Roadtrek’s new RS E-Trek is Perfect for Boondocking

Written by on September 29, 2012 in Models, Videos

Maybe we should now use a new term for “Boondocking,” or dry camping in the wilderness without hookups or utilities.

Maybe now we should call it “Boontreking.”

That’s my take after a hands-on look at the brand new, high tech and eco-friendly RS E-Trek, the latest addition to the Roadtrek family of motorhomes.

I made my way across the International Bridge to Canada in Port Huron, MI and drove 100 miles northeast to the Roadtrek factory in Kitchener, ON. The RS E-Trek I saw was the first to roll off the assembly line. Several others are now in various stages of completion in anticipation of the first orders starting to roll in. I have no doubt they indeed will.

The RS E-Trek is a very innovative RV.

The E-Trek is all electric. It has no propane, needs no external generator. Instead, it provides all the juice you need through an advanced generator system that runs off the vehicle engine, aided by a solar panel and optional fuel cells.

You can see it all in my video above, shot at and around the Kitchener, Ontario Roadtrek headquarters in Canada.

The E-Trek is on the regular Mercedes Sprinter chasis (170 inch wheelbase) and it is painted in a subtle shade of green. The first thing you’ll notice is that unique, yet low-keyed color. Even the ground effects and body moldings are painted the same color. The decals and logos are intentionally subtle and downplayed, giving the E-Trek a very sleek , clean look.

But it’s the infrastructure that has me excited. I love wilderness camping. This vehicle can let me do that like never before.

“This changes all the previous assumptions about a Class B, that you have to have shore power,” Roadtrek President Jim Hammill told me. “It provides independence to the owner. The E-Trek uses solar power, fuel cell power and uses the existing bio diesel engine of the vehicle in order to provide more power than has ever been provided to the Class B RV before. This allows the owner to say out in the field, not connected to shore power, for much longer periods of time.”

You can even run the interior air conditioner while you’re going down the road, without having to power up a generator.

The 240 watt solar panel just needs daylight to generate power, not direct sunlight. You can run the DVD, TV and all interior LED lights just off the soar power. Pretty much indefinitely.

The interior has also been redesigned. There’s a new soft cushioned floor that looks like wood flooring. They’ve added a second water spigot that delivers instant hot water for tea or hot chocolate or filtered drinking water. They’ve removed the old gas burners and put in an instant-on all electric induction stovetop and added some stylish new counter and table tops made of recycled plastic. There’s now a second row of seating in upgraded,  very plush swivel captain-style chairs. Seriously, they are as comfortable and comfy as my home recliner.

I can’t wait to get hold of an RS E-Trek for an extended period of time. I want to get far out there, in the woods and mountains and fields and be totally self contained to really test out the power-generating capabilities. Hammill told me if you run the engine 20 minutes a day, everything is charged enough to keep you out there for days at a time… until you need to go get some more diesel for the engine.

I’m already planning my trips to go… BoonTreking in an RS E-Trek.

Here are some stills I snapped while making the video:

The new RS E-Trek by Roadtrek

 

It’s painted in a very subtle shade of green. Even the trim and ground effects match, for a very clean, sleek look.

 

The decals and logos are low-keyed

 

A sofa/seating area in the rear turns into a king sized bed with the push of a button

 

Gone is the gas burner. A new energy-saving induction electric stove automatically and instantly heats up when you out a pan on it. It also cools very quickly when you remove it.

 

Instant hot water. Jennifer loves that for tea and hot chocolate. Filtered cold drinking water, too.

 

Plush second row captain chairs come on the E-Trek. You will not believe how comfortable they are.

 

The E-Trek looks pretty nice heading down the road.



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About the Author

About the Author: Mike is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, and Norweigian Elkhound, Tai, travels North America in a Type B motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and frustrations of RV life on the road. He is the official on-the-road reporter for the Family Motor Coach Association. a columnist with Family Motor Coaching Magazine and his Roadtreking reports appear in numerous newspapers and publications. He enjoys camping (obviously), hiking, biking, fitness, photography, video editing and all things dealing with technology. His PC MIke TV reports, on personal technology are distributed weekly to all 215 NBC-TV stations. .

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43 Reader Comments

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  1. Alice Stern says:

    Wow, that is beautiful, I love everything I see!

  2. Gordon says:

    Mike, nice video. Thanks for the update on this.

