RV 211: New Technology from the RV Capital of the World

This episode comes to you from Elkhart, Indiana, the RV Capital of the world. We talk about what we’re seeing here this week at RV Open House, recorded on location at the RV Hall of Fame in Elkhart and featuring a comnveration with Darryl Searer, the president of this awesome museum and exhibit center.

Also, in our interview of the week, we talk about some innovative new technology being shown by Roadtrek and the Erwin Hymer Group of North America. Jim Hammill comes by to tell us what the new WATT Fuel Cell technology will mean to RVers.

Plus your questions, comments and much more.

RV NEWS OF THE WEEK

JENNIFER

California woman falls to death taking selfie at Michigan's Pictured Rocks
Another sad story of someone dying at a national landmark while taking a selfie made the news last week. This time the location was Michigan's Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The victim? A California woman who paused to take a selfie on a 200 foot cliff overlooking Lake Superior. The woman apparently slipped, fell into the lake, and died. So sad.   

MIKE
Vail, Colorado, setting aside local tax dollars to pay for federal workers to monitor U.S. campgrounds, trails
We have been writing for some time about the maintenance backlog in our national parks because of shortages in the federal budget. But a story I saw last week was the first I've read of towns near popular tourist destinations taking local tax dollars that would normally fund roads, police or fire, and instead giving it to the federal government to pay for federal land expenses. The story focused on Vail, Colorado, setting aside $120,000 to pay U.S. Forest Service employees to monitor federal trails and campgrounds, and discussed several other cities throughout the country also taking their local taxpayer money to pay for federal land care.

JENNIFER
Airstream Hotel is coming to Yosemite
A California start-up called AutoCamp has teamed up with Airstream to create a “glamping” experience for visitors to   Yosemite National Park who can book accommodations in 80 Airstream trailers. The company promises luxury camping with the same amenities found in many boutique hotels. Besides all those Airstream trailers, the development features a

4,000-square-foot clubhouse with meeting space, fire pits, and a marketplace for food options. Other amenities will include a rooftop deck and an outdoor swimming pool. The Airstream hotel is just outside of the park and will have shuttles running back and forth all day. I warn you, when it opens next ear it won’t be cheap: Nightly rates start at $225

MIKE
This camper trailer folds into a box that fits inside a sprinter van – and comes out when it is time to camp
A story about a new kind of camper that fits into the back of a van caught our eye last week. The camper is a modular box, with extensions, that fits in the back of a sprinter van. Only unlike a Class B, the van is still a van – the camper fits inside of it, and comes out at a campground, with several slides until it has the shape of the letter “L”. It is then a normal camper trailer, complete with beds, a kitchen, TV, storage and more. To read more about the unusual European made ioCamper, click here.

JENNIFER
Man walks up to Old Faithful, looks inside and urinates into it
Yellowstone National Park sure has had its share of stories recently of people doing foolish things. This week the park was in the news when a man went off trail and walked up to Old Faithful, appeared to urinate into the geyser, and then appeared to lay down and looked into a cone. The whole thing was captured on video. Later he apparently led police on a chase in town for driving recklessly. The man is now facing many charges.

This part of the program is brought to you by AllStays Pro, the best tool for RVers looking for places to camp; Harvest Hosts, a unique membership service that allows members to stay free overnight in wineries, farms and attractions across North America; and Overnight RV Parking, a subscription service that provides details for over 12,000 free or nearly free RV overnight parking locations. All three services offer greatly discounted rates to listeners of this podcast

 JENNIFER'S TIP OF THE WEEK

Some time ago Mike and I filmed a video of the personal touches we added to the bathroom of our Roadtrek. We did this in response to a reader's request. We showed everyone the magnifying mirror we added for me to apply make up in the mornings. We showed some containers we added for soap and toothbrush holders. And we showed some hooks we added for towels – both his and hers, and other such things.

