Roadtrek Motorhome's new e-Trek is now showing up in dealer showrooms across North America and I just may be the very first consumer to take possession.
Or so Chad Neff of American RV in Grand Rapids told me as he handed over the keys to Jennifer and I. Tai, our Norwegian Elkhound, had already ensconced himself inside.
My trek for the eTrek began in September when I went to the Roadtrek factory in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada to do a video news story on the new model, built on the Mercedes Sprinter frame. It's 22 feet nine inches long and nine feet five inches tall on a 170-inch wheelbase.
At heart, Jennifer and I are boondockers. We prefer camping deep in the woods, away from crowded campgrounds. Because the eTrek can totally power itself with a bank of eight AGM batteries, a rooftop solar array capable of putting out 240 watts, a 5000 watt inverter for 110 appliances and a diesel system that works as a generator to very quickly charge the system, it means that we can run everything we need – heat, air conditioning, TV, DVD, the water pump, even the mircowave – for up to nine hours without having to start the engine to charge those batteries. That's running everything, all at once. In real conditions, that doesn't happen.
“You can totally charge everything by just running the engine for 20 minutes to a half hour,” said Howard Stratton, Roadtrek's vice president of operations when we visited the factory this past monday to work on a video about other Roadtrek developments.
How is that possible? The eTrek utilizes a 3500W generator/alternator mounted to the van’s diesel engine that can charge eight dead auxiliary batteries in only 40 minutes.
There are two optons we did not get: an 100W EFOY methanol fuel cell generator and three lithium ion batteries that would save weight over the eight AGM batteries.
While there, we saw the Roadtrek assembly crew putting the finishing touches on the unit we would get three days later through our dealer in Grand Rapids.
I wish I could give you all a full shake down review on the eTrek. But it is wintertime and as we left Grand Rapids to drive back to our suburban Detroit home, we were being chased by a huge winter storm named Draco, which deluged parts of the Midwest and northern Michigan with up to 20 inches of snow.
Our 155 mile trip was in pretty stiff winds. Immediately I notice how well it handled. The 2006 Roadtrek RS that I traded in (it's available at AMerican RV) has single rear wheels. The eTrek, like later model Sprinters, has dualies. I'm not sure if that was why it seemed to be more stable or it was just that new RV love affair I had going. We returned home around dark and by morning, we had two inches of snow on the ground.
Hmmm. Do solar panels charge when covered in snow?
I took the eTrek out for my last-minute Christmas shopping errands. The roads were slick in spots but I found it handled well and had no tendency to skid on the icy spots. All that weight helps, I guess. The eTrek's weight, not mine.
I spent time this afternoon running everything I could as I familiarized myself with switches. The heat, pushed out through the air conditioning unit in the ceiling, warmed it to a pretty comfortable 63 degrees after an hour's use. Outside, it was about 25 degrees, with a very stiff wind making the wind chill much less. We'll see how it heats with that unit in some further tests. Because there is no propane, the usual forced air heater than ran on propane is absent on the eTrek.
I did not use the water pump or the instant hot feature. It hasn't been winterized yet but since those systems are dry, I was told not to worry. I'm thinking I may want to put some antifreeze in the traps anyway.
I've got a lot more inside putzing to do so I can be sure I know where everything is and how it works. We leave for Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida right after the first of the year, so full tests are coming shortly.