  3. Kathy Markward says:

    This looks awesome and has everything a Roadtreker could want in a vehicle. I am almost afraid to ask what is the retail?… Thinking about adding solar panel to my 2001 Popular…

  4. Richard Krantz says:

    I found your post after seeing it linked on someone’s Twitter feed. Very fortuitous as I am currently shopping for an RV for my wife and I when I retire in the spring. We do not want one of those huge units we see on the highway towing the contents of their house behind them. This new etrack looks like it would fit our needs perfectly. I’ve been reading all your back posts on this page and am very excited about this Roadtrek brand. How is it for resale value? I live in New Jersey and will try to visit one at a dealer nearby this weekend. Thanks for interesting information. You do a very good job and your enthusiasm really shines through. Hope to see you out there someday soon.

  5. bob taylor says:

    keep me posted on E trek

  6. bob taylor says:

    finance?

  7. Rhonda says:

    Super job in showing us this, Mike. You’ve made quite a name for yourself in the RV world since you started your blog. We will be buying one more Roadtrek (to replace out 2003) and this new one looks very nice. Love the instant hot water feature and my husband likes the solar charging. I’m also sending this link to some friends who are thinking about getting into RVing.

  8. Will says:

    Hook me up to this unit that needs no hookups!

  9. Mary Wiles says:

    Ingenious!!! Innovative!!!

  10. Fred Showker says:

    Sweet unit if it actually lives up to the claims. I worry a lot about air conditioning in high temperatures … but I love the promise of propane-free, generator-free cruising … and will watch closely as the consumer feedback rolls in. :-) Thanks Mike!

  11. Angie O'Malley says:

    Wow! Thanks for the pics and video. I wonder if RT will begin putting some of these features in the Chevy-based models.

    We are so thankful for your reporting. Enjoy the stories, info, and pics. And…in the process you are raising the visibility (and image) of Type B Motorhomes — which may eventually get us access to some of the RV resorts, etc. that are only open to Type A motorhomes.

    Question: Has Jennifer driven your RS yet?

    Angie

  12. les says:

    Hi Mike, Thanks for the update. Are you heading to the Detroit rv show Oct. 3-7? If you are let us know, maybe we can meet up. We haven’t picked a day yet.

  13. Joe Buchman says:

    I’m reading this while boondocking in my 1998 190 V. Online via my smart phone modem ap. Have used some solar power with this RT, but WOW the e-trek looks fantastic. Fuel cells? Really? Not just lead acid batteries? And sounds like the bio diesel is used as the genset now? Excellent! How much water? That’s the other limiting factor for boondocking in my experience.

    FYI I probably have over 1,500 nights boondocking in this 1998 190 — bought it new, has 242,000 miles on it now. Have not paid for a hotel for 2 to 3 conferences per year in Vegas for those 15 years, lived in it full time in Florida for five months 5 or so years ago. First year did 13,000 miles with my wife and our FOUR kids (put in side facing seat belts in the back) over 2 1/2 months of summer vacation (went from SLC, to Disneyland, over the Golden Gate, took a right to the Statue of Liberty, then to Kitchner, over Lake Michigan on a car ferry, to Badlands, Rushmore, Devils Tower and home again. Love this machine! Would like to retrofit with as many e-trek ideas as possible . . .

  14. Sam Saab says:

    Hello There,

    I would like to drive a new rs-e-trek is perfect road in Ontario also Canada to show the Environment about our growing need for food, goods and energy has had many harmful effects on the environment in Ontario.
    It is a perfect business for me as a Architect to show customer about helpful than harmful…etc
    Solar charging is helpful!

    Thank you for your helpful!
    Keep me touch!
    Sam Saab

  15. Mike Wendland says:

    Answers to several comments here: No, Jennifer hasn’t driven the e-Trek yet. She doesn’t like to drive our current 2006 RS Adventurous on the interstates – too much bouncing from passing trucks. Anxious for her to try the E-Trek with the dual wheel wheels. Maybe she will soon, as we’re doing more videos in Kitchener on more RT models this coming week. And I’ll be testing the E-Trek in real conditions out in the field in a couple weeks.
    Yes, I will be at the by MARVAC Michigan camping show, probably Thursday and Friday. Also the big RV California RV show out in Pomona from Oct. 15-21. Anyone attending either show, just email me when you’re there and we’ll meet.
    They have not yet announced cost. Lots of optional setups. Dealers will be able to help answer that soon.

  16. Bob Murphy says:

    Outstanding! In one fell swoop, the E-Trek eliminates our biggest issue in our desired style of camping – the propane generator noise.

