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RVs Would Make The Best Hybrids

Illustration for article titled RVs Would Make The Best Hybrids
Photo: Dethleffs

I’ve never been a big fan of hybrid cars, even though I built one that one time. They’re supposed to be the best of both worlds, but you often end up getting drawbacks from both sides. I’m generally a fan of electric vehicles but I do think there is one place where hybrids would work out really well, and that is RVs.

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People like to protect for the “what if” scenarios, which leads to unnecessary range anxiety and very large batteries. But an RV is fundamentally a road trip vehicle; range anxiety is justifiable because it needs to be able to go really far without being plugged in for a long time. So you see, an EV RV won’t be free to sightsee from Milwaukee to Poughkeepsie.

But what about a hybrid? A series-hybrid sounds like a great idea for a range extender: put a small internal combustion engine and generator in your trunk, and use it to charge the batteries that power your electric vehicle. They’re complicated and heavy and all that stuff takes up space so series-hybrids aren’t the best solution for cars. But there are a few aspects of RVs that make them great candidates for series-hybrid drivetrains.

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Structure of a series-hybrid vehicle
Structure of a series-hybrid vehicle
Image: Fred the Oyster ( (Wikipedia)

One of the advantages of a series-hybrid is that the internal combustion engine doesn’t need to output the same peak power as the electric motor that is driving the wheels. It just needs to be able to output the average power over time. The batteries and electric motor can be set up to put down the power needed for accelerating or climbing hills. But you’re not always climbing hills, so with an adequate battery, something like a 70 horsepower engine and generator would be plenty for even large RVs.

Most RVs already have generators and house batteries, so you really are just replacing both with larger ones. There’s also a huge solar area on the roof, and of course, RVs are often parked at places that already have shore power. The larger battery powering the house electronics would also be a welcome change from the people around you who are sick of hearing your generator run for 12 hours a day.

RV owners seem to generally be afraid of change, so it might be some time before we see any real number of hybrid RVs. In fact, by that time, battery technology may have advanced to the point where going to see Albuquerque gas-free in a fully EV RV will be a possibility.

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We’ll see.

Matt Brown is an automotive engineer, writer, and builder of unconventional things. Mostly vehicles.

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DISCUSSION

At what point do the larger RVs end up weighing as much as fully loaded semis though?

I do think hybrid tech, specifically in order to be able to take advantage of regenerative braking, would be huge.