of the eStream with five semi-flexible solar panels that can deliver up to 900 watts of solar power. Adding this power to the eStream’s bank of lithium batteries can provide enough power to enjoy most amenities of home for as many as two weeks off grid.
The electrical system in this new eStream concept can power more than simply the trailer’s appliances and other features. When needed, the eStream can charge an electric vehicle or, when properly set up, even provide power to a home in the event of a power outage.
Perhaps the most amazing feature in the eStream is its electric powertrain. The trailer uses the same batteries that provide off-grid energy to power dual electric motors integrated within the axle. This powertrain in conjunction with an advanced sensor system opens up all sorts of innovative uses never before possible. While being towed, the eStream can add forward propulsion, lowering the power required from the tow vehicle and extending the overall towing range. The motors can also assist in bad weather by supplying additional traction as necessary.
The eStream’s innovative electric drive employs a stability control system to increase overall towing capability and control, making it possible to reduce hitch weight and eliminate the need for a weight distribution hitch while still being towed safely. When the eStream is parked, the electric motors can also lock the wheels to create a highly effective anti-theft device.
One of the novice camper’s biggest stressors is backing a trailer into a tight camping spot under the scrutinizing gaze of new camp neighbors — a task made easy with the eStream. The electric motors of the trailer can be operated remotely. Once the eStream is unhooked from the tow vehicle, it can be maneuvered into a campsite under its own power, even turning 360 degrees to find that perfect campsite position. When it comes time to hook up the eStream for departure, this advanced travel trailer can be remotely piloted directly to the tow vehicle’s hitch, eliminating the hassle of reversing and jockeying a vehicle into precise position for trailer hookup.
Making Life Easier
“Backing up a travel trailer is one of the most intimidating things for new customers — and sometimes even for customers with plenty of experience,” noted Airstream’s McKay Featherstone. “With this remote control capability, we’ve completely eliminated that — with one finger on the phone or tablet you can easily move the eStream into any tight spot, or position it so the solar panels catch more of the sun. You may drive the trailer into a tight campsite, or it might just be a gas station or storage or anywhere that you need to maneuver with precision,” Featherstone observed.
In addition to the electrical infrastructure of the eStream, Airstream equips this advanced trailer with an integrated 5G booster and Wi-Fi hotspot. Not only does this high-tech equipment provide the means to stay connected even when off the electrical grid, it enables operation of the lighting and HVAC systems from Van Alstyne as well as monitors other key systems via a smartphone or tablet. The eStream’s tech gadgetry even includes trip-planning functionality that takes into account current charge levels and charger locations.
Still a Concept
The Airstream eStream is still a concept vehicle with no official plans for production. However, consumers can expect to see elements of this groundbreaking travel trailer concept appear in future Airstream products.
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