    We rented our first RV this summer, a Roadtrek Adventurous RS (because that’s the one we were most interested in buying). Camping in state/US parks, after our first night we wanted to try out the built-in coffee maker and had to fire up the propane generator to do so. We were taken back by the noise and didn’t use it again for the rest of the trip. This is a fantastic solution to our style of dry camping amongst tent campers. (Most of the sites we slipped into were “tent” sites – a real advantage with the RS let me tell you.) An open flame inside a vehicle never seemed that smart either (our cruise ship was all induction).

    The second (and only other) issue we had with the RS was the fiddly second “bed” placed across the front and rear (lounge) seat. We stopped using that too.

    QUESTION: Do the second row captain’s seats have adjustable headrests? There are none in the pictures/video.

    Can’t wait to see this in Pomona!

    Thanks!

    Bob in San Diego

  17. Alex says:

    Mike, do you need help in aerial video? I live in Guelph, 15 km from manufacturer

  18. Jack Berger says:

    Here’s an idea for you Mike: Do videos like this on ALL the Roadtrek models. I really like your style. No high pressure, friendly, interesting. I’d like to see your reviews on the other things Roadtrek makes. Really test them out. Take them out under real conditions faced by RVers. Just an idea. I also like your new stories on the interesting things you see. Keep them coming.

  19. Gary Hennes says:

    Mike, Bring one of those up here to Northern MN this winter and let’s try it out at -30F. I didn’t hear much about heat sources or insulation yet.

  20. Mike, Great job in introducing the Roadtrek RS E-trek. I can’t wait to have one at the dealership so I can start selling this inovative vehicle.

  21. Bill R says:

    Mike – Thanks for sharing this info. I echo Jack’s comment – get ahold of an eTrek and really test it for us future buyers. I would have thought that Roadtrek would have built this on a 2500 chassis since the weight of the propane system and aux. generator are gone. I’ve also read on some forums where the dual wheels on the 3500′s cause a drop of 3-4 mpg (plus extra maintenance and tolls). On an ’06 RS Adventurous with 2500, ride/handling are quite good and mpg is a respectable 21-23 mpg. Not sure why the 3500 chassis is needed.

  22. So happy to see the interest in helping with boondocking. After all, that’s really the grass roots of RVing – all were originally built for dry-camping. In the history of RVs, hookups came much later.

    We’re avid boondockers, have been RVing for 13 years and prefer finding a spot in the wilderness to campgrounds. We’ve also always driven a Roadtrek (currently a 2002 popular 190).

    We’ve learned to manage just fine for 4 to 7 days without solar or generators so, for us, power consumption has never never the biggest issue.

    There are two other factors that I suggest Roadtrek should look at if they’re truly serious about wooing boondockers: 1)Fresh water tank capacity. Even if we conserve very carefully, we need to carry an extra 7-gallons to survive 5 to 7 days. 2)Clearance. we wish Roadtrek could address its notorious extra-low clearance which limits driving on many of the roads that lead to the best scenic boondocking locations.

    I’ll be curious about your thoughts on these matters after your true trial run, Mike.

    I live in Elora, Ontario – just outside Kitchener and, although we’ve had a factory tour, we’re now anxious to return to see this model and ask more questions.

  23. Angie O'Malley says:

    I am eager to know if/when Jennifer drives the RS and what she thinks… I am very comfortable driving the 190 Popular but am skittish about driving the RS. Have never tried it….

    Angie

  24. Mike Wendland says:

    OK Angie… I’ve asked Jennifer to write an official post in response to your question about her reluctance to drive the RS. I have the 2006 model with the single wheels. I’m not sure whether the newer one with duals would give her more stability. I’m betting this will provoke discussion from other women RT drivers. Coming later today.

  25. Maureen says:

    Hi Mike, Loved your video on the E-Trek, however, the sound was very uneven which, at times, prevented me from hearing your melodious voice. Don’t know if others are experiencing this but thought you should know. Thanks again, great video on a superb design.

  26. Maureen says:

    Mike,loved your video on the E-Trek, however, the sound was very uneven which, at times, prevented me from hearing your melodious voice. Don’t know if others are experiencing this but thought you should know. Thanks again, great video on a superb design.

  27. Bob Murphy says:

    Also, check out how uncluttered the driver’s side of the E-tek is compared to a propane-powered RS. No vents, ports, exhausts – all eliminated, just the shower door now. Its amazingly clean v. propane.

    -Bob

  28. Alex says:

    Could somebody tell me how works water heater? Or no hot water available for E-version?

  29. Alex says:

    Well, forget about A/C, water heater, TV and other devices. Let’s do simple calculations with refrigerator. Power consumption of refrigerator as low as 6 A/h ( just for sample )
    6A x24 hours = 144 A/h daily. Solar panel can back you in best scenario 60A/h.
    So in 3-4 days your all 8 battery will be have 50% capacity. Ok , I am going to change my location and drive to another place. How long shell I drive to charge full all my battery ?? At list 8-10 hours……..Why? because max charging current for acid battery 10 -15 A/h Any comments??