In the video I mentioned that one thing I would like is a retractable clothes line. I wanted one because I wanted to have a place to hang our more personal items to dry when we are driving down the road. Commercial dryers are so rough on clothes, I am very careful when I use them. I wanted a private place to hang some things to dry so we wouldn't have our clothes strung out throughout the RV as we traveled.

Well, I am regularly asked by viewers who see this video for the first time if I ever got my retractable clothes line. And, I am happy to say, that yes I did and I love it!

We found the retractable 8-foot long line on Amazon for $12.99. I like it because it did what we needed – provide a way to hang our light weight more personal items discreetly. The clothes line is nylon and it retracts into a stainless steel container that is mall, roughly 3.5 inches by 2 inches, and mounted to our shower wall. When not in use it takes up very little space which I like.

I will include a link to our original video in the shownotes, along with a link and picture of the retractable clothes line we use.

Here is the original video:

https://youtu.be/NqXO6vrIXOY

Here is the retractable shower line we bought:

https://amzn.to/2MXduZQ

Jennifer's tip of the week is brought to you by RadPower Bikes ,an electric bike manufacturer offering direct to consumer pricing on powerful premium electric bikes. Now with free shipping

LISTENER QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK

We answer the following questions this week:

  • I've owned 4 motorhomes and 1 travel trailer over the last 25 years of enjoyment with my family of 6.  But now there is only the wife and I with retirement next year.I am between motorhomes currently and will be purchasing a Class B for my next one.  Having never owned a Class B before (3 class As and one class C) several issues are concerning my wife and I:

*    How to maximize the storage in a minimized space?

*    How to improve our cell and wifi capability?

*    Which chassis is best (Sprinter, Transit, Promaster)?

– Doug

 

  • We’re shopping for a Class B van and we have been warned that the disadvantage is they have refrigerators that only work if the unit is perfectly level. Is this true?

-Kathy

Here’s a story we ran on our Roadtreking RV Lifestyle blog about the differences – https://roadtreking.com/fridges-freezers-oh/

This part of the podcast is sponsored by Steinbring Motorcoach, Roadtrek’s newest dealer and a third generation family business in Minnesota’s beautiful Chain of Lakes region built on quality motorhomes and excellent pricing and service. 

INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK

At RV Open House in Elkhart this week,  we saw some very promising new technology being shown for the first time by Roadtrek and the Erwin Hymer Group of North America. Jim Hammill came by for a chat.

Here’s a video version of the interview:

Here's a transcript of the video:

Mike Wendland:           Hey, everybody we are in Elkhart, Indiana. And we are attending an annual event called RV Open House. Now, it's not open to the public, it's just dealers and people who sell RVs and buy directly from the factory. They're the ones who are here.

Jen Wendland:              And this really is a big deal. It is estimated they will buy, order over two billion dollars worth of vehicles.

Mike Wendland:           Elkhart, Indiana is the RV capitol of the world. More than 80% of global RV production is based throughout this area. That means if you see an RV rolling down the road anywhere in the world, chances are it was built in or around Elkhart.

Jen Wendland:              And the place is booming. The jobless rate is close to zero. That's because the industry is building and selling RVs so fast that it can't keep up. RV manufacturers here have 9,500 job openings right now that they are looking for people to fill.

Mike Wendland:           Technology plays a major part in RV innovation these days. And at RV Open House something called WATT was unveiled by Roadtrek and the Erwin-Hymer Group, that takes off the grid boondocking style camping to a whole new level

Mike Wendland:           What is this?

WATT representative:   So, this is a battery charger, but it's a hybrid power system. So, what it does is it will keep your batteries topped up throughout the evening, just like you'd consider a normal generator. However, it runs on a fuel cell. So, we have a propane powered fuel cell at the heart of it. And the hybrid piece of it incorporates solar panels. So, we can actually run on solar and on the fuel cell. And depending on how the solar situation is set up at that time, it could be the evening or whatever, the fuel cell will kick on and fill in the gaps.