  30. Bill Mitchell says:

    Looks like a great vehicle, Mike. Any idea of the price range if not particular prices by various options?

  31. Mike Wendland says:

    Hi Bill… they haven’t announced pricing yet. So many options. But they say they will announce in next week or so. If I had to guess – and it’s only a guess – I’d bet it will $120K to $135K depending on options.
    The Airstream Interstate Sprinter model, closest competitor to the Roadtrek E-Trek but without all the green/solar power options – is $140-$145K.

  32. Bill Mitchell says:

    Thanks a lot, Mike. Just the sort of info-guess I was hoping for!

  33. Bill says:

    Anyone with a newer RS Adventurous with the dual rear wheels – What sort of gas mileage are you getting?

  34. Mike Wendland says:

    They tell me 19-21 mpg, Bill

  35. Bob Murphy says:

    Got to see it at the Pomona show.

    It also has LED lights inside, replacing the fluorescents in the standard RS.
    They have classy look and throw off a brighter light.

    That new countertop looks and feels great in person.

    And those second row captain’s chairs ARE super comfy.

    -Bob

  36. If anyone is interested in purchasing any Roadtrek, please contact me at American RV in Grand Rapids, Michigan at toll free 877-863-9527. Please ask for Robert Wensel.

  37. Douglas and Marta Wood says:

    We are about ready to purchase an RS-Adventurous after reading your stories. Before that we were considering an Era. My question, sir, is should we instead purchase an etrek? Did you trade your RS in for an etrek? If so, can we come see it as it is not at a dealer yet. We live just north of Dayton, Ohio and could drive to Michigan unless you happen to be driving down this way. We are looking to buy after the first of the year.

  38. Gordon Meggison says:

    Mike, just got back from our first 30 day trip in the RS Adventerous 2012. Got 19 mpg at 60 mph towing a 6×11 trailer in florida, 17 mpg in hill ctry in Ga, and 14.9 mpg in mountains. Had a few issues the unit being new. Bed was very uncomfortable, the gap between the backrest and the seat when in the bed mode was simply uncomfortable. and the l l/2″ rise on the side cusions left one sleeping with head lower than the feet. Dealer raised the bed even wit the cushions, but said nothing could be done with the gap. couple of cabinets popped open, on hinge let go above the clothes closet, and the bathroom leaked around the sink. Guages on the black water didn’t work. Showed always full. Am in process of soaking them if that doesn’t work, Dealer says they will change the top one out. Other than the above minor repairs, driving the vehicle was great. Good acceleration, good diesel mileage. Not 21/22 but decent. Gps doesn’t work worth a tinkers dam, and can’t see the back up sensor since it is too far from the drivers seat, especially if the sun is out. The connection for the dump tanks outside, poor planning with shut off valve, can’t close the hatch, since the valve is in the way, have to travel with it partly open.
    Read your article, we have added a convection burner to our unit also, can’t say enuf good things about magnetic burners. Don’t want to seem like I’m complaining but these things could be engineered better if RT is but made aware of the. (one would think) again, have enjoyed your articles and talking to you on the phone. I promised I would let you know how the trip went to NC and GA so here it is. As ever gm

  39. Mary Ann Stibbe says:

    Can you show a larger view of the bathroom. Can the secon row seats be replaced with storage cabinets for those of who do not travel with extended family or guests. How do I get a copy of the options available.

  40. Gordon Meggison says:

    I notice this unit also has the mechanical bed. This bed is the most uncomfortable bed ever. I hope that RT will improve on it. I have an RS ADV 2012 and have asked RT to work on improving the bed. There is a 5″ gap between the back and the seat. This shouldn’t go on. This has been a problem for some time, so I brought it to the attention of RT this week. Hope they are able to address the problem and fix it.

  41. Martin says:

    Very nice… I wonder what the RV Rental Prices would be on the E Trek? If only all RVs were eco-friendly :)

  42. Jack says:

    Would love to see this model available with awd. Mercedes has this available everywhere in the world except north America. Their intelligent awd delivers power to wheels to help get out of slippery sandy icy locations that you would otherwise be fearful of as boon dockers. An RS E-Trek iAWD would be the ultimate 4 season go everywhere vehicle.

  43. anyone who would like to purchase one of Roadtrek’s products in the southeastern U.S. is invited to contact me.
    i am in central Florida at 1-877-663-7506

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