Mike Wendland:           So, what does this mean to me and my RV out boondocking in the middle of nowhere?

WATT representative:   It means you get power when you need it quietly. So, it's running right now and you can't hear it in the background.

Mike Wendland:           Wait a minute. It's running now?

WATT representative:   It's running right now and you can't here it in the background. You get no generator emissions. So you can actually breathe the exhaust. It's safe. Very quiet, clean, safe. And it runs when you need it. So, you don't have to go start your generator or shut your generator off. It's just working all the time in the background. So, when you need power, when your batteries need to be topped off, it will start up, top them off and shut itself back down.

Mike Wendland:           How much propane does it use when you're out boondocking?

WATT representative:   So, this runs at 1/3 of a pound per hour. So, a 20 pound grill tank that you can get at any convenience store run for about 60 hours. If you need less power, we actually can turn down and use less fuel so that could even go further if you're not using full power.

Mike Wendland:           And how does it work in conjunction with solar?

WATT representative:   So, what we do is we monitor the battery bank the entire time. And so, we determine when the battery bank isn't sufficiently being charged by solar we are able to augment that by adding the fuel cell. We can also start up the fuel cell. You can force a charge start. You can do all kinds of different things. But it basically makes the decisions for you in the background, so you don't have to worry about it.

WATT representative:   It's a hybrid energy system. We don't compete with solar, we compliment solar. We don't compete with batteries, we optimize batteries.

Mike Wendland:           And do you leave it on all the time and then it just kicks on when it needs to?

WATT representative:   It basically is sleeping and just watching everything at a very low power consumption. And when it determines it's time to turn on, if there's solar available it will always turn on and try. And if the batteries get down to a preset charge level, it's going to actually start the fuel cell up.

Mike Wendland:           All right, so it's the middle of the night. It's really hot. I'm going to bed at 11:00. I turn on my air and I want it to run all night long. Most air conditioners are going to drop off after about four hours, because they suck that juice out of the battery. How will this help me in that situation?

WATT representative:   So, this is going to give you an extra 40 to 50 amps of power to compliment whatever you're draining out of the batteries, which gets you through the entire evening.

Mike Wendland:           Wow, and it's called WATT?

WATT representative:   WATT fuel cell. That'd be Imperium.

WATT representative:   W-A-T-T. Working all the time.

Mike Wendland:           Ah, very clever.

Jim Hammill:                 We've been focusing for many years now on all the technology to allow people to boondock and to get people out there. So, we have the lithium batteries, the engine generators, and the 12 volt air conditioners and that kind of stuff. And of course everybody in the industry's now starting to copy all that. And that's great. So, we're continuing to push forward and looking at really the environmental impact and the length of time you can boondock for. And in order to achieve that we're really focusing in now on the use of propane fuel cells, which are virtually omissions free, great for the environment. Propane is readily available everywhere. There's no combustion and they provide almost endless power. Quiet, clean, endless power. You get 60 hours out of a small propane tank. In one of our coaches, in our propane systems you'd get four times that. So, you'd get 240 hours of charging out of one of those fuel cells.

So, it's really exciting because it's going to change the industry, this one. You're going to be able to charge your electric car pulling a small trailer for instance using the fuel cell in your coach, in your trailer. It's just an amazing innovation. And we've been working with the people from WATT for about four years on that. And it's been a terrific time and we're just coming to market with it now.

Mike Wendland:           How long before this all comes to market? In the next year are we talking about or longer than that?

Jim Hammill:                 I would say that you will see vehicles at Pomona for sale with fuel cells in them.

Mike Wendland:           That's in just a couple weeks.

Jim Hammill:                 That's in a couple of weeks.

Mike Wendland:           We will be there.

Jim Hammill:                 Yeah, it's going to be exciting.

Mike Wendland:           Jim, why the … is it another double digit year for class B RV sales in general? What do you attribute that to? Why such a massive continued growth in class B?

Jim Hammill:                 Well, you know what, I think all the manufacturers to a certain degree are leading the way with better products. And because there's so many more manufacturers in and so many more dealers in class Bs are starting to get known now in society. For many years people would walk up to me and say I didn't even know these existed. And now today, they're getting to be prolific everywhere and more and more people get to know about them. And people say well, this is just smart. I can park in my own driveway. It's parkable, drivable. I can boondock and camp anywhere I want. So, people are discovering it and it's starting to go anywhere. As well, you're starting to see innovations like our new Hymer Aktiv pop top, the Loft Edition, that sleeps five people in a class B. So, a family can now use it. Just the recent Hershey show, it was the dominant vehicle we sold. A different age group is getting involved in class Bs now, and it's more like Europe where families use class Bs and here and now we're seeing the same thing. So, you're going to see all those things.

And I know some of our competitors have done an excellent job as well attracting that more outdoors crowd. So it's becoming more prolific throughout society about how people use them. They don't have to go to campgrounds and people like that. And I think it's just going to continue to grow in double digits every year.

Mike Wendland:           Now, of course, I got to ask you about the changes with Hymer North America and Roadtrek. You sent a note out to all your customers that this really excites you.

Jim Hammill:                 Do you know what, the acquisition of us be Thor is just such a positive thing. And I think it's really important to understand. This wasn't a random act. The Hymer family was interested in divesting a portion of the company. A number of bidders made offers. Thor was a great fit for everybody, because they understand our business. They're very decentralized. They like an entrepreneurial spirit. They like us do what we do. We love what they do. They're financially stable. So was EHG, so it was really easy. I just think this is a great fit for everybody. And from my perspective nothing changes. We're just going to continue to put great products out there and give great customer service. It's a business, so we're going to make money doing it and I think that's why Thor acquired us.

 

 

The interview of the week is brought to you by SunshinestateRVs.com, where every new or used Roadtrek motorhome is delivered to the customer free, anywhere in the country

TRAVELING TECH TIP:

By Andy Choi
Verizon Wireless

Last week, we talked about some of the latest and greatest smartphones on the market including the Apple iPhone XS and the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. Let’s get even more mobile with some of the newest wearables that can do some pretty amazing things. So this week, here are a few watches to watch for.

As we mentioned, along with the iPhone XS, Apple has released the Apple Watch Series 4, redesigned and re-engineered to help users stay connected, be more active and manage their health in powerful new ways. It features not only a 30 percent larger display, it also boasts a new accelerometer and gyroscope, which are able to detect hard falls, and utilize an electrical heart rate sensor that can actually take an electrocardiogram using the new ECG app.

This app has has been granted a De Novo classification by the FDA. And to help Apple Watch Series 4 customers get started, Verizon will also offer a special introductory cellular trial with the watch.

From a popular wearable for the grownups to a brand new one of the kids. The GizmoWatch is the latest addition to Verizon’s GizmoKids family of children’s products, offering parents peace of mind that their little ones are safe, all while giving kids a smart watch that looks cool and is fun to use. Created for children ages three to eleven, the GizmoWatch can receive phone calls from up to 10 numbers that parents choose and approve.

In addition, you can select up to 20 different text messages your child can send to his or her parent-approved contact list. Connected through Verizon’s 4G LTE network, it’s the perfect “first device” for your child or grandchild looking to stay in touch with loved ones. You can pre-order your GizmoWatch through Verizon now or pick one up in stores when it launches October 10th.

So whether you’re keeping tabs on your heart rate, your little ones, or just keeping tabs on time, now might be a good time to take a look at some great smart watches for you and your family.

This part of the podcast is brought to you by Verizon, which operates America’s most reliable wireless network, with more than 112 million retail connections nationwide.

RV SHOWS THIS WEEKEND

